How I will make a Malawian themed meal

I’m so glad that Make a MEAL of it will give me a good reason to make a Malawian themed meal for my friends. Having spent 15 years in Malawi, the food was one thing my family missed when we moved to the UK. The vegetables fresh from a village garden, bought at the market from people who grew them, meant we had delicious tomatoes and mustard greens.

The typical Malawian meal includes Nsima, a dish similar to mashed potato but made with maize flour. Much to our surprise, we found maize flour at our local butcher! If you would like to try to cook nsima, which is also called pap or ugali within Africa, you could probably find maize flour (perhaps the Iwisa brand). I have included a recipe below. Be ready for lots of stirring as the pot thickens! Or you could serve rice, which is also grown in Malawi.

Hand washing before a meal becomes an important ritual, as nsima is best eaten by hand! An important part of many Malawian meals is when the host pours water over a basin for each person to wash their hands before the meal starts. I’ll do this when I ‘Make a MEAL of it’, as it’s a lovely reminder of the care that people give in Malawi, and of how fortunate we are to have running water every day.

The nsima is squeezed into a bite-size ball, dipped in sauce, and enjoyed quietly. Nsima can be served with beans, greens, tomato sauce, and maybe a curry or fried chicken for a treat.

There have been so many wonderful meals I’ve shared at Open Arms. There are special occasions, like Christmas when everyone comes together to celebrate all we have achieved. A celebration in Malawi must have music, so I’ll play a mix of African tunes from Malawi, Nigeria and Mali.

The decoration is important, so I put together a colourful table with things that remind me of Malawi. At Open Arms the ladies pick flowers and leaves from the garden to make amazing bouquets. Evening meals would include candles, often propped in empty bottles, for when the power fails.

Then there are the everyday meals for the children, where small miracles happen when they get the nutrients they need to grow. Watching children recover from malnutrition is an incredibly happy experience. Our short film captures some wonderful mealtime moments!

Everyone of those Malawian meals started with a song of thanks, so I’ll play one of those songs for my guests when we Make a MEAL of it so more children in Malawi can eat well.

Thank you for joining us!

Nsima Recipe

  1. Measure cold water (2.5 cups for each cup of maize flour) into a large pot. Allow half or one cup of maize flour per person, depending on appetites!
  2. Heat the water on the stove. When warm, slowly add about half the maize flour to the water, stirring continuously with a sturdy wooden spoon (or whisk).
  3. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to boil, then reduce the heat and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. It looks like porridge at this stage.
  4. Add the remaining maize flour, a little at a time, as you continue to stir over the heat. The nsima should become very thick and smooth. (This is where your arms get a workout!)
  5. Keep stirring it over the heat for five minutes after adding the last flour, then it is done!
  6. Allow the nsima to stand for a few minutes, it will become more solid as it cools. Then serve with the ndiwo (side dish) of your choice

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