Recipe: Tomato Cornmeal Cakes | Djenkoume

Even grownups need to build sandcastles from time to time. The urge comes from deep within our hearts – some far away love for fantasy, perhaps formed in childhood. Today, we’re listening to our inner child; we’re making edible sandcastles… from Togo.

At least, that’s what I’m calling them.

If you want to be a serious adult, you can call them cornmeal cakes.

In Togo, corn is everything, ever. Sometimes it is served as porridge. And sometimes it’s served as Djenkoume, a.k.a. cornmeal cakes, a.k.a. edible sand castles. Djenkoume is a cornmeal, tomato, and red palm oil corn cake, rather like polenta. But there’s so much more about the dish… there’s onion, garlic, and ginger in the mix.  And a mound of homemade, spiced tomato sauce.

Hello. How could that not be wonderful?

Friends, sometimes, I wonder if I’m really going to be able to find a dish I like in every country in the world. So far, I’ve had 100% success rate, and it’s not just because I’m fairly open minded.  It’s also because there really is good food in every country of the world.

Djenkoume is one of the big surprises on our Global Table Adventure. It’s at once comforting and addicting. And, once you serve it? The child in all of us falls in love with making the little sand castles!

Tip:  Let everyone make their own. It’ll get them excited and curious to try the dish.

So, here we go. Let’s make some Togolese sandcastles!


3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 medium onion, minced
2 Tbsp oil, preferably red palm oil
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegans)
2 cups cornmeal

Served with Grilled Togo Chicken.


First step? Find a real life sandcastle to cook in. Perhaps something like this…

Local house in the Taberma Valley in Togo. The whole area is deignated a UNESCO Heritage Site. Photo by Erik Kristensen.

Local house in the Taberma Valley in Togo. The whole area is deignated a UNESCO Heritage Site. Photo by Erik Kristensen.

Next, cook the garlic, ginger, and onion in oil until softened.

Add on the tomatoes and tomato paste.

… and gently simmer the mixture until a thick sauce forms, about fifteen minutes. The tomatoes will break down and the flavors will meld. Remove 1 cup and set aside for serving.

Next, pour on the chicken stock to the remaining tomatoes and whisk in the cornmeal, being sure to add it in a smooth stream.

Cook until thickened, about ten minutes. The cornmeal will be flecked with bits of tomato and softened onion. Yum!

Spoon into oiled ramekins or bowls and press smooth.

Unmold onto each plate and serve with the reserved sauce and Grilled Togo Chicken.

NOTE: This holds up stiffer if you let the mixture cool a few minutes before attempting… you’ll notice it thickening.

Oh, and don’t forget to serve a little of the sauce on the side!

Yummy sandcastles for everyone!

Enjoy with love and light, and a childlike spirit! Always.

P.S. If you want to bring this to a potluck, try putting it in a casserole and keeping covered tightly with saran. You could serve room temperature and slice into squares. As it cools it will hold its shape better.

P.P.S. Are you in? Will you be bringing your inner child to the table?



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  1. aunty eileen says:

    After reading your words and enjoying your pictures… I am definitely enticed! Well done! :-)

  2. This sounds absolutely divine! In a way it made me think of my Dad, who grew up in a state in the North of Brazil – he would often make “soldiers” on his plate: rice, black beans with very little of the cooking liquid, and a little cassava flour to hold it all together. He would form these little cylinders of food and eat by hand. He was a big child until he passed away at 82…

    lovely post, as usual, beautiful pictures…

  3. Maybe you could call these Corncastles instead. ;) They look delicious, and I’m going to make them.

  4. Janet Goodell says:

    This will be my first meal from your website. I was working on my own menu for Afghanistan when I found your site. Decided to dive in at Togo instead. The corncakes sound good-especially the sauce. My only problem is I am shopping today and must guess at ingredients for chicken (I am 35 miles from store, seriously). I think I will do OK: palm oil is only new ingredient for me.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh yay! Yes – jump right in. You can always browse around, too… try a salad one night, a grilled item another :) Have fun and enjoy the Adventure!

  5. This is so awesome!!! I am from Togo and was looking for a simple recipe tonight with what I have in my fridge and ran into you riz au gras recipe and then browsing through, found the Togo recipe! Djenkoume is one my favorites that I have not had in years. Will need to make it in the next few days now :). Your idea of eating food from all over the world is fantastic! I hope I can do this sometime soon.


  1. […] with Djenkoume (cornmeal cakes), sliced onions and […]

  2. […] a country in western Africa really does love their corn, especially cornmeal. Cornmeal cakes called Djenkoume are a popular staple, as is fufu (stiff cornmeal porridge, although sometimes it is made with yam). […]

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