kenya

Nearly seven years ago, I developed my recipe for Sukuma Wiki, a Kenyan braised collard greens and ground beef recipe, and it’s been a favorite ever since. I put it in my first book, The Ancestral Table, and it’s often the dish I point to in the book when someone asks where they should start cooking. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and uses very affordable ingredients — and tastes great, too.

When writing The Heritage Cookbook, I knew that I wanted to include this dish to represent Eastern African cookery, but wanted to go back to the drawing board in terms of honoring the traditional preparation of this dish. What I came up with is a flavor provide very similar to my original recipe, but meat-free, and with nice meaty hunks of tomatoes to replicate those missing chunks of ground beef. Red onion also mellowed out the dish some compared to a white or yellow onion, which helped to balance everything just right.

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

I love collard greens. They may be my favorite green food – well, second to mint chocolate chip ice cream, at least. They’ve been in use for at least 2,000 years; the ancient Greeks cultivated them along with kale.

I typically simmer my collard greens with some sort of smoked pork (usually bacon or smoked ham hocks), chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar, and it’s always delicious, although it can get a little boring. So a while back I consulted my buddy, the internet, to find another use for collard greens. During my search, I kept coming across the word Sukuma Wiki, the Swahili name for collard greens. Sukuma Wiki literally translates to “push/stretch the week” – collard greens are available year-round in East Africa, and are used to stretch meals out to last all week.

In the culinary world, Sukuma Wiki is a common name for a Kenyan dish of braised collard greens, usually prepared with ground meat, tomatoes, and onions. Turns out that this dish is dead easy to make, both in terms of time/preparation and ingredients. I was able to whip it up using stuff already in my pantry, and it’s always nice to find another use for ground beef. But the best part about this dish is its taste: it’s absolutely delicious, and has just a hint of exoticness to make it remarkable. One thing that sets this dish apart is that the collard greens are simply wilted down, and so they retain a slightly crunchy texture that really complements the ground beef.

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