"If you are not familiar with cassava, it is tuber with a waxy, bark-like outer skin and a starchy centre. Cassava was introduced to Sierra Leone (and Africa more broadly) by Portuguese traders between 1415 and 1600 when they dominated world trade. It is now cultivated in more than 40 countries across the continent.
Cassava is one of the major staple foods for Sierra Leoneans, second to rice. For many people in major cassava production districts of the country, it is the major staple. The most popular meals made out of it are gari and fufu, which are common in many West African countries. It can also be used to make Cassava Flatbreads.
This recipe combines my beloved cassava with European ingredients, such as Parmesan and truffle. The flavour is every bit as good as potato chips, if not better, with just the right subtle hint of earthy truffle. They’re crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, perfectly salted and mixed with Parmesan to take them over the top. A simply luxurious snack!
Note: Cassava should not be eaten raw in large quantities because it contains a naturally occurring cyanide that is toxic to humans. Soaking, fermenting and cooking cassava are processes that render the toxin harmless."
Sweet Salone by Maria Bradford (Quadrille, £30) recipe photography by Yuki Sugiura
And read our exclusive interview with Maria about the flavours of Sierra Leone.
- 1kg cassava
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 60g Parmesan, grated
- sunflower oil, for deep frying
- Parmesan shavings, to serve
- 3 tbsp white truffle oil
For the saffron mayo
- To peel the cassava, cut the cassava crosswise into 5–8cm (2–3in) pieces. Using a sharp knife, cut lengthwise through the bark-like exterior and into the pink skin beneath. Place the tip of the knife under the skin to loosen it and pull off the skin and bark. Cut into chunky chip-sized pieces.
- As you work, rinse the cassava and put the pieces in a large saucepan with cold water so it doesn’t discolour. When all are cut to size, add the salt and bring the pan of water to the boil. Boil until the cassava pieces are tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the saffron mayo. Crumble the saffron threads into a small bowl and pour over the hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Stir the mayonnaise and garlic together in a bowl. Add the saffron water and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt.
- When the cassava is tender, drain it in a sieve (strainer) and set aside until completely dry. Heat the oil for frying in a deep, heavy-based pan no more than half full. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop a small breadcrumb into the hot oil. It should sizzle turn brown in 20 seconds.
- Working in small batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, fry the cassava chips until nicely golden, 5–10 minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
- Toss the friend cassava chips with grated Parmesan and the white truffle oil. Serve with the saffron mayo on the side.
Maria Bradford was born in Sierra Leone. She grew up in Freetown, and started helping her mother prepare family meals from about nine years of age. Inspired by her heritage, Maria reinvents traditional African dishes to create high end Afro-fusion cuisine. Her recipes have at their heart the traditional meals of Maria’s childhood. Characterised by key ingredients including tamarind, beans, sesame seeds, mango, chilli and pineapple, in Maria's hands these ingredients become something truly special. Moreover, she tells the story of the cuisine and the people, shedding light on everyday life through exclusive location photography.