Mikołaj Hęciak i Fils Toonga
Thank you for sparing some time to talk to Nowy Czas about your life in London and your passion for cooking. After ten years in London, can you call yourself a Londoner?
– Despite all these years I have spent in London, I see myself as a Cameroonian. I was born in a city called Douala, the biggest city in Cameroon.
What do you like the most in London?
– I like the fact that London is a cosmopolitan city where you are free to express yourself within the law.
Apart from a good football team, what is your country famous for?
– Tourism is one of the many famous activities in Cameroon, especially the park of Waza, located in the northern part of the country where you can see exotic animals.
According to the government, Cameroon tackled leprosy very well. What other achievements of your country can you name?
– I believe the biggest achievement by the state is to maintain peace and harmony among the different tribes and ethnic minorities living in Cameroon.
Cameroon won independence in 1960. What do independence and freedom mean for the native people?
– They meant a lot for the native people as they wanted to be ruled by their own people, also to avoid expropriation of their lands by foreigners.
The name Cameroon means the river of prawns. Are they popular in the local diet?
– As food, prawns are very popular despite the fact they only appear once a year at the height of the rainy season in August.
How could you briefly describe the food resources in Cameroon?
– Cameroon has a variety of food due to its humid and wet climate in the southern part of the country whereas the northern part is arid.
You mentioned crops like coffee, tea, bananas, palm oil. They are so exotic for Eastern Europeans. In Poland we cannot grow them at all. What about typical food then?
– We grow food like cassavas, plantains, bananas and many other tropical foods.
Have you ever tried some unusual food like for example alligator meat or a snake?
– I am afraid of them, so I do not like wild animals.
The French and the British occupied Cameroon for long time. Can you spot their influence on local food?
– They had such an influence that the new generation is leaving behind their own traditions in favour of the western one.
Can you find some products from your country here in England?
– Yes, we have many shops specialising in African food.
Living in London for so long, do you miss your traditional food?
– I do not miss the food, because it is not easy to cook and finding the right ingredients could be challenging.
What is your favourite dish?
– Ndole – stew made of meat or fish with nuts and special kind of leaves with bitter-sweet taste (from species like Vernonieae amygdalina).
Is there any traditional dish easy to find ingredients for and prepare in London that you could share with Nowy Czas readers?
– I would suggest peanut soup served with rice.
Fils, it was a pleasure to hear about Cameroon and its cuisine. I wish you good luck with your exams.
– Thank you.
Peanut soup from Cameroon
Serving 2 people we nned
- 3 cups of chicken broth or stock
- 1 minced onion
- 1 small sweet green pepper minced
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- salt, black pepper and red pepper (to taste)
- ½ chilly, minced
- 2 tomatoes, chopped (fresh or canned)
- 1 cup of natural unsweetened peanut butter
Combine all ingredients except the peanut butter. Simmer over medium heat until everything is tender. Reduce heat, add the peanut butter and simmer for a few minutes more. Stir often. Soup should be thick and smooth. You can serve it with rice.