When I stumbled across this recipe for Swahili kuku, I knew right away it was going to be a good one. The ingredients on the list meant that I was going to be in for a savory, spicy, flavor-filled, warming dish. I was right.

 

Simple ingredients, big flavor.
Simple ingredients, big flavor.

Kenyans enjoy a variety of foods depending on the region. The western region of Kenya favors chicken, while other regions favor other proteins, such as goat or sheep. Generally, this chicken dish is served with rice or maize meal. I decided to keep it simple with rice.

Mise en place.
Mise en place.

I did make one adjustment to the meal (other than removing the cilantro). I subbed out the cream for coconut milk, since that is what I had on-hand at the time.

Cooking action shot.
Cooking action shot.

This dish has all the sorts of spices I absolutely love. Throw some turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, add some heat with peppers or cayenne powder, sweeten it up with clove and cardamom, and I am a happy camper.

Swahili kuku with rice.
Swahili kuku with rice.

This meal was delicious, easy, and warmed my belly. Try swahili kuku for yourself.

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I’ve made a form of Rogan Josh before, but never following a strict, authentic recipe. Generally, this is because lamb is expensive, and I usually sub it for beef. My boyfriend and I jokingly call this dish Josh Groban, and it is just as silky smooth as his voice.

Gathering everything together.
Gathering everything together.

I took the opportunity in writing this post to learn a little bit more about the territory known as Kashmir. Kashmir refers to an area that is controlled by China, Pakistan, and India. The influences of all three of the countries are pretty obvious in this dish. It features a heft of assorted delicious spices.

Look at those sexy spices.
Look at those sexy spices.

My boyfriend was in town, and I invited over a couple friends to enjoy this dish. It takes a while, but it’s definitely a great dinner party meal. And if you’re not going for complete authenticity, you can do what I have done in the past and sub out the lamb for beef if you have a picky dinner guest.

Lamb shanks soaking in a spice bath.
Lamb shanks soaking in a spice bath.

Luckily, my friends were only too happy to enjoy lamb shanks. One word of caution I would offer is to make sure you get good quality lamb shanks. I purchased two shanks from a high-end grocery and the other two from a bargain grocery; I didn’t think it would make a difference, but it certainly did. The shanks from the low-end grocery were cut very badly, resulting in still-tough meat even after all the stewing. I saved those bones to make some broth later on.

Melissa eating like a cavewoman.
Melissa eating like a cavewoman.

To round out the meal, I made rice, Nepali-style saag (ghee, garlic and spinach sauteed together), and heated up some pre-made naan (I’m so not good at baking). It turned out beautifully, and the house was filled with wonderful smells.

A complete meal.
A complete meal.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-prepare dish and have a little extra time to let it heat on the stovetop, give Rogan Josh a try.

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Picadillo Cubano

One of my oldest friends, Jenn, is half Cuban, half Puerto Rican. In college, I went to visit her at the University of Miami, and she took me to the only Cuban restaurant I have ever been to that I really enjoyed (there is more to this: all of the restaurants I ever went to in Vegas weren’t very good, she told me). The food was all delicious, but I absolutely can’t tell you what we ate, since Jenn ordered everything for me in Spanish.

Ingredients for Picadillo Cubano
Ingredients for Picadillo Cubano

Jenn often tells me she has meals she wants to send me to make for the blog, but that she makes everything just like her grandma: there’s no written recipe. (This is a common theme when I ask my friends for recipes). I stumbled across this recipe for Picadillo Cubano and asked Jenn if she’d ever had it. She laughed and responded she has some form of Picadillo Cubano every week, and while she doesn’t like to use raisins, this one looked pretty authentic. The mixture of salty and sweet intrigued me, and I just had to try it out.

Those look like orange slices, but they are actually bell pepper.
Those look like orange slices, but they are actually bell pepper.

I absolutely love olives. I am an olive fiend. I was excited to have a dish that used them very heavily. Plus, since this dish required white wine, that meant I automatically had an excuse to have a glass with dinner. Not bad at all!

Picadillo Cubano
Everything cooking up together in a pretty, colorful pan.

Not only does it have olives, wine, and that little something that made it sweet, Picadillo Cubano was quick and easy for a weeknight. I really can’t ever argue with something that means I get transported somewhere else on a weeknight.

Picadillo Cubano
The finished product!

The resulting flavor was just as I envisioned: salt from the olives, richness from the ground beef, and a touch of sweet from the raisins. It left me feeling satisfied but not heavy. This one is going to be a regular staple for sure. I know now why my friend Jenn cooks this up every week. Try it out for yourself.

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