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In Uganda, katogo is greater than sun-dried cassava and reminiscences | Fork the System


“We now have two extra bunches” I shouted in order that my youthful sister, who was within the different room, may hear me as I carried two arms of recent inexperienced bananas (domestically often called matooke) from the entrance door to the kitchen. It was the second time that week that we had acquired bananas from beneficiant neighbours and now we had a heap of 4 arms to eat our approach by means of.

Getting ready inexperienced bananas for cooking is a tedious course of, so I steered we sit on the verandah to peel them whereas we nonetheless had daylight because it was late within the afternoon. Armed with the most effective knives we may discover, my sister and I sat down, placed on a podcast, and began peeling the bananas. The plan was to peel all of them after which retailer them within the fridge for use for katogo later, prepping, as most cooks will let you know, is every thing.

As I haphazardly, erratically, peeled one finger – one thing that was anticipated, particularly if you’re nonetheless thought of an newbie – I remembered the various occasions that I, as a slipshod baby, watched my mom peel matooke to make katogo with easy grace. Her course of was a rhythmic flourish between arms, knife, and banana fingers. She would do extra than simply grip the knife, she gently held it in place, simply so, so the peels glided off the bananas in a powerful swoop.

Peeled Green Bananas
‘I’m but to grasp the artwork of peeling matooke, however I nonetheless do it’ [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

My best want as a baby at the moment was to develop up so I may know the way to peel matooke completely, like my mom. That was how we realized to cook dinner, that was how information generally, and meals information particularly, was handed down by means of the generations. You watched lots, then practised and practised till you knew the way to do it.

As a curious baby, that was how I realized the meals information that might kick-start my curiosity in meals and ultimately meals storytelling. Quick ahead to now, I like speaking about meals, writing about it, cooking it, photographing it, and consuming it.

‘Eh, katogo simply!’

At the moment, in the event you have been to ask me what meal I’m most definitely to eat for the remainder of my life, I’ll at all times select katogo, that easy Ugandan dish I watched my mom and grandmother make so many occasions as a baby. It is rather adaptable, it offers me – and any cook dinner actually – room to experiment with it and to work with both no matter elements are available or new ones that I need to check out.

I believe I knew that as a baby as a result of I paid shut consideration to how that easy dish – of a starch cooked down with both a protein or a vegetable collectively in a single pot right into a wealthy pottage-like meal – is made.

Cassava and Beans Katogo
My mom’s mom made cassava and bean katogo, letting it cook dinner right down to a wealthy combination [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

Though it’s generally perceived as a easy, primary dish, katogo is an something and everything-goes meal that’s a lot extra than simply mixing elements collectively. In only one chunk, the composition of the dish can inform you a large number in regards to the cook dinner, the season, or the place you might be consuming it.

The phrase katogo itself is derived from varied Bantu languages in Uganda and straight interprets to “a combination or mélange of issues” in English. Initially, katogo is understood to have consisted of cassava cooked with beans. In components of Uganda the place Irish potatoes are grown lots, it’s extra more likely to discover katogo made with Irish potato as the principle starch, and areas the place matooke is consumed essentially the most may have matooke as an alternative of cassava. Sometimes, yams and candy potatoes are used too.

“Katogo” has made its approach out of the kitchen too, and the phrase can be used to explain non-food gadgets and conditions in Uglish – which is the native city dialect that mixes English, Luganda, and typically Swahili. For instance, if you’re attending a live performance and it appears disorganised and chaotic, you’d merely say “Eh, that live performance is katogo simply!”

Woven baskets of cassava

My earliest reminiscence of cassava and beans katogo was on the yearly journeys my household took to our grandparents’ properties in Kasese in western Uganda. As quickly as I used to be sufficiently big, I might assist out with harvesting the cassava that was going to be preserved for the yr. We’d decide the recent cassava proper out of the bottom and fill our woven baskets with it, then we might carry them residence on our heads or backs.

Cassava Tubers
We’d carry the hampers of cassava residence on our heads or backs [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

At residence, the cassava could be cleaned, peeled, sliced and laid out to sun-dry. As they dried, the entire home could be surrounded by a lingering, barely fermented aroma that I completely beloved. In reality, all the homes within the space would have that very same aroma as nicely.

When utterly dried, the cassava items could be floor right into a flour that’s used to make the favored cassava and millet (and typically sorghum) swallow referred to as Obundu or A kalo in western Uganda and Kwon kal in northern Uganda. A swallow is a cooked, starchy dough-like aspect dish that’s kneaded or blended till it reaches the consistency the cook dinner prefers and is then eaten with wealthy, hearty stews.

