New Recipes, New Foods

Learning to cook meals totally from scratch on my little two-burner gas stove was an adventure for sure.  I grew up eating a lot of meat and potatoes and salad and vegetables.  A lot of beef and pork roasts and roasted chicken.  I made many of those things for Tom in our Philly apartment before relocating to Kenya.  But, alas, no oven meant figuring out new meals.  And I couldn't get a lot of sauces and sauce mixes I was accustomed to using for flavoring. And to be honest, cooking wasn't something I was very passionate about learning when I was single.  No oven also meant I couldn't bake, which was a bummer!

Looking back, living in Kenya was a great thing for our family since I am probably a better cook. Over time I learned about spices and herbs and how much flavor simple ingredients like onion and garlic infused into dishes.  Tom eats just about everything and he was patient as I learned and tried new things.  He also didn't complain when today's dinner tasted quite similar to yesterday's.  Before we moved to Kenya, I had a pretty boring palate and was not adventurous at all when it came to trying new foods.  I still don't like all the foods that Tom does, but my taste buds have learned to appreciate many new flavors!

I didn't usually follow any recipes in Kenya. I experimented a lot and since we mostly ate vegetables with rice or potatoes I tried a lot of different spice combinations so that every meal didn't taste the same. Nile perch cooked in the tiny broiler became a favorite dish. I accumulated a lot of different recipes for fish over the three years we were in Kenya. I know that at least one time we ate beef teriyaki. I know that because I wrote in a letter to my mom that Tom had cooked beef teriyaki and rice for dinner.

Spaghetti sauce became another staple dish for us. Pasta wasn't too expensive so we ate spaghetti with either a meat sauce or veggie sauce about once a week. It wasn't a typical Italian sauce but it was pretty tasty. Jim Brown often came to dinner when I made my spaghetti.  He asks me about it often when I see him. I think it brings back really great memories of good times for all of us!

Living in the same complex where Alcides and Leslie lived gave me another advantage in my quest to learn new cooking skills. Alcides is Brazilian and Leslie and he met when she lived in Brazile. Leslie taught me how to cook rice perfectly every time.  I still use that method today!  She also taught me how to make great beans!  Some nights dinner was simply a fried egg served over great rice with onions. Simple, but delicious!

Sakuma wiki was a local dish I often made. Simple greens cooked with onions, salt and pepper made a healthy, delicious meal for lunches on many days. Sakuma wiki is Swahili  for "push the week."  Traditionally served with ugali (a dense, cooked ground maize porridge),  sakuma wiki was all many Kenyans could afford to eat most days.

Ndengu (pronounced dengu with a short sounding e) and chapati was probably my favorite Kenyan dish. Made from mung beans, it was a good source of protein and fiber but most important, it was delicious!  It took awhile to clean the beans (as it did the rice or any other type of beans we purchased). It was very important to sort through every bag of beans because we would often pull out a good hand full of rocks and tiny pebbles!

In the U. S.  ndengu is known as mung or moong beans. They can be found at Whole Foods, most health food stores and in some international grocery stores. I decided to share this recipe since it is simple, nutritious, cheap and delicious - all important things since you are young and just starting out.

1 cup mung beans
1 small onion, diced small
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 tomato, diced
Curry powder

If you soak the beans for a few hours or even overnight they won't take as long to cook and they will digest easier as well.

Cook beans in 2 cups of water over medium high heat for 30 minutes to an hour.

While beans are cooking, dice veggies. Cook onions and carrots in about a tablespoon of oil until onions are soft and clear. Add tomatoes and cook about five minutes until they blend easily with onions.

When beans are soft add them to veggie mix and add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Start with about a quarter teaspoon of curry and pepper and a half teaspoon of salt. You can always add - can't take it away!

Serve over rice or with chapati. I will post a recipe for chapati next time. Or you can ask Nate or Josh Taliaferro.  I think they might both know how to make them!!!

Lori ZieglerComment