Tag Archives: Matu Munchies

Matu Munchies: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

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In Mozambique, people only acknowledge two seasons: summer and winter.

Because I love Fall more than any other season, I kind of refuse to accept that it is not recognized and, therefore, would like to declare that it is Fall in Mozambique. We are in that space between the hottest days and the coldest days. And that is Fall!

It does not look or feel the same here, although I did find a type of tree whose leaves are golden yellow on the underside so I can go beneath those trees and pretend it’s Fall any time of year. The leaves of the mango trees are turning yellow and falling, getting crispy and blowing in the breeze. It’s even pumpkin season in the north of Moz (but not here…). And sometimes the newly fresh morning breeze will blow just right as I am making coffee and it feels and smells just like a calm Fall morning.

With all of these southern hemisphere Fall feelings, I was quick to splurge on two butternut squashes a couple of weeks ago at the South African import supermarket in Vilanculos. We hadn’t seen any other kind of squash or pumpkin in our area…save for some unfamiliar thing that they call a squash but that tasted like dirty potatoes, so it was well worth it

So much happiness at the sight of a squash!

We first made wraps with butternut squash and couve (like kale). Then there were tostadas with black beans and butternut squash, which was then repurposed into black bean butternut squash pasta salad. Next were mashed butternut squash and green apple pancakes with honey on top. And the toss up for my two favorite creations was between butternut squash bread and coconut butternut squash soup.

The bread was delicious and satisfied any Fall flavor cravings, with a good cup of tea to go with it. If you want to give it a go, use your favorite pumpkin bread recipe and sub boiled and mashed butternut squash for pumpkin! I topped it with oats and raisins.

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Here’s what I used for a thick, creamy, Fall soup:

The milk of 1 coconut, about 2 cans

3 cups of boiled, cubed butternut squash. If pumpkin is more readily available to you, sub pumpkin here!

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 tsp. cinnamon

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

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Here’s how I did it:

 If you are using a fresh coconut, shave it and milk it. To get milk from freshly-shaved coconut, pour about 1/4 cup hot water over the top of the shavings, squeeze or press the coconut to get the milk out, pour it all into a strainer over another bowl and press the coconut again to release any more liquid. Set this first milk aside; it is the richest and is best added at the end of a recipe for flavor and thickness. Repeat this milking process two more times.

If you are not using fresh coconut, your first step is to chop and sauté your onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add your cubed butternut squash and sauté for about 3 minutes, adding the cinnamon and the first round of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I went light on the red pepper flakes, as I wanted a sweeter finished product, but it is up to you!

Next, add your 2nd and 3rd coconut milkings if fresh, or 2/3 of your coconut milk if canned. Bring to a boil and let it boil for about 3 minutes, just to get the butternut squash nice and soft.

Because I have that fancy immersion blender that I told you about in the Pineapple Salsa recipe, my next step was to immersion blenderize (yes) my soup until it was smooth. If you don’t have such a thing, you can blend it in a normal blender.

If you still don’t have such a thing, here’s what I would recommend: mash your boiled and cubed butternut squash, sauté your onions, add coconut milk and mashed squash to the saucepan, let liquid boil off until the soup reaches a thick consistency, stirring well all the while.

Finally, whether your soup was blended or mashed, add your 1st and richest coconut milking, or the rest of your coconut milk. Mix this well by hand, and add additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.

To complete the meal, we made a garlic flatbread for dipping.

Whether you’re pretending it’s Moz Fall or snuggling up in Denver’s Spring blizzard this weekend, this simple soup will satisfy!

Happy cooking, and happy eating.

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Matu Munchies: Pineapple Salsa

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To kickoff the Matu Munchies ‘series,’ I chose one of my very favorite recipes that I made up and have made over and over again since arriving at site: pineapple salsa.

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Once or twice a week we make it down to our bigger market in Mapinhane. Sometimes we find gems here that we can’t find at the market closer to our house: carrots, couve (like kale), lettuce, and potatoes. There is a man that sometimes sits outside of this market area, under a tree, selling pineapples that are laid out on a tarp. They cost 40 metacais, a bit less than one dollar.

And somehow, over the past three months in Mapinhane, pineapples have come to signify salsa.

For this simple salsa, I use:

2 parts tomato to 1 part pineapple. I use about 3-4 Roma-type tomatoes to 5 large chunks of pineapple

1 small green pepper, if I can find one

1/4 of an onion

1 clove of garlic

Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper flakes or hot sauce or hot peppers to taste

Because the pineapple is so juicy, I recommend de-seeding the tomatoes before chopping them so that the salsa will be slightly less liquidy. Then, dice up the pineapple chunks, green pepper, onion and garlic. Sprinkle the spices on top.

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Our wonderful foody PCV predecessor left behind an immersion blender, this magnificently handy tool that I had never once used before coming to Mozambique, oddly enough. I use this to blend our salsa, leaving it slightly chunky. A blender, food processor, or manual food processor will work too, of course. And if you live without that ‘energia’ and without any of these handy gadgets, dice everything real small, mix and enjoy as is!

