Location: Central East Africa
Population: 11.2 million
Geography: A highly mountainous country comprising forest, savannah, and lakeland
Language: Kinyarwanda, English, French
Signature flavours: Corn, greens, peanuts, eggplant, chicken, beans, dairy
When Eric drew the Rwanda assignment, his first thought was that another pap was going to be on the menu. He was right — cornmeal-based ugali was definitely going to accompany whatever else he planned to make. It’s been a while since we pap-ed, so he put his best foot forward and pap-ed away, even though he knew the labour that would be ahead (pap in all its forms requires A LOT of stirring). The first recipe he found to accompany was the greens, which he was set on right away, and then he found a bean stew to wrap up the main course. He wasn’t wowed at first by the recipes on offer, and found the research came up a little short compared to other assignments we’ve had in the region, but he got into the assignment after selecting his dishes, putting together his ingredient list, and going out to buy everything he needed.
Ugali: We are ever-expanding our cornmeal-related vocabulary. Our newest addition to the pap-nshima-sadza cornmeal porridge family is “ugali.”
Prep and cooking time: 20 min
Isombe: Greens stewed with eggplant, onion, spices, and peanut butter.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Ibishyimbo: A zesty bean, seed, and tomato stew, spiced with cayenne powder.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Ibijumba: Thick sweet potato pudding with a yoghurty tang and cardamom undertones.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
The Shopping List
Everything Eric needed he found easily at the supermarket. He did replace cassava leaf with Swiss chard and spinach in the isombe, since we know from experience that fresh cassava leaf is difficult if not impossible to find in Toronto (let us know if you know where to get it).
Apart from the constant stirring of the ugali, Eric found this assignment was not too labour-intensive. Pretty much everything was stewed vegetables of one kind or another. He was able to do most of the dishes simultaneously, and then did the ugali at the end.
We’ve made so many ugali-like dishes now that we’re learning some of the tricks, like how an ugali that seems too runny will firm up and be tear-able after a few minutes of cooling. The flavour is mildly corny, perfect as an unobtrusive vehicle for stews.
The isombe was also not our first version of a stewed green with peanut, but it was the best example of it. (Eric used the most natural peanut butter he could find, and it made all the difference.) The flavours were well balanced, the eggplant and bell pepper stood out, and the dish had an overall creaminess that was very appealing.
Many bean stews have graced the WSW table, but this stood out with added miso, as well as seeds — sunflower and pumpkin — adding some depth of flavour. It was well spiced with paprika, oregano, and basil, and went well with Eric’s other savoury dishes.
Eric really liked the ibijumba pudding. We’ve never had that particular flavour combination — the heavy starchiness of sweet potato with cardamom sweetness and a yoghurty zing.
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.