Where we're going this evening - Kenya
Tonight's journey is over to the east of Africa, somewhere about half way down (just below the sticky-out bit) to Kenya. This is our first trip to what used to be known as the Dark Continent back in the 19th Century when a goodly portion of the world was painted pink.
Kenya is well over double the size of the UK, with about three quarters of the population - half of whom live in the capital Nairobi. Geographically, it has it all - with three permanently snow topped mountains (mt Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa), the largest tropical lake in the world, wildlife rich grassy savannahs, humid tropical conditions and arid desert and semi desert land to the north east. You can see why tourist safaris are such big business.
The more I read about Kenya, the more I want to go and live there - besides that varied and beautiful landscape, it is one of the richest countries in Africa with a good mix of trade including agriculture, and manufacturing, and has its own oil supply.
Admittedly there has been some political squabbling with some rioting after recent elections, and problems with corruption, but the solution (besides the international community knocking a few heads together) of a government made up of a grand coalition so that everyone has a say (but not much gets done), and much power devolved to the regions seems to have brought stability.
Mind you, it's not all good news in that there is still grinding poverty in some areas, with terrible droughts affecting food production and starvation and infant mortality a big deal, and many people relying on international aid.
Culturally, Kenya is very diverse with different tribal communities in the various regions - the best known being the Maasai (although quite a small proportion of the population). I have to confess that I can't bring any famous Kenyans to mind - except the runner David Rudisha who was fabulous in this Summer's Olympics - but research shows that the chap who photographed the African famine in 1984 (think the original Band Aid) was Kenyan, and - bizarrely - Roger Whittaker. There's one for the pub quiz for you.
On that note, let us join the wildebeest migration and the lions of the Great Rift Valley is and say habari to the good people of Kenya...
Not realising that tonight's meal would consist of curry and rice, I had a Caribbean curry dish out the freezer yesterday - how would the two compare to each other?
I nearly didn't do this rice dish - after all, the Caribbean pepper rice is so fabulous, how could it be bettered? But the alternative Kenyan dish to the rice was something called Ugali, which is cornmeal and water boiled up, and also goes by the name of 'cornmeal mush', which I doesn't sell itself to me.
I had a good choice of deserts mostly involving tropical fruits, but being out of homemade biscuits, I spotted a recipe for Kenyan biscuits called maandazi, which should hit the spot.
Kuku Paka - recipe from whats4eats.
Puree onion, ginger, chili & garlic with a little oil & water then fry with curry powder and cumin until fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes and browned chicken pieces (I used turkey) and coconut milk and simmer for half an hour or so. Stir in chopped coriander leaves & season to taste.
Pulou - recipe from whats4eats
Rinse rice thoroughly and leave to soak in cold water for half an hour. Fry a cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, peppercorns, cloves briefly then add a thinly sliced onion and saute until translucent. Add the drained rice and stir until the grains are coated. Add twice the volume of water or stock, cover and simmer until absorbed.
Maandazi- recipe from Kenya travel ideas
Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl, add sugar & a pinch of salt. Beat in egg & water to make a dough. Rest for half an hour then roll out and cut into biscuits. Deep fry until golden then drain on absorbent paper.
And what have we learnt?
- Home made curries using similar ingredients taste very different to each other. Just a couple of different spices change the whole character of a dish.
- I'd be surprised if a Kenyan would recognise the taste of this particular pulou rice, unless they too were using homemade stock in the form of beef & red wine gravy.
- the reason that we traditionally use butter or some other sort of fat in our biscuits is to differentiate these from bread or dumplings. Or doughnuts, which is what the maandazi taste like.
- if you insist of re-using oil to deepfry, don't be surprised if your maandazi have a faint taste of the previous thing you cooked - in this case, fish.
And out of 10?
- for the kuku paka - a delicious 8/10 - easy to prepare from scratch, and I suspect that - like most stews - it'll be even better second time round once the flavours have developed. One to add to the culinary repertoire.
- For the pulou rice - a solid 7/10 - a different taste entirely to the Caribbean rice, but the spices added a sweetness which was very tasty.
- for the maandazi - a disappointing 4/10 - deep fried biscuits are not a culinary revelation here, and I don't think this one will make it into the recipe book for future ref. It's not just that they taste slightly of fish (which doesn't help) but even dusted with icing sugar they are rather like doughnuts without the tasty jam filling.