Kenyan Recipes: Pilau + Kachumbari

Pilau is a spiced rice dish that is found all along the Swahili coast of Africa. Often it is made with shredded chicken or bits of beef, but this version is vegetarian. It is a dish that is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, and it tastes great alongside another Kenyan specialty: kachumbari. Kachumbari is basically the African version of pico de gallo, except you make it a bit spicier and the chiles are of a different variety (unknown to me) that is not jalapeño.

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Here in Nairobi, you can find the pilau spice mixture at practically any grocery store or market, but you can make it at home as well. A standard recipe is here.

Also, here are a few pictures from our little trip to the suburb of Karen to visit the elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary last weekend.

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check out those eyelashes!

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this guy is such a douche
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that tongue – wow!

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Pilau 

1 cups basmati or jasmine rice (I used brown basmati rice)
1 medium red onion, diced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter or cooking oil
1 1/2 tablespoon pilau masala

salt and pepper

Cook the rice per package directions.

In a large pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil. Once the onions are transparent, add the pilau masala and stir around until fragrant. Add the cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional two minutes or so, until the rice is warmed and the ingredients are mixed well.

Serve with kachumbari on the side (recipe below).

Kachumbari

3 large tomatoes (the variety I find in Nairobi is similar to a roma tomato, so that is what I use), diced
1/2 medium red onion
2 small hot chiles (serrano would work well), minced
1 clove raw garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of lemon juice, lime juice, or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together well and refrigerate.

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Indian Spiced Buttermilk with Peas and Spinach

I know, the title of this recipe makes it sound disgusting. Frankly, my pictures don’t look so hot either. Spiced buttermilk? That thought you’re thinking right now – that was also my first thought when reading the recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. But then my second and third thoughts went something like this – a) it’s Madhur Jaffrey, so it probably is good despite the nasty title, and b) who the heck cares if it sounds nasty? I’m going to make it anyway. So I did. And guess what? It’s pretty great.

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Now, after adding a cup of buttermilk to an acidic pot of tomatoes and spices, as you might expect, it curdled just a bit. But don’t be terrified! Think of it as cottage cheese. Still good. Also, when I looked up other spiced buttermilk recipes, the internet seems to be pointing me to a chilled drink. Ms. Jaffrey says to serve this soup-like concoction at room temperature over rice; therefore, I assume it is different than the spiced buttermilk that the rest of the internet is drinking.

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Indian Spiced Buttermilk with Peas and Spinach

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno (or other hot, green chile), seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tomato, peeled and seeded, chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 large handful fresh spinach
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a small pot and sauté the garlic and jalapeno. After about a minute, add the cumin seeds, turmeric, and tomato. Stir around for about 30 seconds. Add a sprinkle of salt and then stir in 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add the peas and spinach. Cook for 2 minutes, until peas are thawed. Add the buttermilk and pepper, plus any extra salt seasoning you may need. Serve with brown rice at room temperature.