Get a taste of Africa

pan on wooden table with pieces of bread beside, pan filled with cooked eggs with herbs

Learn from Mola Foods founder at Nashua North this spring

By Eleanor Quarles

LaFortune Djabea, founder of local African food company Mola Foods, is bringing African cooking to New Hampshire. This spring Djabea will be hosting an African cooking course as one of Nashua Adult Education’s enrichment programs. The class will run on Thursday evenings from March 28 to June 6 at Nashua High School North.

The goal of the course is to introduce people to African foods and dive into the history and culture of the cuisine.

“Those who want to learn are welcome to join and learn how to cook authentic African food the simplest way possible,” Djabea said. The class is not only about introducing new dishes, but also about adapting them to be made easily at home.

If you’re still a beginner chef, don’t feel intimidated. When Djabea started learning to cook at 10 years old, she “didn’t have any knife skills or anything like that … you just jump in and start!” she said. The class is open to all abilities. The only thing you need is a willingness to learn, she said.

Growing up in Cameroon, Djabea learned how to cook dishes from all over Africa. She credits this experience to Cameroon’s unique diversity among African countries.

“Cameroonians call themselves ‘the continent,’ as in the African continent, because we have all the other African countries [represented] in Cameroon,” she said. That environment gave her versatility, and she has a passion for sharing that with the community through her business, Mola Foods.

While the specific dishes taught in the class are still to be decided, Djabea shared two of her personal go-tos when introducing people to African cuisine. She likes to make thieboudienne, a Senegalese rice dish with fish and vegetables, of which Cameroon has its own Jollof version.

Another one of her favorites is ndolé, a classic Cameroonian dish made with ndolé (also known as bitter leaf) and meat or shrimp in a peanut sauce, eaten with boiled plantains or fermented cassava. When washed well, the ndolé leaves have a distinct bittersweet taste to them. To easily make the dish in New Hampshire, she often replaces ndolé with spinach, as it’s much easier to get, and peanuts with cashews, to accommodate peanut allergies.

African cuisine tends to be flexible that way. You can make a lot of dishes to be vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, etc. Most diets can be accommodated, Djabea said.

In the class, students will get the chance to practice with everything: meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. They’ll use Mola Food’s spice blends to season dishes authentically without having to hunt down specific spices and ingredients that could be hard to find in stores here.

Mola Foods also hosts Taste of Africa dinners, where diners get a chance to try cuisine that is usually completely new to them. And these are not just food events; they’re cultural experiences with music, dancing and conversation. Djabea finds that some people come into the dinners not understanding African cuisine or having preconceived notions about it, but when they try the food, they love it.

There are 54 countries in Africa, she pointed out, so it’s impossible to get a taste of every country or even every region in one dinner, and every dinner is unique. There are not currently any upcoming Taste of Africa events scheduled, but they will be returning in the future.

It’s Djabea’s first time formally instructing a cooking course, but it’s not her “first rodeo” as an instructor, she said. She taught her kids and her best friend how to cook African cuisine, and before Mola Foods, she was a medical coding instructor for several years.

“It’s heartwarming to be able to go back and be an instructor again, this time just doing something that I love to do. I am excited to share the gift of cooking that my grandmother taught me when I was younger with the rest of the community that wants to join me,” she said.

African Cooking class
When: Thursdays, March 28 through June 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nashua High School North, 8 Titan Way, Nashua
Cost: $105 for Nashua residents, $130 for non-residents, plus $100 fee for lab/food

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!