There’s much to be written about Nelson Mandela, but a Mandela cookbook isn’t exactly the first thing that springs to mind. Nevertheless, South Africa-based writer Anna Trapido has recently published Hunger for Freedom: The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela, a “gastro-political biography.” Before you decide that the project is shallow–after all, what Mandela eats is surely of less importance than what he did–consider Trapido’s argument: “…there is nothing innately frivolous or disrespectful about food. We all reveal our most elementary social, economic and emotional truths in the ways that we cook, eat and serve food.” That’s very true. And reading about the food life of a legendary figure gives a reality and a texture to their lives that we can all identify with–as Trapido says, discovering what Mandela ate for lunch in prison, or what childhood foods he felt nostalgic for, humanizes a figure who otherwise seems impossibly far away.
The book follows Mandela from his childhood, during which he ate Mvezo dishes–simple, corn-based meals like umphokoqo, maize seasoned with sour milk–through to his days in prison, when black prisoners were given such scanty rations that food had to be smuggled in.
Click through to get the recipe for a chicken curry dish, which was one of the dishes covertly brought to Mandela in prison.
Farida Omar’s Chicken Curry
Yield: about 6 servings
Recipe from Hunger for Freedom, by Anna Trapido
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
3 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
2 onions sliced thin
2 teaspoons garlic crushed
2 big tomatoes, grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 large whole chicken, portioned and skinned
2cm chunk of grated fresh root ginger
3 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1- 2 teaspoons chile powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 cups (about 375ml) chicken stock
6-8 small potatoes, peeled
Heat the oil.
Fry the cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves in the oil until they release their aroma.
Add the butter and the onions and fry until translucent, then add the garlic and stir through.
Once the garlic releases aroma, add the grated tomato and tomato paste and cook over a low heat to form a thick sauce.
When you see the oil coming to the top of the sauce, add the chicken pieces, ginger, coriander, cumin, chile, and turmeric.
Braise the chicken curry with 1 1/2 cups boiling water or chicken stock until the chicken is almost cooked through, approximately 20 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half, add and cook them with the chicken until they are very soft, about 20 minutes.
Serve with roti breads.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 20, 2009