Monday, 21 July 2008

Brucey's kitchen

July 16th

I’m determined to do something today, even if it’s not anything to do with education. So first thing it’s down to the internet café and I spend a long time there. At least I’m caught up on blogging and with emails.

The bakery opposite us is still closed, but people are seem to be going in and out furtively and I’m fed up with eating my own stodgy, doughy, half-cooked attempt at bread, so I go over and investigate. Sure enough, behind the “closed doors” there’s half of Gitarama pushing and shoving each other in a pathetic parody of a queue and it’s completely business as usual. I stand at the back of the queue, act patiently and make eye contact with Athanasie’s husband, and sure enough I’m served quick as a wink!

In the market I buy more mounds of green stuff. I’ve decided to have a cooking day. Tom’s off to Kigali and won’t be back till late, so I’ve decided I’ll cook for him and I’m determined to do it in style. I suppose what I’m really doing is practising a “dinner party” menu so that next time we have people round for a meal we can really impress them!

I experiment and refine my green soup – lots of cabbage, Rwandan celery, green peppers and mountains of imboga, with some carrots and tomato paste to give it a bit of colour and enough potatoes to thicken it. Oh, and plenty of onions and garlic and a whole teaspoon of hot pepper to spice it up. This heap of vegetables is so big that I have to use our very biggest, most humungous saucepan to cook it in. After an hour it looks and tastes done, so I liquidise it and hey presto – its dark green despite the carrots etc, but it tastes fine. All it needs is hot bread, and it’ll be good to serve either hot or cold. This batch of imboga seemed very coarse to me, but when liquidised it doesn’t taste fibrous. Imboga is difficult to describe to you; it’s like a spinach substitute but it doesn’t look anything like spinach. It seems to be the tenderest leaves of quite a big shrub; you just have to pull the leaves off the coarse stems. If I didn’t have a liquidiser I’d have to cut the stalks off the leaves, too. It’s very cheap – you get two enormous bunches for 50 francs (5p). This whole soup – easily enough for ten servings – has cost around 25p in ingredients and about 20p to cook.

For lunch I finish off my last frozen block of a previous batch of soup. Last time I did this I found the wretched stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan really badly while I was trying to defrost it. So this time I rig up a bain marie with another big water pan, and lo and behold the problem’s solved. Absolutely stick-free soup!

As you can imagine, I’m on a roll by now, so I make up a big batch of tomato base ready for tonight – all this stuff I’ve cooked is far more than we need for one meal, and it’ll mean we can fill our freezer with boxes of food for those evenings when we’re both too tired to want to cook.

Tom texts to say he’s on the way back home, so Brucey’s diner goes into overdrive. By the time he gets here everything’s ready. Hot soup as a starter; pasta in rich tomato sauce with cheese, and today’s piece de resistance: a repeat performance of our banana smoothie, but this time with some of Kersti’s Byumba oranges squeezed into it and more grated chocolate on top. The orange adds a zing to the sweetness, and we’ve definitely got a winner there!

So that’s my day today. Listening to music, reading, but mostly cooking and keeping busy.

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