Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sukuma Wiki

Kenya is known much more for big game animals than for its food, and yet, as soon as we got home, I turned to the internet for help with some Kenyan recipes. Like any of the myriad places where I have spent time, the food of those places feels like reconnecting with their spirits. I never did end up making a big Kenyan feast, and that idea was put on the back burner.


This is a plate of typical Kenyan food, pretty much the definition of “peasant” food. Boiled potatoes, sauteed cabbage, rice, some kind of meat (usually beef or goat) stew, and sukuma wiki (suh-KOO-muh WEE-kee), or kale. I learned that sukuma wiki means “stretch the week” in Swahili, and since it is grown year-round in East Africa, it is easily available and often added to meals to stretch them throughout the week. Eating all that kale is probably the reason why most Kenyans are so healthy! Well, that, walking a lot, and not smoking or drinking alcohol.

In browsing for paleo-friendly recipes, I found this version of sukuma wiki which uses ground beef (so much easier to find than goat) and collard greens. Without being so finely chopped, the texture was much thicker, and the warm spices gave the dish more of an Indian flavor. Apparently, one must go to Mombasa to get the well-seasoned food in Kenya. It’s a simple dish that comes together quickly, but it’s also soul food – warm and hearty. I know we’ll be revisiting this dish frequently in the winter.


Sukuma Wiki
source: The Domestic Man


1 tbsp cooking fat of your choice
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp each sea salt, cumin, coriander
1/2 tsp each black pepper, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground fennel seeds, turmeric
1 lb organic, grass-fed ground beef
1 bunch collard greens (about 8 leaves), stems removed, sliced into 1″ strips
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp lemon juice


Warm the fat in a skillet on medium heat for a minute, then add the onion. Sauté the onion until softened, about four minutes. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the ground beef and seasonings, and cook until mostly done, about six minutes, stirring frequently so the ground beef doesn’t clump.

Add the collard greens and tomatoes, and sauté until the collard greens are wilted, about four minutes. Stir everything around carefully as it cooks – be sure to do this step gently so you don’t mush up the tomatoes.

Add the lemon juice and season to taste by adding salt and pepper as needed, and serve immediately.