I woke up this morning to a monkey jumping on the bed, asking me to make her elephant and bunny rabbit dance and sing their morning song. The melody and words vary on a daily basis, and are contingent on how much sleep I’ve had the night before.  It’s difficult to keep the two in tune when Eryn is trying to pry my eyes open.

While I am a morning person, it’s truly amazing that someone so small can be that wonderfully,  bird-chirpingly happy in the wee hours.

Once I rolled off the bed and onto the floor (causing Eryn to flop backwards in gales of laughter), we ran from Baba’s snores (lucky bugger) and came face to face with a pair of in-laws who not-so-subtly announced that I was to cook dinner tonight.

I offered to make daal, spaghetti, channa masala, or goulash. I was asked to make fish curry, bharazi and khameer.

So flying by the seat of my pants, and after a few quick glances at recipes from teh Internetz, I threw the baby into her high chair and got cooking.

Khameer is my family’s take on a traditional East African bread called Mandazi, which is essentially a Kenyan doughnut. During the frying process, the bread puffs up like a balloon — and because the Arabic word for fermentation is khamara, my family calls the puffy, yeast fermented bread khameer.

Khameer differs from mandazi with the addition of black seed and the omission of coconut to the recipe. Black seed is an ancient spice known for it’s anti-inflammatory and body purification properties (cleaning of the kidneys and liver) and helping to reduce cholesterol. The Prophet encouraged people who were sick to drink honey with powdered black seed, and claimed that black seed cured everything except death.

I find it to have a very fragrant, almost bitter sweet taste.

To make khameer you will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 level tsp of yeast
  • 3 tbs of sugar
  • 2oz butter, cold
  • about 1/2 milk
  • 1tsp black seeds
  • powdered cardamon (optional)

Combine your dry ingredients and chop in your cold butter. Kneed with milk, adding a little bit at a time, until a soft dough is formed — like the consistency of fresh, right out of the container Play-doh. Let the dough sit for 3 hours in a warm place.

Once ready, hand roll into 8 small balls.

Take one of your balls and with a rolling pin, roll it out into a circle, about a 1/4 inch thick. The thicker the dough, the more fluffy your khameer will be. If it’s too thin, you’ll end up with a hollow shell — but if it’s too thick, the bread will harden. Dust with a pinch of flour if the dough is too sticky to keep it nicely sliding on the board.

Cut into four, triangle-like shapes. Next time I may try cookie cutter shapes!

Fry each in hot oil — flip over when they’ve floated to the top and are a golden brown on the bottom. Continue frying until they’re golden brown on top! Some cooks prefer to flip repeatedly. My MIL swears by the 2-3 flip method.

Remove from oil, drain on paper towel, and eat warm with sweetened condensed milk, jam, honey, or Bharazi!

Bharazi is another lovely East African dish of pigeon peas (or black eyed peas) and coconut curry. And it is so simple to make.

  • 2 cans of pigeon peas
  • 1 can coconut milk (or dried coconut powder mixed for 1 cup)
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • green chillies
  • fresh coriander for garnish
  • salt to taste

Lightly fry your onion until almost transparent and one or two deseeded, finely chopped green chillies (I didn’t have any, so I threw in a couple of pinches of dried red chili flakes). Add about 1 teaspoon of tumeric powder. Add the peas. Add the coconut milk. Add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and reduce until the curry is nice and thick. When done, top with roughly chopped fresh coriander. Bas, khalas, that’s it! So easy.

And soooo very yummy!

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