Botswana Stews and Gravy

The Traditional Period in Botswana

The Traditional Period of time in Botswana was the era spent as a British Protectorate and the years under the leadership of Seretse Khama, considered a father to the country by his constituents. To the adults of Botswana from 1968 - 1990 (Traditional Period) and into the 1990s themselves, Seretse Khama often served as a symbol and an anchor of all that was pure, good, and respectful. From out of this culture was founded a tradition of concern for others and of good manners. Respect and kind treatment were expected of everyone toward everyone else, no matter their economic status or relationship.

It is the concept of Traditional that is most targeted in the stories of Alexander McCall Smith in his The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. Even Feminism stood on good manners and respect in Botswana in the 1990s– men did not need to be belittled in order for the ladies to rise. Teenagers and young adults did not need to lose the traditional manners. In addition to all of this, anyone that could do so, would give a neighbor that needed work a job as a maid or handyman or some other position in order to keep unemployment low and starvation at bay.

Southern Africa & Kalahari Desert

Colophospermum mopane.
Colophospermum mopane.

Traditional Recipes

Phane Stew

Phane Stew is traditional. It is a stew of dried mopane worms (caterpillars) for its protein base, cooked together with onions and bell peppers. To these are added a tomato sauce that contains hot chillies and homemade curry powder. A mopane worm is actually a caterpillar of the moth Gonimbrasia belina that lives in most of Southern Africa and provides a major source of protein to the human population. The caterpillar is often found on the mopane tree: Colophospermum mopane.

INGREDIENTS

  • 200gm Dried mopane worms
  • 1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Green bell peppers, sliced
  • 6 Medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 Chilli pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 500ml Spring water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Wash the dried caterpillars and pat dry.
  • Place in spring water to cover in a pot and boil with a pinch of salt for 30 minutes to plump.
  • Drain the pot of water and add all remaining ingredients.
  • Bring mixture to the boil and then immediately reduce heat to a simmer; cook 30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve with ugali (recipe below).

Chicken Peanut Stew

This is also called Ground Nut Stew. Peanuts are ground nuts, because they do not grow on a tree, but form the ground.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Frying chicken, cut into about 8 – 12 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 Yellow onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 Green bell pepper, chopped coarse
  • 1 Cup or 250ml Spring water
  • 1/2 Cup or 120g each of Peanut butter and Tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes or ground red pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Take a large cooking pot or mixing bowl and make a sauce by combining sugar, chilli flakes, ginger, peanut butter and tomato paste.
  • Slowly stir in water, constantly stirring until smooth.
  • Pour the oil to a hot skillet and fry chopped onion to translucense.
  • Add chicken parts and fry in same pan until the chicken has begun to brown.
  • Add bell pepper and continue cooking until chicken is completely browned.
  • Pour in the peanut sauce and stir well in the frying pan.
  • Cover and reduce the heat to simmer; cook 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve over rice, ugali, or rice balls.

Cuts of Beef

(public domain)
(public domain)

Flattened Meat and Gravy

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Pounds of beef brisket
  • 1 large yellow Onion, chopped coarse
  • Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Into a large pot, place the beef, onion, and pepper.
  • Cover the ingredients to a height of 2 inches above the meat with spring water.
  • Turn burner to medium and cook the dish 2 – 2.5 hours until the meat is soft. Add more water when it cooks down, to just cover the meat until the last 15-20 minutes and then let it cook down.
  • Remove from fire and drain off the liquid, which you will use for gravy.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and spread out on a clean counter or wooden board.
  • Pound the beef with a meat hammer until it is shredded or flakes, taking out any bones that you find.
  • Make gravy with the liquid that you set aside and your favorite seasonings.
  • Serve the dish with ugali (recipe below) and your gravy.

For gravy, heat some oil in a frying pan, add some cornmeal or flour to the warm liquid drained form the meat, stir, add to pan and stir until thick. Season to taste.

Traditional Cabbage and Carrot

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Medium tomato, finely chopped
  • ½ Onion, shredded as if it were coleslaw
  • 1 Carrot, shreded
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp each ginger, thyme, and dried chillies (crushed)
  • 1 Small head of cabbage, shredded
  • Vegetable oil for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat a frying pan and add frying oil, then heat the oil.
  • Fry the tomato and onion 5 minutes.
  • Add the seasonings and stir.
  • Add carrot and stir, then add shredded cabbage and stir again to mix.
  • Reduce heat to simmer and cook, half covered, until cabbage is soft but not discolored.
  • Serve with ugali (recipe below).

Ugali

INGREDIENTS

  • 750g or about 26 ounces of white cornmeal or grits
  • ½ gallon Spring water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Into a medium sized pot, pour the water bring it to the boil.
  • Slowly pour in the grits or the cornmeal, stirring consistently and dissolving any lumps.
  • Now, add additional cornmeal or grits until the thicker than mashed potatoes.
  • Cook this thickened mixture 3-4 minutes, still stirring constantly. Do not stop stirring as it becomes very thick. It will form a white ball.
  • Remove form fire and a few pats of butter to the top and cover on the counter to partially melt the butter.
  • Serve with a stew or soup, cooked vegetablers, or with gravy. This is very filling.

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Comments 18 comments

B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 7 years ago from Hell, MI

Ooooweee! These all sound awesome! Well...maybe not the caterpillar stew, so much. But I'll take two of everything else!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

BT, you are certainly on the lookout for gravy and good dishes with your quick response! Many regards of the day to you.


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

I thought jackalopes loved caterpillar. :-)

Interesting recipes, Patty. I don't know if I'm a good enough cook to make anything but the meat and gravy, but I'm willing to give it a try.


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 7 years ago from Hell, MI

Always on the lookout for gravies and stews, Patty. As long as there are no mopane worms involved, I'm in!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Laughing Mom - The meat and gravy take a little bit of work, but they taste good.

BT - OK, no caterpillar ice cream either...but will look for more stews.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

I lived in Botswana for 4 years and was amazed at the dried mopani worms some kids would have as a snack for lunch, and the cans of mopani worms in tmato sauce sold in supermarkets!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

In the supermarkets?! Perhaps I can find some online.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Maybe, I think they were imported from Zimbabwe, so not sure if they're still being made with all the political upheaval there


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the heads up.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Will do a little research for you


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

That will be fun to see.


Cheryl 7 years ago

Hmm, these recipes sound delicious. Well, with one exception. I don't think I'll be eating caterpillars.

I have made a different version of a peanut soup with chicken and it is an old favorite. The seasonings are similar to the ones in the recipe here. The ginger gives a great flavor.


mulberry1 profile image

mulberry1 7 years ago

I had some African Peanut stew once, wonder if the Chicken Peanut stew is similar. I like what I had. As far as the worms....they should probably neglect to tell me worms were in any dish I was asked to eat. (I'm such a wimp)


Tony 7 years ago

I'm not so sure about the worms, but the rest sound really good. Anything spicy with ginger works for me. Well I guess if I was out there I would try the worms. I always try the local food wherever I travel.

Great hub page, I ought to start making some of these I think.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Cheryl - I really enjoy the taste of ginger, too. Caterpillars - if dried I can probably eat them, not raw - I'll eat tree bark.

mulberry1 - I had a recipe I lost that was for Ethiopian versions of the stew and it was good too. I wonder how many countires enjoy this type of dish? Dried worms would be just like grasshoppers to me, which I'm fine to eat, but wroms packed in tomato sauce, I'd have to cook with something else until I got used to them!

Tony - Anthony Bourdaine probably tries everything too, with an open heart, like you. There's another guy on Bravo or somewhere that eats animals and insects Americans don't normally eat and he does it with a strange attitude - I don't know - smug and provocative, like he wants people to grimace and moan. Reminds me of Jabba the Hut.


Bobby 6 years ago

iam staying in gaborone for the last 6 months i was just wondering which supermarket did cindyvine see cans of morpani worms in tomato sause would appreciate the name of the supermarket.


Nan 6 years ago

Oh!!! Thank you so much for this post! I am on book ten and am in love with the characters and the place. Been wanting to try and make some of the food he describes too! Thanks so much! Any idea also where I can find an unbeatable custard recipe?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Nan - You can probably find many delicious recipes for custards on HubPages. Try the search box at the top of the page.

When you get to McCall Smith's "The Double Comfort Safari Club", the story changes in nature a bit - more pithy, but losing none of its delightulness. I hope you like that one.

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