This dish comes to us from Camerounian radio presenter Georges Collinet, the host of National Public Radio's "Afropop Worldwide", and comes from his area of Cameroon.
The word "folon" actually refers to a type of bitter-leaf green that apparently grown only in Cameroon, but is also used to refer to this dish. Real folon leaf is almost completely unavailable here. Georges says that even Nigerian folon fiends have a hard time getting it, and their country is right next door!
He recommends substituting spinach, but to go for the bitter-green effect, I recommend making this dish with collard greens ... it works wonderfully!
Wash the collards, and remove the thick center stem. Boil them in a big pot for 30 minutes. Or, if you're using spinach, blanch the spinach for 30 seconds and set aside. You can also, if you insist, use 3 packages of frozen spinach, but don't. Fresh is always better.
- 1 chicken, 3-4 pounds (or 8 boneless chicken breasts, if you prefer)
- 2 to 3 bunches fresh collard greens, or 1 - 2 pounds fresh spinach
- 3 cups water
- 5 medium onions
- 7 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 pound fresh peanut butter
- 4 medium tomatoes, crushed
- 2 1/2 pounds of fresh or dried shrimp, or dried fish (like cod)
- Fresh hot pepper, the hottest available ("As much hot pep-air as you can stand!", said Georges. Fresh or dried chiles or ground pepper of your choice. The peanut butter tempers the heat, so don't be shy.)
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cut chicken into serving pieces and put in a pot with the water, a little salt, and one minced onion. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove the chicken, pat dry and put aside, reserving the broth. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the broth with the peanut butter so that it becomes more liquid and easier to handle, and set aside.
Fry the chicken pieces in about 4 tablespoons of oil until golden. Remove chicken, and in the same pan put 2 minced onions and all of the crushed tomatoes, and add to peanut butter sauce.
Cook the peanut butter sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring often so that it doesn't stick. Add the chicken, shrimp or dried fish, and the hot pepper -- as much as you can stand -- the collards or spinach, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat.
Meanwhile, slice the last two onions into rings and saute in 3 tablespoons of oil.
Put your folon in a serving dish, and put the sauteed onion rings on top. Serve with yams, fried plantains, rice, manioc or all of the above. Drink a good, strong beer with your folon.
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)