Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Namibia

After Mongolia, Namibia has the world's second lowest population density. Most of the country is composed of some of the world's oldest deserts. Aside from large scale mining operations and safari tours, Namibia is not known for a whole lot. I asked a good friend of mine who had traveled a bit in Africa for advice on Namibian cooking. He had no idea and asked another friend who incredulously exclaimed that Namibia was probably the last place a foodie would ever want to go! Fortunately I did still receive advice from them on what to prepare, and none of our dinner guests seemed too disappointed. Although I doubt I'll see a Namibian themed restaurant scene sweeping the world anytime soon.

Like many poor countries surrounded by desert, Namibia's food is based more upon acquiring nutrients and not on culinary grace. But it still does have its culinary influences gained from its history. Raw vegetables, fruits, and roasted game meats have always been a staple among the country's indigenous population which still contains a fairly large number of hunter gatherers. Being a former German colony, cabbage and sausage are still popular here to this day. After the Germans were pushed out, Namibia was occupied by South Africa and a good deal of curry powders and spicy sauces have made their way into the food. Out of all these influences a food focused on simple preparation, cheap and easy to find ingredients, and very strong flavors has become the country's cuisine.

Cabbage and Sardine Salad

Although this might sound disgusting to many at first, it is in fact not disgusting. The sardines and peanuts add a wonderfully savory element to the whole salad that anybody can appreciate once they get past the whole eating tiny fish with oranges and cabbage. Think of it as a super flavorful cole slaw.


1/2 large head of cabbage cored and thinly sliced
1 red onion thinly sliced
2 oranges peeled, separated into individual pieces and halved
2 cans sardines in oil drained
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 inch piece of ginger minced
2/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 serrano chile seeded and chopped
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup vinegar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. In a bowl combine everything but the cabbage and stir together with a spoon.
2. In a much larger bowl put all the cabbage with a bit of salt. Allow it ten minutes to soften and pour the contents of the other bowl over the cabbage.
3. Toss together and serve.

Fried Yucca Root

The prep work for this is pretty similar to making fried potatoes, but the taste is wonderfully different. The main difference is that the yucca is much tougher and needs to be boiled to make it edible before frying. Also it takes a lot longer to fry, but it doesn't need a second frying!

Yucca
Corn oil for frying

1. Trim the bark from the yucca and cut the flesh into small french fry shapes.
2. In a sauce pan filled with water, simmer the yucca for 30 minutes or until it is tender. Set aside in a colander to dry for 15 minutes.
3. In a wok or fryer heat a large amount of corn oil and add the yucca in batches. Fry until golden or about 15 minutes per batch.
4. Serve with peanut sauce. Recipe follows.

Peanut Sauce

This peanut sauce is remarkably similar to peanut sauces of Southeast Asia with its use of coconut milk and dry spices. It can go great with just about anything you serve. I love it on grilled meats.

1.5 cups peanuts
1 medium sized onion quartered
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup coconut milk

1. Combine everything in a food processor and grind to a smooth paste.
2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat reduce the mixture to a thickened sauce. Serve hot or at room temp.

Roast Chicken

Game meat is a bit pricey round these parts, and I didn't feel like dropping a large amount of money on this dinner. So we went the cheap route and used chicken, which I can confidently say is well loved in Namibia as well. The roasting is the simple part. The real authenticity for this item comes from the Chakalaka sauce we paired with it.


4 sets of chicken thigh and leg quarters cut at the joints
3 tbsp corn oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375
2. Rub chicken with oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Bake the chicken in a roasting pan for 40 minutes.
4. Serve with chakalaka sauce. Recipe follows.

Chakalaka Sauce

Aside from being a word which often follows 'boom', Chakalaka is also a delicious sauce native to South Africa and popular throughout the surrounding region. It tastes like a spicy vegetarian chili and goes great by itself as well.

1 can vegetarian baked beans
2 carrots chopped
2 bell peppers diced
1 large onion diced
1 tsp cayenne
1 32 oz can tomatoes drained and chopped
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup corn oil
salt to taste

1. Fry the onions, peppers, and carrots together in the oil for five minutes.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and cook covered over low heat for 30 minutes.
3. Serve alone or on top of meat.

Guava Bars

Essentially this is just chocolate chip cookie dough with guava in the place of chocolate. Guava paste can be found at most Mexican grocers in large round cans. The bars come out tasting like giant fruit newtons!

1 lb guava paste cut into small squares
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 f. In a large bowl combine flour baking powder and salt.
2. In a small saucepan gently melt the butter. Once the butter is melted add the sugar and vanilla extract. Then whisk in the eggs. Pour mixture into the flour and stir until it gains a cookie dough consistency. Then fold in the cut squares of guava paste.
3. Grease a deep rectangular casserole and spoon the dough into the pan patting the mixture to form a 1/2 thick sheet covering the bottom of the dish.
4. Bake the dough for 30 minutes and remove when the top begins to brown. Take care to rotate the dish halfway through cooking.
5. Allow 30 minutes to cool and cut into squares for serving.

Conclusion

This was a much smaller meal than many others because we had to pull this off in the middle of the week to make way for the holidays. December was a rough month of constant cooking for our little home which left us with little time for our beloved blog. We apologize for the small amount of dinners that got posted during the season. Fortunately we've got plenty of freedom ahead for our meal planning and we're sure it will be plentiful. Namibia proved to not be a wasteland of boring food, and everybody was happy with what they ate. I especially loved the guava bars and salad and will certainly tweak around with those for future gatherings. More Africa is next with Uganda (actually it already happened and I'm still eating the food) until then Cheers!


2 comments:

  1. get your hands on "My hungry heart, notes from a Namibian kitchen" to get truly delicious Namibian recipes!!!

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  2. Hi,

    I am very impressed after reading through parts of your blog. With your cooking skills I think you could be interested in this competition I have found. You cook your national dish and then you have the opportunity to win an iPad mini or money. It could also be a good chance for you to let more people know about your blog since you will be shown on their homepage and in a cookbook!
    Here's the presentation about the competition:
    Competition: Win iPad or Money
    And here's their facebook page:
    Facebook Page

    I hope you will be win..

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete