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Makkai paka

This dish is the vegetarian cousin of Kuku paka and derives from the merging of flavours from Indian and Swahili cooking. The dish highlights how cuisines travel with traders and evolve during their journey picking up local spices and cooking techniques.

This is a lovely curry that has a distinct flavour. The sauce is thick with sweet peanut butter that is highlighted with spices and chillies. The sauce is rich and delicate, and the sweet corn adds a lovely texture to the dish. You can eat this with chapatis or rice, but I prefer to eat it plain, I dip the corn cob in the sauce and take a bite. This is an unusual dish to bring to the table, but it is one that your guests will enjoy.

This is a new cookbook on my shelf, bought primarily for the Kuku Paka recipe, but it is also loaded with absolutely amazing recipes from around the world. The recipes are admittedly exotic but that also translates to being quite intense to make. But when the recipes turn out as well as this one, the effort is well deserved. I love the book, its flair, photography and recipes and will cook from here often.

For more recipes from the fabulous cookbook, click here.


2 corn on the cob

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A pinch asafoetida

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

1 petal star anise

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1-2 red chillies, cut into thin circles

1 teaspoon tomato purèe

5 tomatoes, finely diced

3 tablespoons peanut butter (see note)

2 tablespoons tamarind paste

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Salt, to taste

1 cup frozen corn

2 teaspoons desiccated coconut, lightly toasted

Cilantro, minced, to garnish

Note: You can use ready smooth- or crunchy peanut butter, or if you prefer you can make it at home but blitzing the required amount of roasted peanuts in a blender.

Strip the corn and char over the stove getting the corn evenly burnt all over. Cut int 2-inch pieces and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wide pot and add the mustard seeds, asafoetida, cinnamon stick and star anise. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 20 seconds, add the garlic, ginger and red chillies and cook for 1 minute, till the ginger no longer smells raw.

Add the tomato purèe and toss the mix well. Add the tomatoes, peanut butter, tamarind and salt and mix the sauce well. Simmer for 15 minutes till the tomatoes have broken down and formed a thick sauce.

Add the frozen corn and mix in well. Cook closed for an additional 15 minutes till the corn is cooked. Check that the sauce is still wet, and makeup with water if needed. Stir the sauce often as it tends to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Mix in the grilled corn and coat well with the sauce. Taste and adjust for salt and spice with chilli powder. The sauce should be quite thick and cling to the corn cobs.

Serve hot garnished with toasted coconut and cilantro.

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