Why go for expensive foreign options of dubious provenance when what we have at home is infinitely better, muses Charity Keita, in her quest to improve the quality of the food she puts on her plate.
Something is happening to me. It is as if I’ve been possessed by the ghost of a Kenyan foodie that insists that I must always choose locally grown options over stuff that’s been imported from overseas. Unless I have actively smuggled it back in my suitcase, my hot sauce must be strictly Kenyan made. Same goes for my pickles, meat, vegetables and condiments. Okay with condiments it gets a bit hard: I find Kenyan ketchup beyond the pale, local soy sauce, quality vinegar or mustard not available as are seaweed, olives, salami, good pasta and of course nice booze.
There are some areas however in which I can afford to be discerning: I love cherry tomatoes but have noticed that they often come from Holland. With the amazing weather we have here, do we need to import tomatoes all the way from Holland? The mind boggles. Luckily for me a couple of local farms have started making their own cherry tomatoes, so problem solved. Did you know that all the garlic you buy in supermarkets here comes from China? Yes you heard me right. And the truth is that when you find local garlic (there is an entire stall dedicated to selling it at Ngara market), it is the most sublimely delicious garlic you have ever tasted. Baobab and tamarind are new favourites for me and I’m constantly on the lookout for cool things to do with them. But if you don’t watch out, you might end up buying some South African baobab or Thai/Indian tamarind; which seems a waste when both products are so plentiful in Kenya.
Then the other day I was running low on olive oil. You have to understand that growing up around Europe, we were always told that olive oil was the holy grail of all oils. Anyone who knew anything, knew that food began and ended with olive oil unless it needed to be deep fried (seed/vegetable oil) or baked/made into a risotto, in which case butter was preferable. I have always been stalwart in my dedication to the cause of extra virgin olive oil and it has never occurred to me that this might be wrong. However over the past couple of years, whenever I try and select an olive oil, I pore over labels trying to understand which brand to pick. Have you ever noticed how most olive oils in Kenya say “produced exclusively from Mediterranean olives”? Have you considered how many countries make up the “Mediterranean” and what that could mean for the provenance of our olive oils? I mean we want to have oils that all roughly come from the same ten mile radius, not from random parts of half a continent. My lightbulb moment came when I picked up a bottle of Kenyan Macadamia nut oil. “Wait a second!” I thought to myself, “what if instead of buying expensive olive oil of dubious provenance, I start focussing entirely on Kenyan grown high quality oils?” I mean there is no lack of amazing coconut, avocado, peanut oils here, so why am I so obstinate that olive oil is the only one to appear in my larder?
Macadamia nut oil has proven to be utterly delicious and all my research points to it being just as good if not better for you than olive oil. I kid you not, it has an immensely buttery and nutty flavour that is simply a gift from the foodie gods. And it’s Kenyan to boot, which makes my breast inflate with a healthy dose of nationalistic pride. After all, what can be better than “Made in Kenya”, when it is made with love?
Roast Turnip and Sukuma Wiki
Ingredients for two:
- 4 large turnips, tailed and quartered
- 1/2 pack of halloumi, grilled and cut into squares
- A bunch of ripped and blanched sukuma wiki
For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp Red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Acacia Honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons of Macadamia nut oil
- Salt and pepper
- Fry the turnips in batches in some of the nut oil until they are browned.
- Put all the turnips in a baking tray, sprinkle on some salt and pepper to taste, and insert into a preheated oven (180 degrees) for twenty minutes or until soft.
- Remove tray from pan and add wilted sukuma wiki and halloumi chunks. Bake for another ten minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, make the dressing by whisking the vinegar and salt until all the salt is dissolved. Add the honey and mustard, stirring continuously to create a paste. Emulsify with the oil and mix into the piping hot vegetables the moment they come out of the oven. Serve hot.