All posts filed under: East African Dishes

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Makai Paka & Maharagwe Bhajiya (Sweetcorn in Coconut Milk Topped with Crispy Bean Fritters)

Makai Paka & Maharagwe Bhajiya (Sweetcorn in Coconut Milk with Bean Fritters)

What are your favourite food smells? For me, you can’t get any better than veggies roasting over an open fire. The flavours of corn, aubergines, peppers and okra and onions are all heightened when you introduce them to flames. I have such precious memories of holidaying in Mombasa, melting away in the smell of fire-roasted maize on the cob, mohogo and sweet potatoes. These, combined with the lingering smell of hot coals, gasoline and frying potatoes in the salty, coastal air transports me to a happy place that’s almost as comforting as the welcoming warmth of my bed at home. I’m lucky enough to have grown up with three cultures; British, Indian and Kenyan. I grew up in the 90s, lived in an all-white area and was forever told that my house/packed lunch/hair always “smells like curry” by my peers. If that wasn’t odd enough, I was also the only vegetarian at school (remember this was before “plant-based” and “vegan” diets were mainstream and instafamous). When my lunches weren’t cucumber sandwiches and crisps, they were …

Quick & Fluffy Vitumbua - Tanzanian Coconut Doughnuts

Quick & Fluffy Vitumbua – Tanzanian Coconut Doughnuts (Vegan)

Jambo! Flicking through hard to come by East African cookbooks fills me with that familiar, comforting feeling of when I cosy up with my favourite Indian ones. Exotic spices, simple veggies and coconut milk everything is what makes it feel so fresh, vibrant and soul warming. Being nourished with a mishmash of Indian, African and British food has all my life, allowed me to connect and experiment with the culinary cultures of all these cuisines. In other words, I’ve been spoilt and have loved every minute of it. Hell, I’ve been rabbiting on about it to you all since I started this blog in 2009 (yeah, it’s been that long!) For my generation, it feels like the Indian influence on East African cooking is a hush-hush camp, with recipes hidden away inside the spirits of expat grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles. As sad as it may sound, I’m a 29-year old who’s worried that Zanzibar Trail Mix, Malindi Halwa and Ugandan Kasodi will one day be forgotten. We can’t let that happen, guys! In the name …

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

I had five new recipes lined up, ready to photograph and post but last week when I shared a photo of my dad’s signature Channa Bateta, I was inundated with requests on Facebook and Instagram for the recipe. This made me super nostalgic, thinking back to the days when I’d come home from school and my dad would proudly say, “Jo, Ravi, Sanju, I’ve made Channa Bateta for you all.” A large pot of simmering golden liquid would puff up steam that filled the kitchen and my nostrils with the aroma of fresh green chillies and turmeric. It was heaven. I’d be first in line, queuing up with my bowl to ladle in the potato and chickpea broth and subsequently hit up all the extra toppings laid out like a burger bar. The recipe here includes a range of topping options but how you customise your bowl is all down to your personal taste. I’ve often only topped this with coriander and crisps. If you only have the time and energy to pick one topping, …

Chilli Lime and Garlic Mogo

Chilli, Lime and Garlic Mogo

My favourite Sunday afternoon snacks consist of anything that goes with with a cup of masala chai. Whether it’s something deep fried and delicious like samosa or kachori, or a pile of fluffy steamed dhokra, I’m a sucker for savoury snacks. These East African-style Mogo Chips are a childhood favourite. It’s the kind of food we’d prepare if we have guests coming over because it’s so simple to throw together. I’ve also never met anyone who doesn’t love fluffy mogo. Mogo (a.k.a Cassava) is a staple carb in Africa, in many parts of South America where it is known as Yucca and of course, in my house. Countless Indian restaurants all over the UK serve it up in all kinds of ways, popular choices being Tandoori and Indo-Chinese style (with soy sauce). Personally, I think the simpler it is, the better. What I love about mogo is its earthy flavour, which truly comes to life when it’s gently steamed or boiled. It’s so distinct, you’d know within a split second that someone is making ‘bafelo …

