Waka waka – this time for Africa
Recipe for piri piri prawns (on the barbecue), Tribes restaurant Dubai, South Africa heritage day, and my first taste of tripe!
Drawing a blank? Me too. All three are vast continents with a diverse range of cuisines but somehow Africa remains elusive and hard to define.
The distances, the multiple tribes, the different languages (11 official in South Africa alone) a chequered history of colonisation and migrants, huge ranges in climate and fortunes. Perhaps it’s the misconceptions and assumptions about recording African history (interesting article here). My travels have taken me to three African countries and three completely different experiences of food. Libyan cuisine was a wonderful mix of North African and Arabic with Italian influences – some of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. The Egyptian diaspora has helped to forge what we think of as Middle Eastern cuisine in particular falafel, foul, and kosheri.
My visit to South Africa was in 1997 and we ate fantastic fresh food served impeccably in great locations but most was Western-style. The exception was an ‘African’ restaurant in Cape Town which presented a series of plates throughout the evening resembling a game safari commentary. Zebra was followed by warthog, antelope and then springbok. We thought it was a bit bizarre to be eating their national emblem! I didn’t leave with a sense of local dishes though. Our trip was barely a year after South African Heritage Day was created by President Mandela as head of the first democratically-elected government on 24th September 1996. In fact the great man himself passed by just a few feet away from us while we were strolling round the Victoria and Alfred waterfront; we only caught a glimpse as he was surrounded by a throng of people desperate to see ‘madiba’.
So how strange more than a decade later, to be sitting in a restaurant situated inside a shopping mall in Dubai, being spoken to in Zulu and offered the favourite home cooking dishes from a tribe. I am in Tribes, a casual dining restaurant in the Fashion Dome of Mall of the Emirates. The menu is described as a fusion of exotic flavours taken from the African continent since the Tribal era, influenced by the Spice Islands of the East, the French in the West, the Malay & Dutch in the South and the Arabic flavours of the North. The waiting staff all originate from African tribes including Xosa, Nguni, Tawareq, Shona, Luhyia and Kikuyu. The interior is unexpectedly cavernous, some areas a bit sterile due to harsh lighting but others really cosy (the nook behind the open kitchen with a stunning fire-pit).
The ‘hakuna mattata’ plate has a range of interesting things, some familiar like peri peri prawns, others less so like chicken giblets. But we are here to taste a special traditional menu including tripe stew with beans and tomato served with ‘pap’ and pan-fried calf’s liver served with yam mash. Manager Sipho assured us that this was exactly what his mother made for special gatherings and encouraged us to eat with our hands (we didn’t!). I took my first ever bite of tripe, the texture was soft, not chewy like I’d expected and the sauce tasty. The calves liver was made African-style, I’m more used to thinly-sliced and lightly cooked, this was strongly flavoured. The pap is made from finely ground maize and is a sort of porridge eaten daily by many people in Africa. The yam mash was very creamy (similar in texture to Turkish mashed potatoes), both were a good foil for the intense tastes of the meat.
My camera battery died – many thanks to generous Arva of I live in a frying pan for most of these lovely images:
Tribes have put these items on the menu from 21-27th September and hope to encourage as many people from Africa who live or are visiting Dubai to come and celebrate Heritage day with them, as well as other nationalities. On the day itself, the 24th, you can have your face painted with traditional designs and your photograph taken with authentic African shields and armour. Look out for the traditional drumming and singing too – it’ll put a smile on your face (this is more a family restaurant than a romantic meal for two venue). You don’t have to eat tripe or liver, by the way, lots of more approachable dishes were coming out of the kitchen while I was there and the puddings we had were excellent. Read more about Tribes by Ishita Debbie (GA) and Debbie.
Braai – the beloved country and a sleepover
Anyway, back to those peri-peri prawns – a recipe from Mozambique. I expected tasty (they were) and very hot and spicy (they weren’t). So I rustled up a batch of piri piri sauce at home and lit up the barbecue. Smeared over chicken Portuguese-stye was good and the sweet prawns were really fiery (which is good in our house!). The weather is cooling down here in Dubai and barbecue season will start soon and carry on for month, after glorious month. My South African neighbours seem to be permanently in the garden as they fire up a ‘braai’ and it’s the third year that I’m cooking something for Jeanne at Cook Sister’s Braai, the beloved country event. Alliterative by accident – pears last year, pineapple the year before and now prawns.
I’ve booked my flight (with Airmiles ME) and I’m off to Food Blogger Connect at the end of this week. Guess who I’m staying with on Thursday? Jeanne from Cook Sister; who, despite never having met me before, has invited me to her home for a braai.
Food Photography and Styling Workshop
I feel I know Jeanne already through her blog, on Twitter and as she is a dear friend of Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey? who is returning back to Dubai in October to host another Food Photography and Styling Workshop, this time at the beautiful Miele Gallery plus we’ve got a fabulous field trip to Atlantis, The Palm.
And back to those prawns….
Hot peri-peri sauce, Mozambique-style
Makes enough for about 24 prawns or 1 kilo chicken pieces
10 red birds-eye chillies
90ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
a few strips of thinly pared lemon rind
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar or molasses
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash of white wine vinegar
flat leaf parsley or coriander to garnish
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge until ready to use. Put raw, cleaned, tail-on tiger prawns into a bowl and pour over enough sauce to coat. Leave for 2-3 minutes only. Thread onto pre-soaked wooden skewers or put straight on the bars of the barbecue (high direct heat). Grill for about 2 minutes and turn over for about 1 more minute. When the prawns are opaque they are done. Serve immediately with a little more dipping sauce if you like mega-spicy! For chicken, marinate the pieces for at least 30 minutes (or longer) before barbecuing.
Good with a yoghurt, lime and coriander dip.
Wondering about the link with Africa, Portugal, America and peri peri? An interesting Wikipedia piece here.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Tribes, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, UAE.
African food – what does it mean to you? Tripe – love it, hate it or would never touch it with a barge pole? I’d love to know what you think…