Monday, October 31, 2011

Ugali and Stew

Tonight marked our 1 year anniversary of being homeowners.  It also happens to be Halloween (I was dressed in my bunny sweat suit while I signed all the legal docs last year and I am dressed as a cat as I write this).  My husband was in need of comfort food, and for him, that is ugali and stew.  I decided to make chicken stew since that is the meat I had on hand. I have made chicken stew before, but this is definitely my favorite one.  

My favorite chicken stew:

2 chicken breasts (or an equal amount of any meaty part of the chicken)
1 quart chicken broth
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1/4 cup dried lemongrass
1 small bunch fresh parsley
2 Tbs. peanut butter
1/4 cup sherry
1 chopped jalapeno or other hot chili pepper
4 carrots thinly sliced
2 potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
2 yellow onions roughly chopped
1 bunch of fresh greens chopped or about a cup of frozen greens (chard, collard, spinach, etc.)
4 cloves chopped garlic
The following are spices that you may or may not have... Use all or some to taste....I used a lot tonight!
seasoned salt
Zanzibar tumeric
Zanzibar curry
Barbados curry (Thanks Ashley!)
Sweet curry
Zanzibar red curry (which is more of a thickener and food coloring)
ginger powder
poultry seasoning
mustard powder
Zanzibar dried hot chilis
black pepper

Bring the chicken broth to a low boil in a large stock pot and add the raw chicken. Add the thyme, parsley, lemongrass, garlic and sherry. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and let set on a cutting board to cool.  Pour the broth through a strainer into an 8 cup liquid measuring cup to separate all the solids from the broth.  Pour the strained broth back into the stock pot and discard all the solids that were cooked with the broth.  Add all the remaining ingredients, except the chicken and the greens. Bring to a low boil for about 10 min.  Add the corn starch, mixed with enough water to dissolve it, to the pot and continue to boil for at least a minute to get red of the starchy taste.  Turn the heat to low and then add the chicken and the greens (if fresh).  Let the pot sit for at least an hour, uncovered.  After it has set for at least an hour, add the greens (if frozen) and heat until warmed through.  

Dish into shallow soup bowls and let it sit for a bit to cool off, especially if you will be serving it with ugali and using your fingers!

Ugali (Tanzania, Kenya) Sadza (Zimbabwe)

It is very easy to make Ugali yet sort of hard to explain.  Also, I don't feel quite worthy of telling you how to make it because I am probably not very good at it.  Although, I am getting better and my husband says I am getting MUCH better.  When I have more time I will post a video that shows our friend Bosco making Ugali in Tanzania.

All I can tell you is this:

I take about 2 cups of white corn flour combined with approximately 3 cups of water.  I stir it until it is dissolved and then bring it to a boil.  I stir it vigorously and then reduce the heat a little. I smooth it around and sort of seal the top up and wait until it is puffing from the heat that is trying to escape.  Then I stir it all around again.  This is an arm workout! I repeat this process at least 4 more times.  The ugali should be very stick and not be too moist or sticky.  It is much thicker than grits.  I transfer it into a bowl and smooth it all around to make it round in the bowl. You know you have made it close to okay when it does not stick much at all to your hands. 

 I used this rainbow chard about a month ago in my stew. I thought it was beautiful! Tonight, I used frozen spinach which is not picture worthy.
 This is a picture of the chicken stew I made about a month ago.  It was not nearly as good and I learned quite a bit from making this semi-flavorful stew. First, I need to strain the herbs and lemongrass from the broth and second, I need to add way more spices! I did happen to make very good ugali that night.  It was nice and firm and did not stick to your fingers.  The ugali that we ate in Tanzania was much lighter than this.  I do buy the white corn flour but it is still not as light as theirs is.
 This is the dried lemongrass, parsley, and thyme after I added it to the broth and before I strained it.  
Tasty Chicken Stew and Ugali

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ghana Cafe in D.C.

