Cooking with Lesh: Matu to Mesa Porco

In Nakhololo, with the majority of our food stalls and stores being without power, our options for eating meat are pretty limited. If we want chicken, we have to travel at least an hour round trip to pick up a frozen one from our district capital, or buy it in the market and kill it ourselves. Due to these circumstances, most of the meat I eat at site comes from 99 met ($1.50) packages of chorizo I stock up on at Shoprite pretty much every time I’m in Nampula city.

As much as I love chorizo, sometimes this non-perishable, processed meat just doesn’t do it for me. Sometimes Kathryn and I want to treat ourselves. And sometimes, important guests like my mom and grandma come to site and I need to try and ~impress~ them with my at site resources and cooking skills. This is where Nakhololo’s exclusive local organic all natural pork butcher, Kathryn’s very own host pai, comes in.

During our site visit, when Kathryn’s pai was explaining to us what he does, he actually referred to himself as a “pork dealer,” rather than a butcher, because he doesn’t just butcher the pigs, he goes out every morning on his motorcycle, usually with his brother along for assistance, out into the bush in search of cheap pigs to buy, bring home, and butcher. The first time I saw two grown men on a tiny motorcycle with a fully grown live pig riding between them I was shocked, but they always make it look so easy that I have somehow grown accustomed to them waving and stopping to chat if they pass me out walking while returning with that day’s pig.

Butchery in Mozambique is different to say the least. Kathryn’s pai kills the pigs in a field right behind the market where they are sold. If you happen to be walking there at around 6am on any given day you may be lucky enough to watch the pig be dragged by its hind legs, screaming, to its death. The actual death seems relatively humane by Moz standards; the pig is lain facing down a dirt incline, the throat is slit, and it bleeds out pretty quickly. Next, the skin is scorched in an attempt to remove the hair. Finally, using a dull machete, the pig is hacked into more manageable pieces and taken to the market for selling. We are lucky enough to get the family discount (120 mets/kilo) and our choice of cut. Although most Mozambicans would usually choose the fattiest pieces first, we always ask for a piece without fat and bones.

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The secret ingredient/the most delicious sweet and tangy and just most absolutely perfect vinegar ever from Oil and Vinegar Frederick (pls sponsor me and support my vinegar addiction)

This recipe, although in no way Mozambican, is one of my absolute favorites to make here. Using a constantly diminishing supply peach balsamic vinegar that my mom has been wonderful enough to continue replenishing through my first 10 months of service, I’ve been able to make this marinade several times and love it more each time.

Peach Balsamic Pork Marinade

  • IMG_20170620_101249 (2)1/4 cup peach balsamic vinegar
  • Big bunch fresh basil, chopped (or dried if your cat ate your basil plant and you were too disheartened to try and grow it again)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste ~1 teaspoon each
  • 1 kilo pork meat with bones, skin, and hair removed, butterflied/sliced thin to cook quicker

IMG-20170621-WA0014.jpgSince you’ve gotta get to the market early in the morning before it sells out, I usually prepare the mixture and let it marinate all day. Once it’s time to cook it I light up the carvão (charcoal) grill, and wait for the coals to burn down until they’re glowing hot, slap the meat on, and go until you’re sure all the parasites in the dirty matu pig are 100% dead. Really though, with it being winter here, it’s pretty much pitch dark by 5:30 which makes telling when the meat is ready almost impossible. My headlamp has become a valuable kitchen accessory when cooking dinner on our charcoal stove outside.

 

**Special shout out to my Mom and Mimi for coming and trusting my cooking of pork in Moz, hope you didn’t get any parasites. Thanks for taking this pics of me for this edition of Cooking with Lesh**

Cooking with Lesh: Nampula City Central Market

Nampla city is the third largest city in Mozambique, the capital of Nampula province, and best known for its highly skilled pick pocketers. I can get from my front door to the city center in about 1.5 hours on a good day, and frequency make day trips to pick up supplies.  In a recent Instagram post in which I described Nampula City as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” many other volunteers were quick to offer their personal Nampula City horror stories. Despite its largely negative reputation, I love Nampula city. It does smell like pee and thieves have attempted to pick pocket me 6 or 7 times, and I have had several encounters with the notorious “Nampula City Kisser,” who likes to hang out by the super market and kiss unsuspecting shoppers. Despite all this, Nampula City is really my happy place. Unlike my little town of Nakhololo, there’s always something going on, peole to talk to, things to buy, things to eat.

