Foodiva's Kitchen: Seswaa: A Taste Of Botswana In My Kitchen - PFB #2

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seswaa: A Taste Of Botswana In My Kitchen - PFB #2

My first experience of Botswana came in the form of a person. She was my lab partner at University and her name was Evelyn. Gentle, soft-spoken and shy, Evelyn was a genuine introvert, while I was anything but. We worked as a team conducting scientific experiments, thrown together out of necessity more than a natural desire to be with each other. Something inexplicable, however, happened along the way - we grew fond of each other and became protective of one another. Or rather, I protected her from the harsh realities of student life in a foreign land while she protected me from uhmm, myself.

We were just two girls from countries that began with the letter ‘B’, who hung out often but oddly never cooked together nor for each other. Well, maybe it wasn’t really that strange as we were students then and we hardly cooked for our nutritional sustenance, anyway. But now, how I wish we did. All those years ago, I’d missed the chance to experience authentic Botswanan food when I could’ve easily had it. Fast forward to now, I find myself wanting not just to eat it, but having to cook it as well!

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!

      The best part of the process!

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.

Traditional cooked cabbage and carrot would be the third component of this dish. Embellished with ginger, thyme, red chillies and tomato, this vegetable side-dish added extra color, flavor and crunchiness to the whole ensemble.

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
• 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.


Cherine said...

Looks wonderful!

Unknown said...

Thanks Cherine, it tastes great too despite it's simplicity and looks!

Nancy said...

Wow,how exotic! The whole plate looks so good, I could really use a serving or two. I enjoyed your story of your schoolmate, too bad you never cooked together but I bet she'd be proud of you. Congrats on advancing to round 2!

Unknown said...

Nancy, thank you for your kind wishes and who knows, maybe this blog post will lead me back to my long-lost friendship with my Evelyn from Botswana!

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz said...

Congrats on making it to round 2. And a beautiful dish indeed. Love african food but never had anything from Botswana before. I am off to do my challenge no.2

Chef Dennis Littley said...

your entry to this challenge looks positively delicious! I have to admit I have never heard about anything from Botswana , but I am always ready to learn!! Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful dish with us!

Unknown said...

Thank you Evelyne and Dennis for stopping by and leaving your comments. I love your entry too for #2, Evelyne, you've inspired me even though you cooked something that's WITHIN my comfort zone! How about that, hey?
And Dennis, I wished you'd joined us for PFB, your dishes are always ah-mazing and inspirational to many of us!

Biren said...

This looks delicious. All the best for PFB!

Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting :)

Baking Barrister said...

Honestly, I know nothing about this country or its food, so I'm really intrigued by this dish (even if it isn't as authentic as you'd like). A completely unique choice, as well.

Monet said...

Wow! This looks delicious. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I'm happy to have found you. I spent about 5 weeks in Botswana and this lovely meal brings back such good memories. Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Biren. Again, your new site is fab!

S., I love your Chilean dish for PFB as well. I've been to Chile for work, and I know the cuisine there is to die for!

Monet, I follow your blog regularly and I can't recall you ever mentioning you've been to Botswana! Wow, I'm envious... So please tell me, is this how Seswaa is supposed to look/be served?

Mhel said...

Wow! i love African food! In fact, its also in my pfb2010 entry. I feature a North Eastern African cuisine too. Its nice to find some who did the same new and challenging cuisine. African cuisine fascinates me! I can relate to your dedication! Cheers!

Lauren said...

First of all, thank you for visiting my blog and for all your sweet comments! It's so very nice to meet you.

I love your post. SO out of the ordinary. I loved the part about the bugs...awesome. And the chips- so creative! you have a great writing style. It's easy to read and makes me giggle! You've got my vote Mama!

Unknown said...

Mhel, I'm in awe of your African-inspired dish and the incredible effort you put into making it! Makes my Botswanan meat-pounding one look like child's play... Oh well, at least I had fun doing this and gave it my best shot! Good luck to you in round #2.

Funky Mama Zabaneh, I'm glad I can make you giggle back in return because as I already told you, your posts tickle me silly! And your recipes, kids and pictures (in no particular order) are just amazing! You're a 3rd round contender, I just know it. :-)

Victoria said...

Great job! Good luck in the next round :)

fromBAtoParis said...

First time I see a dish from Africa...Impeccably executed! You have my vote!

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

Off to vote for you, please vote my 2nd entry too!

blackbookkitchendiaries said...

this looks just delish! ... great job:)

Unknown said...

Thank you all who have visited, commented and voted. I've cast so many votes already but still have so many left! Got to read more entries and support my fellow bloggers!

Mariko said...

This is totally original. Great work.

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

Seriously, great work for sure. I love the way everything came together.

FOODalogue said...

Very nice entry - good narrative and interesting recipe. I voted.

Heather said...

What an interesting post! Love it. :)

Amelia PS said...

very exotic.
you have one of my votes. (See my entry here:

The Young Foodie said...

That meat looks deliciously tender! Thanks for voting for me! I'll definitely be sending one your way! ;-)

The Young Foodie

Sindy said...

Very resourceful, using those corn thins!

Cooking Gallery said...

Sounds and looks very delicious! Good luck in the 2nd round :)!

Indonesia Eats said...

Looking yummy!!!

Unknown said...

Looks great! You have my vote. Best of luck to you.

sophia said...

Okay, I'm so ignorant, but I didn't even know there was a place called Botswana until this post. Thank you for the fine education, and for making me very very hungry. ;-)


Unknown said...

LOL, Sophia, you're too cute! You have my vote too!

Everyone else, thanks for dropping by and voting. I really appreciate it, mwaahs! To all PFB contestants, the best of luck in this round. Hope to see most of you in round 3... The luxury dinner party's killing me!

Roadtrek Girl said...

Great job on your food and photos looks fabulous !

Unknown said...

Very informative about the ingredients of the dish and I enjoyed the personal story. Great post, you got my vote. Good luck!

Amanda (The Culinary Passport) said...

Love the post (and African food). You have my vote!

Jan/Thella said...

i totally feel you as you prepared the dish. and you captured it in your post. job well done! i showed this to hubby and he wanted me to try it too :) will let you know how it came out. grats btw on round 2! here's hoping we all get to the 3rd :)

Jean said...

I really enjoyed reading this post--your account of your days in college with your shy friend and how you tackled this dish. Just wanted to let you know that you got my vote and a well-deserved one at that! :-)

lcm said...

wow I am from bots, not Evelyn though but surprisingly I am also studying outside the country, found my self missing home so i thought i would just Google Botswana cuisine just see what id find! imagine my surprise.,way to go, big yourself up for putting our small country on the map!!!!!!

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