Tonight's meal comes from a Somali cookbook, Somali Cuisine. All of the recipes in the book are authentic and have been passed orally through generations of women. Some of the cooking methods have been modified for today's modern kitchens, but the dishes remain representative of traditional Somali cuisine. And, while it seems a little ironic to be cooking in my well stocked kitchen given that Somalia is currently experiencing a drought and cholera epidemic so extreme that 4 million people, roughly 1/2 the population, are starving or sick, this simple meal reflects the country's diverse warm culture, culinary influences and customs.
Somalia's culinary influences vary greatly by region, blending indigenous, Ethiopian, Yemini, Persian, Turkish, Indian and Italian traditions. Rice, beef, chicken, fish, beans, bananas, okra, tomatoes, pasta and bread are all commonly eaten, with cumin, garlic, hot peppers and cardamom flavoring many dishes. Canjeero, a spongy bread, is a staple and accompanies many dishes. During Ramadan, dinner is generally eaten late after Tarawith prayers have been said.
Local cherry tomatoes...the last of the season. And, one very hot jalapeno!
Frozen okra - I couldn't find fresh in the grocery store today
Onions and garlic for the sauce
Cherry tomatoes and okra make the sauce sweet, and jalapeno gives it heat
Semolina flour for the Muufo bread
Salt, sugar, yeast and minced onion flavor the bread
Maraq Bilassh (Cherry Tomato Sauce) - Recipe Courtesy of somalitreats.com
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cups cherry tomatoes, whole
1 jalapeno, cut into medium size
3-4 small okra, cut or whole
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. lemon juice
5 basil leaves
Heat the oil; add the onions and saute. Add the cherry tomatoes (whole), jalapeno and okra, and cook over medium heat. When the tomatoes being to wrinkle, stir delicately and cook 10-20 minutes more. When the tomato skins start to crack, add the salt, garlic and lemon juice, then mash the contents with a wood spoon. Add the basil leaves and cover for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with bread, muufo, anjeero, crackers or bagels.
Muufo Baraawe (Somali Bread) - Recipe Courtesy of somalitreats.com
2 cups of white semolina or farina flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1-1/4 cup lukewarm water
Salt to taste
Combine all the ingredients (except water) together and mix them well in a bowl. Add the water and knead to make to dough. Cover the bowl tightly, put in a warm place (such as the kitchen) for several hours or until the dough doubles in bulk; then work the dough gently with your hands. Cover and let it rise again. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When the dough has risen a second time, pick about half a handful with wet fingers and drop them on an oiled baking pan,, spacing them 2-3 inches apart. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and put it in the lower rack of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the bottom side of the muufo is golden color. When done, the top of the muufo will stay white. If you want the top side to be golden, flip the muffo over and bake for 3-4 minutes more. Serve with Maraq Bilaash.
Final Assessment: Delicious! I love a simple tomato sauce, and the addition of okra and jalapeno gave the sauce such great texture and zip. We dipped the chewy muufo bread in the sauce and lapped it up. This is a lovely vegetarian meal!
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