Ugali (Pronounced "ooh-ga-lee") is a staple starch component of many African meals, especially in Southern and East Africa. It is generally made from maize/corn flour and water using a wooden spoon/paddle with a wide base. The texture of ugali is thicker than that of mashed potatoes or polenta. When ugali is cooked with another starch (e.g millet flour or cassava/yuca flour) it is usually given a specific regional name. This is a dish that can be enjoyed with any type of stew and you won't need to eat anything else for hours as it's quite filling. Tilapia on the other hand, is an easily available and reasonably priced fish in most of East Africa, especially in populations around the great Lake Victoria. For these reasons, it is a very popular source of protein in East Africa. There are numerous ways to cook this fish, and today I'll share my family recipe.
***The recipe for the Sukuma Wiki (sautéed greens) is in my "Pilau" video***
Serving Size: This meal feeds 3-6 people sufficiently.
Ingredients For The Fish Curry:
-3 whole tilapia fish, gutted, scales removed and thoroughly cleaned inside and out OR 2 lbs. tilapia fillets. Note that if you use whole tilapia for this recipe (the traditional way), the final dish will have bones. The fillet will be boneless. If you're not used to eating fish with bones, or if you're feeding this meal to kids, I suggest that you use the fillet instead. I opted to remove the head and tail of the fish (personal preference). Otherwise, just cut each whole fish into three parts (head, abdomen, tail).
-1 Tspn garlic paste.
-2 tbspns cilantro (coriander leaves).
-1 carrot, peeled and cut into rounds.
-3 tomatoes, diced OR half of a 13.5 Oz. can of peeled, diced tomatoes.
-1/4 teaspoon tomato paste.
-1/2 of a medium onion, diced.
-1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala.
-3 teaspoons Royco Mchuzi Mix (see link in description box on where to buy this).
-1/2 teaspoon Curry powder.
-1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spices (cinnamon, coriander, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger). See video on how to create this at home or scroll down to the bottom of this page.
-2 teaspoons Salt.
-3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon powder.
-1-2 cups water for cooking the fish (depending on how much sauce you'd like in your dish).
Instructions For Cooking The Fish Curry:
-In a wide frying or sauté pan that has a lid, on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of canola oil, add the onions and sauté till light golden brown.
-Add the garlic paste to the sautéed onions and stir well. Let it cook for 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.
-Add the tomatoes to the onions/garlic and stir.
-Add 1/4 teaspoon tomato paste and stir. Cover and let it simmer for 5 mins.
-Add the cinnamon powder and stir.
-Add 1/2 teaspoon mixed spices.Stir.
-Add the curry powder. Stir.
-Add the garam masala. Stir.
-Add the Royco Mchuzi Mix. Stir. The ingredients in the pan will thicken. Add about 1/4 cup of water into the pan and stir.
-Add the cilantro (coriander leaves) and stir.
-Divide the onion/tomato/spice mixture into two. Leave 1/2 of it in the pan, and place the other 1/2 in a separate bowl. Set the bowl aside.
-Add the carrots to the pan with the onions/tomatoes/spices and stir.
-Add the salt and stir (after you've added in all your spices).
-Add 1 cup water to the pan and stir.
-Place the fish in the pan over the sauce. Make sure to leave space between the pieces of fish.
-Spoon the reserved onion/tomato/spice mixture over the pieces of fish in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes until the fish is flaky and well cooked and the sauce in the pan has reduced.
When serving your fish, first pour the sauce onto a platter, gently place the fish pieces on the platter and garnish the fish pieces with the cooked carrots that were in the pan (see picture for reference).
Ingredients for the Ugali:
-Approximately 2 2/3 cups White cornmeal/ maize flour. I got mine in the International aisle in the Hispanic food section (see the brand I used in the video).
-3-4 cups boiling water.
Instructions for cooking the ugali:
-In a heavy-bottomed medium sized pan on medium heat, bring the water to a boil as you see in the video.
-Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the corn flour over the surface of the boiling water.
-Add 1 cup of corn flour into the boiling water (in 1/3 cup increments) and use a wooden paddle/cooking spoon to stir the flour into the water and break up the lumps that will form.
-Keep adding the corn flour in 1/3 cup increments into the pot and stir as you do so to break down the lumps. The more flour you add to the pot, the faster the ugali will bubble. The faster it bubbles, the more vigorously you need to stir. Be careful when doing this as the ugali tends to spit and could scald you.
**Please see the video to see how to properly stir ugali as you cook it**
-The ugali is done when you poke it with your clean index finger and it does not feel wet or sticky. Another indicator that the ugali is done is that it will pull away from the sides of the pan.
-Once the ugali is done, invert it onto a clean plate. You can serve it as is, or you can shape it using a serving spoon.
-If you'd like to shape it, run some water over the back of a plastic serving spoon and gently smooth out the edges of the cooked ugali that's on the plate. Rotate the plate as you do this and this should give you a dome-shaped ugali.
-To serve ugali, slice a wedge with a butter knife and place the slice on a small side plate or on an individual dinner plate where the fish and vegetables will be served. It's all up to personal preference. See video on how to eat this dish.
I served my fish with ugali and sukuma wiki. If you use this recipe to cook whole fish as opposed to fish fillet, be sure to feel for the bones with your fingers and remove the bones as you eat the fish. If you've never eaten fish this way, I suggest you just use fillets to make this dish. It will still taste the same.
Fish cooked this way can also be served with rice or mashed potatoes. This meal is delicious, filling, cheap and nutritious. Hope you get to give it a try =)
TIP: To make your own Mixed Spices at home, combine the following whole spices (all except the fresh ground nutmeg and the ginger powder) and place them in a medium frying pan over medium heat:
-1 stick cinnamon bark.
-1 tablespoon coriander seeds
-1 teaspoon whole cloves
-3 dry bay leaves
-1 teaspoon green cardamom pods.
-1 whole nutmeg, freshly grated.
-1 teaspoon ginger powder.
Stir these spices around in the pan until you begin smelling the aroma of the spices (about 8 minutes). Dry roasting the whole spices helps heighten the depth of their flavors and releases the oils in them. Let the dry-roasted whole spices cool down completely. At this point, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind them into a powder OR you can use a coffee/spice grinding machine to pulverize the whole spices into powder form. At this point, add the freshly ground nutmeg and the ginger powder to the mix and combine well. Once you have your ground Mixed Spices, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. This can keep for up to 6 months if properly stored.