When I was a child in DR Congo, the first person I saw cooking was my mom, who really liked to cook. I started helping her when I was about age 10 – mixing spices, cutting onions and tomatoes, that sort of thing. I loved watching her mix all the ingredients together, and realized I loved cooking! Later, I went to school and earned a bachelor’s in catering and hospitality.

I grew up in a small city, but went to college in Kinshasa, which is a very busy place, with many restaurants. After college I stayed in Kinshasa. It’s a little like Portland, with restaurants on every street. So many of them! The downtown of the city where I grew up also had a lot of restaurants. The name of my hometown city is Kananga.

In my home country, I worked for 12 years in catering, which included planning events and choosing menus. I got some training at a Memling Hotel after college, then got a job with the Red Cross, where I worked as a caterer from 2006-2018. I would like to work in the hospitality industry again, with food. I love working with customers.

When I left home, I came to Maine straight away, where I’ve been working in the kitchen at Maine Medical Center since August 2018, bringing food to patients. My niece lives here, and she encouraged us to come to Maine. She told us Maine is a safe place. Before leaving home, I didn’t know the U.S. at all, but when I got here, I saw she was right – it’s a safe place for myself and my kids. I have four kids. My oldest daughter can cook rice, make breakfast for herself and for her siblings. When I arrived, I went to Portland Adult Education, and with their help moved from a Level 3 to a Level 4 in English. But I had to drop out because the schedule didn’t work for me because of childcare responsibilities. I continued improving my English with the help of In Her Presence. In Her Presence is like another family for me. I love them so much!

In Africa, we eat donuts at breakfast, at events, at parties, or if someone comes to visit. I call these “African” because they are not particular to any one country – it seems like all Africans love donuts! My kids love them, too.

This was my mom’s favorite recipe, and she showed me how to make these donuts. I use self-rising flour, which makes everything so much easier!

— Angelique Ilunga

African Donut Recipe

2 1/3 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk or water
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 gallon oil for frying

1) Mix 1 cup milk with 1/4 cup sugar in a big pan or bowl.
2) Add 2 1/3 cup flour and mix with a spoon until a dough forms.
3) Add 1 egg and mix everything for about 1 minute.
4) Form the donuts. Some people use their hands – I use a spoon.
5) Heat oil on medium heat in a pot on the stove for 5 minutes until hot, then drop the donut dough in the oil and cook for 3-5 minutes. If the oil gets too hot and splatters, lower the heat. You don’t want to cook the donuts too fast or the inside won’t be cooked through.
This recipe will make 20-25 donuts.
This cooking feature is brought to you in partnership with In Her Presence.