I can’t start talking about the Côte d’Ivoire without mentioning the two players that are expected to take this nation to the second round of the World Cup and beyond: Yaya Toure and the ageing but still incredibly influential Didier Drogba. Yaya was the driving force behind Manchester City’s English Premier League title, which they won last month. If you ever watch him play you will see a powerful and skillful player that makes passing a ball look effortless. I very rarely see a pass go astray, which I am sad to say looks like a dying art these days. As for Didier Drogba; Chelsea fans still bask in the days when he was a formidable predator with his quick and effective style and potent scoring touch. He may be getting on in football years but he is still a major influence.
The Côte d’Ivoire has qualified for the last two World Cups but has yet to make it out of the group stage. It has started this campaign really well by coming from behind to beat Japan 2-1. Struggling to get a grip in the game and losing 1-0, Drogba came on as a substitute and the team seemed to be given a huge lift. Within 5 minutes it was 2-1 up. Its next game will be a tough one against Columbia, which I reckon will be an end to end game with an onion bag full of goals.
I have learnt so much about African food in the last couple of weeks, from the fermented rice cakes from Nigeria to the ponkie (pumpkin) stew from Ghana. The hard part has been selecting which dish to cook for each country. The Côte d’Ivoire is no exception with dishes such as futu (meat, dried fish and okra stew), atieke (cassava with meat and vegetable sauce) and the one I have cooked for the World Cup, Diombre.
Diombre is a meat and tomato stew which has the key ingredient of crushed okra. The crushed okra when rehydrated in the tomato sauce gives the stew a mildly mucilaginous texture, the kind that fresh okra is known for. It’s important to use a good cut of meat as the stew is cooked fairly quickly, and a cheaper cut of meat will be tough.
Diombre is usually served with fufu, a savoury pudding-like carbohydrate which is commonly eaten throughout Africa. It’s pretty much made from yam or cassava flour, and water. I couldn’t find the right flour in time for this post, so I served it with steamed rice, which works really well.
Serves: 4 | Preparation: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 30 minutes
500g Rump steak | Trimmed of fat cut in to 1 cm cubes.
1 tsp. Sea salt |
2 sprigs Thyme |
3 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil.
1 Brown onion | Diced.
1 tbsp. Tomato purée |
3 medium Ripe tomatoes | Diced.
1 tsp. Chilli powder |
50g Butter | Cubed.
1 sprig Thyme | Leaves only.
20g Dried okra | Crushed in a mortar. Can be bought or *See below for how to make it.
Seasoning Sea salt |
Add about a litre of water to a medium saucepan. Add the rump steak, teaspoon of salt and two thyme sprigs and bring the water to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the meat discarding the thyme and water. In a deep frying pan or heavy casserole dish heat the grapeseed oil over a medium heat and add the meat. Fry until browned and then add the onion and fry for a further two minutes, stirring to prevent the onion from burning. Add the tomato purée, stir, and then add the diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes and then add the butter, chilli powder, thyme leaves, dried okra and seasoning. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes over a low heat.
Serve with fufu, cassava or boiled rice.
* To make your own dried okra: Take 300g of fresh okra, top and tail each piece. Slice each okra ‘finger’ into long strips and blanch in boiling water for a minute. Drain and then lay out on two baking sheets lined with baking paper. Put in a 70°C (160°F) oven for 12 hours. Put the dried okra in a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. This will yield about 20g of okra powder.