So What's This All About?

My family is traveling the world one forkful, or kuĂ izi ful, or handful at a time. Follow our blog to see what interesting facts we learn, which country's food becomes our favorite, and which cuisine makes us feel healthiest. There will also be postings of some projects/arts and crafts/activities for preschoolers that we do in our home preschool. Grab your appetite and let's go!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Irio and Githeri - Simple, Supple, and Satisfying

So now that you have perfected ugali - Ha! Don't worry. I've read on some sites that it can takes months to do such, so don't fret. You will need a Kenyan dish or two to accompany it! What I've found about these few Kenyan/East African recipes I've been trying is that they are usually quick to make and quite filling.

(My unabashed side note: With poverty levels high in many of these countries,"filling" would be of great importance. Here's an idea: with the money saved making these inexpensive dishes, make a donation to help an impoverished East African family. Some sites to check out: World Vision Gift Catalog or Special Hope Network. Share below in the comments an organization or missionary you support!)

A truly simple, protein dish you can make up in just a few minutes is Githeri. Here's how:

Place 2 cups corn (fresh off cob or frozen) and 2 cups canned or cooked beans (kidney, pinto, black, etc) into a saute dish with enough water just to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 - 10 minutes or till warmed through. Toss in salt and pepper.

That's it! Serve it with Ugali.

But... if you are like me and can't resist adding more flavors, you can toss in some chopped fresh herbs (like cilantro or basil), a tablespoon of curry powder or paste, and a handful of chopped greens (like spinach or chard). Another idea is to saute a small, chopped onion before adding the corn and beans into the pan.

A sister to Githeri is Irio. The concept is very similar. Here's how:

Boil 4 potatoes (peeled and quartered) in salted water until soft. Drain (reserve water, though) and set aside.

In a saute pan, add 2 cups fresh or frozen corn, 2 cups cooked beans (kidney, pinto, cranberry, etc), 2 cups chopped spinach or other green. Cook on low for about 10 minutes or till the vegetables are very soft. Add potatoes and salt and pepper to taste to the vegetables, continuing to simmer and smashing the mixture with back of fork. You may need to add some of the potato water if it gets too thick. It doesn't have to be pureed, just mashed enough to create thickness while preserving chunks of vegetables.

This can be served alone, with rice, or with Ugali.

goodnight nobody, goodnight mush

ugali, mealie pap, pap, nshima, nsima, sadza - all different words for a similar concept throughout east and south africa. this (typically) cornmeal mush serves a unique purpose beyond filling your tummy: it is also your spoon. a technique, which is NOT as easy as it may seem, perfected certainly through much time spent living in east africa, is taking a small handful of this very thick mush and kneading it into a mini ladle of sorts. you then skillfully dip it into the accompanying stew or vegetable dish, bringing a nice portion of food with you to your mouth - without spilling or streaming the juices down your arm. And of course, there is the skill of making the ugali thick enough not to fall apart as it handles the liquidy food.

try it, really. it's a fun experience, especially if you have toddlers who would prefer to ditch the spoon anyway.

there are numerous variations on ugali, but here's a good base for you:

Pour 1 cup milk into a bowl and slowly whisk in 3/4 cup cornmeal. (I have found recommendations for both using stone ground or coarse and fine ground, and both from reliable "been there, done it" sources. You will have to experiment with both; I started with finer ground assuming it would hold together better.)

Heat 1 cup of water in medium saucepan to boiling, then slowly add the milk/cornmeal paste to it till smooth, reducing the heat to low. Add an additional 1/2 cup cornmeal, stirring frequently. When the mixture begins to pull away from the sides (just a few minutes), remove it from the heat and allow to cool. Roll it into a smooth ball into a serving dish, and serve at room temperature.

Allow guests to "tear off" small pieces, form their ladle, and dip in stew dish. Good stew dishes are Sukuma Wiki, Irio, or Githeri. (Blogs about these to follow...)

...and goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush".