Feast Upon the Taste of Tanzania Cookbook

Tanzania-shrimp
My shrimpy take on “Prawns in Coconut Sauce” from the Taste of Tanzania cookbook. Image: Rachel Cericola.

Back in my youth, I attended Lollapalooza on more than one occasion. This was back when I wasn’t afraid of taking a punch to the face for some time in the mosh pit and the show was a traveling festival, not a once-a-year gig. Yes, I’m old.

I specifically remember one year, in between Rage Against the Machine’s protest set and getting sucked into an endless crowd of Primus fans, visiting a tent that served African food—and it was downright delicious.

After all of these years, I’ve never forgotten the dish that I had on that blistery summer day. It was just a rice and veggie medley, but it was the most delicious rice and veggie medley. It’s possible that I could replicate it with a little love and a Lipton packet, but I have yet to encounter anything like it in stores or restaurants.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about that dish and then I was offered a copy of Taste of Tanzania, a cookbook by Miriam R. Kinunda. Could I find the dish I had been craving all of these years? Maybe. Either way, I’m pretty geeky about cooking and was dying to try out something (OK, a lot of things) new.

Taste of Tanzania is written in a very personal matter. There’s a lot of experience and love inside these 179 pages. Kinunda gives a nod to several family members in the dedication and goes on to introduce you to Tanzania, which let’s face it, several of us probably haven’t dabbled in since high-school geography. However, those lessons just reinforce how Tanzania is “a social society,” and part of the social experience includes getting together to enjoy some delicious food.

TasteTanzania
Courtesy of Miriam R. Kinunda.

The book itself is also very social. Kinunda talks about Tanzanian meals, foods, and of course, recipes. It provides background on everything you’re preparing, which makes it feel like a one-on-one cooking class. Even better, I love that it has pictures for every single recipe.

First up, I made Wali Wa Junde Na Karoit, also known as “Coconut Rice with Peas and Carrots.” It looked like the recipe that has been etched in my memory and when I say that my house smelled heavenly during the cooking process, I can’t even convey. I need smell-o-vision for this review. Sure, it seemed more like a side dish, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself on the first selection. My one “tweak” is that I used brown basmati, making my dish slightly darker than what Kinunda has pictured in the book. I didn’t think it had the same flavors as the dish I’d been craving for years. In fact, I thought it was in need of some salt and pepper. That said, my husband and son barely gave me enough to sample. They ate the entire dish! I’d say that was a success.

The next night, I whipped up Kamba Wa Nazi, aka “Prawns in Coconut Sauce.” Prawns aren’t really a thing in New England, so I went with its crustaceous cousin, the shrimp. (You can also use lobster, squid, or anything else you prefer.) Although the recipe didn’t mention side dishes, I served it with basmati, which made it a full meal—a good one! My son isn’t really a seafood fan and that’s probably a good thing, because I don’t think I would have gotten any otherwise. My husband couldn’t stop saying “it’s delicious” and I thought it had a good amount of spice. I like my spice. This is definitely a keeper.

Since I didn’t have time to make every recipe in the book, I wanted my finale to be a grand one. I opted to make Mkate wa lliki (“Cardamom Bread”) and serve it alongside Rosti (“Meat Roast”). Let’s break this down…

Did you know that cardamom is one of the most expensive spices you can buy in the supermarket? I didn’t, but it’s probably something worth mentioning. Unless it’s fresh, I don’t really want to pay more than $3 per spice. This teeny bottle was $15. (Although Kinunda does recommend making your own powder and shows you how to do that on her YouTube site.) When I mentioned the cost to my husband, he gave me a “you’re crazy” look, but it didn’t stop him from inhaling half a loaf of bread.

Needless to say, the bread was delicious. However, I made two loaves, giving the second a few tweaks. The first loaf was “by the book,” but I would recommend watching the dough rise—not literally, of course. I let the first loaf rise for about two hours and it looked pretty perfect. Then, I decided to run out for a few hours. When I got back, the top had looked like it “exploded” a little. I’m not sure if this was my kitchen, the covering I used, or the bread. It baked up just fine, but it wasn’t pretty. It was pretty delicious, though.

Since I had plenty of cardamom left, I decided to try another loaf and bake it as soon as the dough had risen right above the rim of the pan, as the book suggests. However, this time, I cut the amount of cardamom in half. I wasn’t trying to conserve my precious spices, but I did think the first loaf was a little on the strong side. If that’s what you prefer, you will love this recipe. Either way, when served with a little butter, this is like a little slice of heaven.

The Rosti can be made with chicken, beef, or goat. It’s a nice one-pot dinner with potatoes and tons of flavor. Once again, everyone seemed pleased, including my 7-year-old.

Tanzania-cardamom
If I didn’t take this picture seconds after it was out of the oven, there would be no record of my cardamom bread. Image: Rachel Cericola.

I’m pretty geeky when it comes to cooking and love a good challenge. However, Taste of Tanzania isn’t very challenging. It’s actually pretty easy and yields some fantastic results. I didn’t find my dream dish and I did notice a few minor typos (mostly typesetting things, but there was one incident where the ingredients called for “coconut cream,” but coconut milk was in the actual instructions). That said, there was nothing about this book that was confusing or disappointing.

If a taste isn’t enough (and it won’t be), know that Taste of Tanzania also has tons of recipes for appetizers, snacks, desserts, and even drinks, as well as your typical entrees and side dishes. There are also sample recipes and tutorials on the Taste of Tanzania website. Enjoy!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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