Heidi, one of our readers, has asked for a recipe using lenga-lenga (amaranth). Here are some recipes, together with information on lenga-lenga – its use, cultivation and value as a key indigenous food.
Lenga-lenga is one of a hand-full of basic, inexpensive, easy-to-cultivate, and nutritious crops in Burundi and surrounding areas. Its use transcends both ethnic and economic categories – a useful feat in an area typified by economic divides as well as decades of ethnically based strife.
As a crop, lenga-lenga is easy to plant and care for, and matures in only three weeks.
Lenga-lenga is often grown along roads and in spare plots – this is by the fence of the airport. The mound of sand is where a hand-dug well has been developed in order to water the crop.
- Lenga-lenga plots can be easily cared for by one woman – who plants, cultivates, harvests, bundles and sells the crop.
Harvested lenga-lenga is immediately tied into small bundles, which can be seen at the bottom of the photo.
In large plots, the entire family may help in the harvest, together with friends or relatives. The bundles of lenga-lenga are being placed under plastic sheets where they will remain until early the next morning, when they will be taken to local markets or into city markets very early.
Women holding a stock of arid-lands lenga-lenga in eastern Burundi – more information on following picture.
The arid land lenga-lenga self-seeds and is generally not cared for, but harvested from these wild stands. I’m not aware of any work being done to document the various types of lenga-lenga but it is a task that needs to be done, as we move into changing climatic conditions.
Recipes for Lenga-Lenga:
There are no ‘fixed’ recipes for lenga-lenga, everyone has their favorite way of making it. However, basic ingredients are the same:
- Lenga-lenga leaves and small parts of the stems
- pili-pili – hot sauce made of red peppers
There are other items that could be added, such as:
- Meat pieces (usually goat)
- Small fish
- Green peppers
- Red beans
The ingredients and the amounts are really up to you! Though the steps are similar – first, heat oil and saute onions, (garlic; green peppers) then add tomatoes and simmer, followed by meat pieces (pre-cooked) or small fish or beans.
Wash and pick off leaves from the stems together with tender stem pieces.
To keep cleaned lenga-lenga fresh, place in a bowl with water.
Lenga-lenga sauce wtih palm oil, onion and tomatoes being cooked in front while thick porridge of manioc flour with which to eat the sauce is being made in back.
Prepared for the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, and served with thick porridge cassava balls by Chef Richard.
A ‘westernised’ lenga-lenga based dish that I make from time to time, with olive oil, lots of garlic, tomatoes, onions, potatoes - all cooked in a rich meat sauce.
For a Sunday meal, eating lenga-lenga with mukeke fish from Lake Tanganyika that has been grilled over charcoal is delicious.
The following blog gives a recipe using lenga-lenga and INUPU – an indigenous potato that grows here in the highlands:
INUPU – Burundi’s Indigenous Potatoes and a Recipe