A Taste of Tanzania
My family recently traveled to Tanzania and loved every minute of it. One thing we all liked was the cuisine. So when my friend Hope (who is from Arusha) offered to show us how to make Makande and Mtori, I jumped at the chance.
(If you have ever thought about going to Tanzania or to Africa on safari, I cannot recommend Tanzania enough. Take a look at our safari blog post on Kilimanjaro, The Serengeti, The Nagorno Crater, and Tarangire National Park for inspiration.)
Cooking With a View
Ok I admit it. We are spoiled with sunshine and unbelievable sea views living in the UAE. Our friend Hope is lucky to have this view as hers - every, single, day. I'll insert the "groan" here for everyone (and I was one for many many years) battling the winter far too long into what should be spring. But "Khalas" this is the UAE."
Makande is a very traditional Tanzanian dish consisting predominantly of maize (dried corn) and kidney beans. It is a hearty dish that clearly falls into the category of "soul food." When we were in Tanzania, our guide encouraged us to try Makande as it was one of his favourites and our three boys could not get enough.
Here's what to do. First, all the beans and maize need to be sifted in order to discard the ones not worthy of this fabulous dish. Fully rinse them and leave them to soak overnight. We did not soak the beans and instead used a pressure cooker to rapid cook. Because the pressure cooker is a little scary for many of us (me included), I suggest the soaking method.
Now onto the painful job of preparing the vegetables. This includes chopping onions and peppers as well as peeling, seeding, and dicing tomatoes. Once everything was ready, we put the tomatoes and onions in the frying pan with olive oil until tender.
With the tomatoes and onions now ready, we added the spices and coconut milk and mixed together with a hand blender until fairly smooth.
The tomato mixture was added to the beans and corn to simmer on low heat until the beans and corn were tender- approximately 45 mins. Just before the beans are ready, stir in the peppers and continue to simmer for a few minutes. Et voila, Makande! It can be served alone or over rice. Delicious!
Recipe for Makande
- 1 1/2 cup dried kidney beans
- 1 1/2 cup maize
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1 hot chili pepper, chopped fine
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Soak dried beans and corn in water overnight.
- Drain and rinse the beans and corn.
- Saute onions until tender.
- Add diced tomatoes and continue to cook until tender.
- Add the spices and remaining ingredients (except the salt)
- Blend with a hand blender until fairly smooth.
- Put beans and corn into a large heavy bottom pot and cover with water.
- Add blended tomatoes and onions.
- Simmer over low to medium heat until beans and maize are soft.
- A few minutes before serving, add the peppers. cook slightly, they should remain slightly crunchy.
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve as is or with rice and ENJOY!
When visiting Tanzania, you will quickly find out, that bananas are a foundational food staple for many in the country. Mtori is a banana based soup that I first tried in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. When I learned we would be eating "banana soup" I got a little nervous. Overripe, sweet bananas came to mind and I had no idea how I was going to be able to stomach this taste in oder to not offend anyone. My ignorance towards the different types of bananas and their preparation quickly became apparent when we tasted this delicious soup. Bananas used in Mtori are extremely unripe and taste more like potatoes. The soup was served with freshly squeezed limes and its deliciousness was obvious by the number of bowls our boys had.
Above photos of bananas and Mtori we had in Tanzania.
The unripe bananas needed for Mtori are next to impossible to find in Dubai so it was a real treat to make and sample this dish with Hope (her friend who was visiting brought the bananas in her suitcase from Tanzania!)
First, small pieces of chicken (with bones) are boiled in a pot of water with salt and pepper. Use enough water that it allows you to have the needed broth to use as stock of the soup. Every once in awhile the froth from the pot is skimmed and discarded. Boil chicken until fully cooked.
Next came the lesson in peeling unripe bananas. No joke, this is a skill. Before you start, you must lather your hands in oil to prevent the banana from sticking to you. The bananas are then sliced down one of their seams so you can begin pulling back the peel. It doesn't give way easily and almost feels like you are peeling bark from a tree. Once finished, all the extra bits left on the bananas are then scraped off so that it is fully cleaned for use in the soup. Peeling those bananas is a real labour of love!
Hope fixing our bananas to make them not so "ugly" :-)
The next step was to remove the cooked chicken pieces from the broth so that the remaining liquid can be reduced with further boiling. Chop the bananas and add them to the chicken stock. Add one chicken bullion cube and bring to a low boil. Simmer until the bananas are tender. With a hand blender, puree the soup. Add the chicken pieces back to the soup for serving. Ladle into bowls and serve as is or with freshly squeezed lime juice. Delicious!!
Recipe for Mtori
- 1 kg of chicken pieces with bones in (legs and wings are best)
- Raw (unripe) Plantain bananas
- Chicken bullion cube
- Salt to taste
- Put chicken pieces in a pot of water (enough water to cover all the chicken) and boil until cooked.
- Remove chicken from water.
- Continue to boil water chicken cooked in until reduced to a nice chicken broth.
- Peel bananas and chop
- Put bananas in chicken stock along with chicken bullion cube and continue to boil until bananas are tender.
- With a hand blender, blender soup until smooth.
- Add more water until the desired consistency.
- Add chicken pieces back to soup.
- erve with lime wedges.
The Best Part, Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labour
More Than Cooking
Tanzania is famous for all of its vibrant colours. These colours shine through in the environment, food, clothing, and (what I loved) their artwork. One of the most well known forms is Tingatinga art. The name Tingatinga comes from the original painter of this style, Edward Said Tingatinga. The amateur style uses highly saturated pigments and is geared towards the tourist market, often representing tribal groups like the Maasai and the big five. While enjoying our delicious cuisine and endless conversation, we were also indulged with being surrounded by Hope's collection of Tingatinga art! What a great afternoon.