Best of September

I was so right when I predicted that my best of September would be Marracuene! I really couldn’t pull together anything better to compare.

What else have I done this month? Read, listened to music and blogged most of the time. TV intake was less than five hours during the whole month: two soccer games and an interview with Arnaldo Jabor, a Brasilian journalist that I really admire. I also have a new interest in my life: African dance. I think I can manage three different steps and have lots of fun. This kind of dance is not sensual, I think, but I find it very liberating.

It was late yesterday when Andy arrived with Rob, and his new second hand car. They seemed really proud, the owner and the assistant, so I rushed to take the pic. I am glad Andy has lots of good friends, because it is not easy for him to be apart from his girlfriend studying in Brazil, as it is evident when we look at his bedroom door.

Andy was particularly happy with my weekend cooking efforts, because I selected some of his favourite foods: tomato soup, matapa and chicken schnitzel. We also opened a Cuvée Président bottle, from Algerie. That should do for the weekend.

Tomato Soup:
Serves 4
2 tbs of olive oil
1 large onion
2 gloves of garlic
1 large can of good Italian tomatoes
4 to 8 fresh tomatoes
1 generous portion of oregano
1 small portion of linguini

Pour olive oil into a pan and gently cook the onion and garlic. Canned and fresh tomatoes plus sauté onions and garlic go to the blender. Strain the mix to the same pan, add enough water, oregano, salt, pepper and a little bit of linguini cut in small peaces. Let it boil for half an hour or until creamy and tasty. When serving you can add: parmesan, crotons, more oregano or olive oil.

After some years living in Mozambique, the way we cook has changed a little due to the crossing of different cultures. I’m leaving here two samples of crossing cuisine: chicken schnitzel and matapa.

Mozambican Chicken Schnitzel:
Prepare thin chicken breast schnitzels and marinate them with salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and lemon peel. Dip the chicken breasts in the usual egg beat and then roll them over grated coconut or a combination of half breadcrumbs and half coconut. Coconut can go first to the blender to make it less coarse. Fry and serve with your favorite salad. The twist is the use of coconut, as evident.

Another example is matapa, one of the strongest dishes we can often see on Mozambican tables. Traditionally, preparation of matapa is a complicated process. We found a way of doing almost the same with less pain. Doesn’t matapa sounds like coming from the Lion King movie?

1 good portion of Swiss chard (you can mix different kinds of spinach)
10 to 20 medium size prawns

1 cup of raw peanuts
1 cup of dried coconut
1 medium onion
2 gloves of garlic
1 tbs of cooking oil
2 tbs of tomato purée

>Fry the garlic and onion in the oil until soft. Add the tomato and the prawns. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes and remove. Rest the prawns in a plate and return the pan to the heat to cook the spinach. When cooked, put it into the blender and use the pulse to cut everything finely. Return the spinach and prawns to the pan, leaving it in a very low temperature while you prepare coconut and peanut milk.

Take the peanuts (the small kind is the best) and put them as they are in the blender, preferably without skin. Add very hot water and blend well, until it looks like a milk shake. Reserve the mix. Repeat the same operation with the coconut. Return to the pan and strain both milks into the spinach and prawns, starting with the peanut and after a while the coconut milk. Mix constantly until smooth, this can take 30 to 60 minutes. Some people simplify this recipe using peanut butter and canned coconut milk. Even if not the same, it can give you an idea of the perfect result.


JP has just arrieved, tired and without a single mussel, complaining about murky waters (a danger because Xai-Xai is a shark infested area) and hot weather, and anxious because he is supposed to leave soon to Gulf of Mexico, a true test to his diving endurance.