A taste of home – Nshima, 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
- 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
- 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.
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!!
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.com. Follow her on twitter @KantaKakes and Instagram @KantaTemba.