Making Cassava Bread

by Frank Christo

Cassava (aka Casabe) Bread is a flat bread, as hard and thin as a cracker, made from cassava flour.

The flour comes from the bitter (not the sweet) type of cassava roots. This type is called manioc and the plant can be identified by the reddish tinge of the leaves as opposed to the green leaves of ordinary cassava.

To make cassava bread, the cassava is grated, all the toxic juice squeezed out, then dried into a flour, and sifted.

Here is the process as my grandmother did it. She had a woven basket about 6 feet long and shaped like a sock. The top was open with a strap for hanging. The top opening was about 8 inched in diameter. It was tapered to the bottom which was closed with another hook at the end. See my poor illustration below.

After stuffing the basket with the grated cassava, a container is placed at the bottom to collect all the liquid. My job was to sit on a log attached to the bottom of the basket. My weight would stretch the basket thus squeezing out all the liquid. This liquid is toxic (that is why it is called bitter cassava). The liquid is left overnight and the reddish poisonous water at the top is discarded. The remainder is a white residue with is used for starch in clothing.

The flour left in the basket is what we use to make cassava bread. The flour is spread over a hot tawah and a ring made from the metal band to form a large round circle. It is then flattened and lightly pressed together with a tool that looks like a trowel. It’s flipped to cook the other side, then removed from the tawah, and spread on a metal (galvanize] to dry in the sun. Later you can cut into smaller pieces for storage.

Cassava Bread Making

The long cylindrical shape object is called a Matapi use to squeeze the juices from the grated cassava and the square object is called a Manare used for sifting the Cassava 

My grandmother used to call it couleve which means snake in French.

The Patois name is Koulèv (coo-lev) which is also the name of a snake. The cassava sifter is lébiché’ (lay-bee-shay).

As a special treat grandma would add brown sugar to the mix of a couple breads to give it a sweet taste just for my consumption.

Some of the flour was baked to make a powdery stuff called farine.

Cassava bread is a traditional bread made by the Indigenous Peoples in the Caribbean and in South America. It predates European contact by many centuries.