“I learned how to cook agatoke from my mother. By the time I was 10, I could prepare it on my own,” says Jacqueline.
Cooking for 10
Raising 10 children is not an easy task which is why Jacqueline encourages her children to help out in the kitchen. Jacqueline explains that dinner time is a chance for the family to bond and learn new skills. The children are always excited to help Jacqueline make agatoke. While she prepares the bananas, her youngest daughters, Lyna and Joyce, peel the garlic.
Agatoke is a tradition cuisine in Burundi, with family recipes being passed down from generation to generation. It consists of green bananas, amaranth, leek, red onion, aubergine, garlic, celery, peppers, tomatoes and fish.
Jacqueline explains that she wants her two eldest daughters to learn the recipe before they move out. The 13-year-old girls are in charge of chopping the amaranths, red onions and leeks. “They will be moving into the youth home soon so I want to make sure that they are able to cook their favourite meal themselves before they go,” says Jacqueline.
Getting it right
Attention to detail is essential when preparing the dish. Jacqueline explains that using the right amount of spices makes all the difference. There are several variations of agatoke – Jacqueline tends to cook with fresh fish for her children instead of the traditional recipe which uses dried fish.“This is the only meal containing vegetables that my children eat without a fight. I always tell them that vegetables are good for their health but they just don't like them. Luckily, you can't tell there are green vegetables in the dish because of the red colouring produced by the tomatoes,” explains Jacqueline.
Once the vegetables are chopped up Jacqueline puts them in a large pot with water, and stews it for an hour on her charcoal stove. The final product is a thick vegetable stew with large chucks of banana. “I cook it for an hour so the flavours release gradually. This produces an alluring and flavourful aroma throughout the house, which is when the children begin to sing ‘agatoke kurahiye, agatoke kurahiye’, which means ‘agatoke is ready’ in Kirundi,” says Jacqueline.
The side dish
Jacqueline's family eats agatoke twice a week and although it is a complete meal by itself, she serves it with rice and fried beans. Beans are a staple in any Burundian home as they are inexpensive to buy and a great source of protein. Before consuming the much-anticipated meal, the family gives thanks.
Learn more about life in a Burundian family home and find out how you can help mothers like Jacqueline provide a happy, healthy childhood for their children.