Thursday, 26 July 2012

Olympic Food Challenge: Pap and Chakalaka - Lesotho

Landlocked entirely by South Africa, Lesotho (pop 2.06m) has sent five Olympians to London 2012.  Lesotho is one of those countries I've heard of and I knew it was in Africa, but thanks to both GCSE and A-Level Geography being all about Central Business Districts, population distributions, vegetation, and some geology, I couldn't have even guessed whereabouts it was on the continent.

I'm ashamed to say that when I was sitting GCSE Geography, the then seven-year-old @BridestockBride was able to pinpoint more countries on a map than I was.  And this all in spite of my second favourite book being my Readers Digest Atlas of the World (I was only interested in the bit at the front about the planets and volcanoes - also covered at GCSE/A-level).

Not long after I met the husband, one night in a drunken stupor, he decided to buy a map of the world for the hallway.  Unfortunately, having not sat any secondary school exams (he was a rebel and dropped out), he thought he was buying a 60cm wide map which he could frame.  It was actually sixty inches and has dominated the walls in our previous residences - and solved many World Cup related 'discussions' - until it got relegated to the loft so our immense caricature of London could have pride of place on the lounge walls.

But thanks to the joy that is Google, I was able to find out everything I ever wanted to know about Lesotho.  Originally I'd planned on making a banana souffle because I've still managed to avoid souffles this year but then I figured that it didn't seem very African, even though it's a very popular dish in Lesotho.  A little more research led me to Chakalaka and Pap which I just had to make because I fell in love with the names.

Chakalaka is a tomato-based stew and delightfully simple to make.  Just chop up carrots, tomatoes, a chilli, an onion and a red pepper.  Fry.  Job done.  Pap is just as simple.  It's actually plain polenta seasoned with salt and pepper.  And had a double benefit of further reducing the bag of polenta that's been lurking in my cupboard since I bought it to make cornbread for this blog some months back.

Interestingly, I got tweeted by Dan aka Mr @SoupTuesday (and co-author of the SoupTuesday blog) last night with a comment that he thought that these dishes were South African.  I was a little worried that I was about to be found out as @KasariW (aka Mrs Soup) is from SA but thankfully she concurred that the dish is common to both countries.  I've found this with many Eastern European dishes - and similar in the Caribbean.  There are dishes that are similar save for a slight tweak here and there.

Lesotho Flag
What I fell in love with in Turkey as borek are served in many other countries - Greece and Cyprus to name a couple.  But it can also go by the name of Spanokoptika in Greece when it's formed into one single pie and in Serbia, they have the same dish which, according to my Serbian friend Vukan is called Cheese Pie.  I'm sure it's really got an exotic Serbian name, but I'm happy to go with Cheese Pie.  It does what it says on the tin and his is the best I've ever tasted.  I'm a bit gutted I didn't get Serbia because I've been meaning to try his recipe for years.

Anyhow, this is a really simple, tasty combination that will get me out of a hole in the future when I'm left with a few random veggies in the fridge and the need to cook something for dinner.  I don't think I ever expected something with such a fab name to become a store cupboard staple.

You can find the recipe here.

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