Cote d'Ivoire tomato sauce
Right, so... for those who are in Toronto, we had an African music festival this weekeend, Bana Y Afrique. I had a fantastic dish of barbequed tilapia (steak cross-cut cf. a filet), couscous made from cassava (excellent!) and this tomato sauce. I grilled (pardon the pun) the woman on the ingredients, and she was not forthcoming, so I switched to French, hoping to get around the linguististic barrier. No dice. She told me me that it was tomato, ginger root, and some chili pepper, but the rest was "African spices". No elaboration on that. Please, anyone, if you know what it might be, tell me! This stuff was ambrosia!
Reporting back on my experiments. I've taken a couple of runs at this, and it was pretty good. I'm still not quite there, but close.
28 oz tin of whole tomatoes, drained
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1.5" grated ginger root
1 bay leaf
1/4-1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp whole allspice berries
oil (palm would be more authentic, but I used olive oil)
Saute the onion in olive oil, adding a bit of salt. Once translucent, add the garlic, ginger, allspice, chili flakes, and bay leaf. Saute for a couple of minutes. Break the tomatoes in your fist, draining off the juice, then add tomatoes to the pot, stirring. Add just a little of the juice to loosen the mixture slightly. Cover, and reduce heat to a minimal simmer. I left it for about three hours, stirring occasionally, and breaking the tomatoes a bit with the spoon. Toward the end (30 minutes?) I put the top ajar slightly to let some of the moisture escape to let the sauce thicken a little more. Next time I'm going to try a scrape or two of nutmeg. I'm also on the hunt for grains of paradise. I served it with roasted fish and couscous (regular, not from cassava), and it was pretty good, but, as I said, it requires refining. I'm open to suggestions.
Ethiopia is on the east coast of Africa, Cote d'Ivoire on the west. Ethnic and regional culinary traditions being as strong as they are it is unlikely that this seasoning would be used in Ivory Coast cooking.
I would speculate that perhaps the amount of eggplant used in the sauce was just enough to give it that earthy flavour. However, I await hungry_pangolin's findings. A tasty new sauce is always welcome in my kitchen.
Thanks much for the link, mrbozo. The version I tasted yesterday didn't include eggplant. I suspect that there might have been some spice of some sort that imparted a slightly earthy undertone. If it was cumin, it was only a trace amount. I'm going to go to La Congolaise, and see if they can help me.