I was secretly hoping that I would lose a couple of kilos during my little sabbatical here. per my east african experiences in the past, if I’m not staying at a ritzy hotel (thoroughly enjoying a full service breakfast, lunch and dinner), I’m eating rice and beans and bananas 24/7. well, those hopes are crushed. the food here is good. Correction: Emily, our office secretary is an amazing cook, and she makes lunch for the office. and not ham sandwiches. we’re talking steaming bowls of tomato and onion soup, warm garlicky kale salads, and big fresh-from-the-lake tilapia. Every. Single. Day.
concerned about my imminent weight gain, I told Emily that instead of fish, I was going to have a big bowl of papaya because I wanted to watch my figure. she dismissed the idea and said that I could get skinny later, and then offered to teach me how to cook some Kenyan dishes.
now maybe it’s just me, but when she offered this I felt like I had won the African Chef lottery. I love to cook,.. it’s just that, honestly, I’m not very good at it. cooking is a relatively new endeavor for me… I had a very patient boyfriend who taught me the basics (how to chop a salad), but also how to chop a salad with LOVE (for that important lesson I will be forever grateful).
back to Africuisine for Dummies: Emily said that we should start with something really easy: traditional sour porridge, a supposedly simple breakfast soup that actually takes a really long time to make. I served it to the office of friday. no one died, so we’re considering it a huge success.
next on my lesson plan is mandazi (cake-like fried dough and chapattis (pancake-like fried dough). our finale: fried fish, salad and tomato soup. our kitchen may very well go up in flames.
all the epicurean talk put me in Giada-mode this weekend and I went crazy at the grocery store and baked/cooked all day long. seriously I made so much food that I’m going to list all of it for you:
- chocolate-espresso shortbread cookies. bringing to the office. i’m not a raw cookie dough fan, but this recipe converted me. also decided that I’ll never buy chocolate chips again… now I’m strictly a bar-chopping snob. it feels equal parts fancy AND sinful.
- millet fruit squares. was hopeful this would be a good on-the-go breakfast bar using the leftover millet I had from Steph’s Successfully Sour Porridge. it called for me to make my own jam (are you impressed?) but I don’t know, it kind of turned out to be a mushy brick of goodness. tastes good, looks crazy, so I’m not sharing the recipe unless you ask for it.
- chicken skewers with peanut satay sauce. SOOOO good.
- muesli. with about 5 kilos of dried fruit in my birdhouse I had to do something with it.
- rice pudding. so i’m cheating b/c i actually made this a few weeks ago. but it’s a great recipe so I wanted to share.
cooking always brings me to a favorite living abroad subject: grocery shopping. it is easy to become really confused when shopping abroad: why does milk come in bags? what’s the difference between fermented milk and yogurt? why hasn’t Nutella REALLY caught on in the States? how many grams is 8 ounces again?
sometimes it’s straight up annoying, i.e. when the store that supposedly has everything does NOT have old bay seasoning or philly cream cheese when you’re planning a menu of fish or cheesecake.
and sometimes there are nice surprises. like today when I bought fresh avocado and pineapple juice, a kilo of orange and purple cherry tomatoes and crazy good (and cheap!) dried pomegranate and currants (hence the muesli).
oh, and one last story. as I was leaving for the grocery store, one of the apartment management guys told me that they captured the two flea-infested pigeons that were in my roof and are keeping them in a birdcage in the back of the compound. he really wanted to show them to me. I told him that I hated birds and hated the ones that infested my apartment with fleas even more but FINE OK. so I saw them. he said that he is feeding them corn so that they get fat because he wants to eat them. I looked at him in amusement. then he said, “we named the big one Stephanie.” I walked away.
sigh. now I’m a completely exhausted chef-ette ready to curl up with a book and try to forget about that terrible Black Stars loss (yes I’m still sad).
want to share a favorite summer recipe? a cool grocery store find? perhaps shed some light on why I was named after the big pigeon and not the small one? any and all thoughts appreciated.
pic: lovely Emily