Cassava also known as muhogo in Swahili, or even, yuca and mogo in other parts of the world is one of those neutral ingredients that are like a blank canvas waiting for you to “paint” them whichever way you please in the kitchen. This day I decided to cook mine in heavy coconut cream.
Cassava is widely available in many parts of Africa and has been a staple food for so many generations. There are so many diverse ways of preparing it. From boiling and enjoying it with your morning tea, to deep frying it as cassava crisps coated with some chilli (a very popular Mombasa street food), including, making it in to cassava pudding for dessert and so much more.
First things first, preparing the cassava or muhogo.
It’s a given that you have to peel the cassava before all else and wash it thoroughly then cut it up into halves or quarters and remove the central fibrous bit that runs from top to bottom. Reason for removing this is because it will never soften however much you cook your cassavas. Some people believe that it’s poisonous.
Next step is dependent on how you want to cook your cassava.
Cut it up in to small cubes of about two inches if you are going to make it into a stew. Use a potato peeler to cut out very thin slices to make cassava crisps, cut into long finger shaped designs for french fried style cassavas.
As you have probably guessed, I cut mine up in to cubes because I was going to make them into a stew / curry in thick coconut cream. I like steaming mine before adding them to the stew or sauce. It only takes thirty minutes for them to cook through and become fork tender. If you prefer to cook the cassava straight away in the stew / sauce then go right ahead, your cassava your choice! 😎 but, be prepared for a very thick gummy sauce because of the high starch content. To combat this, ensure that you keep a very close eye on the water levels to prevent your food from burning.
In order to have a deep coconut flavour, I sauteed my onions in coconut oil. One thing that you should be aware of is that coconut oil has a very high tendency to smoke. So try and maintain your heat on medium to reduce on this property.
I love lots of onions in this dish, so, I diced a large one and added it to two tablespoons of pre heated coconut oil. I also added a pinch of salt to help in drawing out some of the moisture from the onions and have them caramelize faster.
It took my onions about four minutes to cook to my liking and then I added a tablespoon of a mixture of ginger and garlic that were finely minced. Vary the ratio as you see fit, you can have more garlic or more ginger in the mixture to suit you.
From there I added vegetables and herbs. Again, you can vary them to suit you.
Half a green hoho or bell pepper, too much of it can sometimes tend to be too overwhelming. (I have come across guys who can’t stand them in their food because they are bitter, I am not one of them)
One medium sized tomato diced into about half inch cubes.
One green chilli that I had split lengthwise, more for the flavour than the heat. If you are the type that prefers spicier, hotter, food then by all means go ahead and add more of the green chillies or any other type that suits you.
Next to go into my sufuria was a tablespoon of dhania or coriander stalks. This part of the dhania is underrated by most people. Most people normally use the leafy part and discard the stalks but, I’m here today to preach about the stalks…. 😆 Seriously, try them out and taste the difference, they pack so much flavour into any dish.
The next ingredients were to help in rounding off the already awesome flavours in the sufuria. These were curry powder, freshly cracked black pepper and beef cubes. You could use any other spices that you have if you do not like or maybe do not have curry powder. Garam masala or mixed spices will work very well. Or just go ahead and add individual spices that float your culinary boat.
I am not a big fan of cooking my tomatoes on very high heat, if you have been a regular visitor to my blog then you must have noticed that I always reduce the heat and cook them slow and gentle until they soften, breakdown and release their juices. I like how they end up thickening the stew.
Assembling the dish together:
Next was just to add the steamed cassava, heavy coconut cream, white part of the spring onions, ukwaju or tamarind sauce, and Royco (which is optional). I gave everything a stir but then I felt like the ukwaju paste had made the food too tangy so I added a tablespoon of honey. Now, if you are allergic to it and would like to sweeten your food go ahead and add any other sweetener of your choice.
The very last ingredients to go into my sufuria were dhania leaves and the green leafy part of the spring onions. These two ingredients work best if added last because their flavour will remain very fresh and potent.
I love it when my muhogo has a very thick sauce. If you follow my directions and measurements precisely then you’ll end up with food similar to mine. If you want it thinner then go ahead and add more water, or coconut milk or stock.
I serve the meal as is because in my opinion it’s thick and very filling.
Cassava in coconut cream is a very Kenyan, coastal dish popularly known as Muhogo wa Nazi. I also add bits of spices and herbs to enrich the flavours, as well as ukwaju (tamarind) and honey for that sweet sour taste.
- 3 Cups Cassava - diced into about 1.5" cubes
- 2 Tbs Coconut oil
- 1 finely sliced large onion
- Salt to taste
- 1 Tbs Finely minced ginger and garlic
- 1 Hoho / bell pepper / capsicum - diced into medium sized cubes
- 1 Medium sized tomato - diced into medium sized cubes
- 1 Green chili - sliced lengthwise
- 1 Tbs Stalks of dhania / coriander / cilantro - Finely minced
- 1 Tbs Curry powder
- 2 Beef cubes
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 Spring onions
- ½ Cup heavy coconut cream
- 2 Tbs Ukwaju / tamarind sauce
- 1 Tbs Royco - optional
Peel the cassava, making sure to clean it. Remove the central fibrous bits as they never soften up.
Cut into small pieces then boil / steam them for about 30 minutes to soften them up.
Heat the coconut oil in a sufuria.
Add the onion and a pinch of salt to help draw out moisture and make them cook faster.
After a few minutes, add in a tablespoon of a mixture of ginger and garlic.
Cook this for a about a minute before adding your hoho/ bell pepper/ capsicum, tomato, green chili, dhania / cilantro / coriander stalks.
Mix well, then, add the curry powder, beef cubes and freshly cracked pepper.
Cover the sufuria and let the food cook for about three minutes.
Add your steamed cassava, salt to taste and a little water if need be.
Add the spring onions. Cover the sufuria and allow the food to simmer.
Add your coconut cream and ukwaju (tamarind) sauce and an optional teaspoon of Royce mixed with a little water.
If you taste and find that the ukwaju is a bit too much, add in a little bit of honey.
Once everything has simmered, add your dhania/ coriander/ cilantro leaves and the leafy part of the spring onions.
Add more water or coconut milk if you feel it is too thick.
This meal can be served as is because it is very filling. However if you'd prefer to add some vegetable salad then go right ahead.
You could also make it non vegetarian by adding any meat of your choice while preparing the sauce.
- If using coconut oil ensure that you maintain your heat on medium because it tends to smoke quite a lot.
- The best results are achieved by using fresh cassava but frozen ones can also be used.
- If you cannot find cassava, then, substitute with potatoes or any other starchy root you'd prefer.