Recipe for Life: Gaudencia Nyiranvabakuze

  22 May, 2020  ·    Astrid Murray

Welcome to Recipe for Life! This week Esperance Kibwene share's her mum Gaudencia's story as well as her recipe for Banana-Yam Casserole.

Last year Centacare Multicultural Services worked closely with students from Trinity Bay High School on a story writing project called “Recipe for Life.”

The aim of the project was to strengthen intergenerational relationships and celebrate culture through the sharing of stories and recipes. 

At the end of the project we were able to create a recipe book which we have had printed. You can view the whole recipe book here – we are sure you will find plenty of colour and inspiration in its pages.

We would like to thank Wendy Chiu from Trinity Bay High School, musician Emmaline Anderson and our bicultural workers who were such an important part of this project.

Over the coming weeks we will share a story with it's recipe.

Gaudencia Nyiranvabakuze
by Esperance Kibwene

Gaudencia Nyiranvabakuze was born in 1966 and she was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has four sisters and three brothers. Her aunt was an important mentor in her life as she helped Gaudencia when the war was happening. Her aunt looked after her and protected her. Her favourite meal in her childhood was African banana and yams. She prepared it when she was 10 years old and her mother taught her to make it. The first time she made the dish was on a Saturday when she met her grandpa for the very first time. It was a special occasion so they made the banana and yam dish. You cannot find African bananas in Cairns so she misses this meal a lot.

Her dream was to be a nurse but she couldn’t finish school because her parents didn’t have money for school fees so she became a farmer. She worked very hard as a farmer. It was a hard life. She got married when she was 19 years old to Alphonse Hicuruvugo. They had 11 children of whom 6 died in the war in Congo. After losing her children the family moved to Uganda and they lived in a refugee camp there for 13 years.

Gaudencia is very proud of her eldest son as he became a doctor in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). He lives in the Congo and works as a doctor. Sometimes he is not safe and has to run to the forest and hide. The most significant event that happened in her life was losing her parents and children in the war. Gaudencia really misses her country, friends and family.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing the baking dish
700g yams, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1-inch thick slices
32 sweet biscuits (e.g. Marie biscuits)
3/4 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
4 large ripe but firm bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 bag mini marshmallows


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside
  2. In a heavy medium pot add the yams and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. (The color of the yams will turn brighter).
  3. Meanwhile, put the biscuits, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine until coarse but not fully ground. Add 6 tablespoons butter and pulse until the mixture forms lumps slightly larger than peas. Refrigerate the streusel topping until ready to use.
  4. Spread half of the bananas and yams in 1 layer in the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle with half of the streusel and half of the marshmallows. Repeat to make 1 more layer. 
  5. Bake until the marshmallows are golden, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.
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Recipe for Life: Gaudencia Nyiranvabakuze
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