Some days ago, I read an article on my sister and friend's blog, Joy2Endure which x-rayed one thing we are losing on our way to civilisation- "Born House" celebrations. Born House is the colloquial expression used in Cameroon to describe a ceremony that is (or was) usually organised to welcome a new mother and her baby. These events are usually attended by mostly elderly woman with experience in childbirth who sing interesting songs like,
Planti eh, planti eh
Planti for pikin
E sabi sweet
The mother is also given lots of gifts especially bars of soap best known as "savon" so she can use them to wash the baby's clothes. The baby is passed around for others to carry. It is often a delightful event. Sadly, this tradition is fading out as many Cameroonians are now opting for the west-inspired baby showers and elaborate first anniversaries. But you know what is not fading out? The love for "Born House Planti"!
This is the meal that is symbolically eaten at Cameroonian Born House celebrations hence the name Born House Planti (Planti from Plantains). It consists of plantains cooked in palm oil, and ethnic flavours. Some people say plantains are the main ingredient in the dish because the baby's umbilical cord is allegedly buried under the plantain tree. So when the plantains grow, they are made into a meal, which well-wishers eat as a sign of blessing to the baby. I don't know if this is true but one thing I know is that these plantains... they are delicious!
So after reading that interesting article, I started hearing voices in my head: "Cook Born House Planti! Cook Born House Planti!! Cook!!!" As a foodie in active service, I am not one to reject such voices so I obliged.
BORN HOUSE PLANTI RECIPE
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 60 mins
Total Time: 70 mins
5 unripe plantains
I pound smoked fish and/or meat of choice (I used smoked goat meat)
1 cup washed bitterleaves
A quarter cup crayfish
One and a half cup of palm oil
3 small seasoning cubes (maggi/knorr)
1 tablespoon ground ginger and garlic
"Country onions" (Also known as Ngakanga. Use one if you can find it)
Salt to taste
Here is how you make Born House on an ordinary day:
If you are using meat, bring it to a boil. If you are using only smoked fish, bring your peeled plantains to boil instead. If you are using really soft meat, bring to boil together with peeled plantains. Your water level should be slightly above that of your meat.
I used dried bitterleaves so I had to soak them in water for a while. However, if your bitterleaves are fresh, no need to do this. If you can't find bitterleaves, use kale. They are slightly bitter and will still give you that bitterleaf effect. If you don't want any slightly bitter taste, my sister/brother just use spinach. So soak your leaves if they are dried. You can even do this the night before if you remember to.
Peel you plantains and cut each into two. Some people leave the plantains as they are. I love cutting mine. Your meat should be boiling by now,
Throw in your peeled plantains. Emphasis on throw.
Then the palm oil goes right in.
Add the bitterleaves:
Chop onion and throw in.
Cover the pot and let that pot of goodness cook together. Then you add the crayfish, maggi, spices and pepper (if using).
Cover again and while it cooks, sing and dance, "Planti eh, planti eh. Planti for pikin e sabi sweet!" Make sure you dance. Good things are happening.
Open pot and taste to adjust seasonings. It's Born House chez toi!
When the planti sits for a while, the oil begins to show forth. What is Born House Planti without oyel?
Avoid stirring the pot as much as you can while cooking. Hold both sides of the pot and shake to make ingredients distribute evenly. If you must stir, do so with a wooden spoon.
If you wish, add tomatoes to yours. I prefer mine without.
Happy born housing!