He pulled a frozen white ball from the plastic bag he was carrying, and dropped it on my lap. “There you go, do something with this” he said, and turned to leave.
“Papa,” I said “what’s that?”
As it turned out, we had a newly-opened African grocer open in the neighbourhood, and Papa had decided to buy me some attiéké to make.
Papa rarely does things by accident, so choosing attiéké was neither a mistake nor an uninformed choice. He picked attiéké because he knows what it is, having lived in Ivory Coast a couple of decades ago. He and Mama moved there in 1978. They came back to Europe in 1982… with 2 kids in tow.
Having never been back to Ivory Coast myself, I suppose Papa thought it would be interesting to get acquainted with my native land’s cuisine by making it myself.
Attiéké is usually served with kedjenou, a slow-cooked stew of either chicken or fish (although other proteins can be used). Kedjenou is typically made in a dish called “canari,” a terra cotta pot, in hot coals. Nevertheless, a deep pan will work just fine.
You can find 2 types of attiéké (in specialty shops): dried or frozen. If you are unfamiliar with attiéké, I would suggest getting the dried one and following the package directions. That’s the best way to get a nice and fluffy couscous.
- 300g / 10.5 oz. attiéké
- One chicken, cut into 4, or 4 chicken thighs
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, or 3 shallots, chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cm / 1 in fresh ginger, chopped or grated (or more, to taste)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried thyme
In a deep pan, heat the oil over high heat. Carefully add the chicken and sauté for a few minutes, until the skin is crispy.
Add the rest of the ingredients, seaon with salt and pepper, cover and seal the lid with a towel.
Lower the heat and simmer for about 40-45 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
In the meantime, prepare the attiéké:
Steamed: line the basket of your steamer with a clean tea towel. Spread the attiéké evenly and fold the rest of the towel over. Put the lid on and steam for about 15-20 minutes, mixing regularly so the grains don’t stick together.
In the microwave: soak the attiéké in the same amount of water (1 cup water for 1 cup attiéké), and set aside for 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Cook about 5 minutes in the microwave (850W). Immediately fluff it with a fork and spread in one layer on a shallow dish to cool.
Serve topped with the chicken and sauce.