Archive for the Culture & Recipes Category

Ramadan Mubarak

Meeting in Fass Kane

It’s very hot and dry during Ramadan this year, making the fast especially difficult. During the heat of the afternoon, many cooperative members relax in the shade of CREATE!’s garden sites. Here, cooperative members in Fass Kane sit in the shade as they speak with CREATE! Country Director Omar Ndiaye Seck.


Last Friday marked the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, observant Muslims abstain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset. In addition, individuals spend this month reflecting on and enacting Islamic tenets, including empathy for the poor, charity, and communal worship.

The weather forecast for rural Senegal will remain dry and hot for much of the next month, with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. CREATE! field technicians and beneficiaries will continue to tend gardens, build cookstoves, care for chickens, and participate in other activities – all while fasting.


Watering vegetables

Work continues in CREATE!’s cooperative garden sites during Ramadan. Cooperative members adjust their watering schedules to work during the cooler morning hours. Their continued commitment to the gardens is inspiring.


At the end of Ramadan, Muslims in Senegal will celebrate the holiday of Korité with three days of feasting with family and friends. Korité is a national holiday in Senegal and many families travel from cities to their rural home villages to celebrate with their extended families. Many of CREATE!’s VSLA groups time the payout of their savings and lending cycle to coincide with the end of Ramadan and Korité celebrations. VSLA participants used their payouts to cover the costs of clothing, household goods, and food for their Korité celebrations. Poultry cooperatives are also planning ahead for Korité. Some cooperatives have doubled the number of chickens they raise so that they will have an ample supply for the end of Ramadan.

To CREATE!’s Senegalese staff and beneficiaries, Ramadan mubarak!


VSLA Meeting

VSLAs in CREATE! partner communities will hold share out meetings in the coming weeks to accommodate members’ need for additional income to cover holiday costs.

Celebrating Easter in Senegal

Preparing millet

A cooperative member prepares millet using one of her two expertly constructed improved cookstoves.


Every year on Good Friday, Senegalese Catholics make a traditional treat called ngalakh to enjoy over the Easter weekend. Ngalakh is a porridge made of millet, peanut paste, baobab fruit, sugar, and vanilla. After mass on Good Friday, Catholics break their fast with ngalakh and then share the treat with family, friends, and neighbors. This tradition of sharing food during religious holidays is an important part of Senegal’s culture of peace and unity.

Known for their hospitality, or teranga, Senegalese people of all faiths enjoy celebrating holy days together. Although Senegal has a majority Muslim population with a small Christian (mostly Catholic) minority, its government is officially secular. Not only is Easter observed in Senegal, Easter Monday is a public holiday. Many Christians hold Easter parties with feasting and music and invite their Muslim neighbors and friends. Similarly, during the festival of Tabaski, or Eid al-Adha, Muslims share roasted lamb with Christians.


Baobab fruit

Cooks prepare baobab juice using the pulp of the tree’s fruits.


In CREATE!’s partner communities, Easter is a time to celebrate with friends and family. Some cooperative members prepare ngalakh to enjoy together with neighbors. This traditional ngalakh recipe includes substitutions for difficult-to-find ingredients. We have also included a recipe that puts a modern twist on ngalakh – baobab and peanut butter popsicles!

In Senegalese Wolof, people say of ngalakh, “Defal ndank si ngalakh bi bala moulay yobou ardo,” which means “eat the ngalakh gently, otherwise the ngalakh will eat you” – a warning that millet expands in your stomach and is very filling!

Easter Porridge (ngalakh)


  • 2 cups karaw (millet couscous) or wheat couscous
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups of bouye (baobab fruit) to make juice (see directions)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth, natural, unsweetened)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange-flower water
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon
  • 1 handful raisins



  1. Prepare the baobab fruit juice: Place the baobab fruit in a clean glass bowl with several cups of warm water. Leave to soak for at least a few hours. Once the fruit is completely soaked, the fruit pulp should be easy to separate from the seeds. Stir it vigorously until the water becomes an opaque tan liquid. Strain this liquid through cheesecloth and set aside. If baobab fruit is not available, substitute fresh or canned tamarind juice, or any other tropical fruit juice.
  2. Steam or cook couscous according to directions. Stir in butter. Cool in the refrigerator.
  3. Make the sauce by mixing equal parts fruit juice and peanut butter – about 1 to 2 cups of each. Add sugar, vanilla, nutmeg (or cinnamon) and orange water. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, mix the couscous, sauce, and raisins. Sprinkle with sugar.


Recipe from:


Ngalakh Popsicles


Makes 8 popsicles

  • 1 cup coarse millet couscous
  • 1 cup baobab fruit drink (see below)
  • 1 cup smooth unsweetened peanut butter or cashew butter
  • ½ cup honey
  1. Wash the millet several times in a bowl until the water runs clear. Drain well. Place the millet in the top of a steamer basket lined with cheesecloth. Set over salted boiling water, cover, and steam for about 15 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the baobab drink with the peanut butter and mix well. Add the cooled millet and honey and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until cold.
  3. Stir, then divide the mixture among eight popsicle molds and insert the sticks. Freeze until hard and serve cold.


