Benin

Benin is a country in West Africa, bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. About 42 African ethnic groups live in Benin, with most people living on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin.  It was formerly called Dahomey, a kingdom that rose to prominence in about 1600 and over the next two and half centuries became a regional power, largely based on its slave trade. Dahomey was also widely known for its corps of female soldiers known as the Dahomey Amazons.

Benin is widely seen as the birthplace of voodoo. They hold an annual Voodoo festival in Ouidah on Voodoo Day (January 10th), which is a public holiday. There is a national Voodoo museum.  Voodoo is more than a belief system, it is a complete way of life, including culture, philosophy, language, art, dance, music and medicine.

Oscar nominated Djimon Hounsou (of Gladiator and Blood Diamond) was born in Cotonou, Benin.

It offers the visitor many interesting sights including the Parc National de la Pendjari, which is one of the best wildlife parks in West Africa. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and hundreds of other species thrive here.  Other highlights are Grand Popo (palm fringed beaches), the colonial buildings of Porto Novo (the capital) and Grand Marche de Dantokpa (the large market in Cotonou).

Recipes I came across for Benin include Ago Glain (spicy crab, tomato and onion stew) , Akkra Funfun (white bean fritters) , Talé Talé (deep fried banana fritters).  I opted to make Yovo doko (Beninese sweet fritters) which I served for breakfast.  The kids enjoyed them with chocolate spread!

Rating: 8/10

Makes about 40 fritters
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

Peanut oil
500g plain flour
170g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
15g yeast
500ml water
Salt

Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water in a bowl and mix with your fingers until it is well blended.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil to low – medium.
Place spoonfuls of the mixture around the pan and fry for 6 minutes on each side and then 2 minutes again on the first side.
Drain on kitchen towel and serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

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