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This Kwanzaa, families can cook up this recipe for `Crispy Akara with Savory Smoky Sesame Sauce` courtesy of the Food Network. (Metro Creative Graphics)
This Kwanzaa, families can cook up this recipe for "Crispy Akara with Savory Smoky Sesame Sauce" courtesy of the Food Network. (Metro Creative Graphics)

Celebrate Kwanzaa with this beloved West African dish

Tue, Dec 19th 2023 07:00 am

Metro Creative Graphics

Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African American culture that begins on Dec. 26 and includes the feast of Karamu, which typically is celebrated on Dec. 31. The feast of Karamu is evidence that Kwanzaa celebrations, similar to other holiday-related festivities, simply would not be complete without food shared with loved ones.

Kwanzaa celebrants typically look to incorporate African foods into their celebrations. According to the Food Network, akara has been a popular street snack in West Africa for quite some time. That popularity has extended beyond Africa’s borders, and the fritters are now available in many locations, including the American South, where Atlantic Creole foods are enjoyed. This Kwanzaa, families can cook up this recipe for “Crispy Akara with Savory Smoky Sesame Sauce” courtesy of the Food Network.

Crispy Akara with Savory Smoky Sesame Sauce

Yields 4 to 6 appetizer servings

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, picked through and any pebbles removed
  • 1 ¼ cups minced shallot
  • 1 cup diced “stoplight” bell peppers (red, yellow and green bell peppers)
  • ½ cup finely snipped green onion, dark green parts only; save the bulb for another use
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour

High-heat threshold oil, such as refined coconut oil or non-hydrogenated organic shortening, for frying

Savory smoky sesame sauce (recipe follows) for serving


Savory smoky sesame sauce

  • ½ cup organic tahini sauce (made from roasted – not raw – sesame; see cook’s note)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons blue agave
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion flakes, preferably organic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

Remove and discard the pea skins in one of two ways: Either rub the damp black-eyed peas (about ¼ cup at a time) between the palms of your hands (the ancient African way); or pulse the beans in a food processor with some of the soaking water for a few minutes, then rinse and strain in batches, picking out and removing/discarding the pea skins in each session.

Transfer the peeled peas to a food processor and process, adding about ½ cup fresh water, into a thick paste. Mix in the shallot, bell peppers, green onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste by pulsing until a smooth paste forms. Transfer the paste to a bowl, add the rice flour and stir until a thick batter forms.

Melt a few inches of coconut oil or shortening in a medium to large cast-iron skillet (within at least an inch from the top rim of the skillet so the oil doesn’t spill once hot). Heat over medium-high heat to 375 degrees F.

In batches, gently and carefully place individual scoops (at least one tablespoon) of the mixture into the oil using a cooking spoon with a long handle. Deep-fry until golden brown, two to three minutes per side. Drain on paper towels before relocating to a serving tray. Bring the oil back to temperature between each batch. Serve with the savory smoky sesame sauce.

•To make the savory smoky sesame sauce:

Pour or spoon the tahini into a measuring cup with at least a two-cup capacity and a spout (large enough to stir or whisk in the ingredients and later pour from). Add the paprika, agave, onion flakes, granulated garlic, salt and lemon zest and juice, and whisk or stir vigorously to combine.

Add the rice vinegar and stir; you’ll notice the mixture converts to a paste-like consistency, but don’t panic – this is a normal reaction, of sorts. Stir in ¼ cup warm water until the mixture converts back to a creamy consistency.

Stir and pour from the measuring cup into a festive dipping bowl; or perhaps pour into individual tiny condiment dishes used for dips and sauces.

•Cook’s note: The peas/beans can soak for up to 24 hours (at room temperature on the counter part of the time, then covered in the refrigerator or a cool room for overnight). The longer the soak, the easier it will be to remove the external bean skins. However, if a few of the black specks or bits of “black eye” from the pea skins stay in, that’s fine.

Tahini consistencies vary greatly by brand – this one is based on using a creamy, liquidy style or version that doesn’t easily separate (sesame oil from paste). Don’t panic when the creamy texture of the tahini turns into a dense, almost flaky paste after the vinegar is added; that’s what the warm water is for – to loosen it back up!

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