But not entirely: a Djenne Djenno Philosophy of Cooking is emerging. It is amazing, since I never could care less about cooking! I thought if there was plenty of drinkable wine around, and plenty of interesting people to provide decent conversation , and OK, there was something to eat, that was more or less what was needed. But that was my dinner parties in Ladbroke Grove, and that recipe worked fine then.
Now I have people like Monsieur Vielle, the Cultural Attache at the French Embassy in Bamako, who is a fan of Hotel Djenne Djenno and brings lots of people, but who has confided that he feels the food is not up to the general standard of the hotel itself, and that people had been a little disappointed.. So I went back to Europe with this problem on my mind. I thought I needed to bring out some budding young chef perhaps, to do a few months practice at Hotel Djenne Djenno. I was looking around, somewhat half heartedly.
The thing is that we are just too rustic here! There is absolutely NOTHING to buy in Djenne, apart from sardines and what the market women spread out on the ground in the market..
From the very beginning here in Hotel Djenne Djenno I have imported four things, and four things only: alcohol, olive oil, butter and coffee. The rest I we have to find here. I am rather stubbornly sticking to my guns and from today on I say fiddlesticks! to M. Vielle. And why this sudden surge of self confidence?
Because, ladies and gentlemen, we have tonight served as starter Spaghetti Pesto Djenne Djenno!
It was prepared with the basil which grows like a weed in our garden. We used unroasted fresh peanuts instead of pine nuts, La Vache qui Rit ( the only thing available which resembles cheese) instead of parmesan, and real olive oil. I swear to you it was awesome, and my Parisian guests tonight agreed with me!
So from now on, I will forget about bringing in proper chefs. Papa, my chef who used to be the washer-upper at Chez Baba in town, Fatou and myself will continue on our merry way. Tomorrow we will make Tamarind Tart, cheating slightly by using the gelatine I brought back from Sweden…
Claudia Roden will continue to be my Virgil however, for alone I dare not presume to venture….and talking of my guide, I was amazed to find within her hallowed pages, a recipe for Circassian chicken which she attributes to ‘Lulie Huda’, which is my Princess Lulie!
Two days later:
Still riding high on a whipped cream crest of excitement, and even more so because tonight we made cassawa crisps- fine, crunchy and lightly salted.( Cassawa grows more or les wild in the garden.) Oh My! They will be served with Fatou’s great grilled chicken in her tangy and garlicky marinade….