Simba Mbili Curry “Poda” Is Lazima…Ama?

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When it comes to diversity my family certainly takes the cake! They married from everywhere but Mars…(Now what have I started! Some family members are now already searching the internet to see how they can marry from there!)! At home we have in-laws from everywhere in the country. We were also mostly urban raised and those who did not start out in Nairobi or Kisumu or Mombasa invariably ended up there or in even bigger metropolises like New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, London, Stockholm, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sydney,  Kingston…! That diversity means we speak a hodgepodge of different languages and when we meet as a family, the same diversity by hook up and or travel is reflected in the food we cook to share.

Just recently, my much traveled and suave (He says he is a chip of the old block…good lookin n all!…hahaha!) gourmet eating nephew posted a picture on FB of a huge helping of biryani…or was it pilau that had been served him at a restaurant in Nairobi, where he regularly goes to quell the hungry spirits of his need for a spicy and curried inoculation! He went to school in India…The capital of all things spicy and hot…and good too! The comments that followed were testament to how good it looked on the plate and the promise of a palate tingling experience. I bet they used Simba Mbili or its relative…in there somewhere…! Ha!

Today my friend Alice posted a pic of her Kenyan home-made salsa / tomato sauce and followed it up with a recipe that had me drooling already at the prospect of what I could do with that kachumbari (salsa). Visions of roasting nyams…goat, ngombe (beef) and kuku (chicken) flashed thru my mind in quick succession and the drool…oops!…got some on the keyboard noooow! Hahaha!…Kleenex!

What caught my eye in her recipe however, was the specific reference to “a teaspoon of simba mbili curry powder…”. Now that just made me stop right there and say…This recipe must be goooood! Our mum was from slopes and I tell you there was no shortage of jokes in our house, by our dad…who was a great (Luhya) cook (there! now I’ve really done the profiling thing!)…about how seriously handicapped people from the slopes are when it comes to culinary diversity and the magic of cooking! Our dad said (bless his now resting little Kenyan “tribal” heart!), that slopes people (Wahome Mutahi said it…not me!) only knew “boiro”…of meat, waru, githeri, ngwashee and ndomaa and that the most adventurous they got with adding edge to their cooking was adding salt! Hahaha! We died at the joshing each other about that! I will leave dads story on how mum cooked her first kuku for another day…It merits its own space and time!

But our mama bust that myth thoroughly! She was the greatest cook ever! Her dad…our gramps was a “chef” to a colonial musu of them days and mum learnt direct from him how to make some really tantalizing msosi…some of which we did not care to know how to pronounce or why they were named so but were happy to nosh on! That aside, her chapos, rice, ugali, matoke and ingoko (of the earth scratching and worm eating variety from Kariokor!) was to die for. She also had the murenda and tsisaga cooking from luhyaland down pat! And the one ingredient she insisted on when cooking the mchuzi or stew…was the magical Simba Mbili curry powder…and salt of course!

So now we Luseno girls grow up and the tradition continued…It was Simba Mbili or bust! Our in-laws…especially those from the coast where they lay claim to the best cookery in the whole of East Africa (Ugandans might have something to say about that!)…have such a laugh when we compile a shopping list and Simba Mbili is high on the list! “Jameni…Kwani hio Simba Mbili isipokuwepo leo hatuliii? Hahaha…”…Then they would see the glint in our eye…murderous to say the least at their being dangerously close to committing high treason by laffing at the holy sprinkle of our cooking…and the lafta would peter out! Hahaha!

So much for a little family anecdote but seriously…I don’t know what brand of curry you use…or your mum…family…But that was our thing and when I found two friends who shared that same brand, I felt so vindicated and I almost want the ICC of food, if there is one, to institute a statute to get the whole world on board.! Hahaha…All the same…Here is my friends recipe as posted on FB and used by her kind permission…and following that the convo we had about that Simba Mbili brand”

Alice: 10-12 ripe tomatoes. 2 Spanish white or red onion. Fry onion gently in canola, or Elianto oil or better extra virgin olive oil till onion is pale but not burnt. Add teaspoon of Simba Mbili curry powder, stir. Add ground fresh garlic, 4. Add a table spoon of tomato paste, an Italian brand like Vega or SA All gold or Kenya Orchards will do too. Add your chopped fresh tomatoes tomatoes. Dried mix herbs. cook covered for 15mins till soft. Stir n Mash up with a potato masher to make it smooth. Put back on fire n add two fresh ground garlic, pinch of salt n Thai sweet chilli sauce to balance the tanginess. Simmer with lid open for five more mins till reduced n thickish. Cool n fill in glass jars rinsed in warm water with a drop of apple cider vinegar to preserve. Stays in the fridge for 7 days. Use to fry any food pronto. No chopping tomatoes all the time. Enjoy. And let me know how it went.

