Thursday, January 15, 2015

Recipes from Lesotho

My first week of 2015 was Not Good. I won't go into any details, but it involved a leaky toilet, a bad blower motor in my furnace, a broken microwave, two ruined pots and a lost camera. Among other things.

If this is how 2015 is going to be, I think I'm going to spend the whole year in bed.

In keeping with the spirit of the new year, my first blog meal of 2015 was also Not Good, though I won't say it came anywhere near all the other things that were Not Good about the first week of 2015. In fact, Not Good is probably too strong a sentiment, really, and just reflects how bitter I'm feeling at the moment.

The country is Lesotho, which I'm betting you haven't heard of unless you were really, really paying attention in your high school geography class. It's pretty small, like, roughly the size of the state of Maryland small. It's in southern Africa, and as a nation it’s actually very young—younger than the US by almost a half century.

Malealea, Lesotho. Photo by Daniel Weber.

Fifty years after the US emerged as a democracy, Lesotho emerged under a king. His name was Moshoeshoe, which might be the coolest name ever, and he led this small nation until his death in 1870, when the British took over. Because that was what always happened to small, African nations in those days. The British controlled Lesotho until 1966, when it finally gained independence. Today it has a constitutional monarchy not unlike England’s, with a figurehead monarch and a prime minister.

As with all tiny, obscure nations, Lesotho has limited online resources to turn to if you’re looking for traditional recipes. Wikipedia’s entry for “Cuisine of Lesotho” contains a grand total of 101 words of information, and I think the author padded it a little. To sum up this already summarized version: the cuisine of Lesotho is a mix of African and British influences. Staples include potatoes, seafood, rice and vegetables. Here’s the menu I chose (I had to go with—gasp—offline resources):

Curried Meat
(from The World Cookbook for Students)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 lb stew beef, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1⁄2 lb cabbage, shredded roughly
  • 1⁄2 lb squash, cut into chunks
Here's what I did on the side:

Stewed Cabbage and Potatoes
(from The World Cookbook for Students)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 10 oz potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • Water as needed
  • 10 oz white cabbage, shredded roughly
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • salt and pepper to taste
And to mop up the juices:

Mealie-Meal (Cornmeal Cakes)
(from Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
First, the beef:

Heat the oil in a pot and brown the meat on all sides. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Now add the curry powder, salt and vegetables. Let simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until the squash is tender.

Here's how to do the mealie-meal:

First heat your oven to 375 degrees. Put the cornmeal into a pot with the sugar and oil. Add the boiling water and stir until blended. Set the flame on low and cover, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes thick and porridgey (that should take 10 to 12 minutes). Now remove from the heat. Let cool.

Beat the egg yolks and mix in with the cornmeal. Stir to blend. Now beat the egg whites and fold those into the mix.

Drop the batter by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet, just as if you were making cookies. You want your patties to be about two inches wide and ¼ inch thick. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until they puff up and turn golden.

Now for the cabbage and potatoes:

In a large pot, sauté the onion in the oil, then add the curry powder. Stir for a minute or two, then add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Cook 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not completely cooked. Now add the cabbage and keep cooking until the potatoes are tender. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

This was a good, hearty meal, great for winter but let's face it, not really very interesting. I used butternut squash in mine, which is really the only kind of squash I can tolerate. The whole meal was pretty filling, which is what you want if you live in a place where subsistence farming is the norm.
Moving on now, slowly, but really, still moving on ...

Next week: Liberia


  1. One of my first blog meals of 2015 was also a bust! I'm here to tell you that subsequent ones have been better, so chin up and out of bed!

  2. Thanks! The food did get better, but then we all got the flu! Looking forward to spring, haha.


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