The evening began with a meet and greet: wine and introductions, accompanied by a delightful assortment of African canapes. Roasted slices of sweet potato and plantain formed the base of many of the titbits - a tasty alternative to the usual melba toasts and rubbery blinis - and toppings ranged from a gorgeous spicy 'peanut butter' with greens to a piquant medley of fish and tomato.
Slightly less healthy (but equally delicious) were the deep-fried fish balls - crispy exterior hiding a fluffy centre of mashed potato and salted fish - and the golden batons of battered plantain, piping hot and topped with a tangy tomato salsa.
A photo of me in action (not wearing my hairnet, naughty...)
With the ingredients prepared, we were ready to begin. I started by frying my diced onion in a glug of olive oil, adding the garlic once the onions had begun to brown (if you add the garlic too early it burns and gives your food an awful acrid flavour, so always leave it until later).
The sauce - which contained onions, garlic, ginger, and, of course, tomatoes - shared many flavours in common with the beef and greens. However, the addition of finely diced red chillies provided a hint of spice, while chopped parsley added another layer of flavour. I also added some red wine to mine (the ladies from Rainbow Tours kept my glass topped up throughout the evening!) and it didn't seem to do it any harm....
After stuffing my fish with the chilli, garlic and olive oil mixture, I put it in the oven at 190C to cook for 20 minutes or so. In the meantime, I added a cupful of rice and a few centimetres of water to the stew, and left my ragout to simmer...while I enjoyed what was left of my wine.
20 minutes later, everything was ready. I plated my fish - crisp-skinned and flavoured from the inside by the chilli and garlic marinade - next to an enormous mound of beef and greens. Luckily we were given take-away boxes, and after taking the picture below, I scooped most of the stew into a container: re-heated, it served as a tasty dinner for two the following night!