Many people are surprised to learn that African food isn’t all grasshoppers, worms, and chicken feet. In fact, for the most part traditional African cuisine consists of natural ingredients such as roots, seeds, grains, and green leafy vegetables along with poultry, fish and meat. African dishes are as varied as the African countries from which they derive, and within these countries traditional recipes vary from city to city, village to village and clan to clan.
Typically, African dining is a shared experience with mouthwatering food warmed by an abundance of aromatic flavourings including the spices that transform your 14-course tasting menu at GOLD Restaurant. In addition to the spices we use intensifying the flavours of Africa, they are packed with healthy nutrients too. Below is a selection of five of our favourite spices.
From our kitchen spice rack
Through the ages this warm, sweet spice has been used in everything from food and love potions to perfume. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tree, which is stripped during the rainy season to be more pliant so that as it dries in the sun it curls into a quill. Then it’s cut into sticks or ground into powder.
Not to be confused with caraway, cumin has a stronger, hotter flavour and is lighter in colour. This tiny crescent-shaped cumin seed – actually a small dried fruit – is used whole or ground into powder and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder. Rumour has it that in the Middle Ages cumin prevented chickens and lovers from running away. Apparently, it was also used to pay taxes.
The difference between coriander and cilantro depends on whom you speak to and where in the world you are. Technically speaking they are one and the same or rather; they come from the same plant. “Cilantro” is the Spanish word for coriander leaves. In the United States the leaves and stalks are called “cilantro” and the seeds are referred to as coriander. In South Africa and the United Kingdom the leaves and stalks of the plant are referred to as “coriander”, while the seeds are called “coriander seeds”. In India the plant is referred to as dhania.
Paprika is more than a colouring agent. Just ask a Hungarian and they will tell you it’s a national spice. Grinding the dried pods of a red pepper plant makes the red paprika powder. The most commonly known paprika variety is the sweet, mild kind but there are various classes of paprika ranging from mild to smoked to hot. At harvesting time Hungarian villages are bright red with red pepper garlands strung outdoors and along fences.
Part of the ginger family, turmeric is an ancient root with a rough skin. The root is boiled, dried and ground into a powder with an intense orange-yellow colour. Widely used as food colouring turmeric is more than a bright splash of colour. It has a sharp, earthy, mildly ginger taste with peppery undertones.
Spicy African dining experience
Humans have spiced their food for thousands of years. In addition to adding flavour, spices also contain nutrients and other active ingredients that are said to prevent disease, promote healing and even treat chronic conditions. While we cannot claim that our menu has healing properties we can claim that the vast majority of our guests leave us feeling nourished, upbeat, and have a general sense of happiness and wellbeing.