“…So Where is The Food?”
This week I found myself thinking about what would make the most appropriate first entry to this blog.
Peri-Peri Chef, being a blog that explores cultures through food and focusing on African food, it came naturally to me that the first entry should be about a staple consumed in my home country of Zambia; We call it Nshima, most notably Ugali in many East African Countries or Sadza and Pap in Zimbabwe and South Africa respectively.
The idea of having a complete and satisfying meal in Zambia is synonymous with eating Nshima. No matter how elaborate your dinner spread is, if Nshima has not been included on the menu, consider diner still lacking and don’t get surprised when guests ask you, “…so where is the food?”
There is a history about how Nshima came to dominate the dinner tables of many Southern and East African homes. I have read about how during the pre-colonization era, other carbohydrate sources including sorghum, millet and cassava were considered the stars at a meal. Then with the development of the mining industry, corn meal was popularized by the settler commercial farmers among mining communities as a preferred carbohydrate source due to its commercial availability.
As a modern, young and professional woman, my menu is vast and Nshima is not a must at my dinner table, I probably cook it at most, once bi-weekly. However, when my parents come to visit or when I have guest, I make it a point to have some Nshima ready lest, I get a blank stare in my face, “…so where is the food.?”
While putting together this recipe, it came to my attention that the quantity of water required to come up with a good Nshima depends on how refined and processed the corn meal is. The whiter and more finely processed corn meal such as the Goya brand requires more water whereas the less white and less processed brands such as Indian Head uses less water. For this recipe I used Goya.
Yield: 8 Lumps of Nshima, (8 ounces each, Serves 3-4 ) Cooking Time: 30 minutes
5 1/2 Cups of Corn Meal
4 Cups of water (Rm. Temp)
7 Cups of boiling water( preferably in a kettle)
3 qt. pot with a long handle and a lid
Flat cooking stick (approx. 17” long)
Kettle (to boil water)
A small bowl of cold water and a serving spoon dipped in it for scooping
-Start by bringing the 7 cups of water to a boil.
-In the pot, add 1 1/2 cups of the corn meal and the cold water. Mix thoroughly using the cooking stick.
-Place pot on stove and add boiling water and stir mixture thoroughly (make sure the cold water and the corn meal are completely mixed before adding the hot water otherwise blobs will form creating an inconsistent porridge).
– Reduce the temperature to medium/high and allow porridge to boil for 15 minutes
-After 15 minutes, the porridge is now cooked and we are ready to thicken it with the rest of the corn meal.
-Remove the lid and add the remaining 3 cups of the corn meal ½ a cup at a time and stirring more aggressively to avoid making blobs (To avoid getting burn by splatters from the boiling porridge in the next step, I recommend moving the pot to a cold plate on the stove for a brief 30 seconds while the porridge is thickened).
-Move the pot back to the hot plate and increase the temperature to high.
-To blend effectively, firmly grip the handle of the pot with one hand so that the handle is pointing towards you, with the other hand grip the cooking stick half way and start blending clockwise and stopping by the handle and then blend anti-clockwise again stopping by the handle. Keep blending for the next 5 minutes occasionally scraping the sides of the pot to incorporate all the contents of the pot.
– Reduce heat to medium high and cover the pot tightly with the lid. Allow the Nshima to sit for 1 minute.
-Uncover pot and resume blending as before for another 3 minutes. The Nshima is now cooked and ready to be scooped.
– To scoop Nshima, dip serving spoon in the bowl of cold water and scoop a lump from the pot. Alternatively for presentation, I used a metal measuring cup to scoop.
-Smoothen scooped pieces using the back of a serving spoon.
The Food is ready! Nshima is best served with a vegetable or protein dish.by