Since being in Malawi just about six weeks now, I have learned how to make the staple food: n’sima. It takes muscles because it starts as porridge and then as it thickens, it becomes like dense paste. The whole while, one must stir and fold it in order that it doesn’t burn. Then, when it’s ready, you scoop it into serving size mounds. To eat, people usually roll a piece of it into a ball with their hand and then dip it into the meat, cooked vegetables, or sauce. I have only done the hand-rolling business a few times; I usually just eat it like rice, scooping some along with the other food on my fork or spoon. I must say that I prefer rice to n’sima; David likes both! Whenever I have been at a meal here, Malawians ask if I’ve tried n’sima yet. They are quite proud of the staple food. When we were at a program for Zambia’s independence earlier in October, the High Commissioner mentioned something to the effect that because they have extra maize, people have food, and this is a success. I must agree that if people are not going hungry in any country, this is huge achievement. I just hope the maize is getting to all who need it.

Cooking n'sima with Mrs. Masina.

It seems that people (from home) are curious as to what our diet looks like here in Malawi. Through my quest for bread flour early on, I have been pleasantly surprised to find a number of ingredients. Between the outside market, various grocery stores, church members giving us food, and people selling along the roads I have had access to a number of foodstuffs. Our meals mainly consist of any combination of the following: rice, n’sima, potatoes, pasta, bread, flour tortillas (called chiapitas here, sp?), cooked vegetables, curry, chicken, beef, salad (sparingly), pancakes, eggs, banana bread, cookies (biscuits), carrots, green bell peppers, onions, bananas, papayas, oranges, peanuts (called groundnuts here) and apples. We have plenty of food and sometimes find ourselves up to our ears in potatoes. This is the capital city; and from what I have seen with my eyes, food is available and plentiful. It is in the villages where the need for food remains. This is especially true during the dry season—if it has lasted too long. Without rain, crops cannot grow, without crops, there is no food. Here, climate change means people are going hungry.

This is an interactive post, if you so choose. I will be teaching the pastor’s wives English and Cookery at the Theological Institute. This is both exciting and challenging for me. I know there are both a stove and an oven (called a cooker here). I plan to teach the women how to make pancakes, banana bread and basic yeast bread for sure but am open to other ideas as well. The problem I foresee is that I’m not sure which ingredients they will have access to on a regular basis, so I’ll just be learning that as I go. The principal of the school said that they would be excited to learn to cook new things, so I’m taking his word for it!

Your challenge: here is a list of the ingredients at my disposal; you come up with some recipes I can use while I’m here and teach to the women at JMTI!

Maize flour

Cake flour (I think this is similar to all-purpose flour in the US?)

Bread flour




Baking Soda

Baking Powder











Cooking Tools:


Bread Pan


Wooden Spoon





Filed under adventures, cooking, food, Malawi

8 responses to “Cookery

  1. Deb

    I know 2 recipes for bananas that I like, but I don’t know if they’d be appropriate for your lessons. They are both desserts: banana souffle & “banana boats” (The banana boats are a campfire food, but require marshmallows and some type of chip, usually chocolate). Let me know if you’re interested, and I send the recipes, but in the meanwhile…I found this, simple sounding banana recipe that I think you could do and they would like. It’s called Banana Fritters. I found it on this website:
    Let me know if you can’t access the website and I’ll attach the recipe here.
    I’m going to think about the other ingredients, but do you have a deadline for recipe submissions?

  2. Deb

    oh, and one more thing!
    We have Cake flour here too. Is there a brand name for your cake flour? That would give me a better idea if it is actually cake flour or if it is all purpose flour.

  3. Tanya Chen

    What about omelets, O’Brien potatoes(potato chucks sauteed with onions and green peppers) or mango fried pies should be terrific. Do you have a blender? Let me know if these sound good and I will send you recipes.

  4. Amy Beam

    Tortilla espanol (potato omelet) the only ingredients are eggs potatos and onion. Super tasty served cold.

  5. Pingback: Malawians are the Toughest People I Know. | Catching a little Light

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