When you think about it, not many things in this world are irreplaceable. As Africans, we learn to adapt to new environments pretty fast, and as creatures of habit, once we create patterns, we become content. However, there is always a gaping hole gnawing at our insides especially when memories of the motherland come creeping in. That is why food is so important. A lovely meal shared amongst loved ones can create an everlasting memory.
African cuisine is like no other. The marriage of robust spices, flavour and colour is incomparable to anything I have ever eaten. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I love to try anything at least once. No other cuisine leaves me with a warmth in my heart and smile on my face like African cuisine does. When I do not feel like cooking but I crave that feeling, I go to my second mother’s house, Maman Valerie Gatabazi.
Maman is from Rwanda, and I am from Kenya, but the differences are mere subtleties. Though some of the dishes differ slightly to what we make in Kenya, the end result is the same: you can still taste the love in every spoonful. One such dish is Sombe, or cassava leaves in English. Maman informs me that this dish is influenced by the Congolese, who have very close ties to Rwanda. I had never quite tasted anything like it. I had tasted cassava leaves before at a Sudanese residence, but this was different. This was addictive. I had to know how to make it. Now, you will too.
Preparing Sombe might seem like a task, but it keeps for ages in the freezer and can accompany almost every meal in an African household. The nostalgic stupor you experience afterwards will be well worth the effort, and whenever guests come round you have a top class dish to serve on the go.
1L Palm Oil (African shop in Arndale)
750g Coles Crunchy Peanut Butter
4 bunches of spring onion
6 packets of frozen grated cassava leaf
(you can get this at the Asian Grocery on Henley Beach Road)
2 Red Capsicums
2 Green Capsicums
2 Large eggplants
1 kg Beef on the bone (Asian Grocery)
Salt to season to your liking
- Dice all the vegetable into small squares and place in a large pot, making sure to peel the eggplants before dicing.
- In a different deep pot, empty half the palm oil. Once the oil is warm, pour the diced vegetables in. Add the frozen cassava leaves and the beef. Allow to cook for 10 minutes and season with salt, stirring occasionally.
- Pour hot water into the pan until all the vegetables are covered in water. Cover with a lid. On a medium-high heat, cook for 2 hours until all the cassava has thawed and the vegetables are tender.
- Add another cup of palm oil and allow to cook for a further 2 hours, checking it regularly to make sure there is enough water.
- All the vegetables will have mixed up, creating a glossy dish. Stir to ensure a uniform consistency, then add the peanut butter and allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and pour the Sombe out into various containers to cool. Once it is cool, it can be served immediately and the rest frozen for future use.
- Sombe tastes best the day after it has been cooked, when all the flavours have married together.
- Best served with ugali or rice. Enjoy!