All posts filed under: Africa

mealie-bread-ava

Monday Meal Review: Swaziland

  “The bee that is forced into the hive will not produce honey.” This Swazi proverb has me thinking about what I do and why. When I used to work a desk job, I had  a palpable limit to my energy and creativity: it was called “5pm.” The old song “It’s five o’clock somewhere” was my quitting time rhyme. I was out that door faster than anyone else and, in fact, I was unproductively waiting for the end of the day even before five o’clock. But since I began cooking the world, something strange has happened. No longer am I watching the clock. No longer do I count the minutes down by the second. Instead, I have weeks like this one… our Swazi week … where I’m surrounded by the steam of the moistest corn bread I’ve ever had, reveling as I eat nearly an entire loaf by myself. Times when I fall into a tongue in cheek discussion with Mr Picky about how delicious beets are (I believe it, he doesn’t). Where Ava tries …

swaziland.food.recipe.img_1419

Swazi Salad | Slaai

Swaziland’s swooping slopes are dotted with crops; it is here that the Swazi grow the freshest produce, from sunshine yellow lemons, to buttery avocados. With farming of that caliber, it should come as no surprise that Swazi Salads are especially grand. This is not to say they are carefully composed salads. (Most things that are careful, aren’t nearly as delicious.) No, these are simple, heaped piles of chopped veggies. But you can get them on the side of even the most humble plate of beans, which counts for, well, everything. There’s no elaborate dressing, save, perhaps, a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Croutons? Forget it. The crunch you seek comes from a handful of crushed peanuts and the crisp bite of a sharp radish. Feeling bold? Add minced hot peppers to that lemon juice. Fresher and brighter is the name of the game. So what’s in a Swazi Salad? Every time I looked up Swazi salads, I happened across some combination of avocado, lettuce, onion, and beets. Beets were everywhere: red heaped piles …

swaziland.food.recipe.img_1491

Mealie Bread

The next time you walk into your kitchen, walk into the warm, sweet scent of mealie bread. Let a smile curl along your lips as you taste that first, moist bite with your imagination. Then take a moment for real indulgence: spread softened butter across the still-warm bread, only to see it melt into and down the sides of the tender crumb. I’ve had lots of corn bread before, but never something as rich and flavorful as this Mealie Bread. The main difference between this and ordinary corn bread is that it doesn’t rely on cornmeal, but actual corn to flavor the bread. Mealie Bread is a treat you will find throughout southern Africa. In olden days, it was steamed over a campfire, with little more than ground corn, wrapped up in husks. They used white corn, not sweet, yellow corn. The end result was more of a wet corn pudding. Today’s southern Africans, however, love mealie bread with more of a bread consistency, so they include flour. The jury is out, however, on whether or not the …

swaziland-menu

Menu: Swaziland

There’s an old Swazi saying that goes: “A man who prides himself on his ancestry is like the potato plant, the best part of which is underground.” Do you agree? Do we need to know our ancestors?* And are they the best part of who we are? Once upon a time, we got our recipes from our ancestors. Grandma’s cornbread. Uncle’s avocado salad.  Today we can find just about anything online, but the best recipes come from someone … from the long line of way back when. They’ve been tested and tried, adapted and improved upon. This week’s recipes are inspired by the Swazi people (and beyond that, too, these are staple ingredients and recipes popular throughout most of Southern Africa). The ingredients are nod to fresh produce and the transition between winter and spring, which, like the alarm clock, keeps resetting (It’s 42F, right now, after an 80F weekend). The cornbread, as you’ll learn when the recipe posts, has undergone many changes over the years, to reach its straightforward, delicious self. Sometimes I dream about living on a farm …

Swaziland. Photo by Jenny M. Buccos.

About the food of Swaziland

This week we’re back in Africa, in a little tropical/temperate country called Swaziland, just north of South African and Lesotho.  The Swazi people live in this beautiful land, among the mountains and undulating hills, tending their farms and rearing their cattle. From their smooth slopes, come pineapples, citrus, and sweet sugar cane. Many call Swaziland one of the world’s most beautiful countries, and I can see why. While the traditional people might eat something as simple as emasi, or porridge, which can be made with sorghum or corn, you’ll also find corn, rice, and every kind of potato, including sweet potato. Many stews, such as spinach, pumpkin, or even green beans, grace the sides of such dishes. Salads are a given, especially when topped with avocado or beets [Recipe]. And did you know the Swazi eat beer? That’s right… beer is yet another carb; the  Swazi consider their rich, thick home brew a food. (I read about it in the World Cookbook for Students.) If that’s too boozy for you, perhaps a simple slice of mealie bread  [Recipe] (think corn bread with bolder, …

sudan.south.food.recipe.img_0898

Monday Meal Review: South Sudan

What is a celebrity? One definition is someone who commands “public fascination.” Could this be the profile of one such person? This week we shared our meal with a very special guest; someone who has actually traveled to South Sudan, slept in their huts, hunted in their forests, and enjoyed feasts while sitting at the right hand of the village Chief.  I’d tell you when all this happened, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. I’ve wanted to invite this man to our table for a long time, partly because he is so passionate about the cultures of the world, but also because anywhere he goes, he comes back with stories. Enough to fill a 450 page book, actually. Say ‘hello’ to Brian Schwartz. You might recognize him from his lengthy, insightful comments… He’s been sharing them from the very beginning of this blog. Without him, my adventures into Africa and parts of Asia would have been much quieter, but his memories (and music!) have livened up our stovetop travels … making me (and I’m sure …