Me: I like this recipe Alice “Barefoot”! May I use it on my blog under the “It’s whats cooking” category where I also share my own recipes with attribution of course? I particularly love the “add teaspoon of simba mbili…” We the Luseno girls were brought up on simba mbili and woe-betide you if you brought another brand when mama sent you! Our inlaws can never understand why for all family get togethers to eat food list must have simba mbili…and also esp hubby when I ask specifically for that brand when he is ready to come back after a sojourn to the old country! Hahaha! Glad to know it counts for something in the food!

LynnNjeri Osaak There is something about the simba mbili brand I am equally specific about it – trust me it makes the difference

Me: True Lyn…A quick read of the ingredients used to make the brand on the can will give you an idea why it is the best and it leaves no bad after taste in the food. I think it is specific to the south of India Madrass…the mecca of curry powder as per a cooking channel program I watched. Apparently the inlaws have no problem cleaning their plates and asking for seconds when it comes to the mlo part! Hahaha!

Lynn: How so true no after taste what so ever I am just glad to note that I am not the only one who is brand specific

I think I should end this post with Alice “Barefoot’s” quip that accompanied a pic of the lovely Simba Mbili and whose initial post actually inspired this blog post…”Simba Mbili- The one and only genuine and original curry powder and truly Kenyan, generation after generation.”

So what is your “Simba Mbili” in generations of you family cooking that is still lazima (a must add-on)?

©NjeriOsaak is a trained Journalist, Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.


Making Friends With Pork…


Pork is soo underrated by a lot of people as an absolutely delicious meat. It certainly tastes and smells different uncooked…but so does all meat! It depends on your food socialization I guess because food does tend to be very cultural. Cooked right, it is tender and soft and has a delicious buttery taste. I tend to overeat when I make pork and so I limit myself to cooking it say twice a month…Oh heck sometimes I can’t resist and cheat…and cook it a little bit more often than that! That’s how good it is!

Meanwhile if you get to eat pork that’s not done nicely as a first experience, I guess it could spoil your relationship with pork and you may become skeptical about ever eating it again or making friends with it! Pork needs to be treated and seasoned well because it tends to have a strong smell…and again not unlike other meats like say fish!

You can make your pork adventure as simple or as complicated as you want. I like to keep it simple and after trying out so many recipes as seen on TV and found on the web, I discovered three simple ingredients that work well and are easy to find at any store…Paprika…mustard…salt! You can also determine to buy different varieties of the first two ingredients but I prefer the french poupon mustard complete with the grainy seeds in it and the Hungarian red paprika…The latter also gives the cooked pork a lovely reddish baked color! You can also choose to make it hot by adding powder chilli or garam masalla!

I recently had a conversation with a friend  on FB and she said that she has been considering  cooking pork and didn’t know why she had never done so before. She was prompted to do that after watching “The Chew”, a daytime TV show co-hosted by among others a fav chef of mine Mario Batali. I responded to her complete with my own very simple fav pork recipe thus:

“Wah!…You don’t cook pork becaaaauuuse…? Go get some chopped country style pork loin / rib pieces on bone. Wash the pieces under warm water and pat dry. Season generously all sides with grey poupon country mustard, red Hungarian paprika, salt, cover the pork in a bowl and leave in the fridge for at leas one hour.

Spray your oven cooking sheet with canola cooking spray. Turn on the oven to 450. When hour is up transfer the pork loins onto the sheet and apply a light spray of the canola cooking spray on the pork loin and put in oven. Shut oven and let cook for one hour. Turn them over and cook for another 15 min.

Remove after the time expires, wrap the pork in foil and let stand for the juices to redistribute and also render it even softer. Use the juices from the pork to make a stew using the same ingredients  used to season the pork at the beginning and you can add roiko to thicken it. Make rice or ugali with fried baby spinach kando. Serve while hot….”

I like my pork “well done”…crisp on the outside…soft on the inside and certainly the juices must not run red! Owing to risk of Trichinella, pork needs to cook through thoroughly and should not be treated like beef, salmon…that is eaten rare or even sometimes raw (French Tartare…Italian Carpaccio…Japanese Sashimi). I guess that is what was on my friends mind when she responded to my post thus:

” lol..I think i was turned off since my days from school and learning about tape worm! Although I do eat bacon and it really doesn’t make sense! Yeah there was a nice recipe on he chew today..i’ve been meaning to try it for a while now, but just haven’t gotten around to it…”

I am waiting for her feedback…And yours too should you feel adventurous to try making friends with pork too!

©njeriOsaak is a trained Journalist, Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

Taking the mystery out of making curry….

