|Shadi in her kitchen|
This dish comes from a woman called Shadi, who I met during a whistle stop tour of Sudan. Shadi called the dish a salad, but I feel some clarification is needed so that people aren’t misled into thinking this is healthy. In my books, this salad leapfrogs ‘bad salad’ status (when the treat to leaf ratio is 1:1 or greater) and can only really be described as a filthy salad, partly because of the vast quantity of yoghurt and tahini and partly because there’s absolutely no greens involved. Like the so-call Russian salad. I ate this with a bread roll, which is essentially the Sudanese replacement for cutlery. It would work well as a sandwich filler, dip, or dolloped on top of a load of little gem and other crunchy green lettuce.
|Bread – the Sudanese answer to cutlery|
Travelling to Sudan was never on the agenda; naïvely I had relegated it into the ‘not-safe-to-visit’ list, alongside a handful of other African countries. How wrong I was, turns out Sudan is one of the safest countries in the whole world and the hospitality from the people is unmatched. The more Cass and I spoke to others who had been – about the deserted pyramids, the souks in Khartoum and the friendly locals, the more intrigued we were. As we had time to kill before our volunteering started in Ethiopia, we decided to visit.
|Friendly shopkeepers around the gold market in Khartoum|
|Three generations working in the family falafel and shawarma shop, Khartoum|
|A ‘jabana’ (Sudanese coffee) stall in Kassala, near the Eritrean border|
My encounter with Shadi is an example of just how welcoming the Sudanese were. After spending a few days in Khartoum it was time to head north where we heard you can camp in the desert close to some Nubian pyramids. All you had to do was find a bus going to the town of Altbara and ask the driver to drop you off halfway as they drive straight past the pyramids. Finding this bus was harder to find in reality and as Cass and I are waiting around trying to flag down the right bus, a woman comes over and starts talking to me. It soon becomes clear she wants me to come to her apartment and have some food and coffee.
|The Nubian Pyramids, where we camped for a night|
The woman turns out to be Shadi. Shadi is 43, very short, has a huge smile and judging by the amount of times she was on the phone laughing and gossiping away, evidently has lots of friends. Shadi works for the Government’s National Audit Office, which she is very proud of and her teenage daughter is hoping to become a doctor, which she is even more proud of. They both live on the fourth floor of a two-bed apartment along with her son, husband and sister’s family.
On my first visit I was told that her sister’s family were visiting for holidays, but left wondering how much truth there was in that, they had already been staying for a few months and I saw no sign of her sister. It wasn’t until my second visit when Shadi was henna-ing my hands, that she opened up, telling me her family were originally from the Southern Darfour region in Sudan. They moved to Khartoum one year ago after her mother and sister were both shot by the military. Sadly, her sister’s children living in the second bedroom made a lot more sense.
|Shadi’s niece and daughter|
It was Shadi’s daughter and niece, under her watchful supervision, who prepared the tahini salad for me, along with a cup of the sweetest coffee I have ever drunk. Another female friend was also up in the living room having some lunch and the small apartment was buzzing with chatter, cooking and laughter. Having spent the previous few days wandering around the vastly male dominated streets of Khartoum, sitting up in the apartment with Sudanese women was a rare privilege and soul soothing. The recipe below is Shadi’s version, but I think this would be nicer if you kept the carrots raw and even chucked in a chopped spring onion or two.
Shadi’s Tahini Salad
3 large potatoes
3 large carrots, grated
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Keeping the skin on, boil the potatoes in a pan of salty water. Halfway through cooking add the carrots to the pan. Once cooked through, drain the water and leave them on the side to cool.
Once cooled, remove the skin from the potatoes and roughly mash them up in a large bowl. Grate the cooled carrots into the same bowl.
Add the tahini, yoghurt, vinegar and salt to the bowl and mix everything together. Season, check the taste and add more of anything else that’s needed.