Location: East Central Africa
Population: 11.9 million
Geography: A landlocked, flat nation on Lake Tanganyika
Language: Kirundi, French
Signature flavours: Beans, corn, banana and plantain, cabbage, beef, mutton
It seems to have become a tradition of the Wooden Spoon Wanderer blog that every so often, I’m apologizing again for a long break between assignments. The blog is a wonderful, time consuming, labour-intensive journey, and sometimes a break is called for. During this last pause, Eric and I opened a bed and breakfast in our tiny Ontario town. It, like WSW, is a labour of love, but also a labour of…labour. We’re going to try to schedule our assignments, because we’ve both missed the blog, the planning and preparation that goes into a menu, the search for ingredients, the unwrapping of an unfamiliar spice, the pile of dishes that never ceases to astonish. Here we go again.
It was a challenge to build a menu for this assignment. Even when I switched my research into French, I just couldn’t find many results, and Burundi was missing from my go-to African cookbook. I ended up mainly relying on YouTube and the World Cookbook.
Ibiharage: Fried navy beans with onions and garlic, spiced with berbere.
Prep and cooking time: 10 min
Amachou N’inyama: A stew of cabbage, carrots, zucchini, and lamb, with garlic, ginger, and curry powder.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Brochettes: Grilled beef kebabs marinated in garlic, ginger, thyme, fresh parsley, and Dijon mustard.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Gukora Capati: Pan fried flatbread with red onions folded in, commonly found as a street food in Burundi.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
The Shopping List
Everything I needed for this assignment I found at my local supermarket, including vegetarian lamb and beef.
I could tell that this was going to be a great meal by the smells that filled the kitchen. The seitan beef was marinating in a bowl beside the resting capati dough, the cabbage was stewing on a back burner, and the berbere spice (which I still had on hand from my Ethiopia assignment) was on the counter, ready to flavour my final dish.
Eric and I dug into the ibiharage first. It’s a dish with all the markings of comfort food — filling, simple, and savoury.
We loaded scoops of cabbage and lamb stew onto pieces of capati — the bread was delectably greasy and soft and the stew was incredible. The cabbage, carrots, and zucchini had softened and absorbed the flavours of garlic, ginger, and curry. Likewise for the juicy chunks of seitan-based lamb.
The brochettes stole the show. The vegetarian beef kebabs were absolutely incredible. They were bursting with flavour, and had cooked perfectly on our stovetop copper grill, with a crispy exterior and a chewy interior.
This was one of my favourite African assignments to date. I loved the combinations of textures and flavours, and I love eating with my hands. The brochettes will certainly enter our roster of regular dinners.
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.