Basic Zimbabwean Cuisine, as is the case for the common people in in many African countries, relies heavily on a few staple foods. Cornmeal, which Zimbabweans call “Mealie meal”, is used to make Sadza (sometimes called “Isitshwala”) and a porridge known as Ilambazi (also called “Bota”).
Sadza is prepared by mixing “Mealie Meal” with water, producing a thick, pasty porridge. After the paste has cooked for several minutes, more cornmeal is added to thicken the paste even further. Sadza is typically taken for lunch or dinner. If served for dinner, it will normally have one or two side dishes to accompany it. Typical sides include Stewed Kapenta (a small, tasty fish, popular in Zimbabwe), beans, and a variety of vegetables, such as collard greens, chomolia and spinach.
Meat is also often on the dinner table. Zimbabwean cuisine includes meats that have been stewed, grilled or roasted – also sundried. A popular drink to go along with Sadza is curdled milk, known as “mukaka wakakora”.
Bota is also a favorite porridge, especially for breakfast. Bota is much thinner than Sadza. It is prepared without adding the extra cornmeal midway through the cooking. Bota is often flavored, too. Popular flavorings include butter, milk, and peanut butter. Occasionally, not very often, some fruit jam is used for flavoring.
Again, for the most part, the common people of Zimbabwe subsist on a very simple, uncomplicated, and inexpensive diet. However, on special occasions, like weddings, graduations, family reunions, important national holidays, they will splurge and go all out. A cow, lamb or goat will be slaughtered, and a multi-course feast will be prepared, with the roasted or barbecued meat as the central main course.
(A bit of Geographical, Historical, and Cultural Information)
Zimbabwean cuisine does not include a lot of varieties of seafood. This is because it is a landlocked country in south-central Africa. Formerly known as Rhodesia, Zimbabwe is bordered by the Zambezi River to the north and the Limpopo River on the south. These rivers produce fish, which will be found more prevalent in the diets of the people living in the north and south, but not so much for the people living in central Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is slightly larger than the state of Montana, with an area of 150,804 square miles. The topography is mostly a gently rolling plateau, called “veld”.
The high plateau (“highveld”) reaches all the way from southwest to northeast, and ends up in the Inyanga mountains. Highveld is sandwiched inbetween the middleveld on either side of it.
The lowveld’s topography features grassy, vast wide plains, sprawling along in the basins of the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. Erosion is a serious environmental problem for Zimbabwe. It effects negatively the agricultural lands, and is expanding the desert regions. This, in turn, is hurtful to Zimbabwean cuisine.
Another environmental isssue of considerable concern is air and water polution – the by product of mining operations, the cement industry, chemical fertilizers, and public transportation vehicles.
Zimbabwe, translated into English, means “House of Stone”. The country chose this name, upon gaining its sovereign nation independence from British colonization, in 1980. The House of Stone is a massive architectual stone ruin, some 800 years old, left by the Shona people. Seventy seven percent of Zimbabweans are descendents of the Shona people. The remaining twenty three percent are mostly descendents of the Ndebele people. Small wonder then, that the popular vote for the name Zimbabwe
Gold was discovered in Zimbabwe around 1300 AD. Also “discovered” (by the British) was the fact that there was lots of good land for farming. Before the British arrived in the 1850s, the Ndebele people and the Shona people had alternately ruled over the area – then known as Rhodesia. The British quickly gained control of the area soon after its discovery, and held it as a colonized territory until 1923. The British actually reclaimed it for a brief period from December 12, 1979, to April 17, 1980. Needless to say, British cuisine has left a lasting, strong influence upon Zimbabwean cuisine. Sugar, tea, and breads were incorporated, as well as the simple, direct methods of preparing foods, unadorned, with very few spices and seasonings.
So now, let’s get into the main reason you came here to this page – the recipes!
Below is a list of traditional, authentic dishes from Zimbabwe. Click on any one of your choice, and you will be taken to a print-friendly page with that one recipe on it. Off you go now, into deep, south-central Africa, and the straight-forward, but very delicious world of …
Bota Une Dovi (Peanut Butter Porridge)
Chakalaka (vegetable stew)
Sadza (cornmeal porridge, a staple in Zimbabwe)
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