Introducing Africa’s finest ingredient

This is none other than the one and only ever so glorified and perpetually humble mealie meal (corn meal)! This is used to make the classically universal pan African staple known as phaleche (Botswana – Setswana) aka sadza (Botswana – Kalanga) aka pap (South Africa) aka nshima (Zambia) aka ugali (East africa) aka sadza (Zimbabwe)! We would typically serve it with meat stew or relish and greens.  In traditional Europe this would equate to a peasant meal known as polenta, but these days chefs are finding ways of adding a bit of pizazz to it in order to make it more gourmet.

Sadza ne nyama

Sadza ne nyama

And it is the sort of food you love to hate when you are growing up since you would have had it almost everyday, but then you fall in love with it again especially when you travel to civilisations which deem it UN-FIT for human consumption. Yes, fair dinkum my Aussie mates, I remember when you quarantined the stuff for months that even the South African shop could not get its treasured Iwisa. I remember we would travel miles to the South African shop just to get some. Yes, of course, polenta was available, but we were used to the white mealie meal as opposed to the yellow.

But yes, we love to hate it and hate to love it. But over the next few posts I will be sharing how we can get creative with the stuff. For Now I give you a crash course in how to make sadza!

Boil water (the water height will roughly indicate the amount of sadza you want)
Plonk in the dry mealie meal.
Pray to God Almighty it does not form lumps
And finally put your back into it because you will need a lot of muscle to get through making this dish.

OK, you only follow that method if you are brave. It is guaranteed to result in lumps. For the rest of us, we mix about 1 cup of mealie meal with cold water and bring to the boil, it will be like porridge. The next step is to cover it and let it bubble and get wild. In Zimbabwe, we call this the process of “kwata-ring” and my friends, it is dangerous so you need to put a lid on it unless you want to get burned by a boiling hot piece of mealie meal. The next step is to add more dry mealie meal. The amount depends on how thick you like it, the number of people you are cooking for or the actual coarseness of the variety of mealie meal you are using. At this stage, it will rapidly develop into a thick dough-like substance. I like to cover it and let it steam for some time, in fact, keep it on the stove on a low heat until ready to serve.

The way to stir this cannot be explained in words, and the technique differs from region to region. I know from experience my West African style of stirring is ridiculed in Southern Africa, and similarly vice versa. So I have taken the time to find you a nice video so you can all see what I am talking about. I will make my own video when I have time as most of the Youtube videos I found did not get straight to the point. Not everyone will agree with this method below, but they got the job done. Let’s hear it for the boys!

Never fear or be disheartened when trying to make this stuff dear friends, it takes years to build the sort of stamina required when stirring the thick dough!!

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