Explore and Understand Africa Through Her Food and Culture

If you like honey, fear not the bees. -African Proverb

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cooking in Mali: How to use a pestle and mortar

The mortar and pestle is one of the oldest most recognized pharmacy and kitchen tool used throughout the world. Use a mortar and pestle to grind and mix spices, crush herbs and nuts or pound starches. 


Pestle, mortar and spicesThe mortar and pestle is a kitchen gadget that was found in every urban and rural African kitchen. However, emerging technology in the African food culture is threatening the once common place mortars and pestles of old. Mortars and pestles were once used to husk and dehull grain but village electric grain mills are slowly replacing the hand labor intensive mortars and pestles. There are many recipes where hand mixing and grinding with a mortar and pestle puts the consistency of the mixing and grinding in your hands. Place ingredients in the mortar or bowl portion, using the pestle end slowly move the rounded pestle end against the mortar to grind. In order to pound, move the pestle up and down rhythmically to the desired consistency.  


Using a mortar and pestle in Mali, Africa photo by L. Lee McIntyreThe town of Sévaré aka Sevare is near Mali's border. In the town of Sévaré, a daughter helps her mother prepare a meal by pounding onions in a wooden mortar. To the left is a charcoal stove for cooking along with a container for water and a plate of red pepper. To the right are two traditional earthen jars for water as well as plastic buckets for washing the dishes. Typical meals in Mali consist of some kind of starch, rice or pounded millet, along with a sauce, which can be leafy green or more like gravy. Sometimes the meals may include a little meat.

African spice recipe that makes full use of your pestle and mortar:

All-Purpose Blazing Seasoning Salt
Ingredients
¼ cup garlic salt
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
¼ cup dried onion
2 whole allspice berries
2 dried bay leaves
1 ghost chili pod

Directions
In the mortar, place allspice, bay leaves, peppercorns and cardamom seeds grind with the pestle to the desired consistency. Add remaining ingredients to the mortar and mix well. Store in an air tight container store away from heat and light. Do not store spices in the refrigerator. 

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