Recipes from Malawi


I must have been in the mood for simple food this week, because I did enjoy our culinary journey into the little nation of Malawi. Now I say "simple" but these recipes weren't simple in taste--yes, the ingredients were basic, but they were still a nice combination of flavors.

Fish is really important to Malawian cuisine--remember from my last post that 1/3rd of Malawi's area is occupied by a lake. But I just didn't find a whole lot of fish options online (I know there have to be some out there, but I didn't have any luck) and with only one exception my kids hate fish anyway, so I settled on a chicken dish and, just because I did need some small way to torture my children, that cornmeal porridge stuff that everyone hates.

Here are the recipes I chose:
Nkhuku Ya Sabola. Spiced chicken curry made with tomatoes and potatoes.
Nsima.  A polenta-like porridge made from cornmeal and butter.
Banana fritters. Yes, something deep fried. Because I really needed the calories.
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Recipes from Malawi: Nkhuku Ya Sabola (Spiced Chicken Curry)


So let's face it, any recipe with the word "curry" in the title is going to be tasty by default, because, you know, curry. Of course the funny thing about Indian curry is it almost never has actual curry powder in it--or if it does, it's really a mixture of spices you put together in your own kitchen, which sort of fall under a generic umbrella of "curry" spices. Lots of other nations, though, make curries that get most of their flavor from a pre-mixed commercial curry powder, which is true for this Malawian chicken.

Like many African recipes, this one is simple to make and has only a handful of ingredients (recipe below).
First, season the chicken with salt and fry in oil over medium heat until browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large pot.

If there's any excess oil, pour it off and then use the remaining oil to saute the the onions.
When the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes, chili pepper, thyme and curry powder.
Cook the spices until fragrant, then add the water and stock. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the pot with the chicken. Let simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add the potato cubes and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season with a little more salt and pepper and serve.

I enjoyed this recipe, though my kids of course were ho-hum as they always are about anything that contains, you know, actual vegetables. So they spent a lot of time removing each individual little bit of onion, tomato and potato and then picked at the rest and asked me when dessert would be ready. That's OK, I'm used to it. At least Martin and I enjoyed our meals.


Nkhuku Ya Sabola (Spiced Chicken Curry)

from Ayileche


Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken, skin on
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 to 5 tbsp oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. First, season the chicken with salt and fry in oil over medium heat until browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and add to a large pot.
  2. If there's any excess oil, pour it off and then use the remaining oil to saute the the onions. When the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes, chili pepper, thyme and curry powder.
  3. Cook the spices until fragrant, then add the water and stock. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the pot with the chicken. Let simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add the potato cubes and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season with a little more salt and pepper and serve.
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Recipes from Malawi: Nsima


So I know I've made something like this before, in fact I distinctly recall the looks on my kids' faces when they realized I expected them to eat it. And I can also recall a box of it sitting in my kitchen cabinet for like, years, because I kept thinking that I'd need it for another blog night. And then I'm pretty sure I recall pitching it because I realized that I probably should try hard not to need it for another blog night, because that's how much everyone hated it.

Of course, I can't find any reference to it in any of my old posts, so it must have had some other name. Anyway, here we are again, and yes I'm making this very similar (though not exactly the same) stuff because I really just didn't feel that the meal would be authentic without it.

So the good news is, there's really nothing simpler to cook than this stuff. It's just cornmeal, water and butter. Here's how to do it:

Heat the water until it's just lukewarm. Then add a little bit of the cornmeal and stir until any lumps dissolve.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal over the simmering water, stirring constantly so it doesn't get lumpy. It's going to get pretty thick, so keep stirring until it's smooth and has an almost dough-like consistency. Add the butter and stir it in.


So I actually did not hate this stuff as much as I remember hating it. The main dish had a lot of liquid in it, so it was really just a stand-in for rice. It was really good at mopping up all the juices. Of course, my kids took one look at it and didn't want anything to do with it, but really, that was to be expected. It was quite heavy so I didn't eat all of it, but the butter made it somewhat less than bland, and as I said, it was great at mopping up the liquidy part of the chicken curry.

Here's the complete recipe:



Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken, skin on
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 to 5 tbsp oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the water until it's just lukewarm. Then add a little bit of the cornmeal and stir until any lumps dissolve.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal over the simmering water, stirring constantly so it doesn't get lumpy. It's going to get pretty thick, so keep stirring until it's smooth and has an almost dough-like consistency. Add the butter and stir it in.
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Recipes from Malawi: Banana Fritters


So after all the child torture (I'm just kidding, they didn't hate it that much), I decided to give everyone a treat. I actually knew pretty well in advance that these banana fritters would be a treat, because "banana" and because "deep fried." I don't see how you could get that combination wrong, unless you deep fried your bananas in motor oil or something.

