A Humble but Important Dish
Matapa is a mozambican staple, served in every household, restaurant and market stall in the land. It’s virtually impossible to go out to eat, and not find Matapa on the menu. In fact, you can compare, and judge the cook, by the quality of their Matapa.
Matapa is made from freshly picked leaves of the cassava plant, coconut milk and peanut powder. Often it is cooked with fresh crab, which adds a nice layer of complexity with its delicate texture. It is not a sophisticated dish, but it has a lovely sweetness and heartiness to it.
The ingredients used to make Matapa are easy to find – they grow in every back yard. This is why Matapa is so prevalent here – it is an easy way to feed the family, no matter what your economic situation is. Cassava, as I have discovered, is a plant that will happily grow in the sand and doesn’t require any maintenance.
Last week, I was fortunate to spend a day with a family in a village of the Inhambane district and learn from the local women to plant cassava and cook Matapa.
Clearning the Land to Plant Cassava, dressed in Capulana
Here we are, clearing the land to plant cassava, which should produce plants within 3 months. Costanza, who welcomed us to her house, is to my left. As you can see, we are wearing matching skirts. In fact, this is a traditional textile, called Capulana. She kindly swaddled me up in this gorgeous Capulana so I could feel like a member of the community, and look the part during my visit to the village!
We made fresh coconut milk. From scratch!
I learnt the art of pounding.
Want to try making Matapa in your own kitchen? It doesn’t require complicated ingredients and is almost impossible to mess up! Here’s a recipe for you, directly from the local women in Mozambique!
In case you can’t find fresh cassava leaves, use kale or spinach as a substitute.
1 large bunch cassava leaves (substitute with kale, or spinach,)
2 cloves garlic
1 3/4 cups unsalted peanuts
3/4 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
Grind the cassava leaves with the cloves of garlic. Add to a large stockpot pot with a small quantity of water, just enough to submerge all of the ground greens. Bring this to a boil and allow it to continue bubbling on medium-high heat for about twenty minutes or until paste-like.
Meanwhile, blend the peanuts in a food processor to a fine powder. This should get you about 1 1/2 cups of ground peanuts. Mix the peanut powder with coconut milk. Pour this into the boiling greens and mix well.
Allow to simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours until you get a consistent, thick sauce.
Add sautéed prawns for extra flavour (optional).
Serve with generous portion of rice and a big smile!
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