Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ugandan Traditional Stew

Traditional Uganda Stew Meal
Chicken Stew
I was blessed to eat this at Jaja (Grandma) Teopista’s house on several occasions. Teopista is our son’s grandma, and we love her dearly. It became known to me both through reputation and personal experience that Teopista is a very good cook. This is my best imitation of her much better Chicken Stew. It can be served with all the following recipes, and with either rice or Posho.
8 helpings

1 whole fryer chicken (cooked and shredded) or 3 chicken breasts sliced
¼ cup oil
2 tablespoons Beef Masala (alternate recipe below)
2 tablespoons Royco Mchuzi Mix (alternate recipe below)
2 cups of chicken broth or bullion dissolved in hot water
3-4 cups additional water (to taste)
1 medium white onion chopped
2 large carrots sliced
2 large tomatoes chopped
2 pieces of celery chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 lemons juice

Brown chicken in large stockpot with oil. When it is browned add in onion and cook until onion is starting to give off flavor.

Add in tomatoes, carrots and celery. Brown a few minutes to release flavor.

Pour in 2 cups chicken stock or bullion mix. You may add additional water as needed to keep broth from cooking down too much. Think slow cooking... 

Add in Masala and Mchuzi mix… and grated ginger and lemon juice.

Boil for an hour or turn on low for as long as needed for chicken to slow cook and start to fall apart.

Serve the brothy stew in a bowl that people can add the potatoes, rice or posho and matoke too… top all with a nice helping of Groundnut sauce. A nice fresh side item is avocado or fresh pineapple or coleslaw salad.

(Otherwise known as Plantain)
Matoke is normally bought in Uganda as huge green banana looking stalks on the roadside. But in the US you purchase as plantain and individual. It is also eaten in the green/unripe state in Uganda, steamed and mashed up into a very thick mash and is usually unseasoned and bland. Here is our family’s version that is more palatable for Americans.

3 ripe (starting to brown) plantains
1 cup water

Peel the matoke by scoring along the 3 prominent ridges of the fruit. Cut off each end. The take a butter knife or your thumb and start to work the peel off. Sometimes it is easy, other times not so much.

Once peeled, break or cut the matoke in half and put in a sauce pan, pour in just enough water to mainly cover the fruit… if they aren’t all submerged that is just fine.

Put on medium heat and cover with a lid. Don’t let it burn or let the water fully evaporate! If you do it will smell and taste like burnt sugar. Cook until softened and mash with a potato masher. It will be one big mass of gooey plantain.

Serve to be added to the Chicken Stew.

Irish Potatoes

In Uganda many locals call potatoes “Irish”. Most potatoes are red skinned small potatoes and nearly always eaten peeled.

10 small red potatoes
¼ cup butter (seriously, use butter... olive oil would work but it won't be as good!)
Small bunch of cilantro diced
1 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons Mchuzi Mix (recipe below)

Peel all the potatoes. Put in pot with some water and boil until just tender. 

Drain water and add in butter or oil and brown gently.

Add in cilantro, lemon juice and seasoning. Serve to be added to the Chicken Stew.

Groundnut Sauce

Groundnuts are Peanuts because they are grown in the ground. Street venders all over Uganda walk around with large baskets of pre-bagged red peanuts for sale. It took me some time to figure out that “ground nuts” were really peanuts. This sauce is one of the only sauces or condiments I noticed that is served with most meals. It can be served with beans and rice, and most stews. Because it is made from locally grown (often at the homes) the sauce has a grayish purple color… actually quite lovely in color, but looks far different from our “peanut butter” in the US. It is also thinner and less strong in taste. Here is the very easy way to make it, using peanut butter as the groundnut base.

1 cup creamy peanut butter (natural brand are better, those with less oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup onion diced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne if you are brave)

Brown diced onion in oil until starting to soften and brown. Turn down to low heat… or turn burner off altogether. Add in peanut butter. And stir until it is soft and thin. If it is still fairly thick you can gradually add water to your desired consistency. It should run off the spoon gradually.

Add in ginger, pepper flakes, and chili powder.

Top rice or stews with this sauce… it also makes great Chicken Satay dipping sauce!


Posho is maize (or corn) flour. That is not like corn meal flour (what we make corn bread out of)! Don't try it, it won't work! What we do that makes the most accurate Posho is to take good old Southern Grits… or polenta...

Put 1 cup grits in a blender and blend it until it is a fine powder. Take the “grit” out of those grits!

Then stir it little by little into a pan of boiling water… about 2 cups of water.

It will make this mass of grits in the pan… that is right. Just don’t let it get lumpy by adding all the flour at once… stir it in slowly.

Let it cook and absorb all the water until it is a huge mass. Then just take a spoonful or chunk and lob it on a plate. 

Locals take it with their fingers and sop up the stew with it. It is bland, but totally just like finer processed grits. You can also add some salt to the water as you add the flour/grits to add more flavor, but with the salty stew it really isn’t needed unless you are eating it with out the stew.

Now, I admit I have NO idea if this is the Ugandan way of doing it because I have never seen it made, but it tastes the same and our boy LOVES it… so it must not be that far off. 

Additionally, you could just get Polenta or Grits and sub it for the whole thing… it is close, much more coarse… but the same idea.

So this is about as close as you can get, this side of the Nile River, to a Traditional Ugandan Stew Meal. I hope you enjoy… and I will work on finding a good substitute Mchuzi and Beef Masala Mix for you!

And if you are a Ugandan reading this and thinking, “Oh dear… that is just not right!” Please feel free to correct me! I am working from taste here.

Royco Mchuzi Mix Substitute
Mix equal parts beef bullion powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, sugar, salt, fennel and cinnamon.

Beef Masala Mix Substitute
I would mix 1/2 cup cornstarch and add in ¼ cup of all these spices:
Coriander, salt, turmeric, dry mustard, fennel seeds, powdered ginger, black pepper, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, fenugreek.

Those are my best guesses, both from research and taste.

Hope you enjoy!


Julianna said...

I love that smile.

Colette said...

Thank you for the recipes! This weekend, I will be hosting several members of Childcare Worldwide's Ugandan Orphans Choir. I think I'll make the chicken stew, groundnut sauce and potatoes. Your recipes were the most detailed that I found on the internet! One question, though: Do you skin the chicken pieces before browning? God bless you and your family!

Maree said...

So yummy! I've never been to Uganda or cooked anything African, but I wanted to try a traditional Ugandan recipe for a send-off party. Several of the guests had spent time in Uganda, and they said it was just like a meal they ate often there. Everyone loved it! I tripled the recipe and adjusted the directions for stewing in the crock pot. Worked like a charm! I was most nervous about getting the spices right, but the spice mix recipes were a huge help, and it worked wonderfully! Blessings!!