Meal 23: Botswana

We were super fortunate to have a Botswanan on hand! Ssebbaale, from the north of this large but sparsely populated country in southern Africa,  is a colleague of previous nosher Jessica. Not only did he share recipes before coming — which was very helpful since there's precious little online in the way of Botswanan recipes — but he also brought spices he'd recently picked up back home. And those spices made all the difference in giving the dishes a lovely, exotic flavor.

Our other guests for this novel Saturday meal were Jessica M. and Alex, Sarah-Doe and her friend Carolyn, and Jessica G. and her friends Eli and Nadia.

Shisanyama / Braai | Barbecue

Shisanyama means "burn the meat" in Zulu, while Braai is the Afrikaans word for "barbecue." And this one was really flavorful. Earlier in the afternoon I started with citrus-based marinades — a basic lemon-and-oil for the cuts of beef and a Jamaican jerk for the chicken (sorry, lied about not linking!). Then when Ssebbaale came, we augmented the marinades with all sorts of wonderful spices he'd brought back with him, including Robertsons Shisanyama and Steak & Chops mixes which had unfortunately extremely vague ingredient lists.

Fortunately the evening was pretty mild, so it wasn't a big problem to fire up the grill. The chicken turned out nice and moist, the beef decently tender, and everything really tasty. Only wish we'd made a bit more!

Moragaraga wa dinama | Pasta casserole with meat

When Ssebbaale first gave me the ingredients for this dish, it sure seemed like a tasty but fairly country-agnostic dish. But oh, when he got to work in the kitchen and threw in a bunch of spices, it came to life. And some peri-peri hot sauce really made it great. The recipe is at the end of the post.

Beetroot and cabbage salad

Unfortunately we just couldn't get the sorts of greens that are native in Botswana, but fortunately we had this other option. Pretty simple, tasty, and quite nutritious: peel and shred beets, boil a few minutes and drain; shred cabbage; put both in a bowl and add mayo, salt, and pepper.

Paletshe | Corn mush

Ssebbaale was really on the fence about whether to make this, since it's a lot of effort for what's essentially bland starch, and it wasn't even clear whether the cornmeal I bought would be the right consistency to make what's generally known in southern Africa as "pap." But then it came to light that Eli is gluten-free so the decision was made. This dish infamously requires a lot of arm strength, and Sarah-Doe stepped it up, with lots of stirring and pounding, and Ssebbaale was so pleased with the end result that he took note of the brand name of the corn (it's Indian Head White Corn Meal, for what it's worth). Everyone ended up eating it, probably to offset the spices elsewhere


Amarula is made from fermented marula fruit, and mixed with cream and sugar. It's tasty drink on the rocks that is kinda like Baileys but a little fruitier. Normally you can find it in a good liquor store, but three local places were out of stock; fortunately Smith & Vine had it. As far as the toast, Ssebbaale taught us that you always wish for "pula," or rain, since the country is a pretty dry place.

Marula also stars in af classic nature film segment from the 70s:


Fruit salad with custard

A few things that make this fruit salad notable. First, Jessica brought this ingenious device that scoops out the good part of the pineapple in one spiral, leaving both the core and the shell behind. Genius! Second, it's topped with custard, which adds a nice creaminess and sweetness. And third, in addition to a general tropical fruit assortment (though we couldn't find guava and passion fruit), it calls for olives to add a briny, bitter contrast. That flavor wasn't for me, but I'm glad to have tried it. I also made the most of a non-ideal situation: the custard was just too thin, so I threw it in the ice cream machine, and a half hour later it was frozen custard!

Next we head across the Atlantic for Brazil, where we'll try to do this huge and diverse country culinary justice, with a little samba to celebrate Carnaval season.


Moragaraga wa dinama

Serves about 10 as a side dish, perhaps six as a main course

1 lb spaghetti

1 can peas and carrots

1/2 jar marinara sauce (like Prego)

1 medium onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

3 plum tomatoes, insides scooped then diced

whatever meat appeals: we used 1 lb bratwurst, you could add shrimp too for instance

all manner of spices: in addition to the imported spice mixes we used various chili peppers, thyme, turmeric, etc. Use either garlic powder or fresh garlic.

1/4 lb shredded cheese

Method: Boil spaghetti until it's about two minutes away from done, drain and toss with a bit of oil. Preheat oven to about 375° and have a 9x13 casserole dish ready. Get two frying pans. In one cook the sausage or whatever meat you're using. In the other, start by sauteeing the onion until it starts to soften, then add the pepper, then the tomatoes, marinara sauce, and peas and carrots. As that simmers get creative with spices. About 15 minutes before dinner put everything in the casserole, mix around, and cover with cheese. Bake about 15 minutes, until the cheese melts.