from: Eastern Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering
Various Biriani rice dishes are common in the cuisine of India and neighboring countries. Swahili cuisine has both Biriani and Pilau, showing influences from both Arabia and India. Biriani rice dishes are also very popular in South Africa.
What you need
- one unripe papaya; peeled, seeded, and grated
- two cloves garlic, minced
- one teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
- two to three pounds of meat (mutton, beef, goat, or chicken), cut into serving-sized pieces
- two cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
- juice of two limes
- oil for frying
- four to six onions, sliced
- four to six potatoes, sliced
- one-half teaspoon ground cardamom
- four whole cloves (these are "cloves" not "cloves of garlic")
- one small cinnamon stick (or a quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon)
- one-half teaspoon cumin seed (or a quarter teaspoon ground cumin)
- one-half teaspoon coriander seed (or a quarter teaspoon ground coriander)
- one-half teaspoon whole black peppercorns (or a quarter teaspoon ground pepper)
- a few pinches of salt
- two or three ripe tomatoes, chopped
- small can tomato paste
- three or four cups of rice
What you do
- Grind together the papaya, garlic, and ginger, mixing them into a paste. Place the mixture into a large pot and add the meat, buttermilk (or yogurt), and lime juice. Cover and begin to cook over a low heat, stirring regularly.
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Fry the onions in hot oil. When onions are browned, remove them from the skillet and set aside. Fry the potatoes in the same oil. When browned, remove the potatoes and set them aside. Keep oil in skillet.
- Grind together all the spices (or whichever ones you have) and add them to the meat mixture. Stir. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and a few spoonfuls of oil from the skillet. Stir and continue to cook over low heat. Add warm water if sauce becomes to thick.
- Cook rice in the usual way. (One part rice to two parts water, with a little of the oil from the skillet.) The meat should be done by the time the rice is cooked. Pre-heat oven to medium heat.
- Line the edges of a large baking dish with the fried potatoes (save some of the potatoes for the top). Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a third of the cooked rice. Pour most of the meat mixture over the rice. (Save some of the meat mixture, keep it warm, and serve it with the biriani at the table.) Carefully cover the meat with a second layer of rice. Place the onions (but save a few onions for the top) over the second layer of rice. Cover the onions with the third layer of rice. Place the remaining potatoes and onions on the top. Bake this in a medium oven for twenty to thirty minutes.
- Serve Cardamom Tea, or Chai with the meal, or afterwards.
China from China
For hundreds of years Chinese porcelain bowls and plates were the most desirable containers for serving and storing food in Eastern Africa. Indeed, this was the case all over the world. For over a thousand years, from about 600 to 1700, the Chinese were
monopoly producers of porcelain because they alone knew the secrets of its manufacture; so extensive was their control of porcelain manufacture that the word china became synonymous with porcelain. From the very beginning, Chinese porcelain was highly prized in Western Asia and the Middle East and it was traded in Eastern Africa soon thereafter.
The Swahili people were much involved in the porcelain trade. They used Chinese porcelain themselves for serving food and for display as art objects. They also incorporated Chinese porcelain into the very walls of their houses; examples of this can be seen at the Gedi ruins in Kenya. To this day, pieces of Chinese blue and white porcelain lost or broken in shipment can be found along the beaches of Lamu and Mombasa.
Most of the Chinese porcelain that ended up in Eastern Africa passed through the hands of Swahili, Arab, and Indian middlemen who regularly sailed and traded throughout the Arabian Sea, Indian ocean, and Bay of Bengal. However, on a few remarkable occasions between 1413 and 1422 Chinese ships, commanded by Admiral Zheng He (also spelled Cheng Ho, 1371-1434?), sailed as far west as Eastern Africa. These "Treasure Fleets" were comprised of dozens of ships, many larger than any other ships of the era, and they carried thousands of tons of Chinese goods to trade and to demonstrate the superiority of Chinese civilization. They also collected tribute and gifts for the emperor. On one occasion they returned to China with a giraffe, which they believed to be a chi'i-lin or unicorn. Eventually, after a new emperor came to the throne, China abandoned its program of maritime exploration and trade.
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