Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Recipe for Akara {West African Black-Eyed Pea Fritters}

These bean fritters are known by many different names, including akara, akla, kosai and koose depending on the country & language. They're enjoyed in many West African countries, often made at home as a breakfast or snack, or sold by street and market vendors where they are fried on charcoal stoves. 

Woman frying and selling akara
Photo Source: IITA
Crunchy, tasty, and a good source of protein - we all enjoyed these and can see why they are a popular snack. However, they are time consuming, these bean fritters. Pureed black eye peas and spices, formed and fried and served with a spicy sauce. Sounds simple, but the beans have to soak overnight, then they have to be peeled before making the paste, which develops more flavor if it sits overnight. Peeling them, that is rubbing off their skins, takes time, and might be a good rainy day project :) We started off with 2 cups of dried beans, but that just made so many... I recommend starting off with 1 cup first, and see how you like these. As for the sauce, most recipes call for scotch bonnet pepper - however since Elle doesn't care for much spice, I just sprinkled cayenne in the sauce she wasn't using. 

Akara: Black Eyed Pea Fritters

  • 1 cup dry black eyed peas
  • 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • canola oil for frying
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and stemmed or cayenne to taste (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste 
1. Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. The next day, drain the beans.

It's time to "peel" the beans. They will have expanded considerably - we were shocked at how many beans we would need to peel. What needs to be removed is the outer skin with the black center -  see below. They do rub off fairly easily, but it's how many there are that takes so long.

2. There are various directions on how to do this - the most time consuming being to rub them off, one at a time. And it's claimed that it's quicker to put them in a food processor with a bit of water and pulsing them a few times. You have to be careful not to puree them with the skins though. We didn't try this because I only have a mini food processor. Here's what we did:

We placed a large handful on a kitchen cloth, covered it with another cloth, and rolled over them with a rolling pin, really pushing down on them. We skipped the rolling pin, and just crushed/rolled over them with the palms of our hands. The we gathered those beans in the cloth and rubbed vigorously. Then we went back to the rolling pin, but decided to hit those beans straight on, without the extra layer of cloth. One useful result to this last method was that quite a few of the skins stayed on the rolling pin, and got discarded after every couple of rolls.

Once it looks like the outer skins are pretty much all rubbed off, separate them from the beans like this: put them in a large bowl and cover them with water. The skins will rise to the top. Pour them out, and repeat. And repeat. You may find yourself obsessing over making sure each and every outer skin gets separated despite groaning about it - all three of us experienced that. Maybe we're a family of perfectionists... In the end, the beans should look like this:

2. Time to make the paste. Puree the fritter ingredients together (except the oil) in a food processor or blender until you get a smooth, thick paste. You can move on to step 4 right away, but if you let this mixture sit for awhile, even over night, these will be much more flavorful.

3. Make the sauce. You can either puree the ingredients (except the oil) or finely chop them, depending on how you'd like your sauce to be. I pureed ours, but not completely smooth. Heat the oil over medium heat, then add the pureed sauce ingredients. Cook until it has thickened, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes. 

4. Fry the fritters. Pour 1/2" of oil in a pan and heat on medium-high. You can test the oil by dropping a bit of batter in it, and if the oil bubbles then it's ready. Shape a heaping tablespoon of the bean puree into a nugget. Fry the nuggets until golden brown, flipping to cook both sides. They take about 5-7 minutes to be done. Drain on paper towels. Top off the oil for the next batch, and make sure to take out any bits of fritters that may be in the oil, because if they burn, the oil will taste burnt and so will the rest of the fritters. 

Serve the fritters and sauce warm, but not too hot. These make a great snack or appetizer. 


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  1. My vegetarian husband might like these. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    1. If you try these Phyllis, I'd love to hear about how it went, especially with rubbing the skins off the beans :)

  2. yum! we use black eyed peas in curries and fried rice, they are good any which way :)

    1. I'd never heard of black eyed peas in curries - sounds tasty!

  3. Errk! I'm trying not to gag!! I love food (as you know...) except any type of pea or bean. I love the taste but the texture literally makes me gag! (I'll not be making these in a hurry!)

    1. Lol - soooo I guess you won't need to peel hundreds of beans!


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