Recipe and introduction by Yewande Komolafe. Excerpted from Black Food: Stories, Art and Recipes from across the African Diaspora (A Cookbook), Edited by Bryant Terry.
Cassava is a versatile starch used by folks across West Africa and in the diaspora, as well as in South America and the Caribbean. Fresh cassava can be fried, steamed, or used as a base for exciting flavor combinations. These skillet cakes are made from fresh cassava and are one of my favorite ways to use these tubers. I serve them as an appetizer or side dish, topped with a bright, colorful salad.
Makes about 24 cakes
2 1⁄2 pounds cassava roots (about 2 whole) 2 limes 1 cup minced red onion 1 ripe but firm mango, peeled and diced small Kosher salt to taste2 tablespoons red palm oil4 garlic cloves, minced1 teaspoon ground cumin1 red Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced1 tender inner stalk lemongrass, finely minced 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated 1⁄4 cup sliced scallions 1 egg white, whisked until foamy Safflower or other vegetable oil for frying 1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro leaves Red or green amaranth leaves for garnish
Remove the cassava root skins with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler. Move the peeled roots to a bowl of water to keep them from turning brown. Use the large holes of a box grater or the grater attachment on a food processor to grate the cassava, placing in cold water until done. Drain and squeeze out any excess liquid. Spread out on a kitchen towel to dry completely (excess water will result in soggy cakes).
Zest and juice one of the limes. Cut the remaining lime into wedges and set aside. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the onion, mango, and the lime zest and juice. Toss together and season with salt. Set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the palm oil over medium heat and add the remaining ¾ cup onion. Sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chile, lemongrass, and ginger, stir for an additional minute, season with salt, and remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the cassava, cooked onion mix, and scallions. Season with salt. Add the egg white and gently toss, using your hands or a spatula to incorporate the ingredients. (The mixture will be damp but shouldn’t be runny.) Cover the mix and refrigerate to chill slightly for at least 15 minutes before shaping and frying.
Wipe out the skillet and add ¼ cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, use a tablespoon measure to scoop heaped portions of the mix into the oil. Press down each portion with the bottom of the spoon to shape into a round patty. Cook until the contact side is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn, using a wide spatula, and brown the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove the cooked cakes from the oil and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat the frying, until all of the mix is used up, adding more oil as necessary to keep the cakes from sticking.
Toss the cilantro in with the mango mixture. Serve the fritters topped with fresh amaranth leaves, the mango salad, and lime wedges for squeezing.
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