This past weekend, I had the pleasure of cooking a bunch of African-inspired goodies for my youngest sister’s wedding reception.
To be clear, this was not a typical wedding reception. For starters, the wedding actually took place in Uganda earlier this year. Secondly, my sister got married to a wonderful man named Steven, who hails from Sudan. Steven wasn’t able to get a visa to the US until very recently and so the American wedding reception had to wait until he could attend. So, they got married in Africa in March, waited on visa paperwork to come through, arrived in the States in late August, and had a low key Africa-style wedding reception at my parent’s house in October.
Since I wasn’t able to go to my own sister’s wedding, I figured the least I could do would be to provide some delicious food for her US reception! She decided that she wanted her reception to be African themed, with African music, food, decor, etc. I loved the idea…until I really thought about it. Because, really, what in the world IS African food? This is a hard question to answer.
First off, let me start being by saying: Africa is a large and diverse continent. Most Americans tend to lump all the African nations together into one big entity. But, this should not be the case. There are so many nations and people groups within the continent of Africa, each with their own language, culture, customs, and cuisine. So when I say “African food” I understand this is a really broad and vague term. Rather than try to cook food that was only from Sudan (Steven’s home country), I decided to make food from a few African countries. And, I tried to make food that I knew Steven would enjoy. Specifically: goat kebabs and chapatis.
I knew that Steven had been missing his favorite comfort foods from home, and so I was inspired to attempt these two dishes as I knew they were at least similar to the food he is used to (and I happened to know that Steven LOVES goat meat.) Alongside the two very traditional dishes, I decided to make a few less traditional dishes as I knew they were more in line with my sister’s palate. It ended up being a bit of a funny mix, and yet it all strangely worked together.
The final menu for the wedding reception was:
Chicken Kebabs with Peanut Sauce
Harissa Deviled Eggs
Rustic Crostinis with Pear Onion Relish and Brie
The first 3 are much more in line with African cuisine, and the last two were more my style (or what I knew my sister would like). We had lots of other friends and family who contributed food for the reception, I was just asked to provide the bulk of it. I’ll share a couple recipes over the next couple of days. (Note: I didn’t get a picture of the goat kebabs as they got eaten too quickly. I don’t plan on posting the recipe here, as I assume most of my readers won’t be fixing goat any time soon. However, I will say that they were remarkably DELICIOUS and feel free to contact me if you’d like the recipe.)
For starters, I’ll share the recipe I used to make chapati. Chapati is a simple unleavened flatbread (think: naan bread meets tortilla) that is common in many parts of Africa and India. I’ve been to Uganda, and will admit that I lived on chapatis while I was there. Nearly every roadside vendor offers fresh, hot-off-the-grill chapatis and they are truly magical. You cannot go wrong with fresh, hot bread.
I did a little research online, and most recipes for chapatis call for the same basic ingredients: flour, oil, salt, and water. After perusing a few recipes, I was thrilled to stumble upon this video from Uganda that demonstrated how to make authentic chapatis (plus, the soundrack for the video is killer). They aren’t difficult to make, but the video was helpful to see the consistency of the dough. In any case, here is my recipe for chapati!
Recipe Makes 5 good-sized chapati
2 cups white flour (some recipes call for 1 cup white, 1 cup whole wheat, I just didn’t have any whole wheat on hand)
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (plus a little more for frying)
3/4 cup hot water as needed
In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Add in the oil and enough water to make sure the dough is elastic but not sticky. I found that I used most of the 3/4 cup of water (with just a little left over in the measuring cup. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
Divide the dough into 5 parts (I used a knife and cut the dough into 5 equal parts). Roll each piece into a ball.
Heat a lightly greased skillet or over medium heat until hot. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out each ball of dough until very thin (like a tortilla). When the pan is hot (test it with a drop of water – if the water sizzles and dances on the pan, then it is hot enough!), put a chapati on it. Cook roughly for 30 seconds on each side – or until each side has nice brown spots. Continue with the remaining dough. Eat and enjoy! (Best served warm!).