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Recipes from home

Koteu’s spinach and tuna with African fufu recipe

Earlier this year, the IRC in Greece hosted cooking workshops for refugee and local women living on the island of Lesbos. Some of the women who took part talked to us about their experience and shared their recipes.

Earlier this year, the IRC in Greece hosted cooking workshops for refugee and local women living on the island of Lesbos. Some of the women who took part talked to us about their experience and shared their recipes.

Two women laughing and standing against a stone wall.
Koteu and IRC interpreter Sandra. Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC

“Food has always brought people together,” says IRC senior advocacy manager Martha Roussou. “The spices, the smells and the memories that cooking brings create bonds. Cooking is intimate."

Koteu, a refugee from Cameroon who has been supported by the IRC’s mental health center in Greece for the past year, shared her recipe for spinach and tuna with African fufu. Fufu is a dough made from boiled plantains, cassava or malanga, but for this recipe Koteu used semolina. She chose this dish because she ate it often growing up in Cameroon.

Koteu cooked with the help of Sandra, an interpreter who works with the IRC on Lesbos.

Spinach and Tuna with African Fufu

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fine semolina
  • 20 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 pounds fresh tuna fish, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pound shrimp or large prawns
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove mashed, plus 1 clove chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Ground ginger, salt and white pepper to taste
Raw tuna, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, onions, and other ingredients laid out on a table.

"Food has always brought people together." IRC's Senior Advocacy Manager Martha Roussou helped to organise the cooking workshops. "The spices, the smells and the memories that cooking brings create bonds. Cooking is intimate."

Recipe

  • Sauté the onions in half the oil over medium heat until translucent; add the mashed garlic and cook until fragrant.
  • Meanwhile, in another pan, simmer just enough water to blanch the spinach; drain thoroughly, reserving some water.
  • Add the tuna, seasoned with salt and white pepper, to the pan with the onion and cook at medium heat until the fish begins to turn color.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer until they begin to soften.
Two women wearing masked cook together over a stove.

"I was really touched by the amazing pair who joined forces to cook together," said Martha Roussou about Koteu and Sandra. “Seeing the bond the two had created, as well as hearing from Koteu how much the IRC has helped her, warmed my heart.”

Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC
  • In a third pan, heat the remaining oil, season the shrimp with pepper and ground ginger, sauté for about two minutes.
  • Add the spinach to the tuna and tomatoes.
  • Plate the tuna, spinach and tomatoes, adding shrimp on top.
  • Serve with fufu (see recipe below)

To make the fufu

  • Bring ½ quart of water to boil and reduce heat.
  • Add the semolina and stir continuously for about 10 minutes, until the mix becomes a thick dough.
  • Serve the fufu with the tuna, shrimp, tomatoes and spinach.
One plate with spinach and shrimp in the foreground, one plate with African fufu in the background.

“I can cook for many people and I feel good,” Koteu told us. “When I cook I feel better because I don’t think about anything, only cooking.”

Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC

Recipes from Home

The Recipes from Home series presents dishes lovingly prepared by refugee and local women who attended the IRC cooking workshops held at Nan, a restaurant on the island of Lesbos. The aim of the workshops is to bring together people to promote common experiences and mutual understanding through the universal language of food.

The workshops were supported by the Western Union Foundation.