u3a - East Africa


East African Recipes by Kate Noonan

Richmond Upon Thames u3a

I am Kate (Khatoon) Noonan from u3a of Richmond upon Thames. I was born in Uganda to Indian parents. My parents had emigrated to East Africa in the 1920s during British rule both in India and East Africa. 

I grew up under the influence of both Indian and African culture and food. By profession, I am a clinical biochemist with 40 years of experience in clinical chemical pathology and research. I am now retired and live in Teddington. I am not a professional chef but growing up in a big household, where food was central, I enjoyed the hustle and bushel in the kitchen while helping my mother.

My mother was an excellent cook not only in Indian Gujrati vegetarian and Mughlai nonveg dishes, but she had imbibed a lot of African culture and she was clever to innovate the fusion dishes using the local ingredients. Most of the East African dishes I have are fusion dishes.

I had also spent time in a convent school, among Ugandan girls, where most of the food served in the dining room was African in origin. There I developed taste for native Ugandan dishes and learnt to cook them from the African cooks in the convent kitchen. During holidays I used to cook these foods delighting the entire family with my food.


Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania are the three British East African countries with similar food habits. The main food of the area consists of beans and nuts (for protein) and cheap starchy roots and flour from dried roots, banana, and rice (for carbohydrate).  Green leaves like spinach, Kale, chard, Amaranthus leaves, and various Tropical fruits form the source of vitamins and iron. Meat is eaten only occasionally as it is expensive. Fish is eaten in abundance where it is cheaply available. In Uganda freshwater fish like the Nile Perch and Tilapia is eaten whereas in Kenya and Tanzania seawater fish is eaten due to access to the Indian ocean.

What is Matoke?

Ndizi (banana) and plantain are found in most tropical countries but matoke, a variety of banana, is indigenous to southwestern Uganda and the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania.     They are the only green bananas that go into a pulp when cooked. Boiled and mashed matoke is the national dish of Uganda. Other green varieties of banana seen in the market are either unripe bananas or hard S. American jungle bananas which will never go into pulp like matoke on cooking.   Matoke mash and peanut sauce and meat stew with matoke are a staple Ugandan food normally served as lunch in all Ugandan homes. These two dishes are very authentic, and most markets will have pots of groundnut stew and mashed matoke to go. In my university hall of residence in Uganda it was served every lunchtime. Though delicious, after my first year I got sick of it. But I now cook in my home as a special meal and serve it with fried or grilled tilapia or Nile Perch.   

East African food is not fine dining but once tasted you would crave for more like sausages and mash with gravy. Some fusion dishes that use matoke are included below

Where can I get it?

Available in Indian supermarkets and some bigger supermarkets


Kuku Paka - Chicken in Coconut Sauce

This simple dish is a coconut curry from the East African coastal region especially Lamu, Zanzibar and Mombasa. It is a perfect dish that illustrates how African, Arab, and Indian influences meld in the coastal region of East Africa. Etymologically, Kuku Paka is somewhat unclear. The African origin is confirmed in the word Kuku which means chicken in Kiswahili. Paka origin is unclear. It may be a Punjabi or Indian. Either way, it is a fabulous dish. It is a dish extremely popular among the Ismaili community of East Africa This is my version of the recipe adapted from my mother’s recipe.


  • 1.5 kg chicken skinned and cut into pieces or you can have 750 g boneless and 750 g chicken with bone.
  • 2 medium onions finely chopped (250 g mix of spring +ordinary)
  • 3 medium hot chillies slit into halves
  • 2 tbsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp crushed green chillies
  • 3 medium tomatoes skinned and chopped in small pieces
  • 1 tsp jeera seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 400 ml of diluted coconut milk made by diluting 1 tin of coconut cream in hot water.
  • 200 ml of concentrated coconut cream
  • 4 potatoes peeled and cut into halves.
  • 3 boiled eggs, peeled and halved.
  • 3 tbsp oil.
  • ½ bunch coriander.
  • Juice of 1 lemon

East African Kuku Paka KNoonan


  1. Soak the chicken in plenty of water. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar and salt. Soak for at least 2 hours. Wash it thoroughly and dry. Chicken soaked in vinegar will not break during cooking.
  2. Blend onions, garlic, ginger, chilli paste and stalks of coriander in a blender till smooth.
  3. Heat oil in a pan, add the blended onion mix, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, and salt. Sauté the mixture stirring frequently for about 5-8 mins. Add the tomatoes, fry for 5 mins till soft.
  4. Now add the chicken and cook for few minutes till light brown. Dilute one tin of coconut cream by adding one and a half cup of water. Add it to the chicken. Potatoes and corn on the cob (if used) can be added at this stage. Cover and cook for 12-15 mins till chicken and potatoes are cooked.
  5. To finish off the dish add remaining coconut cream, boiled eggs, coriander and lemon juice, mix and simmer for further 5 mins. Serve with coconut rice and fluffy white bread

East African Kuku Paka KNoonan2

Katoge - Spinach, kidney beans, and matoke stew 

This is another authentic recipe from the Buganda district of Uganda. it can be served as main dish with rice or as soup and as an accompaniment to roasted, barbecued meat.  

INGREDIENTS (6-8 person) 

  • 500 g chopped fresh spinach. 
  • 6 -8 matoke (green Uganda bananas) 
  • 250 g of cooked kidney beans 
  • 1 large onion finely chopped;
  • 2 large tomatoes finely chopped. 
  • 1¾ tsp of salt,
  • 1 tsp of jeera (cumin) seeds 
  • 1 tsp minced garlic,
  • 1 tbsp ginger 
  • 1 tsp turmeric,1 tsp crushed green chilli 
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter,
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil 
  • Juice of 1 lime 
  • 1 mugs of stock 


  1. Peel matoke cut into small pieces and keep in water with little lemon juice.
  2. Heat oil in a pan and fry onion, tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder, jeera seeds, peanut butter till onions and tomatoes are soft.  
  3. Add spinach and matoke and cook for few seconds in the cooked spices. Add meat stock cover and cook till matoke is cooked and soft. 
  4. Add cooked beans and simmer for 10 mins. 
  5. Before serving add lemon juice. 

