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Letter from Africa: The wonders of Somali cuisine and a taste of home


geemong
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Letter from Africa: The wonders of Somali cuisine and a taste of home

 

 

On a rainy Friday evening in London not long ago, I welcomed a group of friends to my flat to enjoy a Somali culinary feast that I had spent hours preparing.

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The platter included classic Somali staples such as the popular "baaris" - a rice dish cooked in a rich meat broth with spices such as cardamom, cumin and cloves.

These ingredients give the dish - the jewel of Somali cuisine - a deep, complex and delicious flavour.

I served it with "hilib", which is meat - in this case lamb - that is cooked slowly for hours with fragrant spices, onions and garlic.

I also had another staple, Somali bolognese served with spaghetti - the dish owes its origins to the days when Somalia was a colony of Italy.

But Somalis use cubed beef, goat or lamb with our own version of the classic Italian "soffrito" - sautéed green peppers, garlic and onion - to which we add aromatic spices.

And no Somali meal is ever complete without serving bananas and "shigni" also known as "basbaas", a tangy, hot sauce made with green chillies, tomatoes, tamarind and coriander.

I have always loved to cook and eat Somali food - as my waistline will attest.

My formative years were spent in the kitchen watching the women in my family prepare delicious dishes.

But in recent months, stuck in London, unable to travel because of the Covid pandemic, I noticed that I have been cooking a lot more Somali food.

2 Replies
Watson Kenzo
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Ikate jone
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