A whisper from the woods

Food for Thought, June 2023

Jun 1, 2023

World Wide Web

I am always amazed by the complexity and interdependency of food systems. In fact, these come together. The reason why they are so complex is precisely based on their multi-layered and multi-directional relationships.

Just imagine your last meal. Can you think of all the parties involved?

In my experience, this exercise takes a while.

From the farmer, who sows and nurtures the crops, to the person he or she sells them to. From the transporters to the retailers in our local supermarkets. Or, from the multinational companies that hold patents on seeds, to the national, international, and regional governments that build and enforce laws. The consumer, who both influences and is influenced by the market, and those who invest in this market…

The list has no end.

And because it is more than just a list of random players, losing one would change how the chain works.

Even though food is a basic right, that does not mean we should not be appreciative of it and of all those who make it possible for us to eat delicious meals every day.

 

Food tells a story

On the other hand, food tells a story.

And again, there are many important characters in this story. All the actors considered above are important – those who, at present, work to bring food to our tables.

But there is a deeper, underlying tale. Because it is such a basic need, food has, for millennia, been shaping cultures.

The way food is produced and what type of crops are grown; or the way food is cooked and what ingredients go together. I find it amusing to learn the context in which a given recipe was created; or how it might have changed through time.

Once we start looking at food as the collective piece of work (or art) that it is, our perception of it changes and we start giving it a different value.

The number one reason why I have become so passionate about food systems is their impact. Not only because it is big, but especially because it extends far and deep.

 

A South African recipe, Chakalaka

Chakalaka is the perfect example (as I’m sure there are others).

This recipe is a vegan-friendly staple in South African cuisine. Today, it is often featured in barbecues or street food stalls, as a side dish or a main. It is a comforting and flavourful dish, served both warm and cold, and its rich origin is very much reflected in this rainbow, spicy meal.

The recipe was first developed by mine workers in Johannesburg, South Africa. Workers coming from Mozambique – bringing in their traditional flavours with a Portuguese flair – would stir in a pot whatever ingredients they would have around, usually canned tomatoes, fresh vegetables, and beans.

In the end, it ended up with a delicious stew combining African, European, and Indian-Malay characteristics.

Ingredients:

NOTE: These measurements don’t have to be exact. I used medium-sized vegetables, but use what you have and like.

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger piece, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 chili peppers, chopped (if you like the kick, leave the seeds, but if you are not as tolerant, make sure you remove them)
  • 30ml (⅛ cup) white wine (optional; you can use water or vegetable stock, instead)
  • 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • ¼ cabbage, shredded
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 120ml (½ cup) tomato sauce
  • 400g white (cannellini) beans, cooked and drained
  • 1.5 tbsp spice mix: you can use a store-bought spice mix like Garam Masala. Alternatively, you can make your own mix. Here’s what I used:
    • ½ tsp dried chili
    • ½ tsp turmeric
    • ¼ tsp black pepper
    • ½ tsp dried cilantro
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • ½ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp fenugreek
    • ¼ tsp ginger
    • ¼ tsp clove
    • 5 cardamom pods
  • Optional: fresh coriander and lemon juice
Method:
  1. Pre-heat a wok on medium-high heat
  2. Start by sautéing the minced ginger, garlic, and onion. You’ll get the most flavor if you give them a blast separately first.
  3. When that mix gets golden, add the spice mix and stir continuously for 30 seconds to prevent the spices from burning.
  4. At this point, add the wine/stock to deglaze the pan.
  5. Add all the vegetables together and mix well. Add the tomato paste, and let the vegetables sweat and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the cooked beans and finalize with fresh coriander and lemon juice.

You can eat this both warm and cold. My preference has been to have it cold inside a pitta with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar- absolutely mouth-watering!

________

I hope you give this recipe a try and that you enjoyed the article above. Let us know your thoughts, either way.

One important final note that sums up the article really well: this recipe was shared by one of our community members. A blog is made by both writers and readers, just as much as recipes need a cook and an eater.

Feel free to share any recipes or any other comments in the comment section below.

If you make this recipe and share it on social media, tag us so that we can celebrate your cooking together!
Global Tree Initiative | @globaltreeinitiative
Kind Dish | @kind.dish

 

Please share this. Thank you!

5 Comments

  1. Anrich Bester

    Nice recipe and story.

    I did not know the history behind Chakalaka. I ate it on the streets, but never asked questions! 😀

    Reply
    • Kika Gusmao

      I bet eating it from a street food stall makes it taste special!

      Thank you for sharing. ^^

      Reply
  2. Imam Maiyaki

    I will try cooking this at home. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Kika Gusmao

      I am happy to hear, Imam! Let us known what you think. 😀

      Reply
    • Anrich Bester

      Looking forward to seeing how yours turn out! 😀

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other blog posts

Food for Thought, June 2024

As with all the other nutrients, it is important to eat enough protein. Over recent decades, however, a narrative proclaiming animal-based products as the only reliable source of protein took root.

Community Blog, May 2024

In this month’s Community Blog, Jussa tells us about his recent trip to Nairobi, Kenya, where he met other young and active environmentalists from several African countries.

Ask me almost anything, May 2024

As tree planters, we take for granted the collection of rainwater to irrigate our plants.  Whether we live in an urban or rural setting, rainwater harvesting is a relatively cheap and effective way to sustain the water needs of ourselves, our plants and our animals.

Traveling with Trees, May 2024

Today I am sharing about a special tree, the Weeping Bottlebrush. This particular tree lives in Sebastian, Florida in the United States. It is a haven for all kinds of creatures such as birds, squirrels, lizards, lichen, and bugs too!

Food for Thought, May 2024

Food defines us – what we eat, how we eat it, how many times a day we do so! Our diets and the way they evolved have deep historical, cultural, and even religious roots, making this a sensitive topic for many and a complicated target for change.

As within so without

We are well aware of the massive positive impact that planting trees has both on our environment and our physical well-being. So, I’d like to talk about less commonly explored side effects – the impact of planting trees on our mind, our mental health, and even on our perception of reality. 

Food For Thought, April 2024

According to a WWF report, Bending the Curve, our diets are the leading cause of death all over the world. Unbalanced diets and lifestyles are responsible for the rising numbers of obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Community Blog, March 2024

For this year’s theme, International Day of Zero Waste highlights the importance of supporting waste management worldwide and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Ask me almost anything, March 2024

Wetlands are saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. This saturation creates an environment with unique soil conditions and functions, which shape the adaptations of the plants that call wetlands “home”.

Traveling with Trees, March 2024

Jennifer is now back on a bi-monthly basis to tell us about her experience in Nature and with trees. Join us in welcoming and thanking Jennifer and her new column Traveling with Trees.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our newsletter. Stay tuned to all our news. There is more to come.

You have Successfully Subscribed!