Oh, hey y’all. Did I mention I went to Kenya recently?
I went out to assist our pal Laura in running her fourth medical camp with her wonderful charity Patchworking Against Poverty which helps provide front-line treatment to patients in southwestern Kenya. It was a truly humbling and wonderful experience and I got to see so much and learn even more, which was amazing. I have to finish editing photos before I do a proper photoessay but I’m already pretty pleased with some of the results:
While I was out there I was also very fortunate to be part of the team being looked after by our gracious host Doctor George and his wonderful friend, the talented Anthony Onduso. Chef Anthony was an incredible caterer, turning out delicious and nutritious delights from a tiny kitchen and outdoor open fire in the back of Dr George’s house. Every night he catered for 30 people and it was – without exception – delightful every time. Before I left I begged him to teach me some of his secrets and was very lucky to nick a couple of recipes off him.
So naturally when it came to having a few pals over for dinner and safari stories there really wasn’t a choice – lentils and plantain stew were a must!
Chef Anthony’s lentils are the stuff of legend and utterly, terrifyingly delicious. Alongside a plantain stew which is almost criminally easy and tasty to boot, this makes a properly satisfying accidentally vegetarian dinner for 6. Karibu Chef Anthony!
Serves 6-8, best made a day ahead to let the flavours all meld together
300 puy lentils, lentilles verses or green lentils (whatever you have)
2 large spring onion, thinly sliced, white and green parts*
2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tbsp coconut cream
1 tbsp madras curry powder
1 veg stock cube
1 tbsp mchuzi mix (this is a Kenyan product which appears to be a spiced stock mix, I’d sub in a mix of ground coriander, fenugreek, cumin and garlic salt)
(optional: mushroom soy sauce x 1 tsp)
Handful coriander leaves (and stems, if you have them)
- Wash the lentils and bring them to a boil in a large pot. Cook for 10 minutes before draining to ensure they’re part-boiled.
- While this is happening, heat a large pot to a medium heat with a spoon of neutral-tasting oil and throw in your onion. Cook gently for 7 min or so, stirring occasionally, until sorting and starting to go golden.
- Add the tomato and (if available), your chopped coriander stems, and cook for another 5 minutes until soft and sticky. Chef Anthony explained that it’s important to cook until the oil separates from the sauce that starts to form – it’s essential!
- Add the curry powder and tomato paste, then add a little water and the coconut cream to melt it.
- Add the lentils and top up with water to cover, then turn the heat down nice and low.
- Bring to the boil, stirring gently, then add the stock cube and mchuzi mix.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 20 min or until the lentils are soft. Check from time to time to make sure there’s enough water in the pot and the lentils aren’t sticking.
- Before serving, make sure the lentils are piping hot and stir through soy sauce (if using) and fresh coriander leaves to taste.
Serves 6-8 – also best made ahead of time
4 large plantains, nice and firm and yellow-green rather than black
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 x large spring onions, finely sliced (white and green parts)
1 red chilli, finely sliced (my little addition!)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp turmeric
salt (to taste)
Coriander, a nice handful
- Peel and slice the plantains into fat rounds and rinse in cold water to remove any stickiness.
- Heat a glug of oil in a nice deep pan on a highish heat and fry off the onion and tomato until soft.
- Add the chilli, turmeric and tomato paste and a little water to loosen.
- Add the plantains and coat them in the spice and sauce, before topping up with cold water to cover. Don’t add too much!
- Turn the heat down low and let it bubble for 5-10 minutes before checking seasoning, then stir and turn for another 10 minutes until soft and delicious-smelling. The plantain thickens the stew as it softens, but don’t be tempted to stir too vigorously or you will end up with mush.
Enjoy your lentils and plantain with rice and chapati, or Ugali if you have it!
*Chef Anthony has strong views on the relative merits of onions, and explained that white onions have too strong a taste for vegetables, in his view. If you don’t have large fat spring onions to hand, I’d suggest subbing in shallots