Madagascar is an island of Africa found off the coast of Mozambique and is surrounded by smaller islands Comoros, Mayotte, Reunion, and Mauritius. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and has very diverse wildlife, a good portion of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Madagascan cuisine is a reflection of the cultures found on the island. There are 18 ethnic groups all of which have there own particular traditional foods and cooking styles. Their cuisine has three main influences: Chinese, French, and Indian. Traditionally rice is accompanied with every meal and seasoning is sparce, salt in particular is rarely used, us Americans couldn’t imagine.. Fresh sugar cane, fruits, vegetables (asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and cabbage) and yams are grown on the island. Fish and beef is also consumed here.
To represent Madagascar I found this recipe for viande hachée et pomme de terre à la malgache which translates to “minced meat with Madagascan potatoes.” It is a specialty of Madagascar with a spicy tomato sauce and hearty mix of potatoes and beef. I had originally cooked this with another recipe that is similar but is no longer available, that is why you see the inconsistencies with the ingredients I used.
The ingredients are simple and relatively inexpensive. Cooking is easy and can be completed during the work week.
The meal was unfortunately underwhelming to us. The consistency was different and would probably be better with smaller potato pieces. There was a mild heat that we enjoyed but needed more salt and pepper for sure- 6.5/10 from us.
I have a vegetarian and vegan option for you fellow foodies out there! Today’s meal consists of a bean dish (maharagwe) and a side of collard greens (sukuma wiki).
Maharagwe is a creamy bean stew that is found along the Eastern coast of Africa. Maharagwe means beans in Swahili and often refers to kidney-like beans that have a molted/speckled appearance. Coconut milk, spices, tomatoes, and diced peppers and onions are also found in the dish. You can find the recipe I referenced here.
As for the sukuma wiki (recipe), it is a simple side that is often found in African cooking due to the few ingredients which can be found locally and its versatility. With it being fewer ingredients it certainly doesn’t break the bank to make! The affordability of the meal is actually in the name- sukuma wiki meaning “stretch the week” in Swahili. There are variations on the dish but at its core is collard greens, oil, salt, tomatoes, and onions.
I opted for flatbread once again, but to keep it traditional you can take a swing at ugali. The entire meal was simple to make especially with the use of several canned ingredients it cut down the prep time. This was a nice option for the work week and also very affordable!
This hearty bean meal was well complimented by the cream coconut sauce. The bed of collard greens paired well. The flat bread was the perfect vessel to scoop everything up. Overall the flavor was found to be underwhelming so we rated this meal 6/10 average. Oh well!
Pilau is a festive and celebratory dish of Eastern Africa. Prepared with either beef or chicken, the dish has tons of seasoning. This rice dish is unlike its’ sister Indian pilau since it lacks curry powder making it less spicy.
The origins of pilau are rooted in Swahili culture. There is debate on weather pilau originated in the Middle East or Africa. However, with further research Indians/Middle Easterners likely brought this dish to Africa and it was then adapted by the locals with what ingredients were more readily available.
This stew-like meal was easy to follow along. I think I should have cooked the liquids down more to dry out the rice as it was intended. The aroma of the spices roasting in the skillet was very enticing.
We thought this meal had an awesome spice profile with cardamom being the stand out. There was a little more moisture (sorry to anyone who hates the word) than anticipated, but at least the meat was tender! 😅 We rated this Kenyan meal 8.5/10
A flavorful rice dish with beef and hearty vegetables. Recipe included for pilau masala spice blend
Combine whole ingredients if using and place in pan on low heat. Allow to roast until fragrant.
Place all ingredients in a grinder and combine. You will likely have leftover seasoning- you may save this in an airtight container.
Heat a stock pot on medium-high heat. Add oil and allow to heat. Add onions and fry making sure to brown, but not burn them. This can take 10-15 minutes
Add in pepper, ginger, and garlic allowing to cook until fragrant. Then add beef, spice blend, beef stock cubes (if using), cilantro, bay, and salt. Mix well and cook until beef caramelizes. Make sure to stir often, cook 8-10 minutes.
