Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kenya cooking: Peanut soup and ugali

All this crafting was making us hungry! Time to cook up some Kenyan food.

We made Peanut Soup and Ugali, a cornbread porridge. Both turned out great and were gobbled up by The Whirl Girl, who can be a picky eater. We also made Cornbread Muffins, which were a good alternative to the ugali, though not quite as authentic. We invited some friends over to join us - just like in our book Mama Panya's Pancakes. It could be an easy weeknight meal and it keeps well for leftovers too.

The goal was to get The Whirl Girl involved in the cooking. She loves to mix and measure, so the cornbread muffins were the easiest for her participation. She also helped mix the cornmeal and water to make the ugali before I heated it. For the soup, she helped by piling the vegetables in a bowl after I cut them and then I took over the cooking. She also really liked saying ugali (who doesn't?).

Recipes for all three follow. Enjoy!

a measuring pro
mixing cornmeal with water for the ugali
a bowl of peanut soup
a kid's bowl of peanut soup and ugali (they paired well together, though an even heartier stew would be great with the ugali)
cornbread muffins

Ugali (Cornmeal Porridge)

(from Kenya Travel Ideas)

1 cup cold water
1 cup yellow cornmeal (the Mexican flour ‘Mozerapa’ is a close substitute to the Kenyan flour)
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups boiling water

Serves 4 to 6

Put cold water in a medium-size saucepan, add cornmeal and salt, mixing continually. Bring to a boil over high heat, gradually stirring and slowly add 3 cups of boiling water to prevent lumps.
Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for about 8 minutes, mixing frequently to prevent sticking.
The ugali will be done when it pulls from the sides of the pan easily and does not stick. It should look like stiff grits.

You can serve ugali with everything from meat stew to sugar and cream. Your choice!

Peanut Soup

(adapted from All Recipes - I added more veggies, some authentically Kenyan and some not, and a little extra spice)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (I pureed in food processor)
2 large red bell peppers, chopped (I pureed in food processor)
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 sweet potatoes, cut in 1" cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with liquid
8 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional - I didn't use since I was cooking for kids)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup peanut butter (I used natural creamy)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Cook onions and bell peppers until lightly browned and tender, stirring in garlic when almost done to prevent burning. Stir in tomatoes, vegetable stock, pepper, and chili powder. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Stir in rice, cover, and simmer another fifteen minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in peanut butter until well blended, and serve.

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

(from my mom's recipe book)

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup milk

Blend sugar and oil. Mix in eggs.

In separate bowl, mix flour with baking powder and salt. Add corn meal.

Blend dry ingredients with the creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Pour into a greased, floured 9" square pan or into muffin tins. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400 F oven (less for muffins - check after 20 minutes). If golden on top and toothpick cones out clean, they are ready.


  1. I can vouch that the peanut soup is delicious and I don't even like peanut butter. Thanks for having us over for drums and soups.

  2. you say ugali, i say polenta.