Mkate wa sinia is one of those very common delicacies found in East Africa, especially along the coastal strip. It’s also known as mkate wa kumimina. I will start by breaking down the different terminologies for the non Swahili speakers who are reading this recipe, and in the process, hopefully, end up in them developing a deeper appreciation of this dish.
Mkate is bread, sinia is platter and kumimina is to pour.This cake or bread has yeast in it and maybe this is what gives it the “mkate” name.
There are various methods in which you could go about making mkate wa sinia:
- You could start it off by cooking it a pan (sinia) on top of a stove and once the bottom is cooked you transfer it to an oven (on broiler function) to brown and cook the top.
- The second one is where you bake everything in an oven until it’s completely done.
- The third one is the one I’ve used, baking it inside a sufuria on top of a stove or jiko (charcoal stove).
How to get bragging rights for the best mkate wa sinia / kumimina:
- Soak the rice for at least six hours to overnight. This will come in handy when blending because it helps in softening the rice. I have a weak blender and my personal preference is short grain rice. The cheapest that I can get at the grain store (posho shop) is always my first choice. The higher the cost the better the quality and the better the quality the harder it is… or so I think, .
- Fresh coconut is the best choice you could ever make for your mkate wa sinia. The flavour is so potent, comparable to none. But, that’s not to say that if you have no access to fresh coconuts that you can’t enjoy the mkate wa kumimina. Use coconut cream or coconut powder. If you only have heavy coconut cream make sure that you thin it out slightly to prevent a very dense rice cake.
- Freshly ground cardamom is the best to use for the recipe as opposed to store bought cardamom powder. Flavour is more potent this way.
- Some people add some wheat flour to their rice cakes but I prefer not to add it to mine. I feel like it makes the final product more dense. But at the end of the day, it’s your choice.
- Blend your rice to the finest that it can possibly break down to. Most blenders don’t have the capacity to break it down to a very fine paste, but, just keep going until your blender or food processor can break it down no more. My blender is a very weak one but after ten minutes of blitzing away I was at a very good place. It’s okay to feel some of the rice granules but they should be very very fine ones.
- It helps to blend your coconut first before adding the rice. This makes it easier on your blender. After this add your rice in small increments to your blender. Also, make sure that you do not add too much water at once to the blender because this will make it twice as hard to break down the rice.
- At the end of the day, it’s okay to feel the blended coconut pieces in between your fingers but not the rice granules.
- 1.5 Cups of fresh diced coconut
- 1/4 kg (1.5 Cups) Short grain rice – You could also use long grain rice
- 1 tsp Freshly ground cardamom – Use store bought cardamom powder if freshly ground isn’t available
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder- optional
- 1/2 tsp All spice – optional
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 1 Tbs Yeast
- 1 Cup (240 ml) Water
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- Soak your rice over night or if you are pressed for time soak it for a minimum of six hours. Drain all the water from it.
- Add the fresh coconut to your blender along with one cup of water and blend for a few minutes. This will reduce the demands on your blender as opposed to adding the coconut and rice all at once. If using coconut cream add it together with the rice and blend all at once.
- Add the rice, start with half of it first, blend for a few minutes before adding the rest of the rice.
- Now add sugar, cardamom, all spice and cinnamon powders, yeast, and salt.
- Cover the blender and blitz away until the rice breaks down to a very fine paste or to very fine granules.
- Pour it into a bowl and check for consistency, it should not be too thick or too thin. It should be medium thickness. Refer to video above.
- Cover with plastic paper and set aside in a warm place for it to rise. The yeast will cause the mixture to have a lot of air bubbles. The amount of time taken for it to rise is all totally dependent on your weather conditions. Right now in Nairobi it’s very hot so it took 1.5 hours for it to rise to my satisfaction.
- Grease and line your baking tin with a wax paper. I used a 7 X 2.5″ tin for this. Mkate wa sinia tends to really stick to the sides of the cooking container so if you have a non stick one this is the best thing that could happen.
- Prepare the sufuria that you’ll use for baking by adding salt to it, ensure that the salt lays flat at the bottom. Cover and place it on the stove on high heat for about fifteen minutes.
- Pour your mixture into the baking tin tap it a few times on the work top to get rid of the big air bubbles.
- Place the baking tin into the sufuria oven, reduce the heat to medium low and bake while covered for forty minutes. Start checking on the thirtieth minute just to ensure that things are going okay.
- Apply some butter on top, this is totally optional. The butter adds to the flavour while at the same time providing a very glossy look and finish to the top.
- Leave the rice cake to cool for about an hour and then cover with a plastic paper and a lid. Let it rest overnight. This, in my opinion, allows the flavours to really settle. The cake is always best if allowed to stay overnight.
- The mkate wa sinia will be totally stuck to the sides of the baking tin so use a butter knife to loosen it. Be very gentle while loosening it to prevent the rice cake from breaking up. If you used a non stick pan then you’ll not have this problem, just flip it over on to your serving plate.
- Serve and enjoy with tea or as is on its own.
Mkate wa sinia also known as mkate wa kumimina is a very common delicacy found in East Africa. It's a rice cake that's full of fresh coconut and freshly ground cardamom. It's also gluten free.
- 1.5 Cups of diced coconut
- 1/4 kg (1.5 Cups) Short grain rice - You could also use long grain rice
- 1 tsp Freshly ground cardamom - Use store bought cardamom powder if freshly grated isn't available
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder - optional
- 1/2 tsp All spice - optional
- 1/2 Cup sugar - adjust up or down to suit your taste
- 1 Tbs Yeast
- 1 Cup (240 ml) Water
- 1/8 tsp Salt
Soak your rice over night or for a minimum of six hours.
Start by first blending the coconut with the water for a few minutes.
Add the rice along with the rest of the ingredients and blend until the rice becomes a very fine paste.
Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic paper and leave to rest for about 1.5 hours for it to rise.
Prepare the sufuria for baking by adding a cup of salt to it. Spread the salt around to flatten it. cover the sufuria with a tight fitting lid and heat it on very high heat for fifteen minutes.
Grease the baking tin (7 X 2.5") and pour in the coconut and rice mixture.
Tap the baking tin a few times to get rid of any big air bubbles.
Place in the heated sufuria oven and cover quickly. Reduce heat to medium low and bake for forty minutes.
Leave to cool for an hour, cover with plastic paper and leave for a few hours to overnight.
Use a butter knife to loosen mkate wa sinia from the sides of the tin, if you used a non stick pan just over turn it on to your serving platter.
Divide into six slices and serve with your favourite beverage, like tea or coffee.