African countries have had a low profile during my random virtual travels so far. Madagascar and South Africa are the only destinations I've covered to date so I was pleased when Zimbabwe was the next country drawn. Zimbabwean food is mainly based on traditional recipes although there are also some influences from British and Portuguese cuisines. Most of the Zimbabwean population rely on a handful of staple foods - cornmeal, rice, beans, peanuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, a selection of green leafy vegetables as well as some meat and sardines.
When I began my hunt for recipes I was drawn to some Zimbabwean sweet potato biscuits/cookies with lemon icing on food.com. These biscuits were simple to veganise using dairy-free margarine in place of butter, agave nectar instead of honey and a flax egg. Another minor modification I made was to halve the amount of ground nutmeg as I feared that the full amount may be too strong. I was happy with this decision as the nutmeg seemed to be perfect in this quantity, any more and it would have overwhelmed. The original recipe stated that it made 60 biscuits although they must have been tiny morsels, I used a slightly larger quantity of mixture from my half batch which resulted in 16 small biscuits with a lovely soft interior. Prior to being iced they weren't terribly sweet and after topping them with lemon icing they were perfect. I found them to be very moreish and polished off more than my fair share.
African peanut stews have filled me with fear for many years. Due to allergies with some of my family members, I grew up in a nut-free household and never consumed nuts until my adult years. Although I adore most types of nuts these days, I still find the flavour of peanuts to be quite strong and have never embraced peanut butter. As there was a recipe for a Zimbabwean peanut stew called Huku ne Dovi in my copy of World Vegetarian Classics I figured it was time to be brave and try out this type of meal.
The stew contained chunks of sweet potatoes and carrots, onions, chillies, okra, tinned tomatoes and spinach - some green beans that needed using up were added to the mix as well. I reduced the amount of ground peanuts from 150g to 100g and didn't find the peanut flavour to be overly strong this way. The stew was very flavourful given it didn't contain any spices apart from the chillies and the ground peanuts made it thick and extremely hearty. The leftovers held up well which I happily devoured for a few days in a row afterwards.
The man generally dislikes stews as well as most meals containing sweet potatoes, so to make this meal more enjoyable I whipped up a batch of African baked tofu from Vegan Eats World to have as an accompaniment. The tofu was marinated in orange and lime juice, garlic, ginger, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and a Persian spice mix called Baharat prior to being baked in the oven. We've enjoyed all of the baked tofu dishes I've made from Vegan Eats World and this was another wonderful recipe I would be happy to make again. It packed a decent amount of heat and paired well with the peanut stew.
Zimbabwean sweet potato biscuits/cookies (Adapted from food.com)
Makes approximately 16 small biscuits
70g dairy-free margarine
1½ teaspoons ground flaxseed
1½ tablespoons water
zest of ½ a small lemon
40g agave nectar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup grated sweet potato
1¼ cup plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon dairy-free margarine
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 to 3 teaspoons (or more) water
Preheat oven to 175C.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk the ground flaxseed with water in a small bowl then mix it thoroughly into the butter and sugar. Add the lemon zest, agave nectar and nutmeg and beat well. Fold through the grated sweet potato then add the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and stir until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Place tablespoons of the mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned, then remove the tray from the oven and allow them to cool down completely.
Mix the icing sugar, dairy-free margarine and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Drizzle in enough water to make a spreadable icing. Top the biscuits with a generous dollop of icing.
Did you know?
There are 16 official languages in Zimbabwe. English is one of the official languages but only 2% of the population is fluent in it.