Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bushenyi Gourmet

Cooking in Uganda is a lot more work than at home! At least, it is if you want to eat things other than Ugandan food every meal of every day. One of the things I had a hard time believing when I first got to Uganda was that most Ugandans eat the *exact* same meal every meal of every day from the time they are babies until the time they die! They can’t fathom that when they ask us what Americans eat we have a hard time giving them a short and concise answer! A Ugandan meal generally consists of 2-3 starchy things like matookye (cooked, mashed bananas that are not yet sweet), posho (flour and water made into a sort of dough and cooked), or karo (millet flour mixed with water) and some sort of sauce - usually either beans, peanut sauce, or meat. Although it maybe sounds interesting as I describe it, imagine never having any variety! Needless to say, Ryan and I and our American appetites for variety were more than ready to get cooking for ourselves once we got to site!

And, it’s been an adventure. Despite not having an oven, microwave, dishwasher, kitchen aid mixer (i miss you...), blender, (you get the picture) we’ve managed to make some really great dishes! Deep dish chicago style pizza, fresh french bread, falafel, and more!

But I will say, there are a lot of differences between cooking here and at home! The first is the ingredients available. By far my favorite part of being in Uganda so far is going to the market. I love the community feeling there, talking with my favorite vendors, and seeing all the great veggies and fruits! Every week we stock up on fresh, locally grown tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, green peppers (apparently nobody has yet realized they will change colors if you leave them on the plant!), potatoes, passionfruit, pineapple, and bananas. I absolutely love it! If you want to eat meat you either have to be okay with the giant carcasses hanging around, or kill the thing yourself, so we’ve been eating vegetarian since we’ve been at site! So, there is an endless supply of great vegetables, but no HyVee to stock up on other “necessities.” For example, just to get cheese we have to travel 2 hours round trip, pay about $10 in transport, and spend more on the cheese than we spend on any other item in our kitchen! (It should be said, however, that these hurdles can’t keep us from our monthly cheese splurge!!! I am my Wisconsinite father’s daughter!)

Another challenge we have succeeded in overcoming is adapting to not having an oven. We have been able to improvise pretty well with a dutch oven - 2 big pots on top of each other on top of our charcoal stove (sigeeri). Although it takes longer and there is minimal temperature control, it works! We’ve made fresh breads, cakes, brownies, and even chicago style deep dish pizza (everything - sauce, dough, cheese - from scratch!!!) It’s pretty nifty and we hope to show some of our neighbors all the neat things they can make with their very own dutch oven! Here's a picture of Ryan with our dutch oven and a pizza inside!

Another fun aspect of cooking here is the unanticipated surprises that can be hiding in your food and beverages! Because of different bacterias and parasites, we only drink boiled water. Each day when our milk comes, it gets boiled too. And we are not supposed to eat any vegetables without first thoroughly cooking them. Needless to say, there is no such thing as “fast” food here!

So, we can easily spend an entire afternoon or more working on dinner for the evening! Take, for example, a simple bean and vegetable chili and side of bread. Because the beans are not sorted, you first have to sort through each and every bean to get rid of the grass, sticks, rocks, and other strange things that come along with your beans when you buy a kilo of them at the market. In this picture, you can see the amount of strange nonedible objects in a cup of dried beans. Unless fresh beans are in season, you have to soak the beans overnight so they are ready to use. When it comes time to add the veggies, everything is fresh. At home we’d often resort to canned veggies with our busy schedules, but here we chop up all of our fresh veggies by hand! Then, since we usually like to have some sort of bread product as a side, that gets made from scratch too. The only bread products around here are really dry gross loaves of bread that I would never eat at home! So, we often make homemade pitas or fresh bread to accompany our meals. And, since there’s no rapid rise yeast here, anything we make takes at least 4 hours from the time we start it to the time it comes out of our dutch oven! Luckily, the 40+ hour work week hasn’t yet arrived in Uganda, so we have time to enjoy cooking and savoring all the different steps that go into making a great meal!

I regularly look at those really neat recipe blogs to get good ideas of vegetarian meals for us to eat, and while it’s inspiring, it can also be discouraging! There are so many more ingredients available and nifty kitchen gadgets that we just don’t have! So, we improvise and pretty much anything we come up with is a huge improvement from Ugandan cuisine 24-7.

So, I’m going to try to take an attempt on a one time recipe blog - Bushenyi style! So, here’s one of our favorite semi-Ugandan recipes and how to make it! Incidentally, the stew is also what my Mom served at our going away party! So, enjoy!

Ugandan Groundnut Stew and Homemade Pita Bread (serves 4 hungry PCVs)

Groundnut Stew:

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
4-5 medium tomatoes, diced
2 small carrots, chopped
1-2 large green pepper, chopped
5 medium potatoes, diced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like some heat!)
1/2 c. peanut butter (or, if you’re adventurous, 3/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed)
2 cups of water or broth
1 tsp salt, or to taste

Add everything to a large pot and stir! Let simmer about one hour, or until veggies are soft and stew is desired consistency.

Homemade Pita Bread

- 1 1/2 t. regular yeast
- 7 oz. of warm water
- 3 t. sugar
- 1 t. salt
- 2 1/2 c. of flour, as needed

Proof yeast by dissolving yeast and sugar in warm water. Let sit until bubbly (should bubble in less than ten minutes). Add salt and flour, mixing slowly until most flour is incorporated. Turn dough into floured surface and knead for 10-12 minutes. Add more flour whenever the dough becomes too sticky to handle. Oil a bowl, cover dough, and let rise until doubled, about an hour. After first rising, punch down dough and divide into eight golf ball sized balls. Let rise again, 45 minutes or until doubled. After doubled, roll each ball into a flat round. Fry on a dry griddle until bubbles form, flip, fry until browned. Serve hot.

Bon Appetit

1 comment:

  1. mmmm... groundnut stew. in my three years in west africa, our diet was not so different than typical ugandan: rice, some sort of sauce.

    strangely, groundnut stew is the one i find myself sometimes still craving, even if three years was plenty of time to get my fill of the others. (have you tried making your own peanut butter yet?)