sudan.south.food.recipe.img_0795

Peanut Stew with Beef & Spinach | Combo

Combo. It’s one of South Sudan’s most popular dishes – a thick, wet combination of spinach, peanut butter, tomatoes, and (sometimes) meat. Peanut butter is a common meal component throughout Africa (like Ghana’s Groundnut Soup, Sierra Leone’s Gluten-free Peanut Bites, Senegal’s Cinq Centimes Cookies, and Malawi’s Peanut Balls), but Combo stands out as one of the more rustic dishes I’ve come across. Even still, South Sudanese no longer living in South Sudan make Combo to bring themselves back. That’s how they taste home again. Combo first came to my attention thanks to Brian Schwartz who kindly phoned the South Sudanese embassy to ask about popular dishes. Thanks Brian! You can have it with or without beef (or perhaps goat is more to your fancy?). I’ve even seen it with sweet potatoes in the mix. No matter what you do, just be sure to include the essentials: spinach and peanut butter. Adapted from the South Sudanese Cookbook. Ingredients: 1 1/4 lb beef, cubed vegetable oil 2 onions, chopped 4 garlic cloves, crushed 3 cups beef stock …

sudan.south.food.recipe.img_0601

South Sudanese Tomato Salad

The South Sudanese love a good, chopped tomato salad on the side of their meals. Often, it’s no more than tomato, onion, and hot, green chili peppers… perhaps a spot of parsley… But other times, a bit of peanut butter and lime juice makes for a grand dressing… and tastes just like home, if you happen to be from South Sudan. When I was deciding which of the two recipes to try, the choice was clear: if peanut butter is involved, the answer is yes. Most definitely, yes. You can make this vegan recipe as spicy as you’d like by adding more (or less) chili peppers. I thought two Thai birds made a nice, mild/medium heat (bordering on hot if someone bit directly into a piece of pepper). For little ones, you can always leave the chili peppers out. In the end, the lime juice makes the salad tangy and bright, while the peanuts give it that African flair. I call a recipe like this, all kinds of wonderful. And so does Ava. Inspired by this …

sudan.south.food.recipe.img_0757

Sudanese Kisra | Sorghum Crepes

I never thought I’d need a cow’s brain and a credit card for this lil’ ol’ Global Table Adventure of ours. The thing is, if I were to make Kisra in the most authentic way – the South Sudanese way –  that’s exactly what I’d need. Locals would use the cow’s brain,  which is naturally quite fatty, to grease the pan. I got the tip on good authority; from this amazing South Sudanese food post on Green Shakes in Sudan. There you’ll find photos of local women rubbing brain renderings on their flat griddle-like pan. According to The World Cookbook for Students, unroasted sesame oil works fine as well… and gives the wholesome crepe a clean sort of flavor and makes them entirely vegan. I know what I chose…. what would you choose? Now, let’s talk credit cards. I read several passages that indicate locals spread out the kisra batter with credit cards. I had a small plastic scraper that worked just fine… but the credit card would definitely add a touch of excitement (will it or …

south-sudanese-menu

Menu: South Sudan

“A man without money goes fast through the market.” South Sudanese Proverb This week we’re digging into a menu that shows off South Sudan’s love of peanuts, sorghum, and spinach. These three staples can be found in many forms throughout the tropical country, although we’ve used them in traditional recipes that will be accessible to most home cooks. And while we’re talking about spinach, can we talk about spring for a second? What on earth is happening? No, really. Tulsa is all kinds of crazy. I keep heading outside to plant my tomatoes and Mother Nature’s like “Just kidding. It’s still winter.”* At this rate, the farmer’s market will be my only hope for awesome produce. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Sudanese Tomato Salad [Recipe] Fresh tomatoes, green onion, and parsley, tossed with a spicy peanut lime dressing. Vegan. Peanut Stew with Beef & Spinach | Combo [Recipe] A hearty mixture of browned beef, spinach, and peanut sauce. This one will comfort even the bristliest of folk, on the …

South Sudanese children. Photo by Photo Credit: Karl Grobl, Education Development Center Inc.

About the Food of South Sudan

It is a rare thing to bite into a new country; so often we think of our geopolitical landscape as static. But countries are no more static than the mountains which shift and crack, and spew forth anew from the earth’s molten core. There are surges and separations, and somehow, from the same old earth, something new emerges. Which brings me to this week. South Sudan. The world’s newest country (as of July 9, 2011). She’s hot, tropical, and bursting with jungle and swampland. She’s been there all along, of course, but now she has both boundaries and acknowledgement. Villagers sink into her heat with abandon, removed from the flicker of tourists, pressed together in the common interest of survival. The food is simple, based on porridge made from millet (“wala-wala” or “awal-wala”), although more densely populated areas will also offer cassava fritters and sorghum flatbread (kisra) [Recipe]. Meat like goat, beef or chicken, might be grilled and served along with these starches, or it might be cooked down in a peanut and spinach leaf …

sudan.north.food.recipe.img_0484

Monday Meal Review: North Sudan

If you could taste life, it would be salt of the earth, spice of the heavens. It would leave you thirsty, and yet it would quench you. When I see people sweat through complicated recipes to impress each other, rather that for fun, I wonder if they taste life… if they really drink it in. Because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen her. That girl who’s crying before a dinner party because she’s taken on a recipe that’s much too complicated. Or because she’s just splattered oil on her favorite blouse. Or she answers the door with flour on her face and doesn’t realize it until a glass of wine and two hours later. While her friends fill the walls of her home with effervescent laughter, her insides are writhe with stress, fear, insecurity. She’s wondering if everyone’s doing okay, without taking a moment to breathe for herself. To live. To take it all in. To taste life. I know, because I’ve been that girl. I recently read a cookbook review that claimed the author wasn’t sharing true “recipes” …