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Check out that pus! Not what you expected from a cooking post, huh?

This brings us to today’s installment of Cooking with Lesh: Nampula City Central Market edition. Last week I went sent to the city for medical treatment for a scraped knee. Which sounds slightly dramatic until you see the pictures of the resulting infection which I have included here for your viewing pleasure. Luckily after 3 days under the care of the Peace Corps nurse, my knee was looking much better, and I was told I’d be returning home on Thursday. After talking with a friend who lives in the city but works in Nacala (large port city 100k down the EN8 from Nakhololo), and procuring a ride home for that afternoon, I headed to the central market to stock up on some veggies to bring back to site.

Even though we are still during the time of the year where produce should be available, our local market has remained pretty space. Cherry sized tomatoes, small red onions, okra, and the occasional knobby green pepper are pretty much the extent of what is available. Even in our district capital, we can only occasionally find things like cabbage and carrots.  So when I am in the city, I usually try to bring back as much as Kathryn and I can eat before it goes bad.

IMG_20170526_175815I bought all that you can see in the photo abover for 300 mets, or about $5. While it might not look all that exciting, being able to get things like cabbage and carrots and peppers (all of which I never ate before coming to Moz) is often the highlight of my trip to the city.

I plan on using a good portion of the cabbage, peppers, and carrots, along with tomatoes and garlic from our local to make a huge pot of beans to eat next week. The lettuce is a huge treat, but will have to be eatten in the next day as it wilts and goes bad so quickly without refrigeration. Green beans are the vegetable that I most like to get (despite their relatively high price of 100mets or $1.50 per kilo) because they can last us a long time. With all these veggies, we will be eating good for the next week in Nakhololo!

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The secret to a salad that literally made me cry: expired goat cheese from ShopRite with trail mix and lemon vinegar from America

Cooking with Lesh: Curried Mandioca Burgers

Mandioca. Yuca. Cassava. All different names for the same plant that is a staple in the Mozambican diet.  The leaves are used to make a stew called matapa and the roots are eaten dried, fried, and ground into an interesting kind of porridge called caracata that tastes kind of like what I imagine a mixture of sand and rubber cement would taste like.

Based on my previous lack luster experiences with mandioca I never felt all that inclined to do too much cooking with in on my own, until my friend and fellow volunteer Nico came up with the idea of mandioca veggie burgers. Given the prevalence and affordability of mancioca, and the number of times I have eaten beans this week (9), I was excited to try something a little different. I was also excited about this recipe is because it could be made with ingredients I can reliably find at site or in my district capital (~30 minute car ride away,) because I feel like I’ve been relying a lot on ingredients from Nampula City which is close to two hours away.

Ingredients

  • 1 smallish stick of mandioca
  • ½ carrot
  • ½ small onion
  • 1 blub garlic
  • Little bit of flour
  • Bun
  • Cumin, curry powder

How to:

  1. Start by peeling and cutting the mandioca into small cubes, throw it into a boiling pot of water until soft, about 30 minutes or so
  2. Dice the onion, carrot, and garlic into very small pieces, and sauté until lightly browned.
  3. When the mandoica is soft, mash it, and add in the other veggies and spices to taste.
  4. Form into patties, coat in flour (to form better crust) and pan fry.
  5. Toast your bun and add whatever toppings you so desire!

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The final product was a little bit crumbly, but made a delicious sandwich nonetheless. I added a fried egg (yay protein!), some piri piri sauce, and caramelized onions. I think if I were to make it again, I would also add some avocado because the mandioca itself was a little dry.

