The date was 30th August 2008 and my super dad, whom we all call Papa, was giving the father-of-the-bride speech for his eldest daughter who happens to be me – so yes – I was the blushing bride. He is not a man of many words; he chooses to sing them instead. And so after singing a song he had especially composed for me –Kuolewa ni kitu kizuri (Marriage is a Beautiful thing) – the very few words he spoke told of how his princess (MeJ) loves green vegetables. And right he was.
If I did not love my Kenyan grass-fed beef so much, I would probably have been a vegetarian. But I left that for my sister Gish, who would wake up from her death bed if shown a plate of vegetables. And one of the vegetable dishes that I love to the moon and back is Mkunde leaves in Peanut Sauce. (Mkunde is Swahili for Cow Peas). The very soft ones make the best dish.
The ones that are literally uprooted form the ground as opposed to just plucking the leaves. My mother would make me ‘space’ them in the garden by uprooting them while still young to give the ones that remained abundant space to fruit bountifully. Being a first born girl comes with its joys and sorrows. I would be ‘lectured’ emphatically on how I ought to be a great example to Gish, Cathy and Joyce – my 3 baby sisters. On the other hand, when the 3 did not reach the folk’s expectations, they would be ‘lectured’ on how they should try and be like me – much to my glee.
Anyway - So here goes the recipe for my favourite less-than-4-dollar meal.
§ 6 bunches of soft Mkunde leaves – plucked, washed and roughly chopped
§ 1 bunch spring onions - chopped
§ 2 red onions finely chopped
§ 3 tomatoes – peeled and finely chopped
§ 1 cup roasted peanuts – milled or crushed in a kinu (pestle and mortar)
§ Corn Oil
§ Black Pepper and salt
§ 1 cup Hot Water
§ Place the mkunde leaves in a pot without adding any more water and steam gently on low heat. ( make sure it is washed then chopped; not the other way round)
§ Once the water diminishes completely, set the leaves aside.
§ On the same pot, put about 2 table spoons of Corn oil.
§ Add the black pepper and let it cook for a while, and then add the spring onions. (I always like to add my spices to the hot oil and let them cook for a while. It really brings out the flavours – plus – the aroma, the neighbours will come knocking!)
§ Be careful that the spring onions do not burn, add the peeled and chopped tomatoes.
§ Stir and let it cook on low heat for a while till it’s cooked through to a thick paste. Add about a half of the hot water and then add the crushed or milled peanuts.
§ Cook for about 5 minutes stirring continuously then eventually add the steamed Mkunde leaves.
§ You can add some more hot water depending on how you would like the consistency to be.
I always serve this with Sima (maize flour porridge cooked and thickened to a solid state) although my eccentric sister Cathy prefers this with white bread. Well, I guess at the end of the day it depends on someone’s palate!