We recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya. It was primarily a medical mission trip, but I confess I am often thinking about food more than I should be. Don’t get me wrong…I am truly grateful for all the goodies along the way as I am gallivanting across the globe. We conducted several clinics around the city, treating many people that have not had the privileges that we do here in the states for medical care. What an honor it was to serve with my daughter Stephanie, Tai, my husband Jim and dear friend Elizabeth.
During my travels I have learned to appreciate what the locals eat and drink. In Kenya, many would argue the best coffee beans in the world are grown, yet ironically few locals seemed to drink coffee. They love their subtle spicy chai tea made with sweetened milk at morning tea time. The “mamas” who hosted us allowed us to fully engage in the culinary culture with hearty stews, vegetable rice, mashed potatoes filled with peas and green beans and chapati. There were always generous quantities for the unexpected guests. The beans were beautiful along the walkways and the local fruits and vegetables were simply gorgeous and ripe. Dessert consisted of sweet organic bananas from Phyllis’ neighbor’s banana tree. The flavors and spices of East Africa are milder than I expected. Most mornings we were greeted with tea and the East African bread or doughnut called Mandazi. Definitely best when hot, they remind me of the New Orleans beignet without the glorious confectioner’s sugar. Here’s a recipe I found for Mandazi that can be enhanced with mashed banana or fresh pineapple added.
4 cardamom pods
4 cups self-rising flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 2 cups for deep frying
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
Crush the cardamom pods and shake out the seeds. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle. Place the ground cardamom in a large mixing bowl with the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Stir well.
Place the beaten egg and oil in a small bowl and whisk together, then add to the flour mixture. Gradually add the milk to make a dough. Knead the dough until it is smooth and not sticky when your finger is pushed into it. Add additional flour if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough on a floured surface about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter or top of a small glass.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the mandazis for 3-4 minutes until the edges are crisp. Turn them with a slotted spoon to make sure all sides are golden brown. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Note: If you add fresh bananas or pineapple, reduce the milk by 1/4 cup and add 1 mashed banana or 1/2 cup fresh crushed pineapple.