In 2015, I travelled to Nairobi and Meru National Park, Kenya. It was my first time.
While in Meru, I felt as if I were in a nature documentary and could not believe I was actually there. There were many favourite moments and a thousand photos snapped. Here is a favourite photo and a favourite video: the wee Hyrax, who is related to the elephant (yes, this little guy!)
Just as we were heading to the dusty airfield to return to Nairobi, we came across a group of elephants drinking from a stream. We watched as long as we could and we were all in awe, including the guide who kept us there until the last possible second.
I was overcome by joy, the beauty that I had just experienced over those few days in Meru and an overwhelming sense of grief too for what we do to elephants and to all animals all over the globe, to flora everywhere, to each other and to ourselves, that, for the entire flight back to Nairobi, I just wept big, fat, hot tears. Good thing the flight was not crowded. I fooled no one despite wearing my big sunglasses.
In Nairobi, I spent some time looking for (and successfully finding) Kenyan fabrics on Biashara Street (got to get on with designing a few things now) and learning about a few new microfinance and micro insurance projects with the wonderful folks at the Grameen Foundation.
It was during lunch with the above-pictured group that I sampled a delicious vegetable stew along with ugali, the staple Kenyan side dish made of white maize meal. I very much liked everything and my new friend, Carrie, promised to send me a recipe for a mung bean and coconut stew. A few weeks later, she did.
I used Carrie’s recipe as inspiration for this stew. Mine contains kale and courgette, rather than mung beans (I have also made it with both vegetables and mung beans), and is much more spicy than the Kenyan stew I had. The stew may be made with any other dark leafy green or any other type of bean. I didn’t find the right maize meal to make ugali, but I did find gari, a West African flour made of cassava and made that instead.
To round things out because one can never have enough coconut, I also made wali wa nazi, coconut rice. I used a mixture of barley and rice because I like that combination of textures (barley is thicker than rice and rather chewy). I added a tablespoon of flax meal while the barley-rice combo was cooking for extra goodness and Omegas.Recipe for the stew and gari after photo. Serves four.
- 250-400g kale (or other dark leafy green), stems removed and roughly chopped and/or 250g mung beans (aka green grams)
- one courgette (yellow or green), roughly chopped
- one red pepper, roughly chopped
- three tomatoes, roughly chopped
- one onion, roughly chopped
- two cloves garlic, crushed
- one teaspoon asafoetida (optional, aids in digestion)
- one teaspoon hot chili flakes (less or more, depending on taste) or one fresh chili, chopped
- one teaspoon vegetable oil
- one can coconut milk
- salt & pepper to taste
If you will be using mung beans, then cook those thoroughly and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, chili flakes and asafoetida. Mix well, cover and let the onions sweat until soft (approximately 10 minutes). You will not be using much oil, so add water a table spoon at a time if you see the onions browning. You don’t want them to burn.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, pepper and garlic, mix and continue to cook until the tomatoes have softened and lost their shape (10-15 minutes). Keep checking and adding a bit of water if the mixture seems to be burning.
Add coconut milk, stir well and simmer for five minutes. Add the courgette and kale (and/or the mung beans), mix well and simmer for an additional five to ten minutes or until the kale has wilted and the courgette softened. Serve warm, although any leftovers keep very well for a couple of days.
For your side dishes, follow the linked recipe for the coconut rice. It turns out that gari is incredibly easy to prepare. Simply pour an amount into a bowl – I used approximately 100g – and moisten it gradually with spoonfuls of warm water until it is thoroughly moistened, yet still relatively solid, somewhat like cous cous. Set aside and it is done.
A word about the taste: cassava can have a slightly sour taste, almost like sourdough bread. I happen to love cassava and sourdough bread!
The animals we love are no different from the animals we eat. If you are not vegan, please go vegan.
First published 11 May 2015