Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Guinea-Bissau is a small country located on the west coast of Africa, between Senegal and Guinea. Bissau-Guinean cuisine is based on rice and millet (a grain), typically paired with vegetables and zesty sauces. Coastal people may eat fish regularly, but due to the poverty of the country, meat is typically only consumed on special occasions, when livestock is slaughtered.

I wanted to cover Guinea-Bissau early on because it’s the last book I worked on for my contract, and my team just finished on Friday. I had a hard time finding recipes - there were links to a few, but the recipes themselves could generally not be found, except for the one I made. The original called for mutton, but after trying Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Super Giant, and the butcher in Del Ray, I came to the conclusion that mutton is unavailable near Old Town, so I substituted lamb neckbones. When I was ready to serve the stew, I fished out as many of the bones as I could. A lot of the meat had already fallen off, and I used forks to get the rest off, then put it back in the pot. Generally, I liked it. I was way too shy with the salt, and I might flavor it more strongly next time (although I’m not sure with what). But it’s very hearty, and I’m enjoying the leftovers as I write this.

Pea Soup ‘n Meat
~2 lbs of lamb neckbones (originally 1 lb neck of mutton)
1 small pork shank
5 strips bacon
8 oz dried yellow split peas
1/4 cup rice
2 large celery sticks
1 large potato
2 large carrots
1 large onion
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
4 pints water
 Slice the neck of mutton (do nothing with the lamb). Cut the bacon into strips across the length. Finely chop the celery sticks. Peel the potato and grate coarsely. Peel the carrots and grate coarsely. Peel the onion and chop finely.

Place all the ingredients, except for the peas and rice, in a heavy Dutch oven or cast iron pot. Add 4 cups of water. Cover and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours.

Add the peas and rice together with 4 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer for 2 hours. You can even add more water if you feel it's necessary. As the pea soup thickens it must be stirred frequently to prevent burning. The soup should be thick, and leftovers will thicken further.

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