Mini Kenya-Style Packed Potatoes with Coconut and Coriander Chutney

Mini Kenya-Style Packed Potatoes with Coconut and Coriander Chutney

During my lifetime, I’ve been lucky enough to be extremely close to so many wonderful food cultures. The Gujarati cuisine made by my mother’s hands was the stuff that put the skin on my bones, next were my dad’s favourite East African dishes inspired by his childhood in Mombasa. Later came various recipes from other parts of India I couldn’t help but experiment with once I got a taste for cooking. Running through it all the while is the amazing food culture of Britain – a diverse mix of true classics like Cornish pasties and Yorkshire puddings, to dishes from international cuisines we’ve somehow adopted. There’s nothing quite like eating Taiwanese Bao in Kings Cross or Vietnamese Summer Rolls in Shoreditch for lunch and going home to true Gujarati daal-bhaat, shaak and rotli, followed by Mombasa-style mogo chips as a cheeky midnight snack. See, I told you… totally spoilt. These little packed potatoes are a take on the snacks loved by Asian people all over East Africa. Here, I’ve used British New Potatoes sandwiched together …

Ugandan Rolex - East African Breakfast Wraps Rolled with a Vegan Omelette Inside

Ugandan Rolex: East African Breakfast Wraps Rolled with a Vegan Omelette Inside

I’ve always been slightly bitter that I could never appreciate the beauty of a breakfast burrito. Don’t worry, I most certainly haven’t fallen off the vegetarian bandwagon. For me, the idea of something so filling, flavoursome and not to mention, gigantic for breakfast makes me weak at the knees. I’m that person who gives breakfast burrito street stalls serious side eye as I pass by. Jealousy. All of this was true up until the point of discovering the ‘Rolex’. Nope, we’re not chowing down on eye-wateringly expensive watches for breakfast; We’re eating spicy omelettes with onions, chillies, shredded cabbage and tomatoes, all wrapped in hot, flaky flatbread. Found on the bustling, buzzing streets of Kampala, Masaka and dozens more towns and cities in Uganda, Rolex is one of the most delicious and underrated street foods you’ll come across in East Africa. A beautiful combination of textures and flavours, in a portable roll for eating on the go. It’s so popular, there’s an entire festival dedicated to it. Any festival dedicated to something that resembles a …

Kenyan Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers and Dad's Masala Chips

Kenyan Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers and My Pa’s Masala Chips

I’m a veggie burger snob. There, I said it. Nothing compares to a veggie burger packed with a delicious combo of spices, herbs and quality extras. I have a few dozen personal burger laws. For me, there must be pickles, if not, the burger is incomplete. The sauce has to be relish, mustard or something else loaded with flavour. Salsa is fine. No mayo, although sour cream with chives is epic. Cheese is mandatory. Extra cheese is better. Lettuce or baby spinach offer a welcome crunch factor and thinly-sliced onions make the whole thing a dream come true. Another thing I’m absolutely nuts about is a crunchy crust on the outside of the burger patty. Breadcrumbs, crushed nachos, herby semolina, I’ll take anything. But I’ve got something better for you today, my loves; something so stupidly delicious you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. Three words; cassava crisp crust. Did you just feel my heart skip a beat? Cassava crisps are a staple snack in our house and the fresh kind cannot be beaten. …

Mombasa Kachri Bateta

Mombasa Kachri Bateta

I’ve always strived to be a great cook like my grandfathers. My parents tell me their Gujarati and East African classics like Mombasa-Style Daal Kachori, Jalebi Paratha, gathia were inspiring. Their tips and tricks are recalled in the conversations of our extended family with a joy that I cannot even describe. I wish they’d have been here long enough for me to watch them at work. Someone who had the pleasure of spending many hours in the kitchen with my Bapuji (paternal grandfather) was my wonderful aunt in Mombasa, Kenya. She’s an incredibly-talented cook with an edible garden I could only dream of. Packed with mangoes, coconuts, bananas, tree tomatoes and herbs, she’s an expert at cooking everything from Gujarati classics, to East African staples. When I visited their family home last year, I was treated to it all and my word was it dreamy. One of the dishes she cooked up was this Mombasa Kachri Bateta – a light potato stew with sour green mangoes, topped with coconut fresh from the garden and fried …

