Cooking exercise before travelling. Mtori Soup


Traveling is the best opportunity for us to visit places, meet people, deal with different cultures, environments and lifestyles that are very often different from ours. On the other side travelling requires the widest mind-openness, a strong attitude to experimentation, discovery and, why not, the joy of living.
However, if I had to choose the component that most impacts on our travel experiences, together with visits and places of interest, I would certainly say it is the food.
Food is never the same: every Country, every culture and sub-culture of a specific geographical area offers an almost endless range of culinary traditions, everywhere in the world. The different climatic conditions, the type of arable land and the geographical location offer an almost infinite range of local products that result in the largest and richest virtual book on earth: the cook-book of world cuisine. Well, of course, such a book does not exist, and in fact it would be very hard, if not impossible, to gather all the recipes from each Country, from each region, and even from each village, in a single document. We have to keep in mind in mind that traditional recipes are often kept in the memory of the housewives, country cooks, and very often into the individual knowledge of the elders, thus sometimes cooking tradition are at risk of being forgotten, when the human resources that have preserved and handed them down pass away. The global spread in international fast food chains also have a huge impact on the way we keep cooking traditions. Despite the job opportunities offered by fast food chains, especially in the most under developed communities, it is at small local traditional restaurants, especially those that are still family-run, that we get the best local culinary-art experience as travellers.

Therefore, today I present you a traditional recipe of the Swahili cuisine. One of those recipes that moved in time down generation after generation, and that fed, and still feeds, young Tanzans, thanks to its extraordinary energetic properties and the local availability of simple raw materials, yest exceptional at the same time.
It is a main course with a sweet taste and yet a full meal: the soup called Mtori.

Mtori is a banana-based soup born at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, in the geographical area called Chagga Land. It is easily found in the restaurants of Moshi and Arusha. If you plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Mtori soup will provide you with the necessary energy…

Please note that this recipe is based on a specific kind of Bananas called Plantains (with a green skin) that are nowadays commonly found also at markets in the northern hemisphere. Shouldn’t you find Plantains, you can use common bananas. The final results will not be exactly the same but you will get an idea of the favours you shall expect once in the Kilimanjaro area.

Plantains – photo courtesy of Swahili Foods

Ingredients:
1 kg of beef stew, preferably on the bone – the tail is the most suitable part.
2 bananas (better Plantains, smaller and denser, of which 3 or 4 are needed)
1 large onion
1 pepper
1 carrot
Butter or Margarine (approximately 3 tablespoons)
Salt, enough

Procedure:
Boil the pieces of beef in a high pot, taking care to cover the meat with plenty of water.
When the meat is completely cooked and soft, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Then, using a strainer, filter the broth obtained to remove excess of fat. Then, fray the meat into small pieces
Peel the plantains and cut them into small pieces. Do the same with onion, pepper and carrot and boil them altogether in a tall saucepan. Check the texture of the bananas from time to time until they are tender and soft.

Mtori Soups – Photo courtesy of Swahili Foods

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter (or margarine) and blend using a wooden spoon (or a mixer) until you get a thick and solid dough.
At this point, add a ladle of meat broth and start mixing the mixture. Add as much broth as necessary to reach the consistency you prefer (the more broth you add, the more liquid the soup will be), then add as much frayed meat as you like.
Serve hot in a deep dish or in a cup together with a slice of lime. Sprinkle with a little black pepper.
Bite the slice of lime after finishing the soup to degrease the palate.


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