To make baobab drink:

  • 2 ½ cups baobab fruit pulp
  • 5 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Stir well until the water becomes white and thick. Strain the juice until a pitcher through a fine-mesh sieve lined with damp cheesecloth. Serve chilled.


Recipe from: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, Pierre Thiam


Source for baobab photo:


“Growing What We Eat”

CREATE! cooperative members harvest and sell vegetables like these eggplants and African eggplants.


As Senegal begins to enter the hottest part of the year, cooperative members in CREATE! partner communities continue to work diligently in their gardens. In March, women are harvesting many different types of vegetables, including cool weather crops such as lettuce, carrots, and mint. They are also setting out new vegetable seedlings and sowing seeds for warmer weather crops such as tomatoes, okra, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes.


CREATE! field technicians teach participants how to grow vegetables and other foods, like these bissap flowers, that are already a staple of the local diet.


Once cooperative members harvest their vegetables, they either sell their crops or cook them at home. Women are very happy that they can now grow their own food to cook their favorite meals. For this reason, CREATE! field technicians teach women how to grow vegetables that actually use at home and don’t try to introduce unfamiliar crops. Mane Kebe of Fass Koffe expresses a common view of CREATE!’s agricultural training programs: “Now that I can produce my own vegetables rather than buying them from the market, our family has secure access to food.”


Okra (left) is the main ingredient for the traditional Senegalese dish of soupoukandia.


Soupoukandia, a type of okra and seafood stew, is a traditional Senegalese meal, more commonly eaten in the Southern part of the country. Although okra is a must for this dish, many other vegetables – including eggplant, tomatoes, African eggplant, greens, and root vegetables – can also be added. In our partner communities, cooks add dried fish to the stew. This American-style soupoukandia recipe replaces the dried fish with fresh seafood like mussels and shrimp:

Okra and Seafood Stew (soupoukandia)

Serves: 6-8

For the vegetable broth:

  • 12 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups thick-sliced okra
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped

For the seafood soup:

  • 6 tablespoons palm oil
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into large chunks, or 4 small Thai eggplants
  • 2 habanero or Scotch bonnet chilies, slit in half lengthwise
  • 24 mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Make the vegetable broth: Bring the stock to a boil in a 6-quart saucepan over high heat, then add okra, bay leaves, and onions. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender and stock had reduced by one-qurter, about 1 ½ hours.
  2. Make the seafood soup: Add the palm oil, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, eggplant, and chilies to the vegetable broth, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup has thickened and okra falls apart, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add mussels and shrimp; cover pan, and cook until mussels open and shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  4. To serve, remove from heat and stir in remaining fish sauce and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, and serve with rice.

Recipe from:


Celebrating Tamkharit – the Islamic New Year!

Woman with Improved Cookstove

With improved cookstoves, women can easily and quickly cook a variety of meals for their families.

On October 12th, families in Senegal gathered to celebrate the holiday of Tamkharit. Also called Achoura, Tamkharit is the Islamic New Year. Food is an important part of the festivities. Women prepare a traditional meal of thiéré, couscous with spicy lamb stew, that families eat communally. Everyone eats until they are very full!

Later in the evening, children travel from house to house to ask for candy, money, and other treats. Costumes are part of the fun – boys and girls often swap clothes. They sing a traditional song that asks for good wishes in the year to come. Many adults also dress in clothes of the opposite gender and visit with friends.

CREATE! cooperative members prepare all of their meals, including thiéré for Tamkharit, using vegetables that they grow in their garden sites. You can make a variation of thiéré using this recipe:

Senegalese Couscous with Beef and Vegetable Sauce

Preparation Time: 1 ½ hours

Serves: 6-8

¾ cup millet couscous

¾ cup corn couscous

¾ cup fonio (or quinoa)

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 lb. 10 oz. beef, cut into chunks

½ cup tomato puree

½ cup tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup onions, chopped

½ cup carrots, chopped

½ cup turnips, chopped

½ cup sweet potatoes, chopped

½ leek, chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed


  1. Place the millet couscous, corn couscous, and fonio (or quinoa) into three separate bowls and cover with water. Soak for 20 minutes, then drain. If you are using quinoa, you will need to par-boil the grain for 10 minutes and drain thoroughly before steaming.
  2. Place the grains together in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes, adding water and cooking until the grains are thoroughly cooked through. Add the butter and remove from heat.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the meat until browned all over. You may need to do this in batches. Add the tomato puree, tomato sauce, a little water, and salt and pepper to taste to the pan with the beef. After about ten minutes, add the chopped vegetables and the crushed garlic.
  4. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but firm and the sauce has thickened.
  5. Serve the couscous with the meat and vegetable sauce.
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