Among the recent cassava was destined for the katogo, and I might watch attentively as my mom’s mom took a portion of that harvested cassava, peeled and minimize it into bite-sized chunks after which put them in a pot and boiled them. She would then add about 2 – 3 handfuls of already cooked beans to the boiling cassava, add coarse salt to style, and let the katogo cook dinner down right into a wealthy combination because the cassava steeped within the soup from the beans.

She labored with such an easy methodology that might solely be attributed to numerous years of cooking this meals, on this approach. In lower than an hour, a meal could be able to serve with a aspect of steamed greens. It was such a easy dish, however the freshness of the cassava and beans cooked down in a clay pot rendered a singular flavour.

Women sieve cassava (manioc) for the preparation of the attieke side dish in Abidjan
Dried cassava is floor right into a flour that’s used for cassava and millet swallow [File: Sia Kambou/AFP]

Later, once we moved to Kampala in central Uganda, I came upon that this straightforward combination of cassava and beans is usually served with a  aspect of ghee. The addition of ghee alone may have anybody who tastes this meal asking for seconds.

As a result of it’s a combination of a starch and a protein, katogo may be cooked with any elements, relying on what you favor. Among the many accompaniments to the bottom starch that I’ve seen in katogo are beans, beef stew, offal, groundnut stew, a wealthy tomato stew or actually every other stew it’s possible you’ll want.

Potato-peanut katogo

My fascination with meals led me to start out a meals weblog in 2014, by means of which I used to be capable of discover extra the method of getting ready meals and the way mixing totally different elements will at all times yield one thing distinctive. It’s a web based journal for me to chronicle my experiences within the kitchen, share what I’ve realized, and work together with fellow meals fans on the market.

It has grown since, developed into an archive of a whole bunch of recipes primarily based on native elements and right into a group of foodies who additionally tune in to my very personal podcast, Our Meals Tales – one other place to inform Ugandan meals tales, previous and current, so we are able to preserve the reminiscence of those that handed these tales on to us alive.

Irish Potato and Groundnut Paste Katogo
I realized to make potato and groundnut katogo as a ceremony of passage [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

I’ve three katogo recipes on my weblog, one is for a easy Irish potato, groundnut and tomato model, the second has candy potatoes, yams and potatoes with a extra intricate sauce and beans, and the third one is the traditional matooke katogo. The recipes are primary and clear, as a result of they go away room so that you can add no matter you want. Beans, meat, tofu, something goes.

The origins of katogo are unknown, nevertheless it has been cooked for ages and each area, actually, each family, may have its personal model that varies relying on the elements obtainable, the season, and the extent of comfort.

When my household and I stayed in Kampala, we had entry to quite a lot of groundnuts – or peanuts – just because that is an ingredient that’s utilized in a wide range of dishes within the central a part of the nation. The groundnuts are roasted and floor into both a flour or a paste that’s used for dishes akin to groundnut stew, which pairs exceptionally nicely with mashed matooke cooked wrapped up in a banana leaf. We additionally had an abundance of Irish potatoes that are a standard meals for many city dwellers.

Like many components of the continent, The Cambridge World Historical past of Meals shares that the Irish potato – the identical selection that featured within the Irish potato famine led to by a mould infestation within the crop – was launched to Uganda by means of European missionaries and colonisers. Because the potato tubers may very well be saved within the floor, their recognition grew in war-torn areas. The crop is grown primarily within the highlands of the western area of Uganda and transported to Kampala for consumption.

Irish Potatoes
The Irish potato was launched to Uganda by means of European missionaries and colonisers [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

As a result of we had an abundance of potatoes and peanuts, we loved making and consuming Irish potato and groundnut paste katogo, the primary recipe I shared on my weblog.

Making this model of katogo is simple, as straightforward as washing and peeling your potatoes, slicing them to the dimensions you want after which bringing them to a boil. As soon as the potatoes are parboiled, dissolve the groundnut paste right into a small bowl of water to create a runny porridge-like consistency. Then add the groundnut paste combination, salt​,​ and curry powder to the boiling potatoes and let the katogo simmer until cooked down. Each time we wished to raise the flavour of our katogo, we might fry chopped onions, garlic​,​ and tomatoes in oil after which add the potatoes and allow them to cook dinner within the oily aromatics earlier than including the groundnut paste combination.

This type of katogo was one of many many dishes I needed to be taught to make as a ceremony of passage for a Ugandan girl-child. As quickly as I realized the way to make this katogo – at about 10 years of age – I began taking on the duty for cooking meals for my youthful siblings from my mom.

Potato-groundnut katogo is finest served with a glass of chilled ardour fruit juice and kachumbali (a salad of thinly sliced tomatoes and crimson onions).

