Gambian Classic: Chakery
Growing up, I always loved rice pudding. As the ultimate comfort food, it can be found in almost every culture. The Lebanese call it moghli and add anise and ginger. In India, rice pudding goes by the name kheer and is flavored with cardamom and a rich array of toppings ranging from raisins, cashews to pistachios and almonds. In The Gambia, the twist on rice pudding is a little different — a delicious mix of couscous or millet with sour cream and yogurt known simply as chakery.
Elsewhere in West Africa, the dessert (which sometimes substitutes wheat couscous for millet) goes by different names ranging from burkina in Ghana to dege in Francophone West Africa. I’m partial to the couscous because it cleanly delivers the flavor of the base mixture while adding some rich texture.
As most African cuisines tend to focus on umami, sourness and saltiness, chakery is a rare sweet dish in a culture dominated by all things savory. The name chakery derives from the traditionally millet couscous base. Some suspect that the modern rendition of chakery derives from a similar unsweetened dish that has since evolved from a main course to a dessert.
2 cups of plain or vanilla yogurt
1 cup of sour cream
Cup of berries
Vanilla extract (if using unsweetened yogurt)
Optional: Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Cook the couscous separately with water, and allow to cool.
Mix the sour cream, yogurt, and vanilla extract together, then add the cool cooked couscous.
Top with fruit and enjoy!
Recipe by chef: Akinyi Ochieng