Assignment 33: Lesotho


Location: Southern Africa, contained within South Africa
Population: 2.2 million
Capital: Maseru
Geography: A high-lying, mountainous country with a relatively cool climate
Language: Sesotho, English
Signature flavours: Root vegetables, greens, corn, beans

The Menu

I am not exaggerating when I say I could only find a handful of recipes from Lesotho. I did find a few meat-heavy barbecue options, but since I was looking for dishes that would be pescatarian-friendly, I had to look beyond the beef-y and the chicken-y.

les veg

Chakalaka: The name of this dish sounds like it should be shouted in jubilation: Chakalaka! It is a vegetable fry-up, featuring carrot, onion, bell pepper, chilies, and tomato.

Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Difficulty: 2/5

les pap
The not-so-photogenic-but-quite-delicious pap

Pap: A stiff corn meal porridge used as a dipping medium for stews. I made something very similar called nshima for my Malawi assignment. Pap has a mild flavour and a pleasingly tear-able texture.

Prep and cooking time: 25 min
Difficulty: 2/5

les greenies
Frying up some spring onions for the butha-buthe

Butha-Buthe: A soup of tangerine and spinach, with spring onions and split peas, spiced with turmeric and parsley.

Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Difficulty: 3/5

The Shopping List

I like an ingredient list that I can easily buy at my local grocery store. Sometimes doing a city-wide ingredient hunt is fun, but with my Lesotho menu, I could relax knowing I wouldn’t have to go on a rare item hunt through the shops of Toronto.

The Meal

Chakalaka and pap were bound to be good. The chakalaka had a nice crunch, a little spiciness, and was a nice balance of flavours — we could taste all the ingredients in equal measure. The pap had a very mild taste, maybe a little corny, but mostly it soaked up the flavours of its chakalaka environment. It was stickier than similar porridges I’ve made, owing, I think, to its quicker preparation (the Malawian nshima was a laborious process of adding minute amounts of cornmeal at a time and stirring for decades, with the payoff of a very firm porridge). Nonetheless, we scraped that pap bowl clean.

les fry
Chakalaka looks like a work of art

The butha-buthe, an unusual mix of sweet citrus, spinach, and savoury broth, was an unexpected hit. With a tangerine zing at the beginning of each bite, and a spinach-y aftertaste, the soup was still dominated by the flavour of the split peas, which were delicious. I can’t say I loved it, but I liked it quite a lot, and mostly, I enjoyed the surprise of a soup with tangerines in it.

les spread


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.

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