And these are easy, too, though I don't recommend them for every day. They are super-greasy, and obviously not a part of a healthy eating plan. But if you want to make your kids feel better about that nsima, well, you can't go wrong with some banana fritters.

First, mash up the bananas with some sugar and salt. Hopefully you have a super-cute helper to add the sugar for you.
Now stir in the cornmeal and mix until you have a nice dough.
Heat some cooking oil (something with no flavor of its own, like canola) until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon.

Fry until golden. Mine were a little on the overdone side, but no one cared.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Everyone loved these. What's not to love? Crispy, banana, deep fried, dusted with powdered sugar. Of course my sugar-loving older daughter thought that there wasn't enough sugar:

Her dentist worries about her.


Here's the recipe:





Ingredients

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Mash the bananas up with the sugar and salt.
  2. Stir in the cornmeal.
  3. Heat the cooking oil until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon.
  4. Drop spoonfulls of batter into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden.
  5. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar.
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Where is Malawi?



So as you might recall from like a thousand years ago, which is when I was last actually active on this blog, I don't really love African food. That's not really a fair thing to say, really, because African food is a product of its environment--it includes a lot of root vegetables, not a whole lot of meat or seasoning, and that cornmeal stuff that is like polenta, which I actually don't really like either. But the meal I did from Malawi really was pretty good, despite the fact that Malawi itself is one of the poorest nations in Africa. That just goes to show you that simple food can be pretty satisfying, as long as it's prepared well.

Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Malawi is a landlocked nation in southeast Africa. It was once known as Nyasaland, which probably means about as much to you as it does to me. Its closest neighbors are Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, and it's kind of hidden there in between them all. Malawi is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and is actually even smaller than it first appears since a whole third of it is occupied by a lake (also called Malawi).


There are a lot of undeveloped countries in Africa, and Malawi is one of the least developed of all of them--in fact, it is one of the least-developed countries in the world. It's economy is based on agriculture and there is an appallingly high rate of infant mortality there, plus a low life expectancy of around 50 years. HIV/AIDS is common, and a lot of people die from it, so many that the country currently has a half million AIDS orphans.

So that's depressing, and now let's talk about the cuisine. Because the country has an agricultural economy, there is a decent variety of foods grown there including sugar, coffee, corn and potatoes. Cattle and goats provide meat, and Lake Malawi is a source of fish. And the staple is that cornmeal thing I mentioned earlier, which is basically a stand-in for bread or rice and does a good job soaking up the juices of whatever is served with it. Yes, I did make some of that with my Malawian meal, so stay tuned to find out how we liked it (I bet you can guess!)
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Happy Friday


I was just sitting here getting ready to eat a bowl of chili when I thought maybe I ought to post something, because, you know, the last time I disappeared for a week or two I didn't actually come back again for more than a year. I've been on a blogcation because we had a guest staying with us, and blog meals take up way too much time we could be spending on other fun things. Plus, my guest is a vegetarian, so cooking her a greasy, meaty, traditional meal from some exotic land wouldn't have actually been very polite. Yeah I know, I could have looked for some vegetarian options ... but I liked the idea of playing in the snow more than sitting down with my laptop looking for recipe ideas.

I will say also that there was a bunch of eating out this week, and I'm kind of scared to get on the scale now.

Anyway, I'll get some real stuff up later this week. See you then!
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Recipes from Maharashtra, India


So I kind of had to squeeze this blog meal in on a weekday, because of various factors including a power outage, a roast beef dinner and my baby boy's 7th birthday. Happily, the meal I chose wasn't terribly complicated, so no one had to go to bed late. Not that late, anyway.

There were just two recipes, much to my older daughter's dismay, since she believes very strongly that no blog meal is complete without desert. And also, she hates curry. So it really wasn't her night.

Here are the two dishes I chose:


Kolhapuri Chicken, which are super spicy drumsticks.


Alu Paratha, a flatbread stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes.

I will admit that I had to actually make two separate versions of each one of these recipes. While my older son (he's now 11) is so macho about spicy food that he says things like, "I can't believe you actually think this is spicy, Mom," even while his face is turning bright red, my other children don't appreciate spicy food at all. So I left out the super spicy chili powder from the drumsticks and excluded the red chili powder from the mashed potatoes. But just to keep it authentic, I did serve the complete recipe, fire and all, to me and Martin.


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