Location: Southern Africa
Population: 16 million
Geography: Landlocked country of savannah, with some forested areas and a mountainous eastern region
Language: Shona, Ndebele, English, and 13 other official languages
Signature flavours: Corn, peanut, beans, beef, squash, leafy greens
This week we have Wooden Spoon Wandered our way across Africa to Zimbabwe. Ahead of this assignment, the only thing we knew about Zimbabwe was related to the run-away inflation they experienced in the 90s and 2000s. Eric has a banknote for $50 billion Zimbabwean dollars, which pales in comparison to the largest bill ever issued, of $100 trillion (that’s fourteen zeroes after the one, people). Our aim at WSW is moving beyond previously held beliefs about a place, and into a vast, complex, sometimes ancient culinary tradition. Zimbabwe has a culinary history dating back over 1000 years, and Eric jumped right in with a menu that showcased a range of flavours.
Zimbabwean Fried Fish: Being landlocked, river fish is the seafood of choice. This tilapia dish is marinated in paprika, garlic, ginger, lemon, and turmeric, then deep fried, and lastly baked.
Prep and cooking time: 4.5 hours (including marination time)
Nyemba Stew: A colourful stew of black-eyed peas, carrots, tomato, green beans, and onion in a curry and Worcestershire sauce.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Sadza: A tradition enjoyed all over Africa, this corn-meal porridge is mixed to stiffness and then torn piece by piece for dipping in stews.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Nhopi Dovi: A mashed pumpkin and peanut butter stew.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
The Shopping List
Most of Eric’s ingredients were already in our cupboards (which happens more and more as we stock our shelves with the flavours of the world). Eric looked for bream at St Lawrence Market, but finding none, opted for tilapia. The rest of his ingredients were picked up at the local supermarket.
The house smelled delicious as Eric cooked and I sat upstairs learning about Zimbabwe (a WSW tradition has the non-cook of the evening be the historian during dinnertime). Eric had the tilapia marinating late in the morning as the first order of his Zimbo feast. He found the timing and breadth of his recipes made for a more relaxed assignment than usual, and everything went right: The fish got crispy, the pumpkin got squishy, the sadza got firm.
The first thing I ate was a bite of fish while Eric described the dishes on the table. I couldn’t wait — the tilapia had a perfectly browned, crispy exterior and a flaky, juicy inner flesh. It tasted fantastic.
The nyemba stew had a unique flavour from the combination of curry and Worcestershire over the soft, crunchy, and hearty ingredients of the stew. It was mildly spicy, savoury, and another success.
Eric made his sadza from a mixture of white and yellow corn meal, so it was a light yellow. This is the third corn meal porridge made for WSW — the first two were for Malawi (called nshima) and Lesotho (pap) — so we’re learning what a good sadza looks like: softish and a bit sticky in the centre of a ball, dry and tearable overall. Eric’s reached sadza perfection. We tore pieces off and dipped it into the creamy nhopi dovi, a mildly sweet pumpkin and peanut butter stew that didn’t last long on the table.
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.