Monday, August 8, 2011

Vegetable Curry with Kenyan Ugali

Sorry to start with such a downer of a photo, but we think it's terribly important for everyone to know what's happening in Somalia right now. There's an ongoing drought and famine. A total humanitarian crisis (that's been largely overlooked by most U.S. press). The numbers are staggering:

  • At least 12 million people need emergency aid
  • 29,000 children have died, according relief organizations
Here's an interesting piece from AlJazeera that puts it in perspective and addresses the international response to the crisis.

The photo (at the top) comes from NY Times photographer Tyler Hicks, who spoke with NPR's David Green on Weekend All Things Considered. You can listen to the interview here. It's worth the 5 minutes.

So, you may be asking .... what does this have to do with a food blog? Well, many starving Somalis are traveling (by foot) to neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya.

And it just so happens that Olivia is up to "K" in her World of Food series and that means Kenya.  So, last night she made Kenya's national dish Ugali (cornmeal porridge) and Vegetable Curry.  The recipes come from KenyaTravelIdeas

Ingredients for Vegetable Curry (note: these are the full amounts, but we 1/2ed the recipe)

  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tblsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds (the black kind, if possible)
  • 8 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, crushed
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced and crushed
  • 1 tblsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tblsp. whole coriander, crushed
  • 2 chili peppers or 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 lb. green beans
  • 1/2 of a small cauliflower
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2 lb. fresh green peas, shelled, or 1 small package of frozen green peas
  • 1 bunch of fresh leafy greens (kale, spinach, collards, etc.), or 1 small package of frozen greens
  • 1/2 cup dry chickpeas, cooked (optional)


1. Chop all your vegetables (try not to cry while dicing the onions... especially if you're holding a super-sharp knife!)

2.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large, heavy skillet or pot, brown the onions in moderately hot oil along with the cumin seeds and mustard seeds.  Add the potato pieces (peeling is optional), and stir to coat each piece with the spices.

3. Now, add the remaining spices and continue to stir.  

4. Thin the tomato paste with about 2/3 cup of water. Stir into the pot. Add vegetables, one at a time, cooking for a minute or so between each addition, and put in the cooked chickpeas last.

Take a quick break to discover that you love the taste of tomato paste (?!?)

5. If your pot is not oven proof, transfer mixture to one that is. Cover with a lid or seal with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, checking after the first 20 minutes.  The consistency should be rather thick, but add liquid if necessary to prevent burning. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

While the veggies cook, prep your rice...

And your Ugali.

Ingredients for Ugali

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (the Mexican flour ‘Mozerapa’ is a close substitute to the Kenyan flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 cups boiling water


1. Put cold water in a medium-size saucepan, add cornmeal and salt, mixing continually. Bring to a boil over high heat, gradually stirring and slowly add 3 cups of boiling water to prevent lumps.

2. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for about 8 minutes, mixing frequently to prevent sticking. The ugali will be done when it pulls from the sides of the pan easily and does not stick. It should look like stiff grits.

(note from website: "You can serve ugali with everything from meat stew to sugar and cream. Your choice!")


A really spicy, filling vegan meal that I wish we could package up and send to Somalia by the tons.


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