My Citizens! I have been furiously contemplating the various plenitude of African dishes best suited to be profiled in My ongoing series of themed recipes over these last weeks. This being done in My great pain and misery (I’m quite ill at the moment). After lengthy meditation under a Bo tree, I have at last made My selection for a fantastic recipe focusing on African indigenous cuisine! We shall visit the proud country of Cameroom, home to this easy and delicious recipe for pomme pileé, spiced mashed potatoes and beans.
While a staple of its tribal region, saying this is a ‘native’ dish is somewhat disingenuous – because while pomme pileés most certainly IS a beloved tribal recipe, it is still technically NOT a native recipe! As you may be aware, potatoes are in fact native to the Andes region of South America, and only made it elsewhere via the returning Spanish conquistadors upon their return to Spain! Eventually, potatoes found their way to Africa via European traders and was enthusiastically adopted there in tribal cuisine.
FYI – the same origin story is true of hot chili peppers (more from the Portuguese here than the Spanish), which are also found in this dish and are also now used throughout the region! Pomme pileé is a fantastic example of a recipe that – while made with non-native ingredients – has been enjoyed for centuries and is now, by virtue of that fact, in fact native! 😀
As to what prompted me to include this specific Cameroonian dish in My recipe series, I was fascinated to read about the ‘disappearance’ of a Cameroonian tribal King on the BBC several weeks ago. ‘Disappearance’ is a euphemism used by the tribes of Cameroon to say that the King has died, as there is a VERY strong cultural taboo around saying he has passed on.
As noted in this excerpted text from the BBC article:
For the people of Mankon in the grass-fields of north-west Cameroon, their king – known as the fon or fo – never dies. He simply disappears.
So the regional governor Adolphe Lele incurred the wrath of the Mankon people when he broke a taboo by announcing the death of the 97-year-old Fon Angwafor III late last month.
“The fon is the custodian of all land in Mankon. He is the very source of our cultural spring. He is the fountain of our spirituality. He is the bridge between the yesteryears, the here and now and the aftertime,” says barrister Joseph Fru Awah, a Mankon notable.
Having ascended to the throne in 1959, Fon Angwafor III was the first monarch to acquire a western education. He went to school in the days when royal children were kept out of classrooms to protect them from what was seen something for commoners.
He furthered his studies by qualifying as an agro-technician in a nation where farming is part of the daily lives of many people.
Like all Mankon monarchs, he was a polygamist and, in accordance with tradition, the number of wives he had was never disclosed. But to say that he had about a dozen would be a conservative estimate. He is also thought to be survived by dozens of children. Fon Angwafor III was frequently referred to as King Solomon the Wise by his subjects.
“He always sounded like a teacher. Each time I met him, I would go away with some food for thought and plenty of humour,” said Eveline Fung, who met the king on numerous occasions.
But he had his fair share of critics. When colonial rule ended in the 1960s, he was one of the architects of the unification of English- and French-controlled territory into what is now Cameroon.
Mankon is one of the biggest kingdoms in English-speaking Cameroon, home to hundreds of thousands of people. Some of those who advocate English-speaking Cameroon’s secession have never forgiven Fon Angwafor III for supporting unification. Rare for a monarch, he also served in parliament, making history by becoming Cameroon’s first – and only – independent MP from 1962 to 1988.
In 1990, he became the national vice-president of the ruling party under Paul Biya, Cameroon’s authoritarian president. He remained in the post until his “disappearance”.
Cameroonian cuisine (French: cuisine camerounaise) is one of the most varied in Africa due to Cameroon’s location on the crossroads between the north, west, and center of the continent; the diversity in ethnicity with mixture ranging from Bantus, Semi-bantus and Shuwa Arabs, as well as the influence of German, French and English colonialization.
The Republic of Cameroon is located at the junction of Western and Central Africa. It is between Nigeria to the west, Chad and the Central African Republic to the east, and the People’s Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon to the south. The origin of the name of the country is traced back to when the Wouri River was dubbed “Rios dos Camaroes (“River of Prawns”) by Portuguese explorers. The population of Cameroon is 28,524,175 (July 2021 est.)
