At some point I’m going to need to just focus on the countries listed in ‘Matangi’ by M.I.A. because, much like Animaniacs for Botswana, this is what comes to mind when I think of Malawi. Not the fact that this country contains most of one of the largest lakes in the world that is also the most biodiverse. At least it’s an M.I.A. song instead of the Czech band that performed in Eurovision this year or that this is where Madonna adopted some of her children.
So what are some interesting things about Malawi and their food. Being that they are amongst the poorest nations of the world, as well as being one that was hit very hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a lot of what you read about Malawi is on the sadder side but it’s steadily improving thanks to their move to a democratic government and programs to improve healthcare.
With Lake Malawi on their doorstep there really is a lot of beauty to be found here. The number of fish is staggering and so many of them are vibrantly coloured. This means that freshwater fish are some of the more popular things eaten, as is a white cornmeal porridge called nsima.
When reading up about food in Malawi there was one thing that kept coming up – nsima. It’s got a number of names depending on where in East Africa you find yourself, so I am probably going to be making it again under other names like ugali or pap. Today’ however, this thick cornmeal mass is called nsima and pretty much tasted like a slightly less corny polenta. I liked it and it really worked well with the curry.
To go with the nsima, I knew that I had to make something with fish. After all, a third of Malawi is a lake and so a lot of their dishes that I see being mentioned tend to feature freshwater fish. Since I couldn’t find too many recipes using my normal methods, I ended up on YouTube and found a video for making a Malawi-style fish curry. Turns out that it has a similar spice profile to the green figs and saltfish that I made for Saint Lucia, but with a bit more heat and a big side of nsima instead of plantain. The fish may have crumbled a bit as it was previously frozen, but this was definitely a combination I thought worked really well.
I didn’t expect to find a dessert recipe for Malawi with readily available ingredients, let alone one that wouldn’t take ages to make. This is the first time that I have made something close to biscuits for ages and these Mbatata (recipe from Curious Cuisiniere) are absolutely gorgeous.
These are described as being a sweet potato cookie, but these are more along the lines of a fruit loaf or small orange scones. They aren’t as sweet as you would think from looking at them, but they’re still ridiculously moreish and full of vitamin A and fibre. There’s a great subtle spice from the cinnamon and some delightful texture changes from the raisins. I ended up eating three of these cakey delights in a row and I don’t have any regrets about it.
Right, so who is up for a trip to some Caribbean cuisine next time around? It’s been nearly six months and there are just so many countries in that region that it only makes sense to be going back there by now. Going to have to look for some specialty ingredients if I want to pull off the next country in the ‘Matangi’ list – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.