Add in tomatoes and cook until their liquid has been released, about 4-5 minutes.
Stir in potatoes and water (or broth) bringing mixture to a boil. Stir in rice and cover reducing heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Kenya, an African country known for its incredible wildlife -a safari hot spot. Nestled beside Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Indian Ocean, this country is chalk-a-block full with national parks and wildlife reserves. The country is also well known for the world’s fastest runners, the great wildebeest migration, and Kitenge culture.
Kenya is a big exporter of tea and coffee. Interestingly it is thought that Kenya has no “national dish.” Due to the 40+ native tribes there are several special dishes that are thought to represent these diverse communities. Common staples of the Kenyan diet consist of grain (maize, sorghum, and millet), rice, greens, grilled meats, fish (in coastal regions), and local vegetables. Stews are a very common meal to have on a regular basis along with ugali (maize polenta).
Today I made a traditional Kenyan curry with steak, it can also be made with chicken or goat. Similar to Kenyan stews, tomatoes, onions, and garlic are core ingredients.
I opted out of the the more authentic pairing of ugali because I have had unsuccessful attempts at making polenta/porridge that tasted good and naan bread is 👌Curries and stews traditional pair with ugali which is key to soaking up alllll the goodness! Cooking was a breeze, the slow cooking of the curry allows the flavors the develop.
Our first Kenyan meal was a power house dish full of pleasant spice and refreshing cilantro. The flat bread paired well with the dish and absorbed the curry which had a tomato dominant flavor. And if it couldn’t get better the meat was also very tender, perfect! We rated this one 9.5/10 🔥
Kenyan Beef Curry
This is comfort in a bowl with just the right about of spice!
1-2fresh chilis/hot pepperssliced for garnish (I used jalapeno)
1/2cilantro bunchroughly chopped
Add the 4 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Mix in the beef, garlic, and ginger allowing to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove pot from heat and drain liquid, reserve broth for later. Set beef aside as well. Add the pot back to the stove and add cooking oil changing temp to medium heat. Add in the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add canned tomatoes to onions and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes soften. Mix the beef back into the pot along with the remaining spices and tomato paste. Combine ingredients well.
Add the broth back into the pot and add any additional water needed to cover the beef completely. Bring mix to boil then turn down to a simmer for 1 hour. Make sure to stir frequently.
Once the beef is cooked through you can do your final taste test adding any additional seasoning you find necessary. Garnish with peppers and cilantro. Serve with rice, ugali, or naan bread.
Today’s meal is from Tunisia, not Greece as the above picture may convince you. Tunisia is apart of Northern Africa which borders the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria, and Libya. Here you can find a blend of Arab and Berber culture, 99% of the country being Arab. An interesting fact about Tunisia is that Star Wars A New Hope was filmed in several locations.
The local fare is greatly influenced by the countries culture and surrounding regions. Like other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil, tomatoes, and seafood are commonly used in their meals. A trait that sets Tunisian cuisine apart from other Northern African countries is that most of their meals are spicy. These spices include cumin, caraway, chili peppers, paprika, coriander, and garlic.
The dish I found to represent Tunisia is called shakshuka. It is thought to have originated here, but is widely eaten as a breakfast dish throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. Simply it is lightly poached eggs in a pepper and tomato sauce along with other fresh ingredients. This meal traditionally is vegetarian and the recipe I used can be found here.
After prepping all the veggies (or using canned) you end up combining all the ingredients in one pot and making wells for the eggs to sit while they cook. The recipe is fairly simple and quick to make.
We found this plate to be unique, but unfortunately underwhelming in flavor and textures. The flatbread pair well and was the perfect vessel to transport the meal to your mouth. I can’t see us trying this one again, it was rated 6/10.