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Now anyone can make the mysterious and intriguing Indian curry…or at least approximate Indian taste in their food! I love curry and for the many years I lived in Mombasa, Kenya my lunchtime Mecca was Singhs Restaurant where they made the awesomest curry in the whole world! Their rice, roti, parotha, naan that you used to clean your serving of curry chicken, beef, fish, ndengu and other veggies was so delisioso! You ate with your fingers and that experience is the only one that explains what finger-licking -good really means!

The thought of cooking curry is already so daunting when you think of the recipes that are a foot long with ingredients with names like garam masala, coriander, tumeric, dhania…You give up and just decide to walk into a restaurant where they slog over the hot stove and have it ready for you! Eating out at an Indian restaurant is also not the easiest and especially when you have no idea what will appear before you when you scan the menu and say..”I want number 3…and 7…and also 10…with rice”…The rice you can say because it might be the only thing that looks / sounds familiar…and the others you say the numbers because they have names like Korma, Vindaloo, Channa Bateta…! The picture beside the number doesn’t help either because it just looks like a mish mash of deliciousness that you want in your mouth instantly!

Never mind that we all have this idea that Indian food is all so hot! A friend who I once invited to come with me to an Indian restaurant recoiled at the thought and said…”Wah! You want us to go eat at that place where they cook hot jalapeno…and then add some chicken and veggies to it and call it chicken curry?”…Hahaha! I told her, and which so many people do not know, that you can now specify how hot you want your curry…from very hot to none! Yes none! That is not to say that my initial mosey into an Indian restaurant was easy. In the days I lived in Mombasa, eating at an Indian restaurant if you were not an Indian, and an upmarket restaurant at that, was considered sorta snooty! The waiters were predominantly miro and being Mombasites, they kind of frowned on fellow miros who walked in and expected them to wait in them like they did the authentic customers…or owners of the food if you like!

So me and this other friend boldly walk into a nice Indian restaurant that was owned by a friend. We ventured there at his coaxing. The establishments was new but he was a known hotelier so there was no doubt that this was going to be a super duper experience. More super hot as we would soon find out. We settled into our seats and began to read the menu…uh-oh!…whats that? Eventually we call a waiter and ask for help in deciphering what is in this… and that…and we eventually order. The food comes…piping hot and the scent is mmmmm!…enticing. We dig in and…Okay! Wait a minute…Where is the hotness? My friend who is now feeling cheated of his hotness experience (what will he tell people if not describe how hot the food is…the cliche!) calls the waiter and says…”This is…not hot enough! I mean…where’s the chili hotness?” The waiter gives us that sidelong look and asks…”You want hot eh?”…we were like “Mmmmhmm!”…nodding in unison with that James bond look that said to him…”We know curry and it is supposed to be hot…You trying to cheat us out of hotness?…This is a conspiracy…Just because we are not Indian..Nkt!” He picked up our plates with a swish and disappeared beyond those mystery swing doors that lead into curry nirvana…the kitchen…after kicking it open! The doors swung open again and before we could say “Undher Pradesh” (I am sure I massacred that!)…the waiter was back with our food…Whoooaaa!…This time we could smell the hot! Cut a long story short…It was uber-hot! And we drank more water than the food we ate! But not to be outdone, I quickly asked for a doggie bag and carried the “remains” home which I later re-engineered by adding water and sour cream to smaller portions and “interred” in front of the TV and with a big jug of water beside me!

Well,  It’s curry night at the Osaaks! Chicken in tika sauce and finished with a mixed pickle of mango and lime, dhania (cilantro) and diced tomatoes and sour cream. Served with boiled rice in coconut milk, Indian Naan chapatis and cut green string beans for veggies. It is one that I actually just made up as I went along. I normally decide how I am going to make a meal while shopping. Like in this case I decided on chicken curry when I stumbled on Tika sauce and the mixed pickle in the organic food aisle at the new Kroger. I regularly keep the sour cream and coconut milk in a can at home just to give rice and sauces a different taste. It’s simple though and absolutely gives a very good imitation of Indian curry…sans the hotness if it scares you! The tika mix I found has all the necessary spices already mixed in a paste that you just add to any pre-fried or boiled beef, chicken, fish or veggies…and actually has no hotness (check label) so you can decide to add hot peppers to your taste.

I shared this with my family on FaceBook and my nieces and nephews who thinks I am the Barefoot Contessa actually tried it and loved it. I have skipped the standard version of recipes and went straight to the cooking…take time and dig out the ingredients. Again its simple, cheap and quick to make so you will not be slogging over a hot stove for long. It will be worth the effort. Let me know!

