A Little Bit of Africa
I was invited, amongst others, to share my Anosmia experiences at the recent Smell and Taste Symposium organised by Professor Carl Philpott at UEA in Norwich and took the opportunity to catch up with an old friend who lives nearby. I met this friend in the mid-80s when my parents were living in Swaziland, in Southern Africa, and like many of us who spent significant periods of their lives living abroad, the connections made with people and places remain hugely important and have far-reaching – often unacknowledged – consequences. For me, the evening was wonderfully nostalgic as we reminisced about our times in Swaziland, then and since, and my friend spoke movingly about his desire to return. Over the years he has built and refined a braaiplek in his garden – a fire pit surrounded by wooden seating, with kitchen cupboards and food prep area. We sat by the fire as he barbecued steak and Boerewors sausage, cutting the meat into small pieces for dipping into salt and pepper. It was delicious; or at least that’s what I told myself. In fact I could barely taste anything except the seasoning but I could remember the tastes from the braais we had when I was growing up – the herbs in the Boerewors and the succulence of the steak. Mainly it was just a wonderful way to eat: simply served food, a crackling fire, some juicy red wine, great company and the opportunity to share our memories.
One of the other things that really stays with me from that evening is that my friend told me he had recently ordered some South African firewood (at great cost, both financially and environmentally) just so he could burn it for the scent. He couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful the fire smelled and how the smell took him directly back to Swaziland. I could only nod and agree but oh my goodness, I felt the loss. I couldn’t even get a whiff of smoke when it was blowing right at me.
Thinking about this reminded me of a trip to Uganda a few years ago (my parents taught there in the 60s) and my introduction to Groundnut Stew. Nearly every lunch stop and hotel served this staple food, sometimes as a meatless sauce for adding to other dishes. I became quite obsessed! One of my parents’ friends from the time (these African connections are really deep-rooted) shared the recipe with my Mum, who found it deep within her recipe scrapbook:
2 lbs jointed chicken
½ lb chopped onions
1 lb tomatoes
1tsp chilli powder
2 bay leaves
(4 cardamon seeds)
(4 slices root ginger)
Fry ginger; add onions & chilli then tomatoes.
Add chicken previously tossed in flour and fry till sealed.
Add approx. 1 pint stock + spices and simmer until oil rises.
Remove chicken and bay leaves etc and purée onions + sauce.
Stir in 1 jar (8 oz) peanut butter and replace chicken + lemon juice.
Cook slowly until oil rises.
Serve with rice.
I found a recipe online from The Happy Foodie that you may prefer to follow – interestingly it says it’s a West African dish and of course Uganda is in East Africa… You can also see the similarity to Indonesian Satay sauce. Peanuts are wonderful things! (Unless you’re allergic of course.)