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Sunday, September 18, 2022

In the Kitchen with Kanta : Traditional Zambian Meal

Headlines In the Kitchen with Kanta : Traditional Zambian Meal

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A little taste of home.

The combination of nshima and relish seems to be the only thing that most Zambians call a real meal.

So to satisfy your palettes, today I want to share a recipe for a meal that I have eaten all my life.  It is a traditional meal, which I am sure all of the Zambians will be familiar with.  Every household does things slightly differently but this is a recipe past down from my mother, one of the best cooks I know.  Yes!! Believe it or not we Zambians in the diaspora do eat nshima.

Growing up I hated nshima, we ate it too often and I actually stopped eating it for years.  However in the last few years I have started enjoying it again and have come to appreciate it; not only because it brings back fond memories of me eating it with my great grandmother; but because it is very cost effective and has a high nutritional value.

Often time’s nshima is eaten with two side dishes also known as “relish” which tend to be vegetables and fish, chicken or meat.  It offers a full balanced meal; covering your carbohydrates, vegetables, protein and fat.   Known as Nshima in Zambia, Sadza in Zimbabwe and Pap in South Africa; nshima is commonly eaten across Africa, and is the staple food in many African countries.

I don’t think you can ever run away from nshima; it’s one of those foods that you are given at every relative’s house and is a huge part of Zambian culture.  So if any non-Zambians are curious enough to try this meal, then follow the recipe below, and enjoy.

Now, this recipe might be a bit tricky for any first timers; because when I cook nshima I don’t use measurements, in fact most people that I know don’t use measurements for this.  However, I will try and give as much detail as possible to guide you through this; but if you want exact measurements, just type in “how to cook nshima” on Google and you will get a step by step guide.

Preparation and Cooking time 2 ½ hours

Serves minimum 4 people

For this recipe I am using organic pumpkin leaves from the garden.  You can’t go wrong with organic vegetables; much healthier.


Beans (for those in the diaspora, Kidney beans work just as well)

Organic Pumpkin leaves

About 1 cup of ground nuts

Rib meat

2 large onions chopped

1medium – large fresh tomato chopped

1 tin of tomato

1 pack of maize meal or mealie meal

1 pack of cassava meal (optional)



Soak the beans overnight, the night before cooking.

In a pot boil beans for 1 hour.  In a separate pan, fry onion and ½ a tin of tomato with a pinch of salt.  Once the beans have softened and nearly all the water is gone; add the onion and tomato, allow to simmer and thicken.

Clean the pumpkin leaves by flicking them to remove any dust. Then hold the stem in one hand and strip the outer fibres down to the leaves. Wash and chop the leaves into small pieces ready for cooking.  Boil water separately and add a pinch or two of salt; add leaves to the water, cover the pot and leave to cook until they have wilted.

Whilst leaves cook, pound ground nuts to a powdery consistency and sieve.  Now that the leaves have reduced to half, add pounded ground nuts, onions and fresh tomato, mix well.  Cover the pot slightly and cook for 1 hour.  You will know the ground nuts are cooked, because they will change from a white powdery colour to a brown colour.  Don’t let all the water evaporate, this veg should not be too dry.

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When cooking rib meat of a cow, you do not need to add oil because it already has quite a bit of fat on it. Simply fill a pot with water, until the meat is fully submerged and boil. Once water evaporates, fry the meat add a bit of salt, pepper, onion and ½ a tin of tomato.  Add a bit of water to make the stew and leave to simmer and thicken, adding water accordingly.

Finally cook your nshima.  Put the stove on high heat, in a large pot add a cup of maize meal/mealie meal to two cups of cold water to make porridge.  Now add a lot of boiling water to fill the pot about ½ – ¾ full.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and leave to cook for 3-5 minutes.  Now using a flat wooden spoon stir vigorously to make it smooth; gradually add a tbsp at a time of maize meal/mealie meal to thicken the nshima, always making sure you stir continuously and vigorously, to remove lumps, (this is quite a workout especially if cooking for a large number of people).  To make sure that the maize meal is cooked, cook for about 20 minutes. Finally add cassava meal and mix vigorously once more, until thick enough to eat with your hands and there is no water remaining.  It should be about the consistency of soft Play-Doh but stickier.  Cover the pot and leave to stand for a few minutes.

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Wet a serving spoon, scoop out the nshima in fist-sized lumps and enjoy with your relish. Serve hot, and use your hands to eat.  Enjoy!!

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Kanta Temba is a cake maker and decorator. She is also the owner and founder of Kanta Kakes – cake shop.

You can find her work on www.kantakakes.comFollow her on twitter @KantaKakes and Instagram @KantaTemba.

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  1. I want to cook this, but could you just clarify what is meant by half a tin of tomato. Is that tinned (plum) tomatoes or tin of tomato puree? Thanks!

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