“Wake up early enough and you will get to see the sun dance while it rises”-South African tale told to young children on the eve of Christmas
Everyone has a role to play on this day whether it be the aunties who turn into the bakers, the mothers who turn into the cooks, the fathers who happily become the bar tenders and lastly the kids who turn into the local entertainers performing that new calypso dance or that timeless Michael Jackson moonwalk. Christmas in Africa is one of the few times where there is food for all, and that worry about tomorrow is forgotten to celebrate large gatherings between friends, family and neighbours.
In Congo they hold pageants, in Rwanda we perform traditional dances and hymns, in South Africa they head on out to the sunny beaches and hold feast for family and friends, in Zimbabwe the day is started with god as the centre and ended with family celebrations and the killing of that fattened cow that is now seasoned and grilled on the family table.
What are you doing this holiday to commemorate and celebrate the tradition of the many African cultures that exists on our world’s second largest continent?
Having lived in the UK for almost 16 years now, my family has never celebrated Christmas any other way than the African way, and that is to FEAST with as many of your favourite dishes as possible whether it is with those sneaky mince pies or that sweet Koeksister (South African doughnut).
This Christmas join all cultures and enjoy the birth of the second coming with some delicious African food. The possibilities are endless when you have so much to choose from, you have a whole continent! But on this occasion I’m going to be nice and provide a whole menu of healthy (yes I said healthy) nutrient rich African delights. Its okay your welcome.
Misir Wot – (Spicy Red Lentil Stew)
- 300g dry split red lentils
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 heaping tbsp Berbere spice
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- 585ml water
- 1/2 can tomato paste
- Salt as needed
1) Finely chop onion and garlic and sauté in medium sized pot with a few generous tablespoons of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes until onions are soft. Add in tomato paste and Berbere spice and stir until mixed thoroughly. If mixture is too thick, add about 585ml of water. Cook mixture another 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.
2) Place red lentils in a bowl and rinse thoroughly. Once rinsed, add 2.5 cups of fresh water to the bowl and add this to the onion and Berbere mixture. At medium heat, stirring occasionally, simmer until lentils are fully cooked – about 15 or 20 minutes. If mixture becomes dry before lentils are cooked, add small amounts of water to mixture until they are. (This is something I just learn to do by eye!). Once you know that they are fully cooked, stir in about 1/2 of warm water. Salt to taste.
Serve hot with Injera on the side of Ethiopian Pancakes
Ashanti Chicken and Jollof Rice
Prep time: 60mins, Cook time: 2 hours Total time: 3 hours. Serves: 6-8
- 1-tablespoon thyme
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ tablespoon onion powder
- 1 ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1-teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1-teaspoon bouillon powder
Gravy with chicken drippings
- 32g drippings (from roast chicken)
- 2 -3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 225ml chicken stock
- Chicken bouillon powder to taste (optional)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 14-ounce Can tomatoes sauce
- 125ml cooking oil
- 3 cups rice (I used Basmati)
- 2-teaspoon Chicken bouillon
- 2-teaspoon salt
- 1-tablespoon paprika
- 1-tablespoon garlic powder
- 3½ cups chicken broth or water
- 1-teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper or ¾ teaspoon hot pepper (omit if cooking for kids)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse rice through water. In a half sheet baking pan combine all ingredients and stir so that everything is fully combined
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil paper.
- Gently place in oven and let it cook for about an hour.
- Remove carefully from oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then carefully remove aluminum paper. Fluff rice with a fork and mix evenly
- Starting with chicken remove all bones, dry it out using paper towels reserve all the bones use to make chicken stock here.
- Then generously season chicken with spice.
- Stuff Chicken with rice – go easy with the rice
- You can either sew chicken or tie it up
- Start at one end. Make sure to tuck any loose ends of chicken under the chicken. Position your first knot to keep these loose ends tucked. Tie the knots on the underside of the chicken. It works a lot easier. Try to keep the knots at roughly an inch or so apart.
- After you have tied the knot, stretch the string down the chicken and hold it in place with your thumb. Loop the string around the chicken. Lift the piece you’re holding under your thumb, and tie another knot- until the under side of the chicken look like a chain of knots. Generously season the outside of the chicken with seasoning.
When ready to roast preheat oven to 375 degrees, place chicken in roast pan and roast for about 50 minutes, then uncover and cook an additional 15 to 30 minutes. Remove and let it rest before serving
Chicken gravy with drippings
- Heat a saucepan or skillet with drippings over a medium-high heat. Gently whisk in the flour to make a “roux.” Stir the roux for a minute or two to remove any raw taste of the flour until you get a nutty smell. Gradually add about a ¼ or more of liquid and continue whisking until mixture is thick and somewhat smooth.
- Then add the remaining liquid and adjust thickness to personal preference – season with bouillon, salt and pepper. Remember gravy thickens as it cools down.
Congolese Peanut Vegetable Soup
- 230g kale or collard greens
- 230g Swiss chard or mustard greens
- 3 tablespoons red palm oil or peanut oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1.3l low-sodium chicken broth
- 120g unsweetened smooth peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste1 to 3 teaspoons habanero chili hot sauce or to taste
- Prepare kale and chard (or the other greens): remove heavy stems and coarsely chop leaves.
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat, then add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
- Add chicken broth and peanut butter and cook, stirring to blend and dissolve peanut butter, about 3 minutes. Bring to boil over high heat and add kale, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard and continue cooking until all greens are softened and tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt and habanero sauce, stir well and serve. This dish can be served with wholegrain rice or the African traditional staple of Ugali.
Tropical Fruit Salad (African style!)
- Passion fruit
Prepare all the fruits and combine with a fruit juice of your choice. If you would like to store the prepared fruits prior to combination, you can place them in a citrus juice such as lemon juice to stop the browning of the fruits.
Author: Elizabeth Uwiduhaye
Elizabeth is a self-proclaimed nutrition fanatic who went on to study it at the University of Reading. She shared her childhood in both Rwanda and England, setting the basis to her globalised view of diets and lifestyles. Elizabeth’s love of food was developed through working in various different restaurants and her mother’s home cooked African meals. She hopes to combine her passion for cooking and knowledge of science in each recipe that is posted..
“Having had troubles with my weight, I feel compelled to help others through effective weight management with a healthy diet. I believe a heavily plant based diet is best, there is no doubt that fruits and vegetables carry significant life improving factors when combined with lean meats, fish and whole grains. The topic of nutrition is always changing and this is what I love most about it, we all eat but what we eat is different so why should we follow the same advice?
My goal is to inspire people to try new ways of discovering food through different lifestyles which encourage variety and enjoyment of food.”
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