Bon Appetit from Malawi.
Many people have asked questions about what the food in Malawi is like, so this blog is going to answer some of those questions. We have really enjoyed the food here. Fresh and organic vegetables and fruits are the centerpieces of our dishes. Meat is also fresh, however some cuts are more difficult to find and can be expensive. Don’t think we aren’t enjoying starchy carbs. We go through loaves of fresh bread and lots of rice. Rice and nsima (a Malawian dish similar to a thick porridge made with maize) are staples. Our family doesn’t usually choose nsima, but we do enjoy a lot of rice. Pasta is also relatively inexpensive here, so I usually cook one pasta dish a week.
Some of our favorite fruits in Malawi are strawberries, mangoes, and bananas. Ella Jane’s favorite food has always been strawberries. She’ll eat a whole pint by herself if we let her, and anytime you ask her what she is cooking she says strawberries. Sadly, strawberries are on the tail end of the season and are getting harder to find. Mangoes however are just starting to come in and we all love them. I like the large bright red ones that are tart and Josh likes the small and yellow sweet ones. Luckily for Josh, we have five yellow mango trees on our property that should have ripe mangoes soon. Bananas here are also sweeter than in the States. I’ve never been a big fan of bananas because I’m weird about texture, but I do like bananas here. If you want a fun show, Clara can devour a whole banana in under thirty seconds.
Vegetables are delicious and so fresh! It’s definitely more of a challenge to prepare and cook fresh veggies so that’s been a learning curve for me, but I enjoy the rewards. We’ve recently discovered how delicious eggplant is! I also discovered a fairly quick and easy way to cook fresh green beans that involves plenty of butter. Peas and carrots are on our weekly grocery list, and I usually get broccoli even though Clara and I are the only two who enjoy it. Cucumbers and tomatoes make good snacks or paired with a sandwich. I’ve been making pico de gallo with the yummy tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and lime.
So that’s the highlights of what you can get here. What you can’t get is anything pre-made or processed. Canned soups like cream of chicken, Velveeta, any kind of broth or stock, and cans of biscuits or crescent rolls are all out of the question. Tortillas are insanely expensive, so if anyone has good tortilla recipe this Mexican food loving girl would love for you to pass it along. Cheese is also more expensive than the States, but it’s easily found. Cream cheese isn’t very good, so I don’t choose recipes where it is the key ingredient. Milk is weird because it’s super processed and doesn’t have to be refrigerated before opening, but it’s pretty creamy so we like it. There are several spices we can’t get like chili powder, onion powder and ground mustard, but the spice selection is fairly wide.
This season of adjusting has stretched me out of my comfort zone in many areas. The kitchen is no exception. I have always loved to bake, and I enjoyed cooking but never got too excited about it. I stuck with what was easy, and didn’t stretch myself often. I definitely miss the ease and convenience of cooking in America. Ordering my groceries from my iPad at one store and not even having to get out of my car to get them was so nice. Not having to think through whether or not there will be power for the electric oven, microwave or crockpot was a blessing. Moving to a new country and learning to cook mostly from scratch with new ingredients has pushed me, and I believe it’s just another way God is growing me. He is cultivating a spirit of gratitude while working in a hot kitchen over a gas stove. He is teaching me how to love and serve my family and others through my kitchen. I’m learning lessons I will continue to carry with me through life, and I hope God is using me to pass those same lessons on to my girls.
As a bonus to this blog I want to share the links to several of our favorite recipes we’ve tried since moving to Malawi. These are some of our favorites that will continue to be repeats in our home for a while. If I made a substitution I’ll note that as well. No promises these recipes are low calorie haha, but they are nice and fresh.
Skillet Chicken in Balsamic Caramelized Cream Sauce
I doubled the sauce ingredients, because my husband drowns his food in sauce. I served this one over mashed potatoes, but I might do rice next time to make it a little lighter. Broccoli or green beans are great side items to pair with this one.
Homemade Easy Beef Stroganoff
This has been one of our favorites so far! I won’t touch mushrooms with a ten foot pole, so I doubled the meat and added about 3/4 a cup of fresh green peas. We can’t find egg noodles, so I believe I used spaghetti. It would also be delicious over mashed potatoes.
Steak Burrito Bowls
The marinade on this steak is delicious, but what makes this recipe so good is homemade pico. I found a basic pico de gallo recipe and then tweaked it. I usually use: 6 tomatoes, 1-2 white onions depending on size, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 small lime, one bunch of cilantro, salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking. I’m particularly excited to make this recipe once the avocado tree on our property is ripe!
This one is delicious and really easy, but loaded with sugar and sodium, so it won’t make the top of our list. It’s really good with white rice and roasted broccoli!
Tomato Hamburger Vegetable Soup
One of my all time favorite comfort foods is even better in Malawi because I used fresh veggies instead of frozen. I did use canned corn, but I used fresh carrots, peas, green beans, potatoes, onions and garlic. We can’t get condensed tomato soup, so I substituted two of the small cans of tomato paste. I would love to make cornbread to go with this, but I’m not hopeful I will find corn meal. I just made white bread broiled with butter and garlic salt to pair with it. Clara devoured this one, and Ella Jane made a valiant effort!