Lemony “chicken” and okra soup (Sierra Leone)

Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa, unfortunately perhaps best known for the recent Ebola epidemic, which has basically ended in Liberia and Guinea, but still affects Sierra Leone. It has also broken havoc on the country’s infrastructure, which was already devastated by the Sierra Leone civil war (1992-2001). Diamonds and minerals form the majority of Sierra Leone’s exports, but 2/3 of the people are subsistence farmers. The country used to be a colony of the United Kingdom and English is still the major language, though Islam is the most common religion. Officially Sierra Leone is a secular country and is thought to be one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world. Polygamy is widespread with over 1/3 of women in polygamous marriages. Football is very popular.

Rice is the staple starch in Sierra Leone, eaten at almost every meal. Groundnut stew has been called the national dish. Traditionally men and women eat separately and everyone eats with their hands from a communal dish. Various greens are popular, including cassava leaves, potato leaves and krain krain (molokhia/jute leaves). Palm oil is used for frying. Cassava root is made into bread and eaten in soups. Plantains, okra and tomatoes are used in many dishes. Sierra Leoneans also enjoy fufu (mash that can be made with different starches) and jollof rice, like in many other African countries. Several different spices are used, as well as Maggi cubes. Poyo is palm wine. Ginger beer is a popular non-alcoholic drink. Desserts often feature sesame seed or coconut.

This dish wasn’t anything special, but a nice soup nonetheless. I like okra, but even for me I think there was a little too much of it, I prefer it in a stew or curry instead of soup. I don’t know what a “can of tomato paste” means in the U.S. or other countries, but here it refers to very small cans. Obviously if they are bigger, the end result would be very different. That’s why I don’t like those “one can” measurements. You can make this gluten-free (e.g. with Chinese chicken-style tofu) and/ or low carb

Lemony “chicken” and okra soup

Sierra Leonean soup

1/2 lbs/225 g seitan or mock chicken
1/2 large onion, chopped
juice from 1 large lemon
1/4 cup/0.6 dl uncooked long-grain rice
2 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups/7.2 dl vegan “chicken” broth or water
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 can tomato paste (see notes)
1 cup/2.4 dl sliced small okra, fresh or frozen
oil for frying

If using seitan or seitan-based mock chicken, squeeze it in your hands to remove any extra liquid, letting it absorb more flavours. Saute the onion in a little oil. Add the seitan and all the other ingredients. Cook until the rice is tender. Serve over additional rice. Makes 3-4 portions.

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