Friday, January 4, 2013

On the Menu: Zimbabwean Food

Have you ever eaten....

Crocodile tail? Or antelope? Or flying ants?  Well, I'd guess most of you haven't and don't worry we're not cooking any of that today!
Mostly because I wouldn't even know where to begin to find it. But if you were in Zimbabwe, it might be what's for dinner.  For the most part, people in Zimbabwe eat very well, but political strife and severe droughts can cause food shortages at times.  Because the country is bordered by the Zambezi and the Lipopo rivers, the soil is very rich and farmers have a long growing season to grow their main crops of corn, squash, pumpkin, yams, peanuts and mapopo (papaya). 

Corn is eaten in many forms but it's ground form is the most common.  Ground cornmeal, called mealie, is mixed with water and boiled to become the national dish, Sadza, which is served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is eaten with stews, greens, beans, curdled milk (!), and pretty much anything.

Because the country was ruled for a time by Britain, the people have taken on some British customs, such as tea time in the morning and afternoon.  I think if I had to incorporate an English custom into my life that would be the one I picked too!  Another influence on the culture was the trade market.  Portuguese traders introduced the peanut to Zimbabwe and it grew in popularity to become one of the country's staple foods. 

Meats in Zimbabwe range from chicken, beef and goat to the more exotic crocodile, gazelle, and kudu.  Another form of protein found in the marketplace are dried mopine worms (a spiny catepillar) and dried flying ants.  Supposedly, the ants taste buttery when eaten fresh and become a salty, chewy snack when fried - I guess it's the Zimbabwe version of popcorn!!!

We aren't going to be trying anything that exotic I can assure you, butI found a restaurant near Victoria Falls you should try if you are ever in the area!!  Check out their menu it's very exotic.  I decided to make the national dish of Sadza with a Peanut Butter Stew called "Dovi" which has lots of healthy spinach.  Sounds good to me!!!  Let's go.

  • 4 cups water        
  • 2 1/2 cups white cornmeal
I didn't take a picture of the ingredients but the cornmeal is included in the ingredients picture for the Dovi.

1.  Boil 3 cups of the water.
2.  Mix 1 cup water with 1 1/2 cornmeal in small bowl.
3.  When water boils reduce the heat to low and add the cornmeal/water mixture.  Cook 5 mins. stirring constantly.
4.  Slowly add last cup of cornmeal and stir and stir until it is very thick and doesn't stick to sides.  Plop it onto a serving platter or bowl and make it a pretty mound. 

My kids decided this was edible playdough and once it cooled down a bit they shaped it into all kinds of things.  It tasted ok but was kind of bland by itself, but I imagine mixed with some butter and salt or a saucy stew (like from the next recipe) it would be very good and filling. 

Dovi (Peanut Butter Stew)
For the recipe you will need:
  • 1 medium onion - thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic- crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 bell pepper (I like yellow)- sliced
  • 2 lbs chicken- cut up (I used boneless breasts)
  • 4 or 5 tomatoes (I used canned whole tomatoes)
  • 6 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 lb fresh spinach
1. Cook onions in butter in heavy pan until browned.
2. Add garlic, seasonings, bell pepper and chicken. 
3. When chicken is browned, add tomatoes and smush them up.
4. Add 2 cups of water and simmer 5 mins.
5. Add peanut butter and simmer another 5 mins.
6. Put the spinach in pan and stir until it is wilted.
7. Serve with Sadza.

I made this with the sadza and I also made some backup rice.  I liked it with the sadza - the sauce I could drink and it had so many healthy ingredients, but I think it was even better over the rice.  It reminded me of a similar Thai dish with spinach in a peanut sauce but this was a simpler taste.  Very good. Very, very good.  I really think some kids who are a little more adventurous than mine would enjoy this.  Mine made faces at the spinach, played "playdough" with the sadza and ate chicken with rice.  Thank goodness for multivitamins!  I try.