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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

In The Kitchen With Kanta : Nshima, Kapenta, Roasted Chicken and Cabbage

Headlines In The Kitchen With Kanta : Nshima, Kapenta, Roasted Chicken and Cabbage

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Nshima kapenta chicken and cabbage



A taste of homeNshima, Kapenta, Roasted Chicken and Cabbage

There is not much that I can say about Nshima, it is not my favourite meal, and there’s not a lot that can be done with it; it’s hardly a chef’s dream.  However, like many Zambians, it was a large part of my life growing up.

Some of you might be wondering why I dislike nshima so much?  There is no  traumatic life experience that made me hate nshima; but making a child eat it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, can have a bad effect…okay slight exaggeration…maybe not for breakfast, but you get my point.  I hated it so much that I only started eating it again in my 20’s when I learnt how to cook it.  Much to my mother’s dismay, it was actually my father who finally taught me how to cook nshima.  It was like that “Come to Jesus” moment when everything finally clicks.  Before that, cooking nshima just felt like a long and drawn process that involved burning your hand and exercising your biceps to the point of no return, it was a tedious and painful experience; made worse by those that showed off and made it look so easy.

In my time as a food columnist I have come to notice that some of my readers insist that I only write about meals that include Nshima Honestly I struggle to find words to describe it; I would hardly call it delicious or tantalizing to the taste buds. Let’s face it nshima is a little lacklustre and uninspiring.  However, it is cost effective, especially now – with the current state of the Zambian economy; furthermore it can be eaten with almost everything and anything, it is filling and does offer some satisfaction and comfort in a time when not everyone can afford fancy ingredients.  Having said this I wanted to challenge all of you avid nshima fans; since you love to complain and feel that I should write about nshima all day, every day, why don’t you help me out?


Now without further ado here’s your monthly dose of Nshima and ‘relish’.

Preparation & cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves: More than 4 people


For the nshima

  • 1 pack of maize meal or mealie meal
  • 1 pack of cassava meal (optional)

For the chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil

For the cabbage

  • Cabbage, sliced
  • 1 tin of tomato OR 2 fresh medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Kapenta

  • Kapenta, washed thoroughly in warm water
  • 1 tin of tomato
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper, optional
  • Hot Chilli flakes, optional
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil



First prepare your chicken and kapenta.

Preheat the oven to 200 ? C.  Marinate your whole chicken with enough paprika, garlic, salt and pepper; rub in the seasoning then pour a bit of vegetable oil over the chicken and rub it all over.  Place the chicken on a baking tray and into the oven; cook for 1 ½ hours; turning it every 30 minutes or so to ensure that all the sides cook.

Meanwhile prepare and cook your kapenta.  The amount that you have to wash your kapenta depends on where it is from.  Siavonga Kapenta has no sand; so you only have to wash it once in warm water.   However Mpulungu Kapenta usually has a lot of sand; and needs to be washed thoroughly even up to 3 or 4 times.   Heat your vegetable oil in a pan; then add your kapenta, season it with salt, pepper, or chilli flakes, and fry it until cooked.  Now add your chopped onions and fry it for a further minute or 2.  Lastly add your tomato; continue cooking.  To make a gravy add water to the kapenta and allow it to thicken to the desired consistency;  remove it from the heat and place it in a heat proof container or Pyrex dish.

Now prepare your cabbage.  In a saucepan heat up vegetable oil, add your onions and fry for about 2 minutes.  Then pour in your tinned tomato and fry for 3 minutes.  Lastly add you cabbage and some salt to taste; stir well and allow it to cook for a further 6 minutes.

Nshima kapenta chicken and cabbage.jpg 3

Finally cook your nshima. Boil water in a kettle.  Pour about a cup of mealie meal into a large pot; add cold water to make it into a thick paste.  Turn the stove onto high heat and add all of your boiling water, to make a runny porridge.  Place the lid over the pot and allow the porridge to cook for 10 – 15 minutes.  The porridge should now have thickened, somewhat.  Stir it using a large wooden spoon; add about a 1/4 cup of mealie meal at a time, all the while stirring vigorously and continuously, to remove lumps. 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 it to stand for 5 minutes.  Then remove from the heat and serve.


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!!

Nshima kapenta chicken and cabbage

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.

Baking with Kanta - IMG


  1. Wow but ku ponta uku zoona about nshima. As beautiful girl as you are Kanta wants to disgrace your grandmother in such a manner?
    Enjoy your internet meals in this Lungu economy.

