The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Kids Make West African Curried Rice With Greens

October 23rd, 2009 · 7 Comments · Posted in Ethnic, kids

Into the heart of darkness we take our cook pot

Into the heart of darkness we take our cook pot

It’s finally happened. Our food appreciation classes have left the Americas and entered completely uncharted territory for us: Africa.

The trip from Brazil did not take very long. If you look at the map, there’s only a couple inches of ocean separating the two continents. Heck, you could probably swim. But culturally this represents a gigantic leap. Africa is a huge place–three times the size of the United States with many different cultures and culinary traditions, most of which are completely unfamiliar to me.

This will be a voyage of discovery for myself as a cook and teacher as well as for my students. I approach it with great anticipation, as well as some trepidation. I know there are ingredients I have never even seen before. Yet we have African grocery stores in our area. I am girding for a visit. And of course some parts of Africa are easily accessible. For instance, I already know my way around North African cuisine a bit. And here in the District of Columbia we have one of the world’s largest Ethiopean populations outside Ethiopea. Finding ingera bread is a snap.

Perhaps our readers can help. Do you know any great African recipes you’d like to share, things our students absolutely must know about? Do pass them along.

Meanwhile, this week we are sampling a fairly simple dish of rice, curry spices, tomatoes and fresh greens. Simple but quite delicious. And you’ll notice that the rice is blanched in hot oil with the spices to infuse all the flavors. Most people would use white rice for this, but I try to teach my kids the virtues of brown rice. It takes much longer to cook, but is far more nutritious and has a great chew that I enjoy. We used a brown basmati rice that is available in bulk at Whole Foods.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy pot and add 1 onion, diced small. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon paprika (or ground red pepper). Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups brown rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice begins to lighten in color, about five minutes. Add 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, then 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until the liquid is almost completely absorbed and the rice is tender. This will probably take 45 minutes or more. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Meanwhile clean some leafy greens, removing the stems and pulling the leaves into small pieces. These can be chard or spinach or mustard greens. Something that will cook fairly quickly. I used some of the broccoli rape that we have growing in the garden. It gives a nice, tart flavor. When the rice is cooked, stir a cup or two of greens into the pot, cover and let the greens wilt for a couple of minutes. Now the rice is ready to serve.

You will find the rice is quite aromatic. This is a versatile dish. You could serve it all on its own, but it would also make a great side dish for a roast chicken or fish. And wish us luck on our African food safari.

For more great stories about how we are taking back our food system, check Fight Back Friday.

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  • healthfoodlover

    Hi Ed! I’m quite familiar with South African food. My family are from there and I went to South Africa this july. Something I really liked having in South Africa was a ‘Madumbi’ which is like a taro or similar to a sweet potato. It was really niced steamed with butter and tabasco!

    Great Post,


  • MyChefRegina

    So much fun! I’m looking through your “about Ed” and “about the site” tabs, but curious about these food appreciation classes? Connected with a school? The Arboretum kids’ garden? Private? Sounds really, really cool.

    As for Africa — will you look at the African roots of some American cooking/ingredients? I’m thinking sweet potatoes and a spicy peanut sauce, maybe combined with some kind of braised pork. But yeah, I don’t really know much beyond North Africa, either.

  • Ed Bruske

    Chef, if you look up “food appreciation” with the search feature I think you’ll see weekly posts about the classes I teach at a private elementary school here in the district. We explored U.S. ethnic (Southern) cuisine last year. But I expect we will run into peanuts again in Africa.

  • Ed Bruske

    Michelle, it would take just one good recipe to get our class to South Africa.

  • Sylvie

    While politically French, Reunion Island is geographically African, and ethically partially so, with a population of European, African and Indian ascendence. With a few Chinese, Indo-Chinese and Pakistanis thrown in there.

    A very easy (too easy?) Reunion recipe is here:

  • mariam

    Would like to contribute a dish much eaten in Angola, a former colony of Portugal, which became part of continental portuguese daily options for lunch or dinner after a lot of angolans came to Portugal after 1975.

    It is a stew, of meat or fish, over here in portugal it is usually done with chicken.

    The name : MOAMBA or Moambe in english.

    I usued these sites for guidance and to let you have pictures:

    BAsically you stew chicken with garlic, onion, tomatoes, pumpkin and ochra ( yes , your darling ochra) and dendem / palm oil/butter which is responsible for the orange colour of the sauce like stew and its flavour.

    The stew has a lot of thick juice, so you need to serve it with boiled manioc puree , broiled banana ( the big platano banana also known as bread banana) and also boiled beans which are then refried in palm oil. Boiled khale may also be served, or any bitter boiled greens.

    Chicken Moambe from Angola

    one 4 pound chicken
    3 garlics cloves
    enough “gindungo” small red dried fiery peppers also called piri-piri
    1 cup palm oil, which is solid likebutter – same as azeite de dendem
    2 big onions
    1 dozen ochra
    1 pound cleaned diced pumpkin
    1 or 2 tomatoes – no skin, no seeds

    Wash and cut up the chicken in samll pieces. Dry with paper towels, and rub with a paste made with the garlics, salt and piripiri. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes – if only 30 mins, leave it on the kitchen counter, if longer, in the fridge.
    you can fry the chicken in it before carrying on the next steps, but this makes the dish heavier on the stomach…

    After the oil, in go the chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, chicken and all its marinade/rub. Cook simmering a good 1 to 2 hours – depending on how tough the bird is. If water is needed, add 0nly 1/2 cup at a time as needed, the juices should barely cover the chicken pieces at this stage. The sauce needs to have a lot of concentrated flavour, do not turn this into a soup.

    During the last 1/2 hour of cooking, in go the pumpkin and the ochra. This rounds up the sauce. ( during rhe last 10 minutes you may add 2 cups of ground peanuts , this makes the sauce even thicker and tastier) – thisis a very forgiving and adaptable stew. Adjust salt before you serve. This is enough for 6 to 8 adults.

    Serve with FUNGE , a thick sticky boiled manioc paste: 2 cups of water, bring to a rolling boil, 2 cups of manioc flour, let them fall in a shower into the water and mix like hell to avoid lumps. Good luck, this needs real strength. Do not add salt – the seasoning comes from the moambe. This is enough for 4 adults.

    If squeamish or short of time, serve with boiled rice io the funge.

    Hope it goes well with you all ! Let us know please.

  • Ed Bruske

    Mariam, this is a great contribution, exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. Now all I have to do is get directions to the African grocery here in the Washington area to see about sourcing all these ingredients. Thank you for taking the time to give such detailed instructions. I should be posting about this in the near future.