A Ugandan man carries bunches of matoke, or unsweet bananas, to market in the village of Lwamaggwa, near Masaka, in Uganda
A Ugandan man carries bunches of matoke to market within the village of Lwamaggwa, close to Masaka, in Uganda [File: Ben Curtis/AP Photo]

‘Poor man’s meals’

About 20 years in the past, give or take, katogo was largely thought of “poor man’s meals”. My father as soon as informed me that this was as a result of cassava was launched to the Ugandan food plan as a famine-fighting crop.

Due to that, most individuals didn’t need to be seen consuming katogo, fearful that it will indicate poverty or battle. However, with urbanisation and the busy life-style that’s most individuals’s actuality as we speak, the dish has reemerged as a meal that’s handy, straightforward to make, and really filling.

In newer variations, matooke has changed cassava and meat or offal have changed beans, particularly in cities. Stroll round downtown Kampala and you will discover katogo provided in lots of breakfast joints and in fairly a couple of high-end eating places. In fact, every institution provides its personal spin to it.

Most of our dishes in Uganda are typically sluggish meals that require quite a lot of preparation and cooking time. Take the hen luwombo, an ideal instance.

To begin with, word that it will not be an genuine luwombo if the hen has not been roasted on an open flame to infuse a smoky flavour into the meat. To make hen luwombo, you need to slaughter the hen (if it’s a native breed) and gown it. The following step is to chop the hen into items, in the event you desire it minimize up, and chop the accompanying greens and aromatics: onions, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, carrots, no matter you’ve gotten available.

Matooke Katogo Ingredients
be sure to’ve oiled your arms and the knife you can be utilizing to peel the inexperienced bananas [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

You then have to organize the luwombo pouches, that are made out of tempered tender banana leaves. To mood banana leaf, put the clear leaves within the solar for a minimum of 20 minutes until they grow to be limp, then smoke them gently and take out the leaf ribs. Be sure to don’t tear the leaves, they received’t work as nicely in the event you do. You want leaves to wrap the hen, extra leaves to wrap the pouches of hen, and nonetheless extra to line the pot they are going to be cooked in.

As soon as the leaves are prepared, the hen is wrapped up within the luwombo pouches together with the accompanying greens and aromatics and tied nicely. Then the pouches are wrapped once more and put into the lined pot and sealed. Then comes the cooking half, the place the hearth’s temperature needs to be monitored in order that the hen is totally cooked by means of however doesn’t burn. This complete course of can take anyplace from 3 to six hours.

Evaluate hen luwombo with the straightforward katogo strategy of simply “throwing every thing in a pot” and simmering, and you will notice what makes katogo the go-to meal for most individuals who want a fast, hearty dish.

Put the matooke within the katogo

Earlier than you begin to make matooke katogo, just be sure you’ve oiled your arms and the knife you can be utilizing to peel the inexperienced bananas as a result of, in any other case, the sap will stick with each and stain them.

To make katogo for a crowd, peel 10-15 inexperienced bananas, placing them in a bowl of water to keep away from extreme oxidation as you’re employed. When you’re accomplished, wash your arms and get a clear pan on medium warmth and add 1 teaspoon of oil. As soon as the oil has warmed up, add chopped onions and garlic and allow them to cook dinner until translucent.

Matooke Katogo
Basic matooke katogo: You may add no matter you want – beans, meat, tofu, something goes [Sophie Musoki/Al Jazeera]

Subsequent, add 5-7 chopped tomatoes to the onions – the tomatoes are going to be the stew, so add as many as you want to have sauce on the finish. Add salt, Royco (a preferred spice combine in Uganda, you should use every other spice combine you favor), and curry powder, and let the tomatoes cook dinner until tender and jammy. When you discover that the tomatoes are a bit tart and acidic, sprinkle a little bit of sugar and blend it by means of to melt the flavour.

Add the bananas to the pan with sufficient water to almost cowl them. The quantity of water you add to the katogo will decide the consistency. Extra water will make it mushy and soupy and vice versa. Let the katogo boil until the bananas are nearly tender. Add black pepper to style.

As soon as the katogo begins changing into tender, scale back the warmth and let it braise and simmer within the tomatoes till it has lowered down and produced a wealthy crimson tomato stew. Take away from the warmth and serve with ghee, a aspect of sliced avocado, and spicy ginger tea if the climate is chilly.

Higher but, make a pot of katogo and preserve it in a single day to eat within the morning when the flavours have married nicely and intensified.

Though I’m but to grasp the artwork of peeling matooke, I nonetheless do it and I don’t let it deter me from persevering with to have a good time and eat katogo and its many variations.

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