In some ways, Rwanda reminds me a lot of the Southern United States… especially the rural South The food is pretty basic, but good cooks know how to jazz it up. People still believe in old wives tales [but here they are called something different]. Church still takes up a big part of your Sunday… Football is pretty important [although a different kind of football], and kids play outside and create their own fun. That being said this dish is as simple as they come and instantly transports me back to childhood. Introducing 2 super simple southern dishes.
Tomates [canned works best]
Cook rice until fluffy. If you have an onion, add it if you want to, but totally not necessary. Bring tomatoes to boil and boil off some of their juices. Add tomatoes to rice. Season with salt and pepper. That’s it. Seriously, the easiest dish I could ever make in Rwanda.
Spam and Eggs
Another seriously southern dish that’s readily available in Rwanda. Also it had been YEARS since I had Spam until this.
seasoning to taste
oil for frying
Wash, peel, and cut potatoes into cubes. Fry potatoes until brown. Add water to accelerate cooking using the fry/boil method. Cut the SPAM into bite sized cubes, and fry cubes until brown. Crack eggs in a separate bowl if you want scrambled eggs, or the frying pan if you want fried eggs. Cook eggs until done. Mix potatoes, SPAM, and eggs together. Enjoy.
My absolute first experience with crepes occurred in 2010 during my South America sojourn when fellow traveler [and now friend] Emilie offered to make some. Emilie was a former pastry chef in France so if anyone would know anything about crepes, it would be her. As those memories are now fuzzy and clouded by copious alcohol consumption, I sure they were delicious. Everything she made was delicious.
Fast forward a couple years and I am back in America, living and working in a small town called Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina. One of my fellow co-workers and RNs, had decided along with her husband to take an abandoned building is said town on open a creperie. Before the restaurant actually open, Kristin brings several varieties of crepes to work to allow us hungry health care workers to sample and give feedback as to whether this particular rendition should make it on the menu. A few months later, Tandem opens and 4 years after opening, it’s still going strong.
Fast forward again to 2018, and I’m in quite literally the middle of Africa, in southern Rwanda, and my closest stage-mate just happens to be a fantastic cook who just so happened to spend some time in France. Whether the two are related, I don’t know, but I digress. Anyway, said mate and I get together at regularly planned intervals for cooking and movie watching. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, can easily pass on chocolate and Nutella, but nearly go bananas for cinnamon apples, a recent addition into my food repertoire called Biscof cookie butter, and bananas foster. I also love savory crepes filled with bacon, eggs, and cheese. Needless to say I was excited to learn how to make this ‘fancy’ dish and was promised it was easy. It is. If I can do it, so can you.
What you will need [obviously adapt this to your surrounding. If you’re in America, you can probably find All-Purpose flour. In Rwanda, not so much]
1/2 cup of milk or 1/4 cup of milk powder + 1/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of butter [or butter-like substance]
1/2 cup of water
dash or pinch of salt
whatever you want to stuff your crepes with [fruit, meat, sweetness]
Tools of the trade
a true non-stick skillet
a wire whisk
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.
Welcome to my first post in the series called Cooking in the Corps. By the end of the series, there will be [hopefully] a collection of 27 [see what I did there] recipes that I personally cooked in my kitchen either on the gas stove or the imbabura. A couple of these are of my own creation, but most are modified versions of dishes my fellow PCV Taylor taught me to cook.
Spaghetti with tomato sauce was my first meal at site. We were installed on a Thursday and this was Thursday night’s dinner [and Friday’s lunch]. Once the gas stove was set-up and tested, and once Peace Corps’ left, the first order of business, even before unpacking suitcases, making my bed, or any other essential task, was to fetch water and set about making the spaghetti sauce. I’d planned this meal from Kigali and acquired the vegetables needed while there so that there would be no difficulty in finding what I need. A hungry Michelle is not a happy Michelle and hungry Michelle makes snap decisions/judgments that a satiated Michelle would not make.
2 cooking pots
Non-stick skillet [or frying pan]
A heat source [I used a gas stove]
A sharp knife
A cutting board [preferable]
A stirring spoon of some sort
1 kg of fresh tomatoes [diced]
1 onion [diced]
1 green pepper [diced]
6 cloves of garlic [diced]
1 small can of tomato paste
Spaghetti noodles [only what you can use at one time; noodles DO NOT keep well overnight]
Spices to taste [I used salt, pepper, oregano, and rosemary]
½ L of water
Parmesan cheese [if you’ve got it]
Butter or margarine
Red wine [about ½ cup if you have it, but totally not necessary]
Turn gas on and pour water in pot. Dice all vegetables and add to water. Add 2/3 of the garlic to vegetables. Add tomato paste to pot. Stir. Add about a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon each of pepper, oregano, and rosemary. [Add more if the flavor isn’t to your liking]. Bring sauce to boil and reduce heat. Allow sauce to simmer for 15-20 minutes until water cooks out.
While sauce is simmering, add water to another pot. Break spaghetti in half and add to boiling water. Cook approximately 7-10 minutes until noodles are done. Drain water.
Pour noodles on plate.
Take one loaf of bread and cut lengthwise. Slather in butter and add garlic.