Easy Peasy Spaghetti!

This is such an easy recipe. Perfect for lunch, a light supper and an easy way to get some veggies in the kids. Quick, delicious, filling and you can use up those forlorn looking vegetables in the fridge.

Assemble your ingredients.

One large leek, chopped, three grated cloves of garlic, two carrots and one grated courgette, some lemon zest and chopped coriander leaves for garnish.
In a large heated pan, add a tbsp of olive oil and one tbsp of the butter. The oil is to make sure the butter does not burn and brown too fast. Add your leeks cook for a minute, add the garlic and mix well on medium heat.
The spaghetti can be cooking at the same time. You can use any pasta you have on hand.
Add your grated vegetables and mix well. Be easy on the salt If using salted butter. I used white pepper, a 1/4 tsp and 1 tsp off dried oregano for added flavour. Reduce heat and add the lemon zest and coriander and mix well.

Drain your pasta when ready and add to the vegetables in the pan, add some of the pasta water to ensure it does not dry out too much.

Grate some cheese if you like. I used some black pepper cheddar.
Voila! Your meal is ready! You can sprinkle some chilli flakes if you wish.

Dinner is ready in 20 minutes! Not bad right?

Ugali

Auto correct kept changing ‘ugali’ to ‘ugly’. WTH?

Ugali is one of the region’s staple meals. It is easy to cook, uses only two ingredients (maize flour and water) and goes with just about anything. Ugali is more commonly known as posho here in Uganda. It is a hearty meal that can be made by just about anyone. Well, almost everyone.

I have a love hate relationship with ugali to be honest. I love eating it, cooking it, not so much. If I had to compete in ugali making I would fail miserably in the first round. I’d be like those guys whose ridiculous audition clips provide much needed humour in the final rounds of a competition.

Nevertheless, I make ugali at least once a week. If I had my way, we would have it more often but oh well. Let’s not push it. So Ugali, boil your water, add the flour bit by bit until it’s a stiff mash and mix well with a wooden spoon till it stiffens and ‘smells’ cooked, takes about 15 minutes, right? I am open to suggestions of how long ugali should be cooked btw *insert shrug*

I usually cover it and let it steam in between turning it well. How to tell its ready though? I do a taste test. Some people recommend taking a small piece and fling it to the wall to test for readiness. Like the old spaghetti test. I do not know if it works though. LOL.

The most common way to serve ugali is with greens (spinach, kale, traditional greens) and a nice protein option; beef, fish, chicken, eggs, goat meat etc.

See this? I can’t even get my ugali to have a nice smooth top and rounded well. SMH

This is still a work in progress for me. But I don’t let it stop me from enjoying eating it!

At least I can make nice yummy greens to cover up my weakness 🙂
And a nice salad on the side to cover up for my ugali transgressions comes in handy.
Add in some spicy bacon to the cabbage, some chunky guac, and everyone will forget how bad my ugali looks.

What are your tips for making your ugali stand out?

Moving with the kids.

How to talk to the kids about moving.

We often take kids for granted when moving or making life decisions in general. We expect them to just fall into place and adapt like little dutiful followers. Bad idea.

I remember when we changed houses some years ago. On one of the first nights, my daughter asked when we would be going back to the old house.My son on the other hand, asked if anyone will ever come to ask us to leave. Keep in mind both houses were in the same compound!

That is when we realised our mistake; we did not involve them in the move. Sure enough, they had packed what they could and had even picked out the paint colours and designs for their rooms, but we did not TALK to them about it. It was a bad assumption on our part that they could figure out what was going on.

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When making the move to Kampala, we decided not to make the same mistake. Luckily we had been here before to visit some friends so they were a bit familiar with the place. Funnily enough, my son kept on saying he wants to live in Uganda then; little did we know his wish would come true a few months later.

So how then does one prepare kids for a move?

First, talk about it with them. Sit down as a family and tell them.

Listen to them too, and let them ask questions about the move. Obviously you have to use child/ age friendly language so that it is not intimidating to them. And try your best to answer them truthfully and in a friendly manner.

Anxiety is natural, but try to address their fears by talking to them about the positives of the move; focus on the good. But also be realistic about the fact that things may not fit into place perfectly at first. It will take time for all of you to adjust.

Remember it is natural for them to feel upset. They are leaving behind all that is familiar to them; their home, school, familiar places, family and friends. It is hard for them too. You can show them pictures of the new place too if it’s already organised so it can be familiar to them. Or even learn fun and interesting facts about the place you’re moving to.

It is very important to listen and observe their response to the news of the move. Some kids may not be willing to talk about it, but observe how they play with their toys and listen to them as they talk to each other. I have found this very important in understanding how my children think and their understanding of how the world works.

Let them pick out and pack their favorite toys, books or any keepsakes that they treasure; It is will make them feel a bit more comfortable and grounded as they have a feel of the familiar in a new place. 

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It is not easy for both you and them. I learnt and practiced A LOT of patience when we moved. But having a routine helped immensely. Not a rigid one but one where they know ‘what happens when’ so they do not get bored fast. 

We were also lucky to get a good school through recommendation of some friends whose kids are in the same school. Go for orientation with them, let them see the school, the classes, the playground, dining hall, pool, and meet their teachers if possible. Don’t wait till the day they have to report. 