This summer we were lucky enough to visit The Ghana Cafe in Washington, D.C.  I had the Red Red (fried plantains) with Goat Curry (above) and my husband had the Kenkey (like ugali but rolled into a large ball and even more firm) with Goat Stew The atmosphere at The Ghana Cafe was very cozy and friendly.  My goat curry was very tasty but the fried plantains were the star of the plate.  I came home and tried to re-create fried plantains...they were nearly inedible. Ya win some, ya lose some. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Suya" Meatballs

I tried another recipe from "Taste of Africa" the other day.  I was invited to a "tapas" party and decided these would be great to bring along with the "Harissa Chili Paste" as the recipe suggested. Although it seems like more of a sauce than a paste. The Harissa is also found in this cookbook. In many ways these meatballs are similar to most meatballs one is used to.  One major difference is though is the use of ground peanuts and there is no liquid involved. I had to use %93 percent lean ground beef because I could not find 80/20.  As a result they were a little on the dry side but still quite good. The recipe stated that these are typically cooked on the grill kabob style.  I chose to bake them in the oven at 400 degrees until browned.

Suya: popular in West Africa. Suya originated in northern Nigeria and Niger.
Courtesy: Justice Kamanga "Tastes of Africa"
1kg (2.2 lbs) minced (gr.) beef
1/2 c. roasted peauts, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 onion grated
salt and pepper
If grilling: 6 bamboo skewers
Preheat grill. In a bowl, combine the beef and other ingredients and shape into approximately 24 meatballs. Thread the meatballs onto the bamboo skewers.  Grill for about 10 min, then brush with the olive oil. Serve with Harissa Hot Chili Paste
If baking: Preheat oven to 400 and follow all other instructions except place meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake until browned.

Harissa Hot Chili Paste: popular in North Africa
Courtesy: Justice Kamanga "Tastes of Africa"

150 g. fresh red or green chilis, deseeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green pepper, grilled, skinned and chopped
1 red pepper, grilled, skinned and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1Tbsp gr. cumin
sea salt
Combine all ingredients and leave to stand for at least 30 min. before using, for the flavors to develop.

I made a few tweaks to this recipe some on purpose, and some not.  I used red jalapenos and green. I did not grill the bell peppers or take the skin off.  Instead I just used them raw.  To make that step of grilling easier I suppose that you could buy the jarred roasted peppers.  I'm sure my result was a different flavor but it was still very good.  I blended everything in the food processor.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Zimbabwean Chicken

I usually go in phases as to what I like to cook.  Lately it has been African food.  I hadn't been able to find any good cookbooks on African Food, until now.  I recently purchased "Tastes of Africa" by Justice Kamanga. I really like this cookbook because it is a great mix of "fusion" and "authentic".  The first recipe I tried was "Chicken Thighs and Spinach in Peanut Sauce" this is a Zimbabwean dish called "Dovi".  I served it with "Sadza" which is a finely ground corn flour mixture mixed with water and cooked until absorbed into a very thick paste.  It sort of reminds me a really thick grits. I could only find medium ground yellow corn flour.  This worked ok but next time I definitely need a finely ground white corn flour.

Here is the recipe for Dovi
courtesy: "Tastes of Africa" by Justice Kamanga

6 chicken thighs
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 onions, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 baby marrows (zucchini), sliced 1cm thick
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
500 g shredded fresh spinach

Cut an "X" into the skin of each chicken thigh. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken until well browned. Transfer the thighs to a pot and pour off most of the oil from the frying pan, leaving about 3Tbs. 
In the same pan, saute the onions over a low heat until soft, then add the tomatoes and stir until soft. Stir the chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the baby marrows and peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter has dissolved.  Add the cayenne pepper and spinach, and simmer for approximately 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Add salt to taste. Serve with Sadza. Serves 4-6.

This makes a huge amount as you can see from the picture. I would definitely cut it in half next time.  I also added salt and pepper to the chicken before I fried it.  

Welcome to African Cooking Is Fun!

African cooking is fun!  It is also very healthy.  African food is traditionally high in fiber and low in saturated fats.  It is often gluten free and dairy free!  Just as important to many, it is budget friendly.  African cooking is exotic without having to use obscure ingredients you will never use again.  Once you invest in some good spices, the other ingredients can easily be found at most grocery stores.  I hope you will be inspired to enjoy African cooking in your home!