Location: Southeast Africa
Population: 18 million
Geography: A semi-mountainous landlocked country, a third of which is taken up by freshwater Lake Malawi.
Language: English, Chichewa
Signature flavours: Corn, peanut, tomato, freshwater fish
I was excited to undertake the cuisine of an east African country, because I love the flavours of Ethiopia and was curious to know what else the region offered. Like Ethiopians, Malawians frequently enjoy stews and meats sopped up with sticky bread. I chose to make the signature “bread” of Malawi — which is slightly closer to porridge than bread — and a couple of stews to accompany.
Nshima: A super thick cornmeal-based porridge, eaten by tearing pieces off and dipping into stews. This dish is a Malawian staple, with a history going back thousands of years and a huge social significance.
Prep and cooking time: 40 minutes
Ndiwo: A regional staple, this dish is made of collard greens, peanut, and tomato.
Prep and cooking time: 30 minutes
Malawian Spiced Curry: Fish in a tomato, onion, and potato curry (traditionally made with chicken, but adjusted for my pescatarian diet).
Prep and cooking time: 60 minutes
The Shopping List
Collard greens were not as readily available as I expected, even after going to a fancy supermarket downtown. I ended up finding them at good old FreshCo, where we find so many of our WSW ingredients.
The white cornmeal for the nshima was already in our cupboard, with half the bag left over after Venezuelan arepas.
The stews came together easily — as stews tend to do — but nshima was a workout. The cornmeal and water mixture must be stirred constantly in order to thicken, and my arm was ready to fall off after half an hour. I was worried at first that it wasn’t going to be thick enough to “tear” as the recipe described, but after letting it sit for a few minutes off the heat at the end, it reached the perfect consistency.
The nshima was delicious soaked in the curry, which had a tomato-y broth and a nice kick. The Ndiwo was unlike anything I have ever tasted. I’m not a fan of collard greens usually, as I find them quite bitter. Stewed this way though, with peanut and tomato, the greens lost that bitterness, and the prevalent flavour was the peanut. As a whole meal, the three dishes went together perfectly, and felt very authentic (but what do I know). I will likely have to do physiotherapy to recover from stirring the corn paste that is nshima, but it was all worth it.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.