The Swahili culture is among the richest cultures in as far as gastronomy is concerned. As a child, I always loved being around a Giriama neighbour who’s house emitted a complex combination of aromatic spices! Mama Marsha was a lovely lady with long lush white hair and very interesting children. If I remember well, she was among the first people who used to sell ice-cream shaped like cups or ice-cream in thin long plastic papers. I don’t think I’ve seen those ice-creams being sold in a while, but they brought much joy to the lives of children back then. They always made the most exiting food in the neighbourhood and their weddings were marked with women singing and dancing to taarab music, men singing along and children playing around the compound.
As a child, I desired to have such a family, but with time, I’ve come to embrace the diversity that each community in Kenya has to offer. Like the Kikuyu with meals that always have potatoes, the Luo with the fish with Ugali or even the Maasai with their roasted meat and raw blood. But I most appreciate the Swahili with their skill in mixing spices and preparing food. I think their culture is a mash-up of the Indians, Arabs and Italians who first came to Kenya through the coast as a result of the spice trade routes from Zanzibar to India.
Mahamris are among the very many delicacies the people from the coast offer and making them does not take a lot of time, nor does it take a lot of work. I look at them as blank canvases that can be spiced according to a person’s pallet. Most people prefer to have mahamris with tea while other people prefer to have them with legumes such as mbaazi (pigeon-peas) or lentils
I enjoy the exotic flavour of these coconut mahamris. They take me back to my childhood visiting my neighbour’s house and they bring me to a surreal place. Oh how I miss my childhood!
Coconut Mahamri Recipe
Time: 2 hrs
Servings: 12 Mahamri’s
Here’s what you need:
- 1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 Cup desiccated coconut
- 1/2 tsp Instant yeast
- 1 tsp ground Cardamom powder
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 1/3 cup coconut milk
- Pinch of salt
- Oil for deep frying
Here’s how to make them:
- In an large bowl, add the flour, desiccated coconut, Cardamom, yeast, sugar and salt and mix until well incorporated.
- Add the coconut milk into the bowl with flour a little at a time while mixing it to form a dough. The dough should be soft and not sticky.
- Place the dough in a large bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap (cling film). Place the bowl in a warm area and allow it to rise double its size (may take 20-45 minutes depending on how warm it is).
- Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 3 equal parts.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each of the 3 parts into a circle. You will end up with 3 chapati-like pieces of dough.
- Cut each piece of the dough into 4 parts. You will end up with 12 smaller pieced of the dough.
- Cover the 12 pieces with a piece of cloth/cling film and allow them to rise (20 min). In the mean time, heat your oil until hot.
- Place the dough pieces in the hot oil without crowding the skillet. Turn them until they are golden brown in colour.
- Remove from heat and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil as they cool.
- Serve with hot tea or with some lentil soup.
This Article was first written on May 2, 2018