Daal Vada

Bullet Banana Daal Vada

Happy 2014! It’s a new year and time to start getting excited about the adventures ahead. This year I get to marry my best friend and biggest supporter in all my work and passions. I have never felt so excited and nervous in my whole life. I thought it would only be right to begin the year with a recipe that’s close to my heart; one which combines my love for Gujarati and East-African food in a beautiful way. Traditional Gujarati Daal Vada are crunchy, spicy and perfect for dipping into yoghurt. My East-African version incorporates bananas to add a hint of sweetness against the intense chilli and lemon heat. The magical thing about adding ripe banana to the batter is that it reacts with the lemon and baking powder, creating a puffy, fluffy-in-the-middle fritters that still have an incredible golden crunch on the outside because of the ground mung daal, urad daal and rice. For me, rice is an important addition to any Daal Vada recipe because it ensures the fritters are crispy on …

Mandazi Barazi

Swahili Breakfast: Mandazi and Mbaazi

I spent some time in Mombasa almost five months ago. It’s safe to say I’ve missed sipping on fresh madaf (coconut water) on Bamburi beach, eating fried cassava crisps doused in lemon juice and chilli on the side of the road, and feasting in mind-blowing authentic Swahili restaurants by moonlight. I ate a lot that week. For me, the most incredible thing about East African food is the simplicity of ingredients that go into a dish and the unbelievable flavours that are produced. Basic seasonings like salt, sugar, lemon and chilli are paramount to everyday cooking. Spices like cardamom and turmeric are also popular, although they are used sparingly. Whilst cassava, beans and ground rice make up the majority of the diet, fruit and veg are showcased in such a simple, yet delicious way that vegetarian food is an absolute pleasure to eat. My wonderful aunt and uncle in Mombasa are blessed to have a garden full of palm trees, banana trees and fresh herbs, which allow them to indulge on the freshest exotic ingredients …

Mombasa-style Kachori

Mombasa-style Daal Kachori

Spiced Daal and Green Mango in Flaky Pastry Deep fried starters; once you eat one, you’ll always go back for a second. Fact. Kachori are like the forgotten little sister of samosa – the underdog starter that accidently slipped through the fingers of Western restaurateurs. I cannot emphasise enough how good lentils are with sweet, hot and sour flavours. The addition of sour green mango cuts through the richness of the daal and spices and balances the deep heat of the chillies, ginger and cinnamon perfectly. These kachori are inspired by those sold at the famous Bhagwanjis sweet mart in Mombasa, Kenya. My entire family raves about Kenya-style kachori and these, along with Bateta Vada, are guaranteed to put a smile on my dad’s face. And I can vouch that he has great taste. Kachori come in all flavours, shapes and sizes. You can stuff the classic flaky pastry with crushed green peas, urad daal or even potatoes. They can be made into UFO-like patties and topped with yoghurt, chopped onions and tomatoes to make …

Crispy Potato Bhajia

Served in paper cones with fried green chillies for that ‘bhajia on the beach’ feel I’ve always been a sucker for ordering too many starters in restaurants, especially when it involves Crispy Potato Bhajia (paper-thin potato slices coated in a bespoke spice blend), Hara Bara Kebabs (pea and cauliflower cakes) and Daal Kachori (spiced daal in semolina pastry). I’m told my eyes are bigger than my belly and I’ve never been one to argue with legitimate allegations. Although I love eating out as much as I love home cooking, there’s always one question lingering on my lips as I attempt to make a choice of which restaurant to spend my Friday evening in  – do they serve decent starters? In all honesty, I think I can judge an Indian restaurant menu by the starters they have to offer. If the vegetarian appetisers are limited to samosas and onion bhajis (to this day, I still don’t understand onion bhajis – what are they and where did they come from?) I know I’m not going to be …