Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa and is situated above the Gulf of Guinea, sharing borders with Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. It has a population of 7.5 million. Despite it being a small country, there are approximately 40 different ethnic groups and 40 indigenous languages, including the Gbe languages of Ewe, Mina and Aja, although French is the official language used in education, administration & commerce.
After leading a successful military coup d’état in 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma became president of Togo for 38 years. At the time of his death in 2005, he was the longest serving leader in Africa. During his rule he escaped several assassination attempts, one by a bodyguard and in 1974 he survived a plane crash. He claimed he was the only survivor, but he deliberately misrepresented the details of the accident to make himself look like a hero. He also claimed that the crash was not an accident and was in fact a conspiracy to kill him. He came to his demise in a plane whilst flying over Tunisia and the cause of death was a heart attack.
According to Lonely Planet, Togo’s highlights for the tourist include the Unesco world heritage listed area of Koutammakou, palm fringed boulevards of the capital, Lomé, hiking the picturesque mountains of Badou, watching the wildlife at Parc Sarakawa and swimming in Lac Togo.
Togolese cuisine’s staples include maize, rice, millet, cassava, yam, plantain and beans, with fish and poultry also being popular. Recipes I came across were Akume (maize porridge, also known as paté served with a light vegetable stew), Riz sauce d’arachide (rice with peanut sauce), Gbomo Dessi (Spicy beef and spinach stew), Djenkoume (Tomato cornmeal cakes) and Ablo (Cornmeal bread). I decided to make Togolese Grilled Chicken served with pitta breads and salad. It had a subtle flavour which I enjoyed, but Bern added some spicy sauce to his.
Prep time: 15 minutes + overnight marinating
Cook time: 20 – 30 minutes
2 – 4 pieces of chicken (legs, thighs or breasts), bone in and skin on
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp red palm oil (a must have ingredient, no other oil will give the unique flavour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you want it spicy)
In a bowl, mix together the salt, peppers, garlic, ginger, and red palm oil
Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag, then pour the marinade over them and rub into the chicken pieces, making sure they are all well covered and refrigerate overnight
Grill the chicken over a medium to high heat, turning the pieces over once
Cook until the skins are a rich, deep golden (almost blackened) color, and the juices run clear – this takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. (Note: if you are using breast meat, the cooking time will be less so don’t overcook, or the meat will be dry)
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving with pitta bread and salad. You can also serve it with spicy sauce, grilled onions and tomatoes.