Something a lot of people do not know is that I spent four years in Tanzania. Living on the Swahili coast introduced me to a lot of new cultures and most importantly new flavours.Tanzania was the first place I tried food that was not Ghanaian. I tried Indian food, Chinese food as well as the local Tanzanian cuisine.
Lying on the coast of the Indian Ocean, Tanzanian culture is a product of centuries of contact and trade between Africans, Arabs and Indians. The Swahili coast, which extends from Kenya down to Malawi and includes Tanzania (if you do not know any of these countries please search them up), is home to a unique culture that takes bits and pieces from each culture to create a unique cultural identity. This identity is especially prevalent in the language as well as the cuisines found along the Swahili coast. Foods are flavoured with fragrant spices from the east, using African ingredients as well as ingredients from all parts of the Arab and Indian world. I remember eating curries and pilau but also mandazi (a variation of bofrot) and lots of potatoes, and nyama choma (which is barbecue meat) when I used to eat meat.
Remembering my life in Tanzania was the inspiration for this dish. Pilau was something that you could buy in many places, not just the indian restaurants. It was a dish you could find in many local restaurant. Food at school included chicken rice pilau and potatoes, which I absolutely loved. Drawing on the popular flavours in Tanzanian cuisine, I thought I would make something similar but use lentils as a protein substitute and quinoa instead of rice to give a different spin and add some added nutritional value.
Tasting this dish reminded me so much of Tanzania and the fact that I need to take a trip back there some day.
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1/2 cup brown lentils
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4 cardamon pods
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 thump size of ginger grated
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (or more for spicy kick)
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups of water
- 1/4 veggie stock cube
- Salt to taste
- Pre soak the lentils overnight or for at least 5 hours to speed up the cooking process. Wash and rinse the soaked lentils before using.
- In a pan, heat the oil at medium heat then add the spices, ginger, garlic and onions. Frying the spices and pepper helps to release their aroma
- Add 1/4 cup of water to further cook the onions to let them soften and also to make sure the pan is not drying out.
- When the onions are soft, add 1 cup of water and lentils and let the lentils cook for 15 minutes. Make sure to fully cover the pan and cook at medium temperature
- After 15 minutes, add the quinoa and 1 and 1/2 cup of water, then taste the sauce to make sure there is enough salt.
- Cover the pan well and cook the quinoa for 18-20 minutes at low-medium heat.
- After, turn off the heat and let the quinoa stand for 5 minutes, still covered, to cool down. This allows the quinoa to be extra fluffy.
- The pilau is ready. When you finally remove the cover, you will smell a rich and earthy fragrance that will have your taste buds tingling to taste the pilau
- Use a spoon to fluff up the quinoa
- Serve with some greens or a salad
- This stores really well in the fridge for up to a week