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: 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.

That time that mãe finally trusted me enough to make dinner (and I didn’t let her down)

After trying to convince my mãe to let me cook the family dinner for weeks, tonight I was finally allowed to take control of the kitchen. I decided to start with something simple, and decided to make spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce. I went to the market this weekend and purchased all the necessary ingredients for just over 100 mets, about $1.30.

To say my mãe was skeptical of my cooking skills would be an understatement. All day she kept asking me, “Do you need chicken? Are you sure? Do you need peppers? Are you sure? Do you need Fatima (our maid) to stay late to help you? Are you sure?” Despite her lack of faith, I was excited to get to cook and show her that I’m not completely useless.

The cooking itself was pretty uneventful. My sister helped me a bit, but since its such an easy dish it only took me about 30 minutes in total. When I was done, my mãe still seemed pretty skeptical,and allowed my sister and I to serve ourselves first. She tried a tiny teaspoon, and declared it bom (good). For a minute, I thought she wasn’t going to eat any more, but was really happy when she came out of the kitchen with a huge bowl of my spaghetti for herself. She did tell me that she thought it was going to be horrible and that she had actually made dinner before I got home just in case we needed a backup. She also told me that she thought it needed more salt and oil (not a huge surprise considering how oily and salty most of the food here is) and that she thinks it would be better with meat. I guess next time I’ll have to stop at the butcher and pick up some sausage to add to the sauce.

I was so happy to be back in the kitchen this afternoon; cooking is something that makes me feel like me. At the same time, as I took the first bite of my spaghetti, I felt more homesick than I have since my first week here. It made me think of cooking eggplant parmesan for my mom when I was home this summer, with fresh tomatoes from our garden. I felt the same way when I cooked banana bread a couple weeks ago. Somehow, even though I have used Mimi’s banana bread recipe enough times to have it all but memorized, I thought it would be different somehow here. When I took that first bite of bread still warm from the oven, I was both so comforted to be eating something so familiar, and so sad to be away from those who I normally share it with. I will also add that it felt awesome to be the one serving the food and dictating serving sizes for once. My family are serious members of the clean plate cub, and I am basically forced to finish every bit of wjst is put on my plate each night. I may have been a little vengeful by giving my sister a HUGE serving like she always does to me.

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Today, instead of having classes, we spent the day with our host families doing chores. Although I would say that I already know how to cook, clean, and generally take care of myself, I have learned from my mãe that in Mozambique, I do not know how to do any of these things. Eu sei tomar banho, eu posso fazer sozinha, which translates to I can take a bath, I can do it myself, was on the phrases on the Portuguese cheat sheet we received before we arrived at our home stay, which seems odd until you realize that your home stay family thinks that you have the self-sufficiency of a three year old. In all fairness, we did have to have an hour long training session on how to use the bathroom before we got here, so maybe that assessment is not too far off.

So today was dedicated to performing all the household tasks that will be necessary during our time in Mozambique. When I woke up this morning, we swept and mopped my house, and I helped with some of the cleaning in the main house as well. After eating breakfast, my mãe  told me that today we would be making matapa, which is the name for both a traditional Mozambican dish, and the leaves of the cassava plant that are the main component of this dish.

To make matapa, we first had to go and pick the cassava leaves. My family has a decently sized garden, and I knew we had cassava plants, so when my mãe told me we were going to pick the leaves, I assumed that meant going to the side of the house. As soon as we start heading in the opposite direction of the garden, I knew that I was wrong. We ended up walking about 30 minutes to my mãe’s daughter’s house, where we picked a whole lot of leaves. It was actually pretty cold today, only about 65 degrees, so I was excited to get back to the house and start cooking and to warm up after my long unexpected walk without a jacket.

Matapa is a sauce dish that is typically served over rice. Besides the cassava leaves, it contains coconut milk, finely ground peanuts, ground dried shrimp, garlic and onions. The most time consuming part of making matapa is shelling and crushing the peanuts, crushing the cassava leaves, and making the coconut milk. All crushing is done with a large mortar and pestle, and is a lot of hard work; I don’t think that I have ever made such a physically exhausting dish.

After crushing the peanuts and cassava leaves, we had to open a coconut and remove the flesh to make coconut milk, which was surprisingly easy. We then basically just threw everything in a pot and let it cook for a couple hours while stirring occasionally. It turned out great, but unfortunately I do not have a picture of the final product, because according to my mãe you only serve matapa with white rice, and since we only had brown rice, she didn’t want me to take a picture.

Aside from cleaning the house and cooking, I was excited to do chores because after two weeks without access to laundry, I am running out of underwear! Unfortunately this morning my mãe told me that we need to conserve water. Mozambique is experiencing a pretty serious drought, and the town we are in is particularly affected. From what I have gathered, the public sources of water are pretty scarce, and some of the other volunteers said their families had to wait for 5+ hours to get water today, and paid more than double the normal amount. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do laundry, but at least I’ve got enough water to bathe and drink.

At around 2:00 this afternoon when chores were complete, I met up with some other volunteers to passando or walk around. We checked out some local stores and picked up some necessities before heading to a local restaurant to grab a well earned beer (for only like 50 cents!) before returning home for dinner.

All in all, today was both a rewarding and exhausting day. I learned that pretty much every chore in Mozambique is just plain harder than it is in America, and gained some serious respect for how hard cooking is when you can’t just run to the grocery store!