Botswana

Joe & Sophie’s house

17 July 2013

While there are several “Southern African” restaurants in London, they lean heavily towards South Africa, and we were unable to find anything specifically Botswanan on the menu. So, back to the kitchen we go, for another home-cooked meal at Joe & Sophie’s.

While looking for ingredients for my pudding in New Cross’ Sainsbury’s, I get a slightly panicked phone call from Sophie. It seems that Joe has managed to source some genuine sorghum for his main course, which he considers something of a triumph, until it begins moving of its own accord.

Sorghum

Sorghum

This genuine sorghum comes with genuine weevils, in great quantities. The weevils are either “tiny, smaller than ants” or “massive beetles”, depending on whose eyewitness testimony you want to believe, but either way they are unwelcome, and the sorghum goes in the bin. Joe substitutes polenta for the sorghum, which is not exactly Botswanan, but it’s as close as we’re going to get and I dare say you can get it in Gaborone.

Weevil!

Weevil!

Sophie’s starter is vegetable potjie; a chunky soup with swede, celery, sweetcorn and other good things, stewed together for an hour. Simple but tasty.

Vegetable soup/stew

Vegetable potjie

Then comes Joe’s main course which is really rather good. The substitute polenta works really well as a bland counterpoint to the strong flavours of the chicken and bacon dish, which is flavoured with chili, spices, red peppers and gherkins.

Chicken with bacon and mock bogobe

Chicken with bacon and mock bogobe

Finally, Steve’s Malva Pudding is also a success. This is South African in origin (Cape Dutch to be precise), but is apparently popular in Botswana as well. It seems like a fairly failsafe pudding to make, and when the vanilla custard soaks into it, it really is delicious.

Malva pudding

Malva pudding

Drinks are ginger beer throughout, since that is a popular Botswanan drink. So is Rooibos tea, but we forget to make it, and anyway it is far too hot a summer’s night for that.

Scores

Food: 3.5 / 5

Recipes

Chicken with bacon and mock bogobe

210g sorghum
2 tbsp oil
160g bacon lardons
2 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and cubed
1 red pepper, chopped
3 large gherkins, sliced
70g sweetcorn
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli paste
1 onion, chopped

Bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil. Add the sorghum grains. If your sorghum begins to crawl, shout ‘weevils!’, and throw it in the sink. Go to Plan B.

If not, cook the sorghum for about 30 minutes, until tender. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold, running water and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat the oil. Add the bacon and chicken and fry on a medium-high heat until the meat begins to brown. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and half a cup of water – about 125ml. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes; the liquid should reduce and infuse with flavour. Stir in the sorghum and allow to heat through. Turn into a warmed dish and serve immediately.

Plan B
For a delicious replacement for your sorghum (and not unfaithful, since it is maize-based; the other Botswanian staple), make a soft polenta. This worked really well with the other ingredients:

400ml milk
Sprig of thyme
A few peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, bashed
150g quick-cook polenta
20g butter
1 tsp chopped rosemary
20g hard goat’s cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese, grated

Put the milk and 200ml water into a saucepan. Add the rosemary, thyme, peppercorns and onion/garlic. Bring to just below the boil, then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the infused liquid (or scoop out the flavourings with a slotted spoon). Bring to a simmer, then pour in the polenta in a thin stream, stirring as you do so. Stir until the mix is smooth and then it let it return to a simmer. Cook for just 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and cheese, then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately, with the chicken, bacon and vegetables on top (it won’t keep long).

Malva pudding

  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 100ml milk

For the sauce:

  • 200ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml hot water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 170°C, grease 18cm square oven dish. Beat sugar and eggs, when mixed add jam and beat that in too. Melt the butter, and add it with vinegar to the bowl. Mix flour, baking powder and salt and beat this into the mix. Pour into the oven dish and bake 30 minutes.

Shortly before the pudding is done, melt the butter for the sauce, and mix in all other ingredients. Pour this over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven. Stick a knife in the pudding in a few spots, and leave for 10 minutes to soak in. It will sit on top for a while but eventually seeps down soaks in from the bottom.

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