Zamé (Malian Seasoned Rice) w/ Piri Piri
The first bite of the tomato-infused rice took me back to the year I spent in Mali studying dance. Just as they are here, weddings are huge and joyous occasions in Mali. Shade tarps are set up on the sides of dusty streets, under which families, musicians and friends gather to celebrate. The drumming resonates for miles, seemingly carried on the red dust that is kicked up by the dancers’ feet. During the course of the celebration, prayers and blessings are said for the couple, praise songs are sung by the griot, and all but the most elderly participate in the dancing. The bride is usually inside her husband’s house during the wedding ceremony, starting her life as a married woman inside the place where she will spend most of her time. A wedding in Mali provides an opportunity for people to dress in their finest clothes, usually wax-pounded cotton brocades for the women, adored with intricate embroidery, and suits for the men, or long tunics and pants.
As the drumming continues, the high heels and sandals get kicked off, and everyone takes a turn dancing in front of the drummers, both solo and as a group, each demonstrating their best moves. When the sun sets, the food comes out, large bowls of seasoned rice, or zamé as it is called in Mali, and frozen bags of ginger juice and dableni, a hibiscus juice whose Bamana name means literally “red mouth”. The bowls are placed on the ground and groups of friends and family gather around each bowl, scooping up handfuls of the delicious rice. In Mali, zamé is usually served with fish and vegetables such as carrots, eggplant and pumpkin. The Malians told me that eating with your hands from a communal bowl represents the equality of all people in the community. It definitely felt that way.
Ingredients (serves a crowd)
1 cup canola oil
½ lb beef stew meat
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
5 peeled roma tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 yucca root peeled and cut into large wedges (can sub potatoes)
6 okra pods
1 cabbage quartered
1 small piece squash, pelled and seeded
5 habanero peppers
3 buillion cubes
6 garlic cloves minced
3 sprigs flat-leafed parsley
1 green bell pepper
6 bay leaves
2 tbsp mustard
salt, black pepper
3 scallions chopped
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped.
2 tsp vinegar
6 cups or so broken rice (Asian markets)
6 cups water
Heat 1 cup oil in a pot
Peel and slice yucca, and fry wedges in the oil.
Remove from oil and place in bowl to drain
Add beef and onion to oil
Let brown a few minutes
Add tomatoes and paste and let fry a few minutes.
Add veggies and about 3 cups water (to cover veggies), 2 buillion, and habaneros,fried yucca and cover.
Let simmer until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile in mortar, pulverize garlic cloves, green bell peppers, parsley top,
Remove veggies that are soft, leaving meat and hot peppers.
Add bell pepper mixture to sauce and about 6 cups of water and 1 bullion, 1 tbsp salt. Bring back to a simmer.
Rinse broken rice and set in a colander over boiling stew to steam. Tie a cloth around edge of colander, cover lightly, steam about 15 minutes.
Remove rice and set aside.
Add salt if needed, black pepper and about 1 heaping tbsp mustard and 6 bay leaves.
When it comes to a boil, remove habanero peppers, and add the par-steamed rice and cover.
Remove stems from habaneros and mash with 2 tbsp mustard in mortar. (THIS IS HOT!!!!!add a bit of garlic, lemon and olive oil to dilute).
Mix scallions, cucumber and vinegar in separate bowl.
Spoon rice onto plate. Top with veggies and a bit of hot pepper sauce, if wanted.
Garnish with green onions-cucumber mix.