Cooking with Lesh: Feijoada

It seems lately this this is turning into a cooking blog, pretty much because cooking has become the most noteworthy part of my day. We still don’t start school for another 3-4 weeks, and to be honest the novelty of going into town to hang out with the neighbors who only speak Macua (which we don’t) and to hang out with the children has kind of worn off. I still usually make it into town at least every other day, mostly to buy bread, tomatoes, and eggs, which along with onions and dried fish make up the majority of what is available in our market. Although our freezer (which cost us a month and a half worth of pay and was worth every single metical) has helped a lot with food storage and variety, these items still have to be used within a day or so of purchase, which means they have to be purchased every other day. It’s semi-annoying to have to go to the market all the time, but at least it forces me out of the house every now and then.
While making our normal rounds from my host family’s house to the market, we noticed that one of the stands along the way had huge bags of rice, grains, beans, and corn for sale by the kilo. We decided to buy some dried beans to make feijoada, a bean stew dish that is pretty common here. Although our recipe deviated slightly from the typical Mozambican version by being about 50% vegetable, we were very pleased with it and I will definetly be making it again (aka tonight because I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more nutritious meal and I want to keep that going)

Feijoada

  • 1.5 cups dried beans – we chose ~boring brown beans~ because they are then only type sold in our market
  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 4-5 medium onions
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 10 small tomatoes
  • 1 200g package of chorizo (optional)
  • Curry powder, salt, pepper to taste
  1. Pick out all the sticks, rocks, and leaves that come in your beans when you buy them from the market
  2. Soak beans overnight to help you digest or to stop you from farting or something idk but do it
  3. After beans have soaked, throw them in a big pot of water to boil for about 1 hour. Add a bay leaf or two if you’re feeling it
  4. Cut up all veggies.  Once the beans are at about the halfway point, sautée all the veggies together until they’ve softened up and browned a bit. If you’re going to use chorizo, you can dice it and cook it at this time as well.
  5. Once the beans are mostly done, drain, reserving about a cup of liquid. Add the veggies and chorizo to the bean pan, mix, and add the reserved water if necessary to give it the right texture.
  6. Add in all spices. We used about a tablespoon of medium curry powder and some piri piri sauce because we like things a lil hot. We also found that you need way more salt than we originally expected.
  7. Let it cook down for a bit until it seems right or until you are too hungry to wait anymore.
Pls ignore the dirty grout – cleaning it is my project for this week. I told you my life is boring!

Usually feijoada is served over rice, but we decided to forgo the extra carbs and it was amazing. I ate the leftovers with a fried egg and an iced coffee slushie the next morning for breakfast and can only say that it was truly a transcendent brunch experience for me here in Moz.

Cooking with Lesh: Mozambican Piri Piri Sauce 

Although restaurants here are consistently running out of basic ingredients (e.g. last month when the restaurant in our district capital that only sells chicken ran out of chicken,) I have never been to a restaurant here that failed to serve their food with a side of piri piri sauce. Each restaurant makes the sauce a little different, but the essential ingredient is piri piri peppers that can be bought in any market. After going through multiple bottles of store bought piri piri sauce in our first month here, I decided it was time to try my hand at making the sauce. I consulted a couple of cooks at resutrants where I like the piri piri sauce and a couple of neighbors, and came out with a pretty delicious sauce.

  • 1 big handful piri piri peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • Juice of 10 large lemons
  • Salt
  • Paprika

In asking people how they make the sauce I basically was just told to chop it all up and throw it in a pot, so thats basically what I did. I chopped the onions and garlic up really smally and sautéd them in a pan with oil first, then threw in the chopped up peppers, lemon juice, salt and paprika, and just left it to simmer for a bit. I then let it cook and used a pilão (pestle and mortar) to grind everything up, although you could just use a blender in America.

Usually when you buy piri piri sauce in the market it is sold in empty alcohol bottles, so I put the final product in an gin bottle for that real Mozambican authenticity!