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Vegan meat sauce with pasta (Somalian Suugo suqaar)

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

This dish is a remnant of the Italian occupation of Somalia in 1889 and colonized parts of East Africa. The French and English ruled and pillaged the land for about 50 years. This dish remains as part of a very brutal reign in the land.

A sugo is very traditional, and literally, means "sauce". It is essentially a sauce of onions, garlic and tomatoes and their juices, at its most basic. But today a sugo is so much more. It is slow-cooked to develop and concentrate flavours and bring out the essence of ingredients like meat and mushrooms.

The Somalis made this dish their own by using the very typical Xawaash spice mix. Full of North African spices, this sugo is beautifully spiced and flavorful.

In addition, I have used plant-based vegan chicken protein for the first time. To tell you the truth, I really could not tell the difference. The tender protein absorbed the flavours of the Xawaash spice mix and formed a sauce that was delicious. Light, flavorful and subtly flavoured, this sugo is a delight.

This is a cookbook that touched my heart. Recipes from the homes of "Bibi's" literally meaning grandmother in Swahili, this cookbook touches the homes and kitchens of women cooks across 8 countries in Africa that touch the Indian Ocean. Beautifully written, and wonderfully photographed, this cookbook is a chef's journey through a vast continent, capturing its life and stories through the recipes of these amazing women. It has won every cookbook prize that there is and belongs on everyone's shelf. It helps me learn about this region and its cuisine through the stories.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the Xawaash spice mix:

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds

2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons oil

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 onion, finely diced

1 lb ground plant protein, can substitute ground beef, lamb or chicken for a non-vegetarian version

Xawaash spice mix, from above

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3/4 kg tomatoes, finely diced

Cilantro, minced, for garnish

Spaghetti, cooked according to the manufacturer's directions minus 1 minute

Mix the spice mix and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a wide, deep saucepan and add the garlic, peppers and onions. Sauté till the vegetables are soft, about 7-10 minutes. Add the plant protein, (or meat of choice) and sauté till the meat is browned.

Add the Xawaash spice mix and toss well to mix into the meat. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes and simmer till the tomatoes are broken down and you have a thick pasta sauce. Add water if needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce, especially if the sauce is too dry. This sauce tends to thicken when left, add some water during heating to loosen it.

To serve, add the pasta to the bottom of the bowl and top with the heated sauce. Sprinkle with the minced cilantro.

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