Omer Eltigani, THE SUDANESE KITCHEN
Following the Trump administration’s announcement of its Muslim immigrant ban, the Food52 writer, Mayukh Sen, posed, “Why are there so few Sudanese cookbooks?” His titular article followed a round-up of cookbooks from other Food52 editors, highlighting cuisines of countries affected by the ban. In doing so, they discovered that there was a major dearth of cookbooks from countries in the African continent—and Sudan was on that list.
On this side of the pond, in London, Omer Eltigani, a young Sudanese-born, British-educated pharmacist, may be the solution to his home country’s lack of culinary representation. The Sudanese Kitchen, a cookbook of one hundred Sudanese recipes sourced from his family, is the product of a Kickstarter campaign that Omer launched last year. With it, he aims to publish the first commercially-available Sudanese cookbook that is available outside of Sudan and Africa, and still sourced from Africa.
Although the book awaits a publisher, Omer is already busy proselytizing—touring his recipes across North America, and conducting regular supper clubs and cooking classes in London. Recently, he returned from participating in the “Banned Countries” dinner series hosted by Brooklyn-based travel journal, Roads and Kingdoms. Speaking at the Bare Lit Festival’s “How to Write a Cookbook” panel this year, Omer emphasized The Sudanese Kitchen’s founding in the family life of the kitchen, which he reverentially describes as a “women's zone.” When fellow panellists enquired about the origins of his homegrown cooking style, Omer answered, with a grin, “People say I cook like my mother. I consider it a great compliment.” As it turns out, the book is dedicated to her.
Gurrasa (pancake bread)
A thick, savoury pancake bread made from wheat flour that accompanies a variety of stews and other dishes. Its soft texture makes it easy to tear and to soak up delicious flavours.
Gurrasa are associated with the people of northern Sudan who have many variations, such as a date gurrasa. Some northerners say that gurrasas are thickest at the very north of Sudan and gradually reduce in thickness as one travels along the Nile towards Khartoum.
Makes 6-8 gurrasa pancakes, serving 4-6
250g wholemeal flour
250g plain flour
2-3 teaspoon salt
2-3 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon instant dry yeast
1L water – lukewarm temperature approx. 50°C / 120°F
Mix together in a large mixing bowl: wholemeal flour, plain flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast. Slowly add warm water and mix well to form batter with the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Set aside to ferment for 10-15mins. he volume will have increased slightly as the yeast activates.
Gently heat and add a small amount oil or ghee to a non-stick pan and spread evenly. For more authenticity, do the same to a saaj (a traditional Sudanese curved frying pan used for frying gurrasas) if one is available.
Begin to make the gurrasas in the normal pancake fashion by pouring approximately 150ml batter into the pan and spreading evenly to make a circular shape. Gurrasas are made slightly thicker than a regular pancake and should not allowed to become too dry. Remove from the heat when both sides are golden brown yet still soft and supple due to its thickness.
After cooking, keep the gurrasas moist by placing in a sealable container or cover with a clean moist kitchen cloth and stack one on top of the other until the batter has finished.
Tear off a bite sized piece of gurrasa and use to scoop a stew or dip.
Using yeast or another fermenting agent is optional, when not using yeast omit the sugar and use less water than stated, approximately 850ml.
½ teaspoon baking powder in the batter makes it light and fluffy with air bubbles
1 tablespoon of uncooked fermented batter can be used as the fermenting agent for the next batch. It should ferment fresh dough as efficiently as instant yeast and can be stored in a cool dry area inside a sealable container or more traditionally in a fermenting jug.
A popular way of eating gurrasa is preparing the follow mixture per gurrasa: 4-5 tablespoons yoghurt, salt to taste, 1 crushed garlic clove, ½ raw onion chopped finely, 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin and olive oil or warm ghee as garnish. Tear off small pieces of gurrasa and mix with the above mixture. Eat with clean hands or a spoon.
Fried aubergine slices in a peanut sauce infused with garlic, lime and ground cumin.
1 large aubergine, peeled
1L frying oil
4-6 tablespoons peanut butter
1 lime/lemon, halved
½ tablespoon malt vinegar
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Frying the aubergine
Slice the peeled the aubergine into 1cm thick circular slices and arrange on a tray of kitchen towels. Take fresh kitchen towels and press each aubergine slice in between kitchen towels to remove any excess water before frying.
Deep-fry the slices on both sides until golden-brown to brown then place in a sieve to drain excess oil. Dry the slices on kitchen towels and season with salt.
Peanut dressing instructions
Add peanut butter to a large bowl and mix in: lime juice, vinegar, crushed garlic, and olive oil. Season with ground cumin, salt and pepper.
Taste the dressing then balance accordingly using any of the previous ingredients. Then, gently fold in the fried aubergine slices. Garnish with ground cumin and olive oil.
Peanut butter can be substituted with Greek-style yoghurt.
Garnish with fresh thyme, fresh parsley, coriander, cumin seeds, sesame seeds or oil.
Salting the surface of the aubergine slices for 10-20 minutes before frying draws out water as well as any bitterness from the final taste. Pat dry before frying.
Season the fried aubergine (lime, salt, pepper, herbs, garlic) then cover in a sealable container for 2-5 minutes to sweat into a softer texture.