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Check back soon for The Sarahs’ Homemade Tortilla Chips recipe!

Introducing ‘Matu Munchies’

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One of my biggest fears about Peace Corps Mozambique was that I would lose the means to cook and eat well. I had really begun to enjoy cooking in the States, and felt like we were on a really good track with cooking and eating for our health. When we decided to come here, I knew I would no longer have access to grocery stores full of plentiful produce and aisle after aisle of spices, grains, proteins, sauces, and strangely wonderful things like prepackaged bread crumbs. I also knew we could be cooking over a charcoal stove for two years – the fact that we aren’t makes life much easier!

But, despite the days of only being able to find tomatoes, onions, coconuts, and peanuts for produce in the market, I have been pleasantly surprised at how many new and delicious recipes we have been able to make here in Mozambique.

We have experimented with baked goods, making Sunday breakfast something to look forward to.

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Mango Crumble

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Sesame Seed Bagels

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Christmas morning breakfast featuring mango crumble, chocolate peanut butter cake, eggs, tropical mimosas and coffee

We have learned to make Mozambican dishes, or make things the Mozambican way.

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Fresh coconut milk is a Moz thing.

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Pina coladas made with fresh pineapple and fresh coconut milk are a variation of the abovementioned Moz thing.

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And there’s always a friend to munch the milked coconut.

We have given and received food: give a peanut butter cookie and receive cashews, give matapa and receive folha de feijão. Give fajitas, give cinnamon rolls, give chips and guac. Receive strange squashes, receive roasted goat meat, receive basellas: free avocados, tomatoes, carrots, and a coconut from the market ladies…and gent.

I even made my own bread crumbs. Old bread. Cheese grater. Successful crispy pan-fried cucumber.

We aren’t so busy here, and we have a lot of time to think. We sometimes spend hours making ‘labor of love’ meals: coconut rice and bean burritos with pineapple salsa (it’s a labor when you’re making the coconut milk from a coconut, and when the beans are dried and must be soaked and boiled for hours), chicken coconut curry (it’s a labor when you’re dealing with a whole chicken…), cinnamon rolls (it’s a labor when they don’t come out of a tube), and pesto pasta (each basil leave picked fresh off the plant out back).

So, those of who have been following for a while may recall how I like to branch out and expand the blog a bit every now and then. A while back I introduced Tuesday Talk posts, then Our Table, where I began sharing recipes. For the sake of Peace Corps, I started 3 Smiles and A Struggle. Now, combining what’s already here I give you Matu Munchies.

Matu because we live in the “matu,” which is the word used by Mozambicans to describe rural, bush areas. Because of our location on the major north-south highway in Moz, and our close proximity to the larger town of Vilanculos, I didn’t consider Mapinhane to be very rural. However, Peace Corps and townies alike say Mapinhane is matu. Our site is rated a 2-3 on Peace Corp’s 1-5 rural scale (1 being the most rural) because of what we lack access to here, like an ATM, a major market or store. And as far as townies go, we’ve heard it said that Mapinhane is matu because it’s ‘tranquilo’ and there’s nothing going on. Townies know.

Munchies because the posts will be about things you can eat.

When you read a Matu Munchies post, you will find recipes that you can probably reproduce wherever you are, whether you are a fellow PCV elated over finding a carrot in the market today, or a reader in the States that can find a carrot any old day in any old size grown any old way! You will find stories of our trials and tribulations in the kitchen, and our growing connection with food that comes to us seasonally. During those times when my market stalls are nearly empty, you may find out just how many things you really can do with a tomato.

Whatever it may be, as always, I hope you enjoy getting happily lost with me on this new leg of our journey!

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Namaacha Mango Cake.

Small-Batch, Home-Smooshed: How to Make Your Own Delicious Peanut Butter

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Vocabulary from my Colorado roots:

small-batch.

home-brewed.

At least the last time I checked. The more intimate an alcohol, the better.

Vocabulary from my Mozambican kitchen:

small-batch.

home-smooshed.

The more intimate the peanut butter, the better.

Peanuts here in Mozambique are an abundant resource, a nutritional powerhouse that is common in mashambas, or home gardens. You may remember this story, that I posted last Spring, about writing, but in reference to the power of peanut butter for HIV/AIDs patients in Mozambique.

We can always find peanuts in our market;  women here use peanuts mainly to make peanut flour that they add to various sauces. We use peanuts to roast, and make the most hearty, fresh, delicious, nutritious peanut butter that we have ever put into our mouths. In my experience in Mapinhane, the women do not seem to use peanuts to make peanut butter and they aren’t familiar with the process. But when we tell them that’s why we are buying a plethora of peanuts, they ask to try our finished product.

