John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series

 In agricultural areas of Kenya most people have three meals a day -- breakfast, lunch and supper. For breakfast they will likely have tea, plus porridge or some peanuts or cassava or sweet potato or corn and bean mash, or pancakes. Lunch and supper are heavier meals, but based on similar vegetables, plus meat or fish when available. In urban areas, though, many people today have toast or scones with their tea at breakfast, and maybe fried eggs, sausages and bacon. For lunch and supper, too, they often avoid traditional dishes and eat "western" style foods.

 These recipes were collected for me by Charles Mudanyi of Kakunga, near Kakamega. His tribal affiliation is Luhya, but the dishes he describes are eaten throughout much of Kenya (and the names used are from the Swahili language). These are the meals I ate when I stayed with the Mudanyi family and others during my time in the western part of the country. (Editor's Note)


(a)  Chai (tea)

1 litre milk
1 litre water
3 rounded tablespoons tea leaves
Sugar to taste
Heat the water to boiling point, then add the milk and the tea leaves. When it boils again, remove from fire, strain the tea and serve, adding sugar .

(b)  Uji (porridge)

3 cups fermented maize meal. (To ferment, soak maize meal overnight with a little water in an airtight container)
8 tablespoons sugar
3 cups milk
2 cups water
1. Mix the water and the milk, and heat to boiling point
2. Stir in the maize meal and continue stirring until boiling.
3. Remove from fire, add sugar and stir
4. Serve hot

(c)  Njugu Karanga (peanuts)

2 cups shelled peanuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cooking fat (or oil)
1. Heat the fat/oil in a frying pan, then mix in the sugar and the salt.
2. Add the peanuts and stir.
3. Fry for 3-4 minutes over moderate heat, then remove and serve.

(d)  Viazi Vitamu (sweet potato)

[The same approach is used for nduma (arrow-root) and muhogo (cassava)]
4 - 5 large tubers
1 tablespoon salt
1. Wash, peel and cut up the roots into small pieces.
2. Boil the water, then add the vegetable, plus salt.
3. Cover tightly (preferably with banana leaves) so that little steam escapes, and boil until cooked.
4. Serve while hot.

(e)  Githeri (maize and beans) 

1 kg dry beans
1 & 1/2 kg dry maize
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons fat (or butter)
2 small or 1 big onion
4 tomatoes
Cream from a coconut
Curry powder and pepper (according to taste)
1. Wash the maize and the beans, mix them together, and soak overnight.
2. Boil them in unsalted water until soft: and pour off some of the water.
3. Add the coconut cream.
4. Cut the onion and the tomatoes into pieces and add these to the pot.
5. Mix in the curry powder, pepper and salt and stir in the fat.
6. Simmer over low heat till thoroughly cooked and serve hot. Can be eaten alone or as an addition to any meat or fish dish.

(f)  Chapati (pancake)

1 cup wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Lemon juice
Fat for frying
1. Sieve the flour and salt into a cooking bowl.
2. Form a hollow in the middle of the flour, and add the (well-beaten) egg plus half the milk.
3. Beat the mixture for 5-10 minutes, until the batter is full of bubbles, then allow it to stand for 30 minutes or longer.
4. Grease the bottom of the frying pan and heat it till it's smoking hot.
5. Transfer the batter to a cup and pour enough into the frying pan to cover the bottom.
6. Fry this quickly till it's golden brown. Loosen the pancake round the edges and turn it over
7. Sprinkle sugar over a piece of paper and turn the pancake on to this.
8. Squeeze lemon juice over the pancake and keep it warm.
9. Repeat this process till the batter is finished, remembering to add fat between each pancake.

(g)  Ugali (a stiffer form of porridge, more like a dough)

4-5 cups of maize meal
4 cups of water or milk
1. Boil the water.
2. Sieve the flour, and add it to the boiling water, stirring vigorously all the time.
3. Continue stirring until it is stiff, turning it over and over, making sure it is not burnt.
4. Remove it from the fire and eat with some sort of sauce, to flavour it.
5. Serve with vegetables, beef, fish etc.
Note: Milk can be used instead of water for a more nutritious and tasty meal.

(h)  Wali (rice)

1 bowl of rice
The cream from one coconut
1 tablespoon salt
Some water
1. Wash and soak the rice in water for a few minutes.
2. Boil the water and then add the coconut cream.
3. When the mixture boils again add the rice and salt, and boil till the rice is thoroughly cooked.
4. Take the cooking pot off the stove and (if you can manage it) cover it with a piece of tin and put some burning charcoal on top of it.
5. Remove the tin after some time and serve -- with vegetables, soup, beef stew, fish etc.

