A quick note: the cookbook, The New York Times International Cookbook, was published in 1971. It listed the country of Benin as Dahomey. It was known as Dahomey until November 30, 1975, when it was renamed Benin. Here are some quick facts about the West African country:
- Prior to becoming a French colony there where Portuguese, English, and French trading posts established in the county.
- It was a French Colony from 1892 until 1958 when the country was granted autonomy and then became fully independent August 1, 1960.
- The slave trade flourished in the region of Dahomey for almost three hundred years, beginning in 1472, with a trade agreement with Portuguese merchants, leading to the area being named “the Slave Coast”.
- The cradle of voodoo – voodoo originated in Dahomey and migrated to other countries during the slave trade.
- Ouidah is a port city with influences of past European trading posts.
- Ganvie is a city of floating villages where the houses are built on piers.
- French is the official language.
Benin first completed in the Olympics in 1980. This year the country was represented by six (6) athletes competing in four (4) different sports: fencing, track and field, judo, and swimming.
A whole lot of yum sums up this meal consisting of Shrimp Dahomienne and Rice Bujambura. These two dishes were listed among three others that included Peas and Shrimp, Pureed Peas, and African Fish Stew.
This is similar to Shrimp Creole and in my humble opinion could be the basis for the dish as they both share a French background.
I could easily make this dish once a week. The next time I make it I will include Pureed Peas. This was left off the menu because I did not read the recipe beforehand and realize the peas needed to be soaked overnight. The peas in Pureed Peas and Peas and Shrimp refer to black eyed peas, the legume not green peas or the group featuring Fergie and wil-i-am, flossy, flossy.
And now, without further ado…
- 1 cup of finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup of peanut oil
- 1 cup of raw shrimp, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 3/4 cup of ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup Fresh Tomato Sauce (see below) or canned tomato sauce
- I recommend taking the time to make fresh tomato sauce – trust me on this. Also, you want more of a sauce with diced tomato that true sauce.
- 1 hot red pepper, seeded and chopped (optional) or Tabasco to taste
- Left the hot red pepper out because I love my 5 year old more than I love spicy
- Cook the onion in the peanut oil until it just starts to brown.
- Add the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.
- Cook on lower heat as to not over cook the shrimp.
- Add the garlic and ham and cook five minutes longer, stirring.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook about 15 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
- Serve in a ring of Pureed Peas or in a bowl with Rice Bujambura.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 cups of chopped, fresh tomatoes
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
This should make about 2 cups. I barely got 1 cup from this when it was strained so I used everything when I put it in the Shrimp Dahomienne.
- Heat the butter in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
- If this is to be used as a tomato sauce, strain it.
- 5 cups of Chicken Stock
- 2 cups uncooked converted rice
- I used jasmine rice that I buy in bulk at Whole Foods
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup of chopped pimento-stuffed olives
- You can make this in a rice cooker or on the stove-top.
- Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a three-quart saucepan.
- Add the rice, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.
- Cover and cook over low heat until the stock is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and stands in separate grains.
- Before serving, remove the bay leaves and add the olives.
- 1 1/2 cups of dried black-eyes peas
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup of butter
- Place the black-eyed peas in a mixing bowl and add cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.
- Let stand overnight.
- Drain the peas and pick them over to remove the outer skin, which should slip off easily.
- When peeled, the peas should be stark white.
- Place the peeled peas in a kettle (cooking pot) and add water to cover.
- Add salt and pepper and simmer until the peas are tender and most of the water is absorbed, 20 minutes or longer. If any liquid remains, drain it off.
- Put the peas through a food mill or sieve. Heat thoroughly over low heat, while beating in the butter with a wooden spoon.