Cape Verdean Cuisine — Jagacida, Bean and Sausage Stew

Cape Verde is a remote island chain due west of the West African nation of Senegal in the North Atlantic. The volcanic islands were uninhabited until the Portuguese arrived in the fifteenth century and used the archipelago as a stopover point in the New World slave trade. It wasn’t long before the Cape Verdean Islands became an easy target of pirates, the famed English privateer Sir Francis Drake having ransacked the then-capital city of Ribeira Grande twice in the 1580s.

Cape Verde quick facts:

  • Capital: Praia
  • Population: 499,000 (2013 estimate)
  • Notable Cape Verdeans: Nani, Lura, Tavares

The Cape Verdean people’s greatest cultural gift to the rest of the world is their music, a blend of African and European styles.  Countless Cape Verdean musicians have achieved both local and international acclaim.  Especially noteworthy are the singers Ildo Lobo and Cesária Évora, whose songs have become permanently stamped upon the Cape Verdean cultural landscape.  Readers of a certain age (and of a certain taste in music) might be most familiar with the 1970s and 80s group Tavares, whose version of “More Than a Woman” was featured in the film Saturday Night Fever (and is objectively better than the more famous Bee Gees version) and whose members are brothers of direct Cape Verdean descent from Massachusetts.

Like the Cape Verdeans themselves, Cape Verdean food is a West African/Portuguese blend. Portuguese sausages are popular additions to stews, and a West African-style utilization of staple foods like rice, beans, and root vegetables is prevalent. Cape Verdeans take advantage of the ocean’s bounty as well, and are adept fishermen.

If asked what foods from home he or she missed most, a Cape Verdean abroad would likely respond either cachupa, a stew of beans, corn, and fish, or manchupa, a stew served at large gatherings (or for large appetites) made from pig’s feet, spare ribs, salt pork, ham hocks, several types of beans, and local vegetables like squash and greens.  (Though neither of us is employed as a full-time linguist, our guess is that “-chupa” means “stew” in either Portuguese or Cape Verdean Creole)  While the sheer scale of manchupa piqued our interest, we knew it was an impossible recipe to scale to a more reasonable number of servings. Luckily for us, Cape Verdean cooks don’t always want to make a full manchupa either and have created jagacida (recipe follows), which has a similar rich meatiness with much fewer ingredients and a much shorter preparation time.


adapted from The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent by Jessica B. Harris

  • 1 cup dried white beans
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 link linguiça sausage, about 6 ounces, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup long-grain rice

First, the beans and water were brought to a boil in our smaller enameled cast iron oven:


Once boiling, the burner was turned down to medium-low and the beans were allowed to simmer.  After an hour and a half, the beans were already fully tender and plump:


It was then time to work on our other ingredients, starting with the sausage.  Linguiça is a Portuguese sausage available in most supermarkets in our area.  We like the Silva brand, which is of high quality and affordably priced:

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Linguiça when we feature Portuguese food later.

All our other ingredients were cut according to our recipe’s needs and set out for use:


The oil was heated in a saucepan, and once hot we added the onion and linguiça:


…which was sauteed until the onions had softened and the sausage had browned a bit, about four minutes:


The next addition was the paprika and garlic:


…which was stirred and sauteed anothe two minutes until everything was completely reddened by the paprika and the garlic had become fragrant:


Next a little bit of the bean cooking liquid was added to the saucepan and combined with the onion and sausage mixture:


…which was transferred to the bean cooking pot:


Everything was mixed together with the salt and pepper and the rice, and the bay leaves were added and allowed to simmer together for about half an hour:


Once the half hour was up, it was clear that our stew was a bit too thick:


…so we added another cup or so of water:


…and allowed the stew to come to a simmer again.  About five minutes later, we had the consistency we wanted:


To help us determine the proper thickness, we used the Cape Verdean teaspoon test.  A spoon, when dropped into the stew, should neither fall to the bottom of the pot without resistance, nor should it get bogged down at the top and remain there.

Satisfied that our jagacida was ready, and tired of waiting to eat it, we were ready to serve:


Our jagacida was rich, complex, satisfying, and delicious.  The sausage lent its flavor and a little bit of always welcome pork fat to the rice and beans, and the copious paprika gave depth to the dish.  Best of all, it was very easy to prepare and was inexpensive.  Based on this one dish, we look forward to seeing what else Cape Verde has to offer.


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