We have been joking amongst the four of us that we should start a cookbook to chronicle the evolution of our home cooked meals in Gulu. We all eat lunch at work, which is typically a Northern Ugandan staple of some sort.
Meals are ordered with a carbohydrate:
layata (sweet potatoes)
posho (flour and water mixture that looks like mashed potatoes)
chapati (the Indian bread)
cassava (root vegetable)
kwan kal (millet bread with a mashed potatoe texture)
kwan unga (corn bread).
AND a main dish/side dish:
dek gwenno (chicken)
olel gweno (chicken in a peanut sauce)
rech- (fish, normally not fresh)
ngo- ground peas
boo- green vegetable in a peanut sauce (looks like spinach sort of)
akayo- green leaves
malakwang- like boo, but with a sour taste
Although tasty, the dishes all have very similar flavors and so once at home we have tried to get creative with the available ingredients. In the market we can find these basic vegetables- tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, avocado, cauliflower, corn (it is very hard), onion, garlic, ginger and these fruits- lemon, pineapple, mango (though we are at the end of the season), sweet bananas and passion fruit.
There are many supermarkets (tiny by US standards) the size of a large room, with shelves full of various necessities: pasta, rice, lentils, cans of tuna, spices, cookies, loaves of white bread, honey, a locally made ground nut and sesame paste combo that is similar to peanut butter, canned tomatoes and sweet corn. The supermarkets generally appear to be run by Chinese or Indian owners, which is reflected in the items available (ie soy sauce and curry powder, which are not found in Ugandan food). It is always important to check the expiration dates and for bugs before buying anything!
When we first arrived a couple of weeks back, the kitchen was unfurnished, and so our very first meal together was a mango and pineapple cut up with Niki's swiss army knife. Within a couple of days the landlord had furnished the kitchen with plates, bowls, utensils, pots/pans, and a gas canister as a stove (we filled it with gas at the gas station, and Ahmad rode back on a boda boda with it). We were quite proud of our first real breakfast- boiled eggs and pan toasted bread. Once we stocked up on the basics from the supermarket we graduated on to a stew made of various veggies and a tomato sauce over rice or pasta. We have also been quite creative with canned tuna, heating it up with onions and garlic (although I'm not sure I should admit that). We manage to cook over our one burner 'stove' even when the electricity is out using a kerosene lamp and our battery powered head lamps.
On Sunday we grew tired of the stews and so made lentil soup- we each contributed ideas, each with a different way to make this basic, but delicious soup. We had it with our new favorite- chapati chips (warning: overload on the grease, not only are chipatis greasy to begin with, but these chips are then deep fried to make them crunchy!). Last night we introduced ginger to our repertoire and had a ginger/soy sauce/garlic stir-fry with egg plant, zucchini, and cauliflower over thin spaghetti noodles- Ahmad said it was worthy of a restaurant! Next ingredient on the list is coconut milk, all we need to buy is the curry powder.
Recipe ideas welcome :)