When I enrolled in Project Food Blog, I’d already envisioned the type of cuisine I wanted to feature in my second challenge, that was, if I were to get through (which I did - thank you, oh thank you, voters and judges!). Having globetrotted a fair amount for both work and leisure, I consider myself lucky to have been able to sample a vast array of global dishes, at times Smörgåsbord-style. Yet, there are places I still haven’t been to and the region of South Africa is one of them. Thinking about this brought to mind memories of sweet Evelyn from Botswana, so I thought, why not attempt a traditional recipe from that culturally-rich, diamond-laden country?
Unfortunately, Botswanan cuisine is not easy to find in Southeast Asia, and I don’t really know if there are even restaurants serving dishes from Botswana on this side of the ocean. This was to be my first experience cooking up an classic dish from a faraway land, and something that’s not universally well-known at that. I wasn’t so much afraid of the cooking part as I was of trying to find all the right ingredients that will make the dish authentic, right here, in Brunei!
Not having the helpful opinion of Evelyn on tap (sadly, we’d lost touch after graduating), I did a bit of research and picked out a few classic African recipes I'd wanted to try from the sparse selection online. Stepping out of my comfort zone didn’t seem enough, I wanted to jump out. Botswana food recipes that called for mopane worms (aka caterpillars!) and locusts as their main ingredients really piqued my interest. Regrettably, our local stores didn’t stock these, and I wasn't about to scour my garden looking for live bugs (as totally out of my comfort zone as that would've been). And so I ended up making a far less creepy crawly dish called Seswaa. Also known as Chotlho, Seswaa is in essence boiled meat (beef or goat) which is pounded beyond recognition. Oh yes, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of enthusiastic pounding after a hard day? It’s the ultimate stress reliever!
Seswaa is usually accompanied by a cornmeal or sorghum porridge called Bogobe and maybe some boiled leaf greens like spinach or cabbage. The essential starchy side-dish Bogobe got me worried because wherever I searched, I couldn’t find any cornmeal or sorghum flour on sale – quite simply, these are not our staples. As for looking in specialty food stores, this is Brunei, and seriously, we have none! But I did magically find this… Multigrain Corn Thins. It contained maize, millet, sorghum, brown rice and buckwheat - everything I'd wanted (plus some) to make Bogobe. I felt as if I’d struck gold, which is not as ridiculous as it sounds had you been as desperate as I was! My scheming mind planned to turn these crispy discs into multigrain meal, and then cook them with boiling water to make the thick porridge. Not thoroughly authentic, of course, but pretty darn close.
The best part of the process!
So here it is - it's my honor to present you with the exotic (for me, at least) classic dish for my second PFB challenge, Seswaa from Botswana! If you think my fervent meat pounding efforts merit me going forward onto the 3rd round of challenges, then go on, live a little dangerously and vote for me here. Voting begins on 27 September and ends 30th September, which coincidentally is Botswana's Independence Day!
Evelyn, if you’re reading this from wherever you are, I just wanted to say how much I miss those days when we used to fool around with pipettes and petri dishes full of colonius horribillis. Please do write and tell me that I didn’t somehow manage to botch up your national dish!
• 450g or 15oz beef
• 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
• salt to taste
• salt to taste
• 1 tablespoon flour
1. Into a large pot, place the beef, onion and salt.
2. Cover the ingredients to a height of 2 inches above the meat with water.
3. Turn burner to medium and cook the dish for 2-2½ hours until the meat is soft. Add more water when it cooks down, to just cover the meat until the last 15-20 minutes and then let it cook further down.
4. Remove from fire and drain, save the liquid to use for gravy.
5. Put the meat into a sturdy and clean plastic bag (otherwise, you'll get meat bits all over your kitchen), place bag on a clean counter or wooden board.
6. Now the fun part! Pound the meat with a meat mallet or pestle until it is flattened and flaky. Remove the bones, if there are any.
7. Put it all back in the pot and simmer to reduce the liquid. Add about a tablespoon of flour, mix it in well, to thicken it. Season to taste.
8. Serve the dish with cooked vegetables and Bogobe (recipes below).
Traditional Cabbage and Carrot
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
½ onion, shredded as if it were coleslaw
1 carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon each of ginger, thyme, and dried chillies (crushed)
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
vegetable oil, for frying
1. Heat a frying pan and add frying oil, then heat the oil.
2. Fry the tomato and onion for 5 minutes.
3. Add the seasonings and stir.
4. Add carrot and stir, then add shredded cabbage and stir again to mix.
5. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for a few minutes, half covered, until cabbage is soft but not discolored.
6. Serve with Seswaa and Bogobe (recipe below).
750g or about 26oz of cornmeal or sorghum flour
1½ - 2 litres of water
This one you can vary depending on how much you want to make.
1. Basically, all you do is boil water, and add the corn or sorghum meal, and stir frequently.
2. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently until it reaches the desired stiffness, not too runny, but not too dry. Serve topped with Seswaa.