The other day over supper we started talking about the things we are NOT going to miss when we leave Cameroon and we ended up with a VERY long list. I will spare you the complete and unabridged version and will give you a highlights package:
As it is currently the dry season, dust is a permanent feature of our lives for about 6 months of the year. Of course, the situation is not improved because we have louvre windows and most of the windows do not seal at the top (louvre windows are not unusual and, in fact, are the norm rather than the exception to the rule here). And because it’s dry, the ants like to make an appearance, but these are not just irritating, but harmless, ants – these are biting ants and they are in the bathroom and the kitchen too! Plagues in this part of the world are not limited to ants, but can include crickets, flying ants and frogs too and to each there is a season. Another pesky insect is the anopheles mosquito and to avoid malaria we take antimalarials and use bed nets, neither of which will be missed in the least. Road travel can be a bit of a challenge in Cameroon and roadblocks are one of those challenges, not to mention the sheer stress of being in everyday traffic in Yaoundé – of course, it’s not just cars that you need to look out for, but pedestrians, wheelchairs, motos (motorbike taxies), pousses-pousses (pushcarts) and, of course, animals. Practical daily life itself can be a test of your mettle with frequent water, electricity and internet interruptions – and when the town’s electricity supply is affected then the water supply is also affected. As foreigners living in a local quartier we do obviously stand out like a sore thumb and it’s not surprising that our presence would not go unnoticed, but to be hailed as “le blanc, le blanc” as I walk up the street wears thin after 8 years (especially when I should be referred to as “la blanche”). Smells are rather evocative and there are some particularly unpleasant odours that will forever be associated with Cameroon – they are the smell of fried palm oil and that of baton de manioc (fermented ground manioc wrapped in banana leaves), a smell which you will encounter if you take a train trip from Yaoundé to the north. Last, but not least, we will not miss French bread or baguettes (although I’m not entirely convinced that Joel feels quite as strongly about this as the rest of us).
I look forward to using different flours like barley and spelt and sampling the vast array of alternative breads on offer, such as rye bread. As a taster of what lies ahead, I stretched my breadmaking skills a little and tried rye bread which can be difficult to master, especially when making an all rye loaf. This loaf, however, is a mixture of wholewheat, white and rye flour and includes caraway seeds. The loaf did not rise as much as I expected, although that is probably par for the course, but it was very tasty, particularly with cheese.
Buttermilk Rye-Wholewheat Bread
Sahel Family Rating: ****
Makes 1 loaf
240 ml rye flour
240 ml wholewheat flour
11.25 ml instant yeast
15 ml wheatgerm
15 ml caraway seeds
10 ml salt
240 ml buttermilk, room temperature
45 ml molasses
30 ml sunflower oil
240 ml bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
In a large mixing bowl combine the rye and wholewheat flours, instant yeast, wheatgerm, caraway and salt and mix well. In a saucepan, heat the buttermilk, molasses and oil until lukewarm. Pour into the flour mixture. Blend by hand with 100 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or 3 minutes at medium speed in a stand mixer with a flat beater. Gradually add the white flour to make a firm but not stiff dough.
Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead by hand or under the dough hook for about 8 minutes. If the dough continues to be sticky, add sprinkles of white flour – rather add too little flour than too much (you don’t want to end up with a cannonball!).
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll or pat the dough into a 35 x 18 cm rectangle. Starting with the short side, roll up tightly, pressing the dough into a roll with each turn. Pinch the edges and ends to seal. Place in the prepared pan. Alternatively, shape the dough into a ball and press slightly to make a rounded loaf. Place on the baking sheet.
Loosely cover the pan with a length of wax paper or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 190°C and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the loaf is a rich, dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove the bread from the pan or sheet and leave to cool on a metal rack before serving.
Adapted very slightly from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads