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Chakula Nini

Passport & Plate - Mahamri Barazi

For the Mahamri:
300g self raising flour
7g fast action yeast
1 1/2 tsps of cardamom seeds
5 tbsps sugar (more if you would like a sweeter mahamri)
Hot water - to bind
Vegetable/sunflower oil - for deep frying

For the Baharazi:
About 250g of pigeon/gunga peas (Canned or raw - if raw, soak overnight and cook in a pressure cooker till soft)
About 500ml of creamed coconut
2 green chillis
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 onion, sliced long
Salt - to taste


How to prepare this recipe
For the Mahamri:
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and use hot water to start binding them. Use your hands, get kneading. Make sure to add the water gradually so you end up with an even, smooth, stretchy dough.
Cover the mixing bowl with a plate or foil or cellophane and leave to rise for around 2 hours.
When risen, divide the dough into handful sized balls. Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball to about a 5mm thickness round roti like shape.
Take a sharp knife and divide the roti into 4 even quarters (shaped like triangles with one rounded side).
Heat up some vegetable/sunflower oil in a deep bottomed bottomed frying pan. Make sure the oil is very hot (test with a small pinch of the dough and if it rises and bubbles - the oil is hot enough) and fry the mahamris until they are evenly brown on each side.
Rest the fried mahamris in a plate or bowl covered in kitchen roll to mop up the excess oil.

For the Baharazi:
Put the beans, chillis, turmeric, onion and creamed coconut into a pot and allow to simmer (adding water if necessary) until the beans are soft, the sauce is creamy and the onions a pleasant translucent (this generally takes around 45 mins).
Add salt to taste before serving.


The story behind this recipe
Though my family is originally from India, we moved to set up camp in East Africa many generations ago. My great grandfather established a home in the Swahili town of Mombasa on the coast of Kenya. Our Gujarati heritage has therefore been subject to many modifications from East African language, food and culture. The title of my journal entry is Chakula Nini - a Swahili phrase commonly used before mealtimes meaning 'What's to eat'.
Food is taken very seriously in Gujarati culture is an important part of daily life. Sunday's are particularly special in the gastronomic life of an Indo-East African as it is the day for brunch. In our family, this means only one thing - Mahambri Baharazi is on the menu.
For me, this dish evokes a strong wistful affection for my childhood - carefree days spent romping on the pristine white beaches of the Swahili coast, the salty tang of the warm sea air, long, lazy evenings spent on airy verandahs an simple wholesome food that tastes like the essence of the coast.
Mahambri Baharazi is a typical coastal dish heavily influenced by the Swahili culture which is a combination of Kenyan and Arabic tastes. It was happily accepted into the Gujarati recipe repertoire as it is a happy combination of sweet and savoury which us Gujaratis so love.
The mahamris are a slightly sweet, almost doughnut type bread, subtly flavoured with cardamom and shaped like hollow samosas. These are eaten with the baharazi, which is a savoury dish of gunga peas gently simmered in coconut milk.
The dish is eaten across Kenya and Tanzania (where the mahamris are called mandazi) and each family will have their own individual take on the recipe.
My recipe has been slightly adapted by my mother who has put a Gujarati perspective on it by adding onions.
The only way it can be eaten is without a care, on a lazy Sunday morning with copious amounts of spiced indian tea (chai)

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