Rich flavours of Togo bring people together

By Tim O’Connor

I want to talk about how food can bring people together, and how my friend Derrick brought us to today’s recipe.

Derrick, Flora Hall’s sous chef, is from Togo in West Africa, and it’s neat to listen to him talk about the food his mum makes, the food served at family gatherings. You can feel the passion, as food brings back warm memories of life in Togo and his mum’s cooking.

Some West African dishes – Derrick’s versions of them – have appeared on the menu at Flora Hall and are guest favourites. One dish Derrick told me about was black-eyed peas cooked in a peanut tomato broth, which was low cost and packed with protein – it was often eaten by construction workers back home.

I found a recipe in an old cookbook and, without letting Derrick in on my secret plan, I cooked my own version, which was easy to make because every ingredient is a pantry staple. The stew pairs well with whole grilled fish marinated in oil, lemon and herbs – another of Derrick’s favourites – so that too was a part of my dinner plan.

The dish has a touch of habanero heat and the hearty richness of peanuts and black-eyed peas (or similar beans, such as Great Northern whites).

When Derrick saw and tasted the dish, his eyes lit up. It brought back the flavours and aromas of home as we tore off pieces of the fish to eat with the stew and flat bread.

I’ve not been to Togo, yet I felt like I was transported into Derrick’s life and was sharing the food with his whole family. Derrick beamed.

Food does that. It takes you to places you’ve never been, places that are home to your friends. And along the way, it brings us closer together.

Tim O’Connor was born and raised in the Glebe and is head chef at Flora Hall Brewing.

Derrick and Tim bond over their mutual love of good food.  Photo: David Longbottom


Black-eyed peas in tomato peanut broth, with whole grilled fish

4 cups cooked black eye beans
1 cup canned whole tomatoes
1 cup of peanuts or 1/4 cup of peanut butter
1 whole onion, chopped fine
3 sprigs of thyme
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 inch of ginger, chopped
1 habanero

  1. Sautée onion, garlic and ginger until they sweat, add habanero and thyme.
  2. Purée peanuts with just enough water to make paste (or use peanut butter).
  3. Add peanut paste and cook until it starts to separate.
  4. Add tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add beans and season.
  6. Add a half cup of water or veg stock as needed (you don’t want it like soup).

Fish

Take a whole sea bream
(my favourite) or bass, gutted
and scaled with head on.
Pounded garlic
Thyme
Parsley
Lemon juice and zest
Black pepper
Olive oil
Salt

  1. Rub juice and oil in cavity of fish, stuff all ingredients inside. Season outside of fish with olive oil and salt.
  2. Put fish on very hot grill (use BBQ cage if you have one). Depending on size, your fish should take 7 minutes per side to cook. If not using cage, flip gently as some skin may stick (it happens to the best of us).
  3. Eat, enjoy, watch for tiny bones!
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