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We had a few weeks before they had to report to the new school. Story books, games, toys, movies and tablets came in handy at that time. Plus a lot of outings and outdoor play as the weather here is lovely.  The best thing about kids is they are so creative and can play with anything they come across, and their imagination is still so fertile and vivid. Just make sure they are safe.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Constant communication with family and friends who are no longer near is also very important. Organise a WhatsApp video call with an old neighbourhood or school friend and let the kids catch up with each other. Trust me, it is such a delight for them! 

Those months together with them have also worked out to our advantage during these quarantine times. It has been fun coming up with a routine  with them that we are all comfortable with. 

There are many resources online to help you tackle this subject. Kidshealth.org, parenting.com, psychologytoday.com , childdevelopmentinfo.com are just a few websites that provide a lot of helpful information on the same.

Stove top Bread and Beef mince stew.

I do not bake much here as I have a temperamental oven that I am yet to fully understand.

But there are times when the bread craving kicks in so bad and you just have to give in. Lucky for me I came across a simple but tasty recipe from A Kitchen in Uganda, find the recipe here. She has other amazing recipes that I have been trying out bit by bit over the years.

I did not change the recipe much; used grated carrot, onion and some chives as I didn’t have green pepper at the time.

Steaming the bread
Final results and yes, I burnt some a bit, but not bad for a first try.

The bread is quite fluffy and delicious, and a hit with the kids. I will be sure to try it out again too and be more attentive. LOL.

We had them for a midweek dinner with some mince meat stew.

l learnt a tip the other day, add a tablespoon of water in your mince before you cook, mixing well. The mince absorbs the water as it breaks down hence no big chunks when cooking. I tried it in this recipe and it works.

I didn’t use many spices here just I tsp ginger and garlic, crushed, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp Dhana jeera powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Fry onions well, add ginger garlic and spices mix well then add tomatoes and cover and cook on low, then add the mince and cover and let it cook on medium low heat. Add your peas last. Check for seasoning and serve hot.
I added some peas and one chopped potato to bulk it up a bit.

This is a perfect midweek supper meal that’s quite easy to put together and a pleasant change from usual pasta and rice for the mince meat stew.

Definitely worth a try!

My Perfect Stewed Matoke!

Matoke, matooke or green bananas. Bananas people, not plantains. Yes, there is a difference. Here is a good explanation. Matoke aka green bananas are a popular dish in East Africa and each region has their own special way of making them. Here in Uganda, tooke is mostly steamed in banana leaves and served in groundnut sauce, with vegetables or meat. Or as a breakfast dish called “katogo” which is stewed bananas with vegetables or offal. Very yummy. In Tanzania, it is made into a porridge for breastfeeding mums and even as a beer in some parts of the country. In Kenya, it is mostly stewed with potatoes, vegetables and beef or goat meat.

I have fond memories of my mother making Kenyan style matoke as a weekday meal. Think we had it on Tuesdays or Thursdays, can’t remember clearly. LOL

This is my attempt at making it and though I cannot replicate her recipe, I can perfect my own right? Let’s get started.

List of ingredients

All we need, only the meat is missing here.
  1. 250 g beef, chopped and boiled, set aside with its broth.
  2. Green bananas about 16 small pieces.
  3. 1kg Irish potatoes (optional)
  4. I green capsicum (pilipili hoho)
  5. I tbsp tomato paste
  6. Two large tomatoes
  7. 3 onions
  8. 1 bunch coriander
  9. 1 medium courgette
  10. Four cloves garlic
  11. Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  12. Ground spices ; turmeric, ground cumin powder
  13. Cooking oil
  14. salt and pepper to taste

The method.

Crush your ginger and garlic into a paste, set aside.
Boil your beef in one tbsp of crushed ginger garlic paste.
Grate your onion, tomatoes, capsicum and courgette and set aside. Chop the coriander and add the stalks to the green veggie mix.
Peel, clean and chop your potatoes and bananas.

Green bananas are not the easiest to peel, as they leave a slimy, sticky residue on your hands and your knife. You can wear gloves if you want, or apply some vaseline on your palms before peeling them. Or peel them under running water.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large saucepan and sauté your onions till soft.
Add the ginger garlic paste, mix well then add the coriander stalks, grated green pepper and grated courgette, mix well.
Add your tablespoon of tomato paste. mix well and let it cook a bit then add your ground spices.
After the spices are cooked, and releasing their aroma, add the grated tomato. Mix and cover and let the tomatoes cook down.
Once your tomatoes are cooked down, add your boiled meat to the tomato sauce. You can tell the tomatoes are cooked when the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan.
Now add the potatoes and mix well. Cover and cook for about ten minutes.

A lot of people add the potatoes and bananas together. I did not as the potatoes take longer to cook and I do not want the bananas to get mushy.

After ten minutes, add your bananas, and the broth you had set aside after boiling the beef. If not enough, you can add some water but not too much. Check for seasoning, bring to the boil and cover and cook for 15 minutes on medium low.

You do not have to add meat or even boil the beef, you can fry it directly and use other spices. You can even use peanut butter, coconut milk, whatever you fancy when making this dish YOUR way.

My yummy perfect stewed matooke is ready! Just garnish with the chopped coriander and squeeze some lemon juice. Then serve hot.
I sprinkled some ground chilli as I like it hot.

Comfort food at it’s best! Try it and enjoy!