The dominant religion practiced in the nation is Christianity. Per 2018 estimates, about 38.3 percent of the population identify as Roman Catholics, 25.5 percent as Protestant and 6.9 percent as belonging to other Christian factions. Those practicing the Muslim faith constitute 24.4 percent. Only 2.2 percent identify as Animists.
Cameroon is home to 230 languages. These include 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, two Nilo-Saharan languages, and 173 Niger-Congo languages. This latter group is divided into one West Atlantic language (Fulfulde), 32 Adamawa-Ubangui languages, and 142 Benue-Congo languages (130 of which are Bantu languages). The official languages are English and French.
Cameroon has been variously referred to as ‘Africa in miniature’ and ‘Africa’s crossroads’ on account of its geographical and cultural diversity. Cameroon is home to both white sand beaches and mountains, active volcanoes, and savanna grassland. Its climate and vegetation are a sampling of all the major climates and vegetation of Africa, thus making it an ideal first example of ‘native’ cuisine in this recipe series.
Now, as to the dish at hand – I was most impressed by how nutritious pomme pileé is, and not surprisingly it is a staple food of the region as a result. It also happens to be quite delicious, and should grace your table any time you are thinking of serving up ‘meat and potatoes’ to your family! Kids especially love pomme pileé – since it is quite thick, it can be molded into various geometric or abstract shapes (and usually is served this way in Cameroon!) and is both spicy and delicious!
Pommes pileés is in fact a staple dish originating from the West and Northwest Regions of Cameroon, where the Banso people of the Northwest Region refer to it as ‘Tukuni’ and is in point of fact a part of their repertoire of traditional dishes.
In the West and Northwest Regions of Cameroon, potatoes and beans are some of the most frequently consumed crops. Pomme Pileé’s high macronutrient contents (such as the carbohydrates from the potatoes, the proteins from the beans, and the fats from the palm oil) makes it not only a family favorite but a farmer’s favorite.
It’s an energy-packed dish that also doesn’t spoil easily (even under the hot African sun!) and since many Cameroonian families still don’t have access to refrigerators or coolers, pomme pileés remains an ideal dish for farmers who work far from their home and for mothers who are able to store the dish away to serve as needed for a tasty and nutritious snack or side dish for family or visiting friends.
These may not be the haute French equivalent of the glorious ‘world’s best mashed potatoes’ from Joël Robuchon, but they’re not DESIGNED to be glamorous – this is working man’s food: potently-flavored and packed with energy, as well as being easy-to-make. To make this both authentically and with TFD’s unmatched seasoning sorcery, you’ll need a few items beyond just potatoes and dried red kidney beans!
To up the protein (and flavor!) content substantially, many Cameroonian recipes call for adding crushed dried crayfish to the recipe – and I heartily endorse this decision, as it adds both nutrition and umami to the final dish. This – by far – is My preferred brand of premium African dried crayfish!
Spicing (and there IS heat in this dish, trust Me!) comes from the use of a bit of fresh habanero in the recipe – however, I have adapted this to include both dried Cameroonian habanero as well as Mbongô cardamom, aka alligator pepper! Cameroonian dried habenero is VERY spicy – feel free to reduce or even eliminate it to tone down the heat of this recipe. Please do NOT, however, eliminate the fresh habanero – it is an important part of the total flavor profile, which should be kicky!
You will also need some top-quality red palm oil for flavor and color in your pommes pileés – this is an excellent brand to consider! Rather than mundane salt, I shall follow in the footsteps of so many in Africa and Asia alike and instead use grated chicken bouillon cube as a superior alternative! You’ll also want REAL African Maggi cubes in this recipe, which are found here.
My Citizens, pommes pileés is an extremely tasty recipe and one redolent with the heat and passion found so frequently together in native African cuisine – do not dismiss it without TRYING it first. You will thank Me, I assure you – and it will liven up your next ‘steak and taters’ meal in new and pleasant ways.
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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