If there is a universal language, one method of communicating emotion, culture, heritage and welcoming, it’s the language of food. At Sudbury.com, we’re always looking for ways to share the stories of the community of Greater Sudbury and the many smaller communities that make up the fabric of this city. What better way, then through your stomach.
Welcome to the first edition of Communities Eat.
It’s a chance to meet wonderful members of this community and to enjoy some great food – maybe even learn a little something new.
This edition features Tibila Sandiwidi, who is a school settlement worker in Sudbury.
Originally from Burkina Faso, Sandiwidi arrived in Sudbury almost 20 years ago. He is an excellent cook, even though he is largely self-taught. In his home country, men must be invited into the kitchen, as it is not only the domain of women, but every grain of rice is accounted for and when there isn’t much to go around, a little unpermitted snack can mean one less meal.
He is cooking a common meal from his homeland, one that would be cooked for celebrations and events, when family would come together to dine. Called Riz Gras, it translates as Fat Rice, but only because it requires slightly more oil than you might expect.
Sandiwidi’s home country of Burkina Faso, in West Africa, did not always go by that name. For many years it bore the name of the colonizers who named the Volta River that flows through the area, then naming their colonies based on the proximity to the river’s flow. In 1960, it gained independence from France, but remained as Haute or ‘Upper’ Volta.
Later, the impoverished country weighed down by government corruption needed a fresh start. Landlocked and poor, as well as irrevocably changed by colonialism, the president of the country from 1983 to 1987, Thomas Sankara, decided it needed to be renamed, and a name that was chosen by its people, the communities that lived there.
It became known as Burkina Faso, which means ‘Land of Incorruptible People’ or ‘The People of Integrity.’
When Sankara spoke to the United Nations for the first time as leader, he said, “I am here to bring you fraternal greetings from a country that covers 274,000 square kilometers, and whose seven million children, women and men refuse henceforth to die from ignorance, hunger and thirst. These are people who, despite a quarter century of existence as a sovereign state represented here at the UN, are still not able to really live.”
We hope you enjoy this taste of Burkina Faso and a little more information about The People of Integrity.
Thanks to the Centre de santé communautaire du Grand Sudbury for allowing Sudbury.com to film in their kitchen.
Riz Gras (from Tibila Sandiwidi)
For the puree:
- 3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 medium onion, yellow, red or one half of each, roughly chopped
- 3 green onions, roughly chopped
- ½ -1 inch piece of ginger, peel and roughly chopped
- 1 pepper – green, red or half of each, seeded and rough chopped.
- 1 cup of parsley, chopped (approximately 4 pieces, stems removed.)
For the main
- ½ kg of meat, fish or poultry. (In this video, Sandiwidi used outside round roast, cubed into 1-2 inch pieces)
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds.
- 1 Manioc root, peeled and quartered lengthwise, with inner root membrane removed.
- 1 small head cabbage, or half large. Slice in long pieces so that a portion of the core is included in every piece, making the cabbage stay together and remove easily from the pot.
- 1 small eggplant, short and round rather than long and thin. Remove ends and quarter lengthwise.
- 6-8 pieces of okra, fresh enough that tips still snap. Slice stem off other end.
- One medium can of tomato paste
- 2 Bay leaves
- One bouillon cube, flavour of your choice (we used beef).
- Long grain rice – Jasmine, Basmati or white.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lime or lemon for serving
Add onion, green onion, garlic, parsley, ginger, and peppers to the blender or food processor. If using blender, add oil to help the mixture blend.
Blend until ingredients are fully combined.
Add half of this mixture to large bowl, set aside the rest to add to recipe later.
Toss cubed meat, fish or poultry in the bowl with half of the puree mixture. Set aside while you prepare other ingredients.
In large pot, add enough oil to coat one inch on bottom of pot
Fry leftover puree mixture in oil, 1-2 minutes.
Add medium can of tomato paste, stir to fully combine.
Add cubed meat and its puree mix, scraping all juice and puree into pot.
Add water to the pot until the meat is just covered.
(Some would sear meat before add liquid, but Sandiwidi prefers that the meat simmer without searing, “to let the flavours go in and the juices come into the pot.”)
Simmer until meat is nearing your desired level of tenderness (longer = more tender)
Add vegetables, in this case Okra, Manioc, eggplant, cabbage and carrots. Add Manioc and carrots first to allow a few extra minutes of cook time, and then add the remaining vegetables.
(Any vegetables you have on hand can be used, as long as they are added in order of their cooking time, longest to shortest, to allow even cooking of all.)
Add bouillon cube, any extra salt you feel is needed after the bouillon, pepper to taste, and 2 Bay leaves. (remove Bay before serving.)
Simmer until the meat is cooked and vegetables are fork tender, or to your preference
Remove the meat and vegetables to another bowl, tent with aluminum foil to keep warm while rice cooks.
To the liquid remaining in pan, add your desired amount of rice. 2 cups is common for 2-4 portions.
Add water “Until the liquid amount sits 1-1.4 inches about the level of rice in the pot”
Simmer until rice is cooked, checking to ensure doneness and level of water remaining. When the rice is almost done, put your fork underneath the rice to the bottom of the pot, lifting the rice and allowing the liquid to move underneath, covering the bottom and keep the rice from sticking.
Serve the rice alongside the cooked meat and vegetables.
Jenny Lamothe is a Local Journalism Reporter at Sudbury.com, covering issues in the Black, immigrant and Francophone communities. She is also a freelance writer and voice actor.