You expect raclette, cheese fondue and rosti in a Swiss kitchen and not tamarind flavoured kebabs, but for Kenyan-born Fatuma the flavours of home have helped her acclimatise to her new world. Fatuma is a keen cook, mother, wife, PhD student and an award winning public relations practitioner with 25 years of experience under her belt. She recently moved to Berne, Switzerland for her new job as head of cabinet for the Universal Postal Union, a specialised UN agency. Fatuma says she finds cooking therapeutic. “My whole thought process is in the mixing, stirring, tasting and I find it adds to my ‘me’ time where I do what I like at my own pace and time. I also feel good when the end result is appreciated by people…my family love my cooking though I don’t do it much.”
Like most Somalis, Fatuma loves meat and spices and learnt to cook at an early age from her mother, but it was the time spent with her grandparents that cemented her connection with food. “My maternal grandpa, God rest his soul, taught me how to make square sabaayad during one of my school holidays in Nyeri, Kenya where my mum was born and brought up. My maternal grandmother used to teach me how to make traditional caano gadod (special milk) using the roots that were burnt and used to line the diil (traditional milk container) where the milk was stored to ferment it and that gave the milk that special smell, colour and flavour. “But most of all, I grew up always cooking more than we needed because we never knew who would show up for a meal. Perhaps it was influenced by being a politician’s daughter and there were always people milling around our home that made us do this, but I guess it now affects me because I can never cook for just one person…not used to it. I cook a lot and freeze,” she adds.
Fatuma has passed on her love of cooking to her three daughters and two sons. “My son even wanted to be a professional chef at one time – maybe from watching too much Masterchef and Gordon Ramsay and Halimo wants to learn cooking professionally, but it is my eldest, Khadija Iman, who takes after me as she uses her eye to estimate ingredients and does not measure out as most recipes indicate.” Ali, her husband, also chips in and loves to make koroga – a Kenyan dish where meat or chicken is cooked with loads of spices and stirred over a wood or charcoal burner for hours until the meat falls off the bone.
Tamarind flavoured kebabs
- 1kg beef mince
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
- Salt to taste (I don’t add salt because I use lemon and tamarind paste)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Step 1: Put all the spice ingredients in a bowl and mix very thoroughly. Add the beef mince and knead together with your fingers making sure the meat is well mixed with the spices.
- Step 2: Take a little meat mixture and shape with your hand into the size you want. You can keep them covered in the fridge to harden a little.
- Step 3: Put a little oil in frying pan and fry the kebabs, turning them until they are brown on all sides. Use a no-oil electric fryer for a healthier option.
- If baking or grilling place the kebabs on a greased baking tray and cook on high heat. Turn the kebabs as soon as their colour changes and they release a little water. It takes less than five minutes per side to cook. You can also grill on charcoal for a more BBQ effect.