The island group of Zanzibar is located off the coast of Tanzania in Africa (the “zan” in Tanzania stands for Zanzibar, in fact) and is renowned worldwide as “The Spice Islands”. In particular, the islands produce cloves (at one point, it was the world’s largest supplier of this spice), nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper.
Zanzibar is today mostly inhabited by ethnic Swahili, but there are also a number of Arabs, as well as some Indians scattered throughout the region. Virtually the entire island group population (99%) is Muslim, though the majority of Tanzania itself is not.
Not only is the archipelago stunningly beautiful, it boasts one world-famous citizen: Farrokh Bulsara.
You probably know him better as Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen – he was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
Zanzibari cuisine is redolent with a huge number of spices, not surprising given the archipelago’s nom de plume as the spice islands! You actually see a unique blend of African, Persian and Indian influences in their food, a reflection of the centuries of trading and occupation by foreign powers.
This recipe for beef pilau (rice) is one of the great Zanzibari dishes – it is very close to an Indian recipe, but has unique Zanzibari touches (use of beef, which is never used in Hindu Indian recipes, plus it is always served with an African cucumber “salsa” on the side. I provide the recipe below). It is very delicious and while you may empty your spice cabinet making this, the result is well worth it, my Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the broth:
2 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into smallish chunks
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tspn whole cardamom seeds
2 bay leaves
½ tspn peppercorns
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled
Using cheesecloth, wrap and tie all the dry whole spices and make a “Bouquet Garni” and immerse it into the a large pot of water with the beef. Mash the garlic and ginger and add to the stock. Cover and slow cook for an hour or so (or until the meat is tender). Reserve broth.
For the rice:
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large potatoes peeled and cut into medium dice
½ onion diced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp pilau seasoning – made by grinding all of the following in a spice grinder:
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 medium onions, chopped (red onions are best)
3 medium tomatoes, diced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger + 6 cloves of garlic, minced – puree in food processor to a paste
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups long grain rice – rinse and soak the rice in water for at least 20 mins before cooking
2 ½ cups of the beef broth
½ cup coconut milk, unsweetened
Salt to taste
In a large sauce pan, heat the oil and add the potatoes and brown them.
Remove the potatoes from the heat.
Add onions and sauté until translucent, add cumin seeds stir for few minutes.
Add Pilau seasoning and sauté, add the meat, stir and mix to combine.
Add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté for few minutes (do not burn).
Add all remaining ingredients except the rice and bring to a boil.
Add the rice, bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 mins.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15-20 mins or until all the liquid is absorbed.
Reduce to lowest heat and cover tight for 15-20 mins (or place in the oven at 350F for 20 mins).
Serve with Tanzanian Cucumber Salad (Kachumbari Ya Matango) – Recipe from Taste of Tanzania by Miriam Rose Kinunda
1 large cucumber
1 small carrot
1 Serrano pepper
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Peel the cucumber, cut off the ends, and cut in half lengthwise. Use a grapefruit spoon, or regular spoon, to scrape out the seeds, then slice the cucumbers very thin (into moon shapes).
2. Peel, then grate the carrot, or cut into small thin slices.
3. Cut the end off the Serrano pepper, cut the pepper in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. (Be careful not to touch your face, or any other body parts for that matter, after doing this.) Cut the halves into long thin strips, then cut the strips into tiny pieces.
4. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or a dish towel and let it stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or up to 60 minutes) before serving.