Today we are in Eswatini which was previously known as Swaziland. 50 years after gaining independence the country changed its name to Eswatini which is the original ancient name prior to the British rule. You can find this landlocked, African country situated between South Africa and Mozambique. Like the surrounding countries it is known as a safari hot spot due to having all five of the large “game” animals (lions, buffalos, elephants, leopards, and rhinos).
Eswatini cuisine is centered around vegetables and grains. Meat dishes, also known as inyama is reserved for special occasions which could include goats or chickens. Without access to the sea, fish and other seafood is not common. “Mealie meal” which is a maize grain is a staple to Swazis which can be eaten alone or paired with a stew to soak up the savory flavors.
The meal I chose to represent Eswatini vegetarian and includes ingredients that may be accessed on a more regular basis. This meal was inspired by someone who had volunteered for several months, a tomato based curry being a regular meal. The writer amped up the base of the meal and added Eswatini staples such as ginger and sweet potato to highlight the cuisine of the country. I also was happy to see I didn’t have to attempt another maize product as they seem to go wrong for me! You can check out the recipe here!
Cauliflower rice is something I am familiar with and is super simple, just makes a mess if you aren’t careful! The preparation and cooking was pretty straight forward. There wasn’t any arugula in the store so I got spinach instead. One way to save you time is get the canned version of the foods- there is no shame in that and it saves you on prep time. I used to always think fresher is better but with the grocery prices too.. this is the way (unless of course you can support a local farm stand!)
This one was really AMAZING- two words: almond butter! This dish had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, the tomatoes were tangy, and the almonds brought a crisp crunch. We were blown away and plan to add this to our personal recipe collection! We rated it 9.75/10❤️
Here we are with yet another African Island country, São Tomé and Príncipe. This nation made up of two islands, two atolls that’s found in the Gulf of Guinea near the equator along a volcanic chain. It was another country that was uninhabited until Portuguese explorers discovered it in the 15th century. The main crop of the country is cocoa and at one time of the world’s biggest producer. You can rest easy if you explore the rainforests of the island- the most predatory creature is a mosquito!
Cuisine of São Tomé and Príncipe include seafood and local crops such as bananas, plantains, pineapple, maize, and avocado. Coffee is frequently used not only as a wake me up drink but a seasoning for meals! The main influences of their cuisine is Portuguese and African. For São Tomé and Príncipe I found a recipe called “matata” which is a seafood dish with recipe that involves vegetables and clams cooking in port wine. This dish is also popular in Mozambique. You can find the recipe I used here.
I have to admit the aromas were not desirable compared to past dishes- definitely a strong seafood odor. If I had fresh clams I wonder if the experience would be any different. Prep and cooking was easy, not time consuming at all. I couldn’t buy pumpkin leaves so I substituted spinach.
It was better than what we were expecting- man was it smelly! The flavor was relatively bland, however the flavor of the wine came through. The peanuts did help the texture and surprisingly worked well with the rest of the dish giving an extra dose of saltiness. We weren’t super into it which warranted a rating of 4/10. Side note I am aware the plating is not the greatest- Ian let me know about it after the fact 😅
Cape Verde brings us to our 96th country, which is an archipelago nation that can be found in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa. It wasn’t inhabited until Portuguese explorers discovered the islands in the 15th century. The country is made up of 5 islets and 10 islands, only 9 of which are inhabited. Charles Darwin made his first stop at the capitol Praia when on his HMS Beagle voyage. The island of Cabo Verde is home to the third largest nesting site for Loggerhead turtles in the world. What makes this country a desirable vacation destination is the year-round warm climate, low rainfall, and ideal conditions for wind surfing.
The cuisine of Cape Verde has a heavy West African influence along with Portuguese and Southwestern Europe. Being an island nation locals rely on natural resources such as fish and produce. A very popular drink called grogue, which is a rum drink made from distilled sugar cane is often enjoyed by locals.