Although the process for making peanut butter here is done with a pilão (giant wooden mortar and pestle) and a whole lot of força (good ole strength), if you are reading this from America, I must tell you that you should stop buying peanut butter and start making it. In your beautiful, electric food processor.

Once you go small-batch, home-smooshed you’ll never go back.

 

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Raw peanuts to roasted.

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We dry-roast our peanuts on the stove, keeping them moving at all times. You do not need to put anything in this pan except for your raw peanuts. When the skins come off easily between your fingers, the peanuts are sufficiently roasted. Roasting the peanuts allows them to release their oils when smooshed; this is what turns them into peanut butter. Unroasted, smooshed peanuts will turn into peanut flour.

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After the peanuts are roasted, let them cool until you can touch them comfortably. Then the most laborious part of the process begins: taking the skins off of the peanuts. We have heard that you can make peanut butter without taking the skins off, but we have yet to try it.

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The roasted, de-skinned peanuts are then put into our little pilão for smooshing!

 

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Let the força begin! Smoosh, smoosh, smoosh the peanuts until they turn into peanut butter. Or put them in your food processor…if you don’t want to have any fun. Just kidding…I would use one if I had one…

 

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Our finished product.

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As much fun as it was to make daily rations of peanut butter in our baby pilão, thanks to this very Mozambican birthday gift from Alex, we can now make a whole week’s worth of peanut butter in our mama pilão

 

Happy Smooshing!

On Matapa, and female friends

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One thing that I became immediately aware of when we got to Mapinhane was that our neighborhood is full of males. We only have 2 female teaching colleagues at our school, and only one of them lives in the neighborhood. It became clear to me that I am going to need some female company, and that I am going to have to make an effort to find it.

There are a lot of women in the town of Mapinhane. They are always working in their mashambas (gardens), going from here to there, carrying many items and at least one child, or tending to their shops. They are busy. But they are friendly too. Upon greeting them, they usually break into a big smile and an enthusiastic greeting back. If they have a moment they will stop and chat with us. Or if we have a moment (of which we have many right now) we stop and chat with them at their stores and market stalls.

After 6 weeks here, there a couple of women that I have really come to enjoy and I wondered how I could continue to build friendships with them outside of our daily shopping needs and small talk conversations. Like I said, women here are very busy. And also, Mozambican culture is not American culture. At home, if I wanted to build a friendship I would probably suggest meeting for a drink or coffee or a meal or going for a hike or a ski. But none of these things are things here.

One way I thought of to make friends with the women here is to work with them on whatever they are doing. Another way is teach them something, like English or baking, if they want to learn. And a third way is to ask them to teach you something.

It was in this third way that I went out on a limb one day recently, outside of our bread shop. We were talking with Celia, the woman who sells bread in Mapinhane, about Mozambican food. We told her that one of our favorite Mozambican dishes is Matapa, and we asked her if anyone in Mapinhane sells prepared Matapa that we could buy for lunch once in a while. She shrugged and said she didn’t think so.

The next day when I went to buy bread, I asked Celia if she would teach me to make Matapa. There were a few seconds of anxiety, you know, that fear of rejection when, reminiscent of first grade, you ask someone if they want to be your friend. Despite my desire to eat Matapa, my request for a cooking lesson was more grown-up, Peace Corps, living-in-another-culture code for “PLEASE, be my friend!!”

She smiled and got a little embarrassed. She agreed with a drawn out “oooookkkkaaayy” that indicated at least a bit of reluctance. But, she agreed!

Just as giddy as a first grader in those early days of a new friendship, I looked so forward to my cooking lesson with Celia. After assuring Celia that Alex would not be upset about my spending a few hours out of the house, (another topic of discussion for later: husbands in the eyes of Mozambican women…) I passed a few hours Sunday afternoon, learning to make this delightful Mozambican dish and smiling to myself as she told passersby, “I am teaching my friend to make Matapa.”

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We began by pulling leaves off of the Matapa plants in Celia’s yard. She taught me to pull from the top, as the lower leaves are older and bitter. This is the same plant as tapioca or casava, as it is called in other parts of the world. The root is like a potato and has many uses as well.

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We then had to pilar, or smoosh, the Matapa leaves. As you may recall, pilar-ing was one of the skills we learned during our homestay in Namaacha, but we had only ever done it with peanuts.

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Next we pilared raw peanuts to make peanut flour.

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Throwback to that time in Namaacha when I learned to ralar, or shave, fresh coconut. This is what we did next in the Matapa making process.

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Then we added our peanut flour to the shaved coconut, poured a bit of hot water over it, and squeezed, producing the first, sweet coconut milk. We poured the first milk into the Matapa pan, and then repeated this coconut milking 2 more times, with each subsequent milk getting less sweet.

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We used a very fine strainer to add the coconut milk to the Matapa leaves.

 

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Let it boil to thicken…

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And Voila!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Professora Celia giving me some of our finished product to take home.