Here’s how:

Fry Four chicken thighs (or part of chicken you like!) over medium heat in a little oil in sufuria / cooking pot for say 20 minutes…or until browned. Cover and lower heat for another 10 minutes and allow to steam. Add half cup onions and sliced carrots; stir and lower heat slightly and let onions sweat and carrots to cook another 10 mins. Add 1 large diced juicy tomato, knorr cube, salt to taste, stir. After 5 mins add tika sauce and mixed pickle and sour cream, tomato paste, stir. Turn off heat and add dhania (cilantro) and some diced red tomato  Serve with rice first boiled in water and salt. Add coconut milk at the tail end of rice cooking and lower heat to let rice dry. You might get naan chapati / bread at the store or you can make the ordinary chapati which would also do very well. You know me I am quite hopeless at chapati and Jungle Jim’s,  an International food store saved my day when I discovered their Indian section that has naan which you just zap for 30 secs and they are as good as new! Try it and tell me how that goes! Or just leave a comment below…or tell me how you have taken other indigenous recipes and found ways of making it easy to make!

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©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher, currently based in the United States.

Beef and Veggies Stir Fry…Quick n Easy Too…

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This is a simple but delicious meal and especially for those who are watching their waists, hips, abs…and hearts! Apart from its simplicity, it is also cheap and uses veggies that are easy to find at your local market or store. And then it is a time saver and is quick to make. Here goes:

1/4 lb Lean beef cubed(the amount depends on how many you are cooking for)

half a medium size red or white onion halved then quartered

2 large carrots sliced at an angle

1 small courgette sliced at an angle

1 small purple egg plant

1 cup sliced baby Bella mushrooms

1/3 of a small green cabbage chunkily chopped

1/4 cup green onions chopped

1/2 large tomato halved then quartered

1/4 red pepper halved then quartered

1.4 cup chopped cilantro

1 small cup Mahatma Jasmine rice

4 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

4 tablespoons water or beef or vegetable broth

salt to taste

After prepping everything and setting it on your cooking table, We are now ready to sizzle!

Turn the heat on to medium high and place non-stick pan on fire, add 2 tbsps of oil and let heat for 1 minute. Wash the beef and pat dry with cloth and add to pan. Stir and let sear for 2 minutes. Add onions, carrots and stir…let cook for 2 mins. Add courgette, eggplant…stir. Add cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red pepper, green onions & cilantro. Turn heat to high. Add water or broth and salt to taste and stir. Let cook for another 2 minute. Turn off heat and let cook as heat cools. Serve immediately with boiled or steamed rice.

Rice..Bring two cups of water to boil on high heat. Add 2 tsp oil (and pinch of salt if desired). Add 1 small cup of rice. Stir and reduce heat to medium high. Let boil with no cover until water subsides to below the rice (about 8 minutes). Cover and reduce heat to medium low for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and serve with beef veggie stir fry.

Finish off your meal with a bunch of your favorite fruit and a glass of water or juice!

Serves 2 to 4 depending on your portions! I made this for just me and the Hubs!

Try out the recipe and let me know how that goes by dropping me a comment. Also share some of your favorite recipes with me here. Hope you enjoy!


Habanero Madness!

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Habanero Madness: So when I got here to the US like 14 years ago, I went to the international market and bought me some groceries that included habanero chillies. Hubby having lived in Texas before, cautioned me and told me that that particular chillie type is mwoto sana (tres hooot!) but I was like…”We wacha! pilipili sisi tunakula hata mbichi!”…(“Oh come of it!…some of us are hotter than the chillie…we eat it raw!”). Hubby does not like to argue and so he lets me be.

Home. I enter jikoni (kitchen) and start mapishi bora (cooking like the barefoot contessa!). Mchele na kuku na kachumbari…na habanero like two whole ones in the kuku! (chicken and rice and African salsa). I served dinner…Wah! Everybody was dashing to the sink for maji…Aaaaargh!…”Mummy umeweka nini kwa kuku….glug…glug…aaaargh!” (Mum…what the elephant did you add to the chicken stew?). That was Kevin and Yvonne…my son and daughter! Hubby was cautious and had not tasted the msosi (food)…He said he could already smell the apilu (chillie) in the steam rising from his plate! I stood there petrified…and unbelieving of these people who can’t take a bit of heat! So I said…”Kwani?…Hebu nionje….Aaaaargh!”…(I dared to taste!)

Dedicated to Edyth and Dennis and George…Lovers of pilipili (chillie)…the later who said…”Kama pilipili ingeweza kuwekwa kwa chai hio ingekuwa fit sana!” (Wish I could add chillies to my tea!). I will bring you guys some habaneros when I next visit! Mtaona!

Needless to say I do not eat pilipili anymore…shut the door! Hahaha!


©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher, currently based in the United States.