Citizens, Benin, officially the Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin) and formerly Dahomey, is a country in West Africa.
It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in Cotonou, the country’s largest city and economic capital.
Benin covers an area of 114,763 square kilometers and its population in 2015 was estimated to be approximately 10.88 million.
The official language of Benin is French. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism.
Benin is a birthplace of vodun (aka voodoo) and was home to the Dahomey Kingdom, a major regional power from 1600-1900. In Abomey, Dahomey’s former capital, the Historical Museum occupies 2 royal palaces with bas-reliefs recounting the kingdom’s past and a throne mounted on human skulls!
This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
After slavery was abolished, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, and had a tumultuous period with many different democratic governments, many military coups and military governments. In 1991, it was replaced by the current multi-party Republic of Benin.
Beninese cuisine is known throughout Africa for its exotic ingredients and flavorful dishes. Beninese cuisine involves fresh meals served with a variety of key sauces.
In southern Benin cuisine, the most common ingredient is corn, often used to prepare dough which is mainly served with peanut- or tomato-based sauces. Fish and chicken are the most common meats used in southern Beninese cuisine, but beef, goat, and bush rat are also consumed.
The main staple in northern Benin is yams, often served with sauces mentioned above. The population in the northern provinces use beef and pork meat which is fried in palm or peanut oil or cooked in sauces. Cheese is used in some dishes. Couscous, rice, and beans are commonly eaten, along with fruits such as mangoes, oranges, avocados, bananas, kiwi fruit, and pineapples.
Meat is usually quite expensive, and meals are generally light on meat and generous on vegetable fat.
This vegetarian peanut soup is a favorite throughout West Africa and my version is quite traditional though I have adjusted the spices to my own personal taste.
This is a delicious and easy soup to make Citizens, one that I am very confident you will return to again and again! It’s flavor profile will remind you strongly of Indian cuisine, but trust me this is African cooking through and through!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 cups vegetable stock
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
½ cup diced yellow onion
4 scallions, minced
½ cup de-stringed diced celery
Leaves from one bunch of celery, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh turmeric (if not available, use ginger instead)
2 cups chopped sweet potato (½-inch pieces)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1 ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Maggi seasoning
1 ½ tablespoons Berbere spice mix (preferred) or curry powder
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh cilantro, canned or long-soaked dried chickpeas, minced red bell pepper and crushed peanuts for garnish
Place the vegetable stock in a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the peanut butter, cilantro, and chickpeas and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove about 1 cup of the liquid and place it into a small bowl. Add the peanut butter and stir until creamy. Return the mixture to the pot, stir well, add Cilantro and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Use an immersion blender and purée the soup to a smooth consistency. Garnish with crushed peanuts, chickpeas, minced cilantro and minced red bell pepper before serving.