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Archive for April, 2010

Come Dine in Kenya

A few years ago, inspired by the TV show Come Dine with Me, a group of us started a supper club along the same lines . There are 3 households, PM and I, the Putters (based in Putney) and the Zimbledons (you guessed it, Zimbabweans living in Wimbledon).

We usually choose a theme, something that will provide a challenge and get us out of our comfort zones and then once a month we get together and take it in turns to host the meal. So far the themes have included a round of braais (BBQ for those not familiar with Southern African lingo). Everything had to be cooked on the braai – starters, mains and dessert. Another round we each put an unusual ingredient into a hat and each group chose two ingredients they had to cook with – we had cinnamon and custard, the Putters had kiwis and blue food colouring and the Zimbledons had pomegranates and biltong.

This round we decided to do cuisine from unusual countries.  Not your normal cuisines like French, Spanish, Mexican – but food from somewhere less familiar. Everyone put a country into a hat and then each household pulled one out. PM and I got Kenya, the Zimbledons got the Philippines and the Putters got Bosnia. We were up first and a few weeks ago everyone came round for a taste of Kenya.

We started off proceedings with two kinds of samoosas. When the British set themselves up in Kenya, they imported a lot of labour from one of their other colonies – India. As a result there is a big community of Indians living in Kenya and they have had a big influence on Kenyan cuisine, hence the popular street food samoosas. (Dont tell me it should be spelled samosa – I am an African and we call them samoosas :))

PM and I made two kinds, curried beef  and mixed veggie with onion, potato, ginger, peas and a hint of mint. They were pretty time-consuming to make but PM and I did them together and I was so pleased with how they came out.  We accompanied  our samoosa starter with the one and only Kenyan beer – Tuskers. PM did his research and managed to track some down on the interwebs and we can certainly recommend it – it rounded off our meal perfectly.

We then moved on to the main course. As is Kenyan tradition, we sent a bowl of water round for everyone to wash their hands because I was encouraging everyone to eat the meal with their hands, as they would do in Kenya. I was really pleased because everyone entered into the spirit of the meal and ate with their hands, except for PM who wasn’t too keen, but eventually gave in to peer pressure.

The main was made up of Kuku Paka, Mtuzi wa Samaki and Sukuma Wiki. All accompanied by Ugali. Kuku Paka is chicken cooked in a coconut curry sauce. The curry sauce does have chilli in it, so the dish has a bit of a kick, but is not too hot. Mtuzi wa Samaki is fish cooked in a coconut curry and I think this was my favourite dish of the meal. When we did a practice round I used cod but PM said we needed to find something more African than that. I thought this would be easier said than done, but actually I found just the thing.

At Waitrose they were selling a fish called Tilapia which had been farmed in Zimbabwe of all places. The fish monger said it is becoming a popular, sustainable substitute for cod in this country. it has been farmed in African for centuries and in fact has its own hieroglyph in ancient Egypt. With a little more research, I also discovered that it is used in Kenya to control malaria, since the fish eats the malaria larva in the water. Tilapia was just the thing for our curry.

Apart from the tilapia what made the curry stand out was the tamarind. When I made it the first time I couldn’t get the tamarind, so I substituted lemon, but for the actual day I managed to track some down and it made a massive difference – such an unusual flavour – absolutely delicious.

Sukuma Wiki is Swahili for ‘Stretch the week’ and is the vegetable dish you find everywhere in Africa, usually eaten with ugali (also known as sadza in Zimbabwe and pap in SA). I ate these two together quite often when I was a child and I really struggled to get the flavours right for the dinner – you just don’t get the right vegetables here to make it. I used curly kale and it was quite close but not perfect. I think something like collard greens would be better, but I didn’t find anything close to the right thing here.

Finally, to end the meal we had a dish called Coupe Mount Kenya. Homemade mango ice cream topped off with pineapple pieces that has been soaked in rum – nice and refreshing after what was a lot of food. With the dessert we served a pot of Kenyan loose leaf tea, amongst the highest quality teas in the world and the sole reason for buying our new tea-pot. On that note I leave you all to go and eat left over mango ice cream with a nice pot of tea. mmmmm

PS. Watch this space for the upcoming dining in Bosnia experience.

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Spring is finally making itself known in London  – the daffodils are out and the temperatures have hit a high of 17 degrees. With the rising temperatures I feel my own mood rising too – my mood and everyone around me. It is such a magical time in London, so much hope and expectation for all the summer festivities ahead. I love it and the past two days have felt like a holiday. The most mundane things become inspiring again – like our hamburger dinner.

My plan for dinner was to make some home-made burgers – nice and simple, for a relaxed Friday evening. In a moment of inspiration I decided that not only would I make the burgers, but I would make the rolls as well. Two birthdays ago I gave PM a bread maker and although we have made a lot of bread, we have never really experimented with making anything other than bread, it was about time we tried something different. Five minutes and the dough was on the go and I set about persuading PM to join me for a walk on Clapham Common.

PM had very little enthusiasm for the idea until I mentioned walking to The Windmill pub on the common, but with a Guiness as incentive, I finally persuaded him. Before setting off I rolled my dough into rolls, left them to prove a second time and we set off.

Clapham Common this evening was a good example of London coming alive when the sun shines – people picnicking, a dog chasing a ball,  children running races, runners and my favourite, a father and his family flying an electric model plane. I wanted that model plane – we watched it for ages. We also made it to the Windmill for the promised Guiness before heading home to make our dinner.

We arrived back to perfectly risen rolls which went straight into the oven and then set about making our burger patties. At this point PM took control of the kitchen – he likes making burger patties and likes the chance to boss me round the kitchen even more 🙂 Before long, with a little team effort we had hot rolls, burger patties, cheese, spicy BBQ sauce, avo, gherkins and tomato.

Freshly baked bread

Freshly baked bread

Sometimes it is the simplest evenings that are the best – fresh air, a little sunshine, freshly made bread, delicious burgers and great company have all made for a wonderful spring evening. It bodes well for summer – bring it on..

Burgers

Hmm..burgers

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