World Food Night is nearly here! If you’re prepping your menu or planning your event (or even if you’re yet to sign up) get inspired by this post from Mirriam, a resident of Refugee Action’s Fresh Start house. Mirriam has faced hardship and destitution, but having a safe place to stay has really changed her life. Here’s a blog about what cooking means to her, and her favourite recipe too.
In Zimbabwe, when you enjoy a meal with friends and family, you don’t have to make an appointment. Even if there is just the two of you, you always make a bigger pot because you never know who is going to arrive. Sometimes, even the community pastor or priest will pop in to join the feast.
That’s when you hear about family issues, neighbourhood gossip and whatever is going on in the community. Baptisms, christenings, weddings are just some of the special occasions where lots of food is prepared, cooked and shared with the guests, sometimes over a number of days. I have lots of fond memories about food. Sometimes, there are sad memories as well. When there is a funeral, a cow or goat is killed and there will be big drums of sadza (cooked cornmeal that is a staple food of Zimbabwe) to feed the mourners.
In the UK, I can find the food I used to eat at the market and I can also hear my language (Shona) being spoken. It helps me to relate to those who have a similar background to me. I have met many other people who are going through the asylum system.
Refugee Action’s Fresh Start House is very peaceful and quiet. It’s very rare that you find a group of women living under one roof and able to get on like we do, day after day. If you saw me when I first arrived, I was different person and was suffering from depression. Now, it’s like pieces of me have been built back gradually. I’m now getting my confidence back. We cooked a meal at Christmas with all the girls and that helped in a very big way.
At Fresh Start, we’re not just a number or figure, or a job to be done. We’re treated like human beings. We feel so relaxed and comfortable here. It’s made me realise that I whilst I am far from home, there are always people in Britain who care. I like cooking and enjoy being in the kitchen. This Christmas, I was able to cook after such a very long time. To cook so much food and share it was such an amazing feeling. It was good to give something back.
My favourite meal is sadza. It makes me think of big family gatherings because sadza is served as a daily meal but also as a special feast. If guests are coming over, it is usually served with an accompaniment such as okra relish. It’s just lovely with sadza.
Mirriam’s Sadza with Okra Relish
Serves 4 – 6
For the sadza:
600g finely ground maize meal
200ml cold water (to mix)
600ml boiling water
For the okra relish:
2 medium sized tomatoes
1 medium sized onion
1 small green chilli
A handful of dried mushrooms
A dash of salt
To make the sadza, add 300g of maize meal to 200ml of cold water and mix to a thick paste. Pour the boiling water into the paste and stir. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Gradually add the rest of the maize meal, mixing all the time. Simmer for five minutes and serve, using a ladle, in individual portions.
To make the okra relish, wash the okra and chop it into rings. Dice the onion and finely slice the green chilli. Fry the okra, onion and chilli gently in olive oil. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan. Simmer gently and allow the mixture to reduce. Throw in a handful of dried mushrooms. Season to taste and serve with the sadza.
If you’d like to take part in World Food Night and support women like Mirriam, it’s not too late! Register at www.worldfoodnight.org.uk for an event pack; donate £1 on our special Give On The Mobile app for exclusive celebrity recipes; or follow us on Twitter for daily inspiration and tips.