Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa's Gifts to New World Cooking

Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa's Gifts to New World Cooking

by Jessica B. Harris
Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa's Gifts to New World Cooking

Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa's Gifts to New World Cooking

by Jessica B. Harris


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Cajun, Creole, and Caribbean dishes all have their roots in the cooking of West and Central Africa; the peanuts, sweet potatoes, rice, cassava, plantains, and chile pepper that star in the cuisines of New Orleans, Puerto Rico, and Brazil are as important in the Old World as they are in the New World. In Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons, esteemed culinary historian and cookbook author Jessica Harris returns to the source to trace the ways in which African food has migrated to the New World and transformed the way we eat. From condiments to desserts, Harris shares more than 175 recipes that find their roots and ingredients in Africa, from Sand-roasted Peanuts to Curried Coconut Soup, from Pepper Rum to Candied Sweet Potatoes, from Beaten Biscuits to Jamaica Chicken Run Down, from Shortening Bread to Ti-Punch.
Enticing recipes, a colorful introduction on the evolution of transported African food, information on ingredients from achiote to z'oiseaux and utensils make this culinary journey a tantalizing, and satisfying, experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684853260
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 02/03/1999
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 816,740
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jessica B. Harris holds a PhD from NYU, teaches English at Queens College, and lectures internationally. The author of the memoir My Soul Looks Back as well as twelve cookbooks, her articles have appeared in Vogue, Food & Wine, Essence, and The New Yorker, among other publications; she has made numerous television and radio appearances and has been profiled in The New York Times. Considered one of the preeminent scholars of the food of the African Diaspora, Harris has been inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America, received an honorary doctorate from Johnson & Wales University and recently helped the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture to conceptualize its cafeteria.

Read an Excerpt

From: Main Dishes



West African cuisines use the peanut in various ways, but the most popular dish up and down the coast is groundnut stew. It is served along with large bottles of cold beer in the outdoor cabarets of Ghana. It is savored from brightly colored enameled bowls as mafe in Senegal. It turns up as chicken with peanut butter sauce in the Ivory Coast and is found in Senegal as Domoda.


1/2 cup peanut oil

1 pound stewing beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2-pound jar creamy peanut butter

1 medium-sized onion, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

8 medium-sized okra pods, topped and tailed

1/2 pound calabaza, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and sear the beef. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water and salt and pepper, bring the mixture to a boil over medium to high heat, and boil for 15 minutes. Add the peanut butter, onion, and lemon juice, and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the stew does not stick. Then lower the heat and simmer the stew for 30 to 45 minutes until the meat is tender.

While the stew is cooking, place the okra and the calabaza in another pot, cover with water, and cook until the calabaza is tender, about 20 minutes. When the stew is fully cooked, serve it garnished with the drained calabaza and okra and accompanied by white rice.



The La Ronde restaurant at the Trinidad Hilton is noted for its immense mural of the Queens' Park Savannah painted by Geoffrey Holder. In the dining area, guests can feast on popular Trinidadian and international dishes. A favorite of many are the chicken wings, which are boned and stuffed with bamboo shoots and other ingredients. This variation uses water chestnuts and scallions.


24 boned chicken winglette pieces (the miniature drumsticks)

One 8-ounce can whole water chestnuts, drained and minced

1/2 cup minced scallions, including the green tops

1 clove garlic, minced

4 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons vinegar

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 stalk celery, diced

Clean the chicken wings and stuff them with a mixture made from the water chestnuts, scallions, garlic, 3 teaspoons soy sauce, and vinegar. Close the chicken wings, but there is no need to sew them closed as the ingredients will fill the wings and secure themselves.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the stuffed wings in a baking dish and brush them with the melted butter. Add the chives and celery to the baking dish for additional flavor and sprinkle the wings with the remaining teaspoon of soy sauce. Cook the chicken wings for 45 minutes or until done, basting occasionally. Serve hot, with white rice.

Copyright © 1989 by Jessica B. Harris

From: Deserts and Candies



This is a classic Brazilian dessert. The quantity of eggs and sugar can be startling to those not accustomed to the sweetness that the Portuguese inherited from their Moorish conqueres. The small cakes, which are called angel's kisses, are prepared and then immersed in a sugar syrup.


9 egg yolks

2 egg whites, beaten into stiff peaks

1 pound sugar

1 1/2 cups water

3 drops vanilla extract

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks vigorously. Then fold in the egg whites. Pour the egg mixture into small muffin molds that have been greased and floured. Put the muffin tins in the oven and cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a sugar syrup of the remaining ingredients as described in the previous recipe. When the Beijos de Ango are cooked, unmold, place them in the sugar syrup, and poach them for 15 minutes. Serve the Beijos de Anjo in a large glass bowl. Pour a bit of the sugar syrup over each serving.



The bounty of fruit that is available in many tropical countries is mind-numbing to those of us who can normally pass the winter with only the choice of oranges and apples. In the Caribbean, watermelons, mangoes in multiple varieties, pineapples, tangerines, tiny clementines, sour mandarines, star apples, and more round out the list. They all come to the table in this exotic fruit salad. The ingredients can be rearranged to suit what is available in the market.


1 pineapple

1 ripe mango

1 grapefruit 1 large orange 1/2 ripe canteloupe 2 apples 1 pinch cinnamon 1 pinch nutmeg 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1/2 cup aged dark rum

Peel all the fruits and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place the fruit in a bowl, sprinkle with the spices, the dark brown sugar, and the dark rum. Stir the salad well to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Serve chilled. The salad can be served in a hollowed-out watermelon half or in individual "boats" made from the skin of the pineapple.

Copyright © 1989 by Jessica B. Harris

Table of Contents

Ingredients and Utensils
Sauces and Condiments
Vegetables and Salads
Main Dishes
Desserts and Candies
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