A recipe for a Malawian fridge

My lovely friend Kate moved out to Malawi last year with her equally lovely chap J. She began her African life working for the Born Free Foundation and now essentially runs a luxury safari resort. Kate loves an adventure and has already emailed back some hair raising stories that usually begin, 'Now I know you're going to shout at me, but....'

The Bells are very happy that Kate loves her new home so much, though we do reserve the right to worry about her a little, especially when she hitchhikes across the country with one bottle of water, a banana, no phone battery and a cardigan for warmth. Naughty Kate. Still she lived to tell the tale. I have a feeling Kate isn't going to come back to cold England and will raise her babies to be fearless, with tanned toes. We miss her very much, but frankly can also see the opportunity for wonderful holidays in years to come.

Kate emailed me to say she liked the recipes but she couldn't cook all of them due to the availability of certain ingredients. So in a Challenge Anneka style she sent through a list of what she can get and a reminder that only the hob should be used as electricity has a habit of cutting out in Malawi. So souffles are off the menu. Here's the list in no particular order:

Carrots, aubergines, broccoli, feta, cauliflower, potatoes, tins of tomatoes, sometimes tins of kidney beans, chicken, minute steak, avocado, cabbage, milk, eggs, rice, pasta, fresh peas and lots of spices.

Now I love a challenge. The fresh peas took my fancy as they're rather decadent to me, what with being so damned expensive here. They were added to the list immediately. Feta seemed like a good idea too as I love saltiness. And broccoli made the list too, as I still feel guilty about wasting a huge head of it yesterday. ('Huge head' makes it feel even more wasteful as it's almost human.) Meat wise I'm afraid I have to use up some lamb mince that's sitting in the fridge but decided to make the rule that the meat element must be interchangeable. Here goes:


- a couple of handfuls of peas (Fresh if you can find/afford them or frozen ones if not. I like petit pois as Mr B complains if I buy garden peas.)
- a block of feta
- a head of broccoli cut into florets (silly word)
- black pepper
- lemon juice (I had some fresh lemons to use though bottled stuff is fine or you could leave it out if neither are knocking about.)
- olive oil
- lamb mince
- a tablespoons of cumin seeds or ground cumin
- a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- a teaspoon of paprika
- good old Crisp and Dry again!

This is easy peasy! (Excellent Mum joke.) It's a bit of a posh kebab and only took 25 mins from start to finish.

First thing to do is put a pan of water on to boil. Whilst it's boiling, take the minced lamb and add the cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper and the juice from half a lemon (or a good shake from a bottle) then knead with your hands. You could actually add anything here. Chilli would be nice, as would oregano or whatever else takes your fancy. Only needs (oh dear, it really is a day for Mum jokes) 5 mins to mix. Then shape into patties about 5cms across and about 2cm thick. I made about 12 with my block of meat.

Heat the Crisp and Dry (only about a tablespoon) in a large frying pan then add the patties to gently fry. They take about 4 mins on each side. Don't overcrowd the pan or they don't fry very well - kind of stew instead. I know I've wanged on about this before. Once cooked on one side flip and cook the other. You can press with a spatula to speed this up. One word of warning - don't be tempted to move the patties about too much at first as they need to form a fried skin or will fall apart. Still tastes fine though.

Cook in batches until all fried up and ready, either set aside near the hob to keep warm (Kate) or pop in a low oven (people who don't live in electricity challenged areas.) Mine sat happily for about 20 mins in the oven meaning I could make up lunchboxes, do the washing up and tidy up some toys. Being lamb, they just seemed to ooze fat which can only mean it's not oozing into my arteries and onto my thighs. As I ate a Big Mac meal for my lunch (Baby Bell made me do it) this is a good thing. Credit/debit and all that.

When the water is boiling, add the florets of broccoli, then after about 4 mins add the peas (fresh or frozen.) Take off the heat 2 mins later and drain, then put back in the pan with cold water. Then drain again. You basically want them to be coldish and only just cooked.

Cut the feta into cubes then add to a bowl with the juice of half a lemon (or a good shake from the bottle, don't be ashamed, I'm certainly not), some black pepper and some olive oil. Crumble up with your hands then add the green veg and mix together (hand again) until the mixture looks, well, thoroughly mixed.

Serve the patties in flat bread or pitta with the pea/feta mixture on the side. The lamb mixture would be pretty good as koftas on the BBQ if you soaked some wooden skewers first and then kind of moulded it around them. Mr B and I also discussed that a yoghurty mint dressing wouldn't go amiss but by that time we'd gobbled all our dinner up. Next time.

Kate - I think instead of lamb you could marinate some strips of chicken in garlic and oil and maybe a bit of paprika or whatever spices you have in your trusty spice box! That would taste just as nice.
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