The dish I chose to make doesn’t scream island nation, but definitely was fitting for the time of year. Canja is a chicken soup with rice and veggies that is often made when someone is feeling sick, for special occasions, or when mourning the loss of a loved one. There are alternates to this dish in Portugal and Brazil with the exact origins unclear. To recreate this dish click here.
The cooking process was enjoyable. It was pretty relaxed and with my Crime Junkie Podcast on I was in my element chopping up the veggies. The entire apartment smelt amazing like a warm hug on a winter day -wasn’t that poetic?
This was a hearty, creamy chicken soup that felt like comfort in a bowl. I typically drift towards chicken and rice soups over chicken noodle personally. We felt it could have used more herbs and seasoning than what it called for, but overall was definitely a good, well rounded meal. We we gave an averaged rating of 7.25/10.
Doesn’t that look nice? I would love to be sticking my toes in that warm, white sand.. but instead of sand I’m stuck with white snow. Anyways.. welcome to Seychelles! You can find this African country in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. Seychelles is an archipelago made up of 115 islands with 8 being having the majority of inhabitants. Interestingly there were no inhabitants until the late 1700s when the French discovered the islands. These are the only islands in the world that are formed from granite versus typical volcanic or coral elements. The worlds largest seed, Coco de Mer, can weigh up to 40lbs and can be found on two of the 115 islands making it heavily (pun intended) protected due to its variety.
The cuisine of the island is like many other neighboring islands. Local produce and seafood dominate the main course which includes shark chutneys and fish curries. You can eat the cherished Coco de Mer seeds however due to their size and harvesting rules many do not. Breadfruit is very popular here and according to legend if you eat breadfruit here you will return some day. I used this recipe which was actually created by Chef Daniel Louis on the island of Mahe, Seychelles. The recipe is for traditional shrimp creole curry. Creole cuisine ) is a mix of African, French, Spanish, and Caribbean influences that involve a lot of spice and heat using simple cooking methods.
Cooking and preparation was simple using basic cooking techniques. I liked that this recipe used a whole cinnamon stick to give a deeper flavor. Good thing I still have 50+ from a previous order..🙃
As you know we love shrimp dishes and this one didn’t disappoint! We enjoyed the warmth from the ginger and curry, however it did remind us of some dishes we have made before. The shrimp pairs well with these flavors and the coconut rice is just a given at this point (it is the only way to eat rice with curry flavors). We though it was deserving of a 7.25/10. Side not still not a huge fan of eggplant- think I will pass in the future🍆
Today we are in Ghana, a West African country that borders the Ivory Coast, Togo, Burkina Faso, and the Gulf of Guinea. In 1957 Ghana became the first African-American country of the sub-Sahara to become independent from colonial rule. It is the second most populated country in this region of Africa with a large variety of ethnic groups. Due to its proximity to the equator the climate is either hot and dry or tropical and wet. Ghana is known for its gold production which is the largest in Africa. Love butterflies? Consider visiting Kakum National Park which is home to over 600 species!
The cuisine of Ghana always includes a starch of some sort, it usually being rice, plantains, maize, or cassava. The starches are often paired with soups or stews that primarily have vegetable bases. Meats and spices are also important to their cuisine. The dish I decided to make for Ghana is called red-red, also known as black eyed peas stew. This stew gets some heat from freshly grated ginger and habanero pepper. You can find this meatless meal here (which can be made vegetarian/vegan if vegetable broth is substituted).
Cooking was simple and allowed for me to multitask as I typically do. We substituted the habanero with jalapeno because we are wimps (sorry not sorry). I was able to find ripe plantains at the store and definitely felt comfortable with their preparation.
This was another unique dish. The plantains with beans was an interesting combination, but we thought it worked. It was actually nice to have the sweetness of the plantains contrast with the other savory elements. I didn’t think the rice was necessary with the peas. Marinated chicken or red meat would have paired well. We rated it 7/10.