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Maria Bradford’s Fonio with Spiced Roast Pumpkin and Pine Nuts

Fonio is a West African ‘superfood’. It’s cultivated from two species of grass with small grains. It’s extremely nutritious with a very favourable taste. It’s gluten free and high in dietary fibre. The grains can be used to make porridge, bread and beer and it can be made into flour as well. I often use it in salads and as an alternative to couscous or rice. In this dish it’s combined with pumpkin, another well-known ingredient in Africa (and elsewhere around the globe). Pumpkin is also known for its nutritional value; it’s high in beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, iron and folate. This dish is just packed full of goodness.


Serves 4-6

1 medium pumpkin (about 500g/1lb 2oz), peeled, deseeded and cut into small cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp West African Pepper Blend (see below)
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp sea salt, plus extra to season
300ml (10½fl oz/1¼ cups plus 1 tsp) vegetable stock
150g (5½oz) fonio
100g (3½oz) pine nuts, lightly toasted
1–2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
4 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
1 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
1 tbsp chopped mint

For the dressing
1 tbsp lemon juice
2½ tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Pinch of caster (superfine) sugar

For West African Pepper Blend

2½ tsp grains of paradise

2 tbsp black peppercorns

2 tbsp white peppercorns

1 tbsp cubeb pepper

3 tbsp allspice berries


  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/200ºC fan/425ºF/gas mark 7.
  2. Put the pumpkin cubes in a roasting tin, drizzle over 3 tablespoons of the rapeseed oil, sprinkle over the spices and salt and toss to coat. Roast until brown and soft, about 30–40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. To cook the fonio, bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. Add the fonio, lower the heat and cook until all stock has been absorbed, about 5–10 minutes (test it to make sure it’s tender). Stir through the remaining rapeseed oil and fluff the fonio with a fork. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
  4. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and sugar together in a bowl and mix well.
  5. Put the roasted pumpkin, pine nuts, chilli, spring onions (scallions), herbs and fonio in a big mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss together. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve straightaway.


For West African Pepper Blend

  1. Toast all the peppercorns in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. Allow to cool then grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Store in an airtight jar. It will stay fresh for up to 3 months.

Sweet Salone by Maria Bradford (Quadrille, £30)

Food photography: Yuki Sugiura

Author photo: Dave Brown