    • Lovely presentation. About Nshima-firstly Zambians should realize our ancestors never ate nshima.Nshima (maize meal was brought to the continent by the Portuguese..thats why it needs lots of rain and fertilizer-it doesn’t naturally grow.our ancestors probably ate sorghum,millet as staple foods….BUT we have grown to love nshima to our detriment. I am ready to explore 104 recipes of how to cook nshima
      1.nshima cooked with cassava
      2.nshima cooked with semolina flour
      3.maize meal fritters
      4.plain nshima
      ….more research underway

  2. Nothing beats a real Zambian meal with a perfect relish to accompany nshima. Kanta your presentation out of this world! So here is something I would like you to try for green relish, impwa (I struggled with impwa in my childhood I think this requires an acquired taste to appreciate, make it exciting for someone like me with poor taste glands) and for meat a beef stew, low on spices and more on natural taste, the Zambian way (ukusoskila).
    I am in the diaspora I have missed natural taste of food I find that everything I eat in my world has more spice with no taste of the actual food one is eating. I want to taste more meat than coriander or paprika in a meal for instance. I hope you get where I am going with this.


  4. Nostradamus & GM, I think you are being extra sensitive. Kanta is being real here, its matter of fact that in Zambia we actually over do nshima which is actually at the centre of each & every meal be it breakfast, Lunch and dinner. I also hated nshima in my child especially meali meal porridge, that doesn’t mean someone is despising Zambian staple food. Right now I would do nshima every day even though it was my no.1 enemy in my childhood. My kids hate it with a passion, I suppose they will find their liking later own in their life time. Lets get real!

  5. The Good cook that you are Kanta. Despite your disdain for akabwali you have whipped up a wonderful looking meal. Now I know how to do kapenta. 100% for presentation as usual Am I biased?

  6. Ok my sister, I take your challenge. Nshima Recipes
    1) Porridge ya ntwilo (with groundnuts).
    2) Porridge ya sugar
    3) Porridge with sour milk.
    4) Porridge with salt
    5) Porridge with mteteka (water from fermentation of maize sump)
    6) Soft nshima (like the one you give to a patient with ulcers)
    7) Hard nshima (The one cooked by labourers in a 5 litre tin)
    8) Nshima cooked with millet
    9) Nshima cooked with cassava
    Can I continue?

  7. Lol Bandage please continue did she not say over 100!!! You can only do 10. I’m sure u can only give her 15 maximum. Nonsense

  8. My sister Stella, I can continue;
    We can now deal with nshima with relishes like
    chikanda (yakusashila, fried, natural ; you see three already here!).
    Kapenta (ya nkwangwa, boiled (like for prisoners and boarding schools), fried (x3).
    Can I continue?

  9. What she made over here is very basic and very simple. Our country has no unique culinary skills. I can cook whatever she made here with my eyes closed and I still would not say it was a great meal. I have traveled quite a bit and have tasted some African dishes here in America, boy our Zambian food sucks. Just making a dour with corn flour and water is nothing spectacular. Baking chicken with a little bit of garlic powder and paprika is nothing too spectacular. I can post a video of myself making a Zambian dish with a spin that makes it unique. Let me advise you guys to post videos about vegetables that we make in our country like Lumanda, Chiwawa those are different and one dish i personally want to know is Chikanda. Otherwise i can teach our chef here a thing or two about cooking,…

  10. Your comments about Nshima are complete rubbish. Nshima is not really a big thing for me but I can never speak of Nshima in the way that you spoken here. Don’t fancy yourself a chef. No real chef can say there’s not much one can do with this dish. What about Polenta? Isn’t that Nshima prepared another way? Pupusas, Corn Tortilla or even Tamales? That is all Nshima prepared in different ways. Am just floored by your shame of Zambia’s staple food ( Maize not being native to Zambia is a non-issue here). We’ve been eating Nshima for over fifty years. You’re the kind of Zambian who can never prepare that dish for someone from another country and say look what we eat in my country. You’d rather hide. Continue pretending to be somebody else. You’re going to find yourself in cultural no…

  11. This is very simplistic…even a bush cook cooking for fellow builders on a construction site can cook this…Kanta let’s be serious and be creative like you do with your cakes.
    I always find it strange why us Zambians waste tomatoes and cooking oil cooking cabbage and other vegetables….simply boiling/stemming the sliced cabbage with red onion for 10 minutes and then draining the water and pinch of salt and adding a tablespoon of olive/vegetable oil does the trick.

  12. Now we’re cooking!

    I have not one negative thing to say about this delicious looking dish. Ok, if I must I will. And this has nothing to do with mama Kanta’s cooking. It has all to do with my own peccadilloes. I can never eat nsima with two different animal proteins. If it’s chicken it has to be chicken and if it’s kapenta it has to be kapenta. Never both at the same time. That’s just me. Of course if someone served me this dish I would just devour the kapenta and leave the chicken alone.

  13. Ba kanta.

    Nimwe bani?

    All those paragraphs to dis Nshima? Sometimes its just better to keep quiet than expose yourself.

    Got yourself out here looking like the worst kind of wannabe.

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