(i)  Mchicha (spinach)

2 bundles of spinach (or silver beet)
The milk/cream from one coconut
1 cup of peanut cream
1 onion
2 tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1. To prepare the peanut cream put 2 tablespoons of peanut paste in a cup and slowly blend with boiling water.
2. Wash the spinach and cut it into pieces (removing stalks, if you wish).
3. Boil the spinach in water adding a little salt, covering the pot to stop too much steam escaping.
4. Pour off the water and add the coconut milk and peanut cream, the tomatoes and the onion after cutting them into pieces, plus pepper.
5. Boil these together until thoroughly cooked, and serve with ugali, rice, chapati etc.

(j)  Maboga Machanga (pumpkin)

1 pumpkin
Leaves and flowers from pumpkin plant
Milk/cream from one coconut
1 cup of peanut cream
1 onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1. To prepare the peanut cream put 2 tablespoons of peanut paste in a cup and slowly blend with boiling water.
2. Wash the leaves and flowers and cut them and the pumpkin into pieces.
3. Boil in water (adding a little salt) till the pumpkin is properly cooked. Then pour off the water and add the coconut cream and/or peanut cream.
4. Cut the onion into pieces and add it to the cooked pumpkin together with pepper, and boil everything together for at least five minutes, adding salt to taste.
5. Remove from heat and serve with ugali.
Very delicious!

(k)  Maharagwe Makavu (dry bean stew)

1 small bowl of dry beans
Milk from one coconut and/or cup of peanut cream
1 onion
2 tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1. Wash the beans and soak them overnight.
2. Boil the beans in unsalted water; adding the coconut milk and/or peanut cream before the beans are completely cooked. Some types of beans need an hour or two, others much less.
3. Cut the onion and the tomatoes into pieces and add these with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cook together for 5 minutes or longer -- till all the vegetables are completely cooked-- and serve with ugali, rice or chapati.

(l)  Nyama Chemsha (meat stew)

1 kg meat
2 tablespoons wheat flour
1 tablespoon cooking fat
600 ml water
2 tomatoes, cut into pieces
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
Salt and pepper
1. Clean the meat and cut into small pieces.
2. Heat the fat in a large flat-bottomed saucepan till it is smoking: then fry the meat pieces briefly on each side until brown to seal them: and put them to one side on a plate.
3. Fry the onions till golden brown and put them to one side with the meat.
4. Sprinkle the flour into the remaining fat and fry till brown.
5. Add the water gradually stirring all the time. Add the salt and bring to boiling point.
6. Return the meat to the pan, plus the onions, and simmer for 2 hours at least over low heat, adding the sliced carrots and tomatoes after one hour.
7. Serve hot with rice, chapati, ugali etc.

(m)  Nyama Karanga (fried meat)

1 kg tender meat
2 tablespoons wheat flour
4 (or more) tablespoons cooking fat
1. Clean the meat and cut it into slices at least 1 cm thick (like steak).
2. Coat it with a little flour mixed with salt and pepper.
3. Heat the fat till it is smoking, and fry the meat till it's brown.
4. Turn it over and repeat the process.
5. Serve with rice, chapati, ugali etc.
Note: Meat should only be fried when young and tender. To soften it further it can be beaten with a clean piece of wood. During cooking the meat should not be pricked by a fork, as the juices run out: turn it over with a spoon. When frying meat, make sure the fat is smoking hot as it seals the meat and prevents the juices escaping. If the fat was merely warm it would enter into the meat and make it tough and greasy.

(n)  Samaki Chemsha (fresh fish stew)

1 medium sized fresh fish
2 tablespoons cooking fat
1/2 cup water
Salt (and pepper if desired)
1. Clean the fish and cut it into pieces.
2. Melt the fat in a pot and add the fish.
3. Fry it until the fat is absorbed, then add the water (carefully!) and a little salt, and cook slowly till soft.
4. Serve hot with vegetables and either rice or ugali.

(o)  Muduya Mix (mashed potatoes with beans)

[Muduya is a local term for bean stew: the Kiswahili term for this mixed dish is Mchanganyiko wa Maharagwe  na Viazi]
1 bowl beans
1 bowl cooked boiled sweet potatoes
1. Soak the beans overnight, then boil them till thoroughly cooked.
2. When soft, mix with the cooked sweet potatoes. (If preferred the beans can be crushed in a mortar before adding to the sweet potatoes).
3. Serve warm with tea or porridge


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