Saturday, March 3, 2012

Zambian Nshima or Kenyan Ugali

I mentioned on Thursday that Zambian ifisashi is often served with nshima, a form of cornmeal mush or dumpling made from ground corn flour known as mealie-meal in Zambia. This dish is a staple throughout much of Africa. It’s called ugali or posho in East African countries, sadza in Zimbabwe, pap in South Africa and fufu in West Africa. It’s also found in Caribbean Creole cuisine — on the islands of Curacao and Aruba it is known as funchi, funjie in the Virgin Islands, fungi in Antigua and Dominica and mayi moulin in Haiti.

Father Bill Vos, Catholic Relief Services director for the Diocese of St. Cloud, lived in Tanzania for 16 years as a missionary. He explained to me that ugali (pronounced oo-golly) is a Swahili word and is a common generic term for this food throughout most of East Africa. He also mentioned that some of the African tribes use cooked bananas in a dish similar to the cornmeal ugali or nshima.

Kateri Mancini, coordinator of Mission Education at the diocese’s Mission Office, shares her recipe for ugali with FFF readers today. She traveled to Kenya in 2006 as part of the St. Cloud Diocese’s delegation to its sister diocese in Homa Bay. “Ugali was served with almost every meal we ate there,” she said. “It’s much like bread is to us and rice is in Asian countries.” CJK

Kenyan Ugali
(Kateri Mancini)

4 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2 cups, finely ground white cornmeal

Bring water and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the cornmeal — add it to the water by slowly letting it fall through your fingers.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring frequently, smoothing any lumps with a spoon, until the cornmeal mush pulls away from the sides of the pot and becomes very thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

Place the ugali in a large serving bowl. Wet hands with water. Form it into one large ball inside the bowl.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

A note from Kateri: Instead of using silverware, the Kenyans pulled off a piece of the cornmeal mush with their fingers, rolled it into a ball and then pushed their thumb into the center of it to make an indentation. The ugali became an edible utensil to scoop up the other dishes being served.

A note from Carol: White cornmeal is most commonly used for ugali. However, sorghum, millet, coarse cassava flour or hominy grits can be substituted. More or less water can be added to achieve a desired consistency.

Kateri described the traditional way to eat ugali or nshima — it would certainly add authenticity to your Operation Rice Bowl meal to eat it in this customary fashion. But if you would prefer, you could form larger balls with your hands or an ice cream scoop, place it in individual serving bowls and pour the ifisashi or another stew around it.

Kenya was one of Operation Rice Bowls featured countries last year. You might also like to try the recipes for Kenyan irio and Kenyan nyoyo during this Lenten season.

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