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African foods

A taste of Africa
By Jamilah Tangaza, Senior Producer, African Service

Historical documents say that in 1544, five Africans sailed from Africa to Britain with Captain John Locke.

They were brought to England to train as interpreters. As the British involvement in the slave trade grew, more blacks arrived and, by 1596, a large number of African slaves and free blacks were living in Britain.

By the 18th century, 15,000 people of African descent were living in Britain – in and around London, Liverpool and Bristol.

With the outbreak of World War Two, more African blacks arrived to work in factories and as soldiers. Some stayed. This was really the beginning of the African community in Britain.

Fresh ingredients

Today, the black African community is concentrated in South London, in the areas of Camberwell, Peckham, Elephant & Castle and Old Kent Road.

Here you can find plantain, periwinkles, snails and the powder to make pounded yam – a dough which is eaten with fresh vegetables and fish.

The shops sell authentic African ingredients, some of them fresh from the continent. Among them are meats, such as cow tongues and intestines, and fresh fish, in some cases brought from Lake Victoria.

They also supply pumpkins from Ivory Coast; mangoes, okra and spinach from central Africa, and peculiar leaves which do not grow in the UK.

Recommended dishes

At the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre there is a stand which sells African snacks like suya, which are beef chops with pepper, dipped into ground nut paste and grilled on charcoal, and also plantain fritters.

On Camberwell Road, Peckham High Street and Old Kent Road there are numerous restaurants.

For starters, order fried snails, a speciality from Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. They are seasoned with onions and red chili pepper.

Try pondu soup, a central African dish. Cassava leaves are cooked with palm oil, fish, prawns, and crayfish. Or goat head pepper soup – it's absolutely fantastic. It's seasoned with thyme, ground red chili pepper and various leaves from Nigeria and Benin.

Jollof rice is also very popular – a rice with vegetables. They blend chili pepper, tomato paste and onions and fry it in palm oil, then boil it all with rice and vegetables. Some people add snails and fish to enrich it. Others prefer beef.

Tuwon shinkafa is rice cooked and mashed into a dough. It's delicious served with pumpkin soup, flavoured with periwinkles, spinach and a sour indigenous leaf.

Africa in London

Most of the shops on these roads are an extension of what you would find in the streets of Lagos or Nairobi. You'll find everything, from African prints and fabrics called atamfa or ankara, to newspapers and magazines from home, to Coca Cola - made in Nigeria.

The streets are lined with small enterprises that arrange your wedding and birthday celebrations for you, the odd tailor and beauty salons, where they know how to treat African hair.

Related links:

vspace=4/ BBC Afrique
vspace=4/ BBC Hausa
vspace=4/ BBC Great Lakes
vspace=4/ BBC Portuguese for Africa
vspace=4/ BBC site: African cuisine in London
vspace=4/ North African cuisine
vspace=4/ South African cuisine
vspace=4/ Ethnic cuisine: Africa

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