Aminatha’s East African Cabbage

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This recipe is courtesy of Aminatha, a Congolese refugee who teaches cookery classes at the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre (NWC) in Kigali. We learnt several recipes in the class, but the one I want to share with you is fried cabbage. It may sound like a boring one, but the cabbage in this part of the world is goooood. It’s common in Uganda and Kenya and always surprisingly moreish, the steamed cabbage buttery and soft, with just the right amount of crunch. Like most of the dishes in this region it’s also simple, one-pot cooking. To jump straight to the recipe follow the link.

Aminatha came to Rwanda 1998 in when another wave of fighting broke out in the Congo as part of the ongoing ‘Africa World War’. She was 30 at the time and had a three-year-old son called Jean-Claude. Life before in the Congo had been difficult, her father died when she was two and Aminatha spent most of her childhood moving from friend’s house to friend’s house in search of a place to stay, she didn’t have her own home to go to and never went to school.

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Some of the other ingredients used on the day. Maggi stock cubes are used in absolutely everything in this part of the world. Aminatha put an average of 7 into most of the dishes we cooked (makes the food a bit too salty in my opinion)

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Despite not having an education, Aminatha loved cooking and earned money as a domestic worker first in the Congo and then in Rwanda. After 10 years working as a house-maid she joined the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre as a cleaner. Aminatha then learnt to read and write at the literacy classes NWC runs and soon afterwards started helping out as an assistant in the office, coordinating the community tours the women’s centre operates.

Ten years later, Aminatha is still involved with NWC, selling her own crafts, helping out in the office and also running their cookery courses. Life isn’t perfect, but thanks to the support of NWC she is able to earn a living and has even started saving a little money. Her dream is that one day she will be able to sell Congolese fabric in Kigali.

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Inside the workshop at NWC
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NWC’s colourful shop

The Nyamirambo Women’s Centre was set up by a group of 18 girlfriends who wanted to help each other earn an income, learn skills and develop a community that had been devastated by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. To begin with they went to each other’s home to make crafts that they could sell. Slowly, the women’s group became more established and they were able to offer literacy classes for other women, then computer classes, and now they even have a library for the children in the community. The centre is a well-established hive of activity, the workshop full of women making their own crafts and colourful fabrics which are then sold in the shop next door. Community tours, cookery lessons and basket weaving lessons are also run through the centre and by people from the community – including Aminatha’s now grown-up son, Jean-Claude.

East African Cabbage mix

Serves 4

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The finished article

Ingredients

Oil

1 cabbage, shredded

3 onions, finely sliced

2 carrots, cut into small cubes

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 stock cube

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Method

Wash and prepare the beans, cabbage, onions, carrots and tomatoes

In a big pot add the oil and beans and cook on high heat until they are soft

Add the cabbage, onions, carrots and tomatoes to the pot, stir and continue to cook for a short while. Add seasoning and the stock cube.

Turn the heat down a touch so that the vegetable don’t all burn, put the lid on and leave everything to cook together for 30 – 45 minutes. Check on the vegetables occasionally and stir every now and then.

Best eaten straight away, but perfectly good warmed up the next day too. In Rwanda they serve it alongside a couple of other vegetable dishes and usually rice, sweet potatoes, ‘irish’ potatoes, cassava or ugali.

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The final Rwandan spread. On the far left is the cabbage, clockwise from top we then have fried potatoes in tomato sauce, sweet potatoes, matooke katogo, green beans, rice, dodo with peanut sauce and beans.

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