Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Three Dish Dinner

The Southern African country of Malawi is mostly Christian, very poor, and the population is expected to triple by 2050. (That's some incredible growth!) About 12% of the people have HIV/AIDS, and 70% of hospital beds are filled with HIV/AIDS patients. A low life expectancy of 50 years adds to the widespread health crisis in the country. Malawi has been a republic since 1966, two years after their independence from the UK. The majority of the people are Chewas, a Bantu group.

 Meals in Malawi is based off three major components: a carbohydrate, a vegetable stew/ dish, and some sort of protein. The Malawians have some very high quality tea, and it is their second largesrt export crop. The staple cornmeal carbohydrate called nsima is a must if you are trying Malawian food, and fish is also pretty common. My menu for tonight was curried chambo fish, nsima, and futali, a peanut buttery vegetable mash.
Chambo fish are a favorite of the Malawians. Since chambo fish are native to Lake Malawi, a lake I have no hopes of getting to to go fishing in, tilapia was the best substitute I could find. It is another African fish from the same family as chambos.
Curried Chambo
serves 4
4- 4 ounce tilapia fillets (traditionally 4 whole chambo fish; cleaned, gutted, and descaled)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground piri piri
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup water
4 tbsp oil
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a pan. Add the fish and brown each side for a minute or two. Pour on the lemon juice.  Remove the fish to a baking dish and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil back over medium heat. Cook the onions and seasonings until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the carrot and water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Pour the onion mixture over the fish and bake for 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily.
I made a more porridge like form of nsima when I cooked Malawi for breakfast, and I absolutely adored it. The Malawians serve this stuff for three meals a day, so don't be surprised that it popped back up for dinner. To eat like a real Malawian, you need to pinch off little pieces of the mtanda (nsima patties) and eat it with your hands alongside meat and stews.
serves 4
1 cup white cornmeal
3 cups water
Heat the water in a small pot with a lid on over high heat. Stir in half of the cornmeal just before it starts to boil, whisking it so that there are no lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to stir constantly until the cornmeal mixture has become very thick. (It should just about form a ball.) Run a little cold water over a wooden spatula and scoop about ¼ a cup of the nsima out. Slap it onto your plate in the shape of a hamburger patty. Each individual serving of nsima is called a mtanda. Repeat with the remaining nsima.
Futali can be made with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cassava, or plantains. They are boiled down into a mash and then peanut flour is whisked in.
serves 4
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1 cup peanut flour
2 cups water
Bring the water and sweet potatoes to a boil over high heat in a pot covered with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash the sweet potatoes and water together with a fork and thoroughly stir in the peanut flour, making sure not to leave any lumps. You may need to add more water at this point. Remove the pot from the heat and serve.
My only complaint about Malawi is that I am not much of a fish fan. Other than that, the meal was great. The curried chambo was nice and spicy, the futali was creamy and peanut buttery, and the nsima was a good side to take some of the heat out of the fish. Everything African continues to shine throughout this project. I cannot wait to try more!

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