Life is strange. Coincidental relations may end up with strange results. The story of how I reached this recipe is one such strange story. It is a bit long but I had to tell it…
As you may know, our dog, Mickey, is very precious. He has sitters if we go away, he wouldn’t be left in a dog pension, we don’t miss his walks etc. So we found a professional dog walker to walk him when we are busy. But her services are quite expensive so when we needed him to be walked regularly for a while, we asked her to refer us to someone else. Luckily her sister’s boyfriend was available at that time. For a year or so he walked Mickey, he even took him to his home when we were away. Then he finished his school and moved to another city so we panicked. Again, luckily, he told us that his brother quit his job and would be interested to spend time with Mickey. So when I needed a walk for Mickey I invited him for tea to meet and to show him around. One thing led to another and he ended up telling me about a recipe he had just learned from his mother. I begged him for the recipe and ended up with this famous Beninese stew.
When I found the recipe I had to find the agushi so I contacted his mother (who is a very lovely woman!) to ask for directions to the closest African markets. Eventually I ended up lost and I found an African hair saloon, promised them to come to them for my next hair need, and learned where the market was. That’s another story.
My story is my embarrassment in the market. The recipe asks for pistache, aka pistachio. What do you understand from pistachio? That green nut, just like I did. I was quite happy to find a recipe using pistachio, it is very interesting for a salty recipe. So I asked for pistachio and was shown a white powder. For ten minutes I argued with them. I told them it was supposed to be green and this was NOT it. In the end they asked me what I would need it for. I told them I had a Beninese recipe that called for it. They were very sure, if it was a Beninese recipe, it had to be white. I gave up and bought it.
When I left the store I called the guy to ask and guess what, pistachio is that white powder! He should have told me that before I argued for long minutes in the store!! Anyway the white posder is called agushi, aka egusi. Dried and ground seeds of cucurbitaceous plants such as melons or pumpkins. It is famous in Western Africa recipes, especially in Benin. If you cannot find the ground seeds you can process them yourself! It is not a thin powder, it is greasy and thick. Actually it is used to increase the nutritive value of dishes by its rich oils and proteins.
The recipe is very easy and flexible. You will use whatever you have at hand. Whatever meat/chicken you have (I used cheap cuts used for burgignon), vegetables you have (I used veggies I had in my freezer: mixed mushrooms, spinach, garniture mix, grilled eggplants, onions), spices you have (I tried to stick with the recipe: garlic powder, ground red chillies, thyme, rosemary, basil, salt, pepper), and whatever stock you have (I used bone broth I made a few days back, and also added home made vegetable bouillon). What is special for this dish is the Agushi, the ground seeds. By the way I have not added any additional oil. The bone broth (even though skimmed) and seeds had enough oils. Anyway, cook eveything and serve with rice. That’s all folks!
PS: I sent a picture to the guy after cooking. He told me it is exactly how it should be in colour and texture. (Yaaayy!) Considering we also loved the taste, I am happily sharing it with you.