Senegal is in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania. It remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa and has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping and regional mediation. The landscape consists of mainly rolling sandy plains. It’s highest peak at 584m is found southwest of Kedougou and is unnamed. Senegal has a population of over 13.5 million with a wide variety of ethnic groups including the Wolof, Fula, Toucouleur and Serer.
The lively capital of Dakar was once the finishing point of the Paris-Dakar rally, which originated in 1978 when motorcycle racer Thierry Sabine got lost in the Ténéré desert whilst competing in the Abidjan-Nice rally. He realised that the desert would be a good location for a regular rally where amateurs could test their ability. In 1979, 182 vehicles started the inaugural race from Paris with 74 surviving the 10,000km trip to Dakar, Senegal. Cyril Neveu won the race on a Yamaha XT500. Due to security threats in Mauritania, which led to the cancellation of the 2008 rally, races since 2009 have been held in South America.
Saint Louis, founded in 1659 on an island in the River Senegal, this port town was once the capital of French West Africa. It is now host to the annual Saint Louis jazz festival, the biggest of its kind in Africa, bringing 500 musicians together to play in the central square of the historic quarter. In 2000 it was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Wrestling is Senegal’s most popular sport and has become a national obsession. A type of folk wrestling traditionally performed by the Serer people, it is now the national sport. Adama Diatta and Isabelle Sambou will be competing in the freestyle wrestling category at the 2016 Olympics.
Sengalese cuisine takes influence from North Africa, France and Portugal, as well as its ethnic groups. Sengalese recipes I came across include Mafe (fish, chicken or lamb stewed with peanut butter sauce and vegetables), Thieboudienne (rice & fish), Sombi (sweet milk rice soup), Chere (cous cous) and Ndambé (spicy beans). I cooked Poulet Yassa (chicken marinated with onions and lemons), which is now popular across all of West Africa but it originated in Senegal. It was delicious! Traditionally it is served with rice or sweet potato, however I served it with a green salad of leaves, avocado and soya beans which complemented it very well.
Prep time: 20 mins + overnight marinating
Cook time: 1 hour
1 small chicken (1-2 kg) or 8 – 10 chicken pieces on the bone
Lemon juice or 4 squished lemons
2 cubes of chicken stock
peanut or groundnut oil
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
1 cup of water
Make the marinade sauce by mixing 2 tablespoons french mustard with 4 tablespoons of peanut or groundnut oil and 6 tablespoons of lemon juice
Cut the chicken into smaller pieces
Pour ¾ of the mix into a plastic bag with the chicken pieces and let it marinate in the fridge overnight or for at least 3 hours
Keep the rest of the marinade for the next day
Cut the onions in to large pieces and mix them with the rest of the marinade
Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut or groundnut oil in a large pan
Fry the chicken on high heat for 5 minutes so it browns, then remove from the pan and set aside
Reduce the heat, add the onions and the rest of the marinade and cook for around 10 minutes
Scrap any burnt bits from the bottom of the pan and stir well to blend in
Once the onions are soft, add the chicken pieces back into the pan, then add the chicken stock cubes, 2 cups of water, salt & pepper and chilli flakes
Let it cook for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
Taste to check if extra salt or pepper are needed
Serve with rice, sweet potato or a green salad with avocado and soya beans