1/2 cup dried onion flakes or 1/4 cup onion powder
2 tsp cumin (whole) or 1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp anise (whole) or 1 tsp powder
2 medium cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp powder
1 heaping tsp pepper corns or 1/2 tsp powder
2 tsp powdered tomato
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
6 pitted dates (not too dry)
1 small tin tomato paste
3 medium onions or 6 small
2 lbs meat4
6 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 Tbs bread yeast
Start by sweetening your water with a little bit of sugar, honey, molasses, a date dissolved in it would do equally well.
Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water. It should be warm but not hot. Let the yeast sink and then bubble up to the surface on its own. Add flour and a dash of salt, stirring to a uniform constancy. When it is a moderately stiff dough cover with a cloth and leave in warm place to rise. When it has risen punch down and kneed, let rise again.
While the dough is rising begin the sauce. I would recommend having all the ingredients more or less ready to go into the pot before you start cooking.
To pre-prepare spices pound or grind the salt5, dried onions, cumin, anise, pepper, hot pepper, marey kaabay and cinnamon to a powder. Sift together into a bowl. If you are using powdered spices skip this step and measure the desired quantities of each into a bowl.
Wash and cut meat into chunks between 2 and 2 1/2 inches square it is fine if there are bones.
Put a large sauce pan on heat when the pan starts getting hot add Oil. Let the oil heat so that it makes crackling noises when the meat is added. Add rinsed meat to hot oil don’t worry about excess water it will be needed. Let meat brown a bit on outside. Is this searing?
While meat is browning add Tomato paste to bowl of spices mix together and add water to pour-able consistency.
Add tomato paste mixture to pot. There should be enough water in this to prevent sticking while it cooks a bit, if not add more water.
Add bay leaves.
Peal onions rinse and cut up into small chunks or strips drop in pot6.
Let this mixture simmer until meat is tender7, adding water as needed to keep from sticking to bottom of pot.
Remove seeds from dates and rinse (if needed) pound to a paste or at least a wad of even consistency. If dates are hard soak in hot water until they soften before pounding. Add to pot.
Taste to decide if more salt is need If so add now.
Sauce should be liquid but definitely thicker than water at this point. To thicken sauce, if necessary, you may mix a couple table spoons of flour or some corn starch in small amount of water and add to the sauce stirring constantly to avoid clumps. Let simmer partially uncovered until it thickens.
Cooking the bread
In Mali we use a steamer that is shaped like a large bowl and perferated. This is placed on the top of the pot and sealed with a strip of damped cloth around the seam between steamer and pot. If you have such a thing great, larger holes are better. If not, you can approximate with a metal pasta stainer or use some other sort of steamer if you have one.
Punch the dough down and kneed again forming into balls the size of a tennis ball place these in the streamer don’t crowd too much they should rise to the size of a soft ball. cover with the lid of the pot. These will cook slowly by the vapour rising off the sauce. If you aren’t comfortable doing it this way put water in a second pot to boil and steam them over the water.
When the bread is almost done drop the balls in the pot of sauce letting them finish cooking and absorbing the savour of the sauce. If you have more bread than will go in the steamer at once, add the next balls once the first are done steaming.
Serve pouring the sauce over the bread balls. Note you may choose not to drop the cooked bread in the pot of sauce it will probably keep better for left overs if you don’t, but is less savoury.
1 all quantities are approximative and you should taste while you cook to decide if you want more or less of a thing.
2 A local spice made of the seeds of a certain plant pounded to a paste and dried. The odour uncooked is very strong but a little bit is good in sauces, it is the traditional equivalent of bouillon
3 Another local herb. A sort of lichen that grows on trees. Like the marey it may be available in import stores or you may have to do without (or come to Mali to stock up).
4 meat of any kind is acceptable goat, sheep, and cow are most common here although I have done it with chicken and pidgin and fish you could also try wild game: dear elk antelope. note wild game or elderly farm animals will require greater cooking time which is in fact ideal for this dish. Quantity of meat can vary depending on your tastes.
5 avoid putting too much now as the sauce becomes more concentrated with cooking you can always add more at the end.
6 If you don’t like solid bits of onion pound in mortar and pestle first this will assure they have dissolved by the time the sauce is done
7 you will be able to tell if meat is cooked as the oil will have completely separated and be floating on the thinker layer of sauce