Serve with the main meal as an accompaniment or eat as a soup. 


Ground Nut Stew

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250g peanut nuts (nuts grown in Uganda are like peanuts but they are pale pink and are called ground nuts) are roasted skinned and coarsely ground or 100g coarse peanut butter, 450 ml hot water.
  • 1large onion peeled and chopped,
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped.
  • ¾ tsp salt,1 tsp paprika hot juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 bunch chopped coriander and spinach.


  1. In a bowl combine peanuts or peanut butter in hot water and stir to make a paste.
  2. In a pan, heat oil over a medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Now add the peanut mixture and stir well. Add salt, paprika. Add coriander and spinach. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and serve with mashed matoke.
  3. Garnished with fried onions.

Ground Nut Stew

Coconut Mogo - Zanzibari Style

Cassava or mogo (East African name ),  like matoke, is another staple food of East Africa Natives. It is a nutty-flavoured starchy root vegetable or tuber. It is major source of calories in developing countries. If not prepared correctly the tuber can be toxic as it contains cyanide, Africans consume it mainly as flour. Pioneer Indian mothers have innovated this recipe which is one of the popular party dish to accompany grilled meat. Some time lamb is added to eat as a main dish with salads. 

Ingredients: (serves 8 people) 

  • 3 lb Mogo Cut into  small pieces (you can buy frozen ready cook in  Asian supermarkets including some branches of Tescos 
  • 2 Onions finely chopped 
  • 2 tbsp of crushed ginger 
  • 1 tsp crushed  green chillies 
  • 1 tsp jeera seeds  
  • 1 tbsp salt 
  • 1 bunch of coriander washed & chopped  
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 tin 285 g coconut cream  
  • 5 mugs water or enough to cook mogo to a soft consistency 
  • 450 g of lamb pieces on the bone boiled till tender. (optional)


  1. In a large pot put mogo, water and all the other ingredients (cooked lamb if using) except coconut cream, lemon and coriander. 
  2. Cook for 30 minutes or till soft and mushy & not lumpy. Add more water if needed.
  3. Add coconut cream, lemon juice & coriander. Cook for further 5-7 minutes till thoroughly mixed.

Serve with grilled meat or as a main dish with coconut and coriander chutney 

Pili Pili Mbuta (Nile Perch)

This lovely fish dish to cook on BBQ.   It is a fish parcel cooked in banana leaf but as we do not get banana leaves easily you can use tin foil and follow the recipe. 


  • 1 kilo Nile perch fillets (or any other white fish like pollock, kingfish or red snapper fillet) I prefer to use steaks as they hold better. 
  • 100g sustainably sourced palm oil 
  • 1 onion finely chopped. 
  • 1 tbsp crushed ginger 
  • 1 tbsp dhana jeera powder +1/2 tsp  
  • 2 tbsp gram flour 
  • 2 chopped tomatoes  
  • 1 bunch coriander chopped. 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder 
  • 3 green chillies chopped. 
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice 
  • 8 squares of banana leaves 


  1. Make a marinade or paste with 50 ml palm oil, salt, chilli powder, Dhana jeera powder (Coriander and cumin powder), gram flour, lime juice, ginger and coriander. Rub each fillet with the paste and leave for 2-3 hrs at room temperatures or in the fridge overnight. 
  2. Fry onions, green chilli, tomatoes, and coriander in hot palm oil till onion is soft and translucent. Let it cool down. 
  3. Lay the fish and the onion mix in greased banana leaves to form a parcel. Secure it with a string of banana leaf or with a cotton cord. 
  4. Cook on a BBQ or steam it on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. 
  5. Serve immediately with coriander and tomato salsa. 

Matoke Mash

In Uganda, mashed banana is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. As we do not get them easily, I use the following method.  

Ingredients (serves 6) 

  • 8-10 matoke. (available in Indian supermarkets and some branches of Tesco) Uganda matoke or green bananas are short, and stout compared to green bananas from other countries. Make sure you pick Ugandan variety.  
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 1-2 tbs of butter  
  • 50 ml of milk   


Take a large pot and boil enough water to submerge the bananas. Add bananas and bring the pot to boil again. Lower the heat and let the banana simmer for another 10 minutes till they cooked. the skin would be brown, yellow. To mash put the peeled banana in a bowl add the butter, milk, and salt. Use a potato masher to mash the banana to a pulp.

Serve hot with ground nut stew.  


Coconut Wild Rice

Ingredients: serves 8 -10 

  • 100 g wild rice (like red rice) 
  • 400 g basmati rice 
  • 75 g butter or ghee 
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsps raisins 1 tbsps flaked almond 
  • 75 g desiccated coconut 
  • 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt 
  • Fried curry leaves to garnish 


  1. Cook wild rice separately from the basmati rice.  Follow the instruction on the packet, except with the basmati rice add 150 ml of coconut milk to 700ml water to cook.
  2. In a pan melt butter add sesame and cumin seeds, then raisins and almonds and fry briefly over medium heat until the nuts begin to turn light brown.
  3. Lower the heat, add the desiccated coconut and continue to fry very gently, stirring continuously until coconut begins to brown (about 1 min). 
  4. Mix in the sugar and salt then add the two boiled rice and toss lightly. Garnish with fried curry leaves before serving.   

 A huge thanks to all the chefs taking the time to send in their recipes.

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