If you've ever eaten food from the eastern Horn of Africa – Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia – chances are you've encountered berbere, a complex blend of chile peppers and spices. This all-purpose spice mix can add warmth and depth to all sorts of dishes like beans, meats, and stews, and even non-African fare from burgers to roasted vegetables.
Let's talk about this tagine for a second: it's crazy good. The dish has so much going on—the fragrant and heavily-spiced sauce, the jammy apricots, the crunchy almonds—and yet it totally works. There's good reason why this Moroccan dish is a classic.
The color difference between white and orange sweet potatoes seems superficial — but in Africa, the campaign to consume more beta-carotene-rich orange sweet potatoes is preventing blindness, illness and death to children in Mozambique and Uganda. How does such a simple change have such a big impact?
A friend who served in the Peace Corps in Senegal once told us that she thought we'd be fascinated by the food. The thought got tucked away and somewhat forgotten until we received a copy of Yolele!, chef Pierre Thiam's cookbook devoted to this West African's country's cuisine. Wow, our friend was right! As we've discovered, Senegalese food is a rich blend of fresh, local ingredients and multicultural flavors from France, Portugal, the Middle East, the Americas, and even Vietnam.
I recently posted a question in my weekly email and on the site from Maria, who had gotten involved with an organization called Dining for Women and was having a dinner party to raise funds for a project in Uganda. She asked for help planning her menu. She promised me she'd send in a report with photos...
I received a great question from a reader a few days ago:
Dear The Kitchn,
I just got involved with an organization called Dining For Women which hosts monthly dinners at members' homes to raise money for international projects benefiting women. My first dinner is coming up and I will be cooking for about thirty people. Our beneficiary is Bead for Life, a Ugandan organization that assists women in their bead making businesses.
I have a really limited budget and I need to make dishes that can be made ahead of time and eaten without lots of dishes, the better!) and will work for a 4pm - 8pm time frame. Any suggestions?
This email really moved me, so I put the question out to our Thursday email subscribers and heard back from dozens. Click through for our community's menu ideas and more on my thoughts about Maria's email.
Chapati [chuh-pah-tee] noun: Pan-grilled unleavened flatbread eaten in India, East Africa, and most of South Asia.
Chapati is ubiquitous in Kenya; big golden wedges of this flat, chewy bread were served at almost every meal. We loved it; the fried golden taste is so delicious, and it's handy for sopping up extra meat and sauce. We were already familiar, too, with chapati from Indian cuisine. But we quickly realized that what the Kenyans called chapati was something different; it's not analogous to the familiar Indian style of chapati at all.
Ugali [oo-gahl-ee] noun: In Kenya, ugali is the name for the most common mealtime starch: a thick, stiff porridge made from white cornmeal or red millet.
In Kenya, ugali is one of the most common dishes you can find. Served with meat or mashed vegetables, it's practically the national dish. It's found throughout Africa, in fact; in South Africa it may be called pap, and in Zimbabwe you can find it by the name of sadza. Regardless of what it's called, ugali forms the backbone of traditional Kenyan cuisine.
Irio [eer-ee-o], noun: In the Kenyan tribal language of Kikuyu, irio just means food. But it usually refers to a simple, plain dish of mashed potatoes, maize, and peas or greens.
A couple years ago I spent a week in Kenya, in the highlands of the Rift Valley about an hour away from Nairobi. I really enjoyed the good food of this agricultural region. Here's a very typical dinner dish: bright green irio!