A simple and delicious salad called slaai, brings us to Eswatini, former Kingdom of Swaziland, a tiny country in the south of Africa, without access to the sea, landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique.
History of Eswatini
Siyinqaba! This is the national motto of Eswatini, meaning “We are a fortress”. While under British protectorate, the Kingdom of Swaziland gained independence in 1968. King Mswati III has been ruling since 1986 on the last absolute monarchy of Africa.
In April 2018, the king announced that his country changed its name. He justified his decision by saying that Swaziland should return to its original name with the following words: “Upon independence, all African countries have returned to their former name, prior to colonization. Swaziland is the only country that kept its name from the colonial era. So from now on, the country will officially be called the Kingdom of Eswatini.”
Indeed, during this colonial era, many African countries changed their name. But once they reached independence, they were sometimes renamed. For example, Côte de l’Or was renamed to Ghana, Belgian Congo became Zaire before taking the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Southern Rhodesia is now called Zimbabwe.
In April 2018, on the 50th anniversary of its independence, Swaziland thus regained its pre-colonial name. Eswatini means “Swazi country” in Swati language. The name Swaziland was a mixture of Swati and English languages.
The cuisine of Eswatini
The basic staples of Swazi cuisine are sorghum and maize. These two ingredients, as well as pumpkin, peanuts and beans are often eaten in porridges, which can be fermented or prepared with fermented milk. They are served with meat stews or vegetables. Corn on the cob is also a popular ingredient, as is tomato, avocado, yam, baobab fruit, green vegetables. All these vegetables are often seasoned with green onions, garlic, chili, lemon, lime and ginger.
The dishes are cooked in palm oil, coconut or peanut. Swazis also eat seafood, despite the lack of coastline. The basic dishes of Swaziland’s cuisine contain sorghum, corn, peanuts, rice and goat meat.
Traditional Swazi Recipes
The Swazi table often includes the following dishes or products:
– umkhunsu, cooked and dried meat, in particular goat meat,
– emasi lavutiwe, ground corn mixed with fermented milk,
– sembila sinkwa, corn bread,
– sishibo senkhukhu, chicken stew,
– sishwala, thick porridge normally served with meat or vegetables,
– incwancwa, sour porridge made from fermented cornmeal,
– sitfubi, fresh milk cooked and mixed with cornmeal,
– setindlubu siphuphe, thick porridge made from peanut puree,
– emasi etinkhobe temmbila, corn mixed with curdled milk,
– emasi emabele, sorghum mixed with curdled milk,
– sidvudvu, pumpkin porridge mixed with cornmeal,
– siphuphe semabhontjisi, thick oatmeal made from beans purée,
– tinkhobe, whole corn porridge,
– umbidvo wetintsanga, cooked pumpkin leaves mixed with peanuts,
– emahewu, a drink made from fine fermented porridge,
– umcombotsi, brewed beer also called tjwala.
In Eswatini, a salad is called slaai, just like our salad of the day.
Although there is clearly no exact recipe for a Swazi salad, here is the combination of ingredients that I chose, a combination very common in Swazi kitchens: avocado, freshly grated ginger, and peanuts seasoned with lemon juice.
Avocado salads are fairly popular in Africa. Among them, you will find avocat farci, a stuffed avocado recipe from Cote d’Ivoire, which features shrimp and pineapple and a vinaigrette dressing. Kachunibari, the African version of Mexican salsa, is a fresh tomato, onion, and chili pepper salad dish to which avocados are now often added. Variations of it can be found in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and in central African countries like Malawi and Congo. It it is usually eaten with rice pilaf or the African version of Indian biryani, a heavily seasoned dish of rice with various kinds of meats.
From this spice, widely used in Eswatini, which has an aroma similar to that of lemon, but spicier, we use the fresh or dried root. In the first case, the root can be peeled, sliced or minced, then added to fish or meat dishes. Or it can be grated and then pressed into a cheesecloth to extract only the juice that will be used to season.
What is the origin of ginger?
Ginger has been cultivated in Asia for over 3000 years, probably first in Java, but from there, it quickly conquered much of the Asian continent for its numerous properties. In addition to traditional medicine, ginger was commonly used by Chinese sailors to fight seasickness, while for the Indians, it was a true universal remedy, useful for treating or at least relieving all illnesses. The Greeks used it, rubbed on a piece of bread to regain strength after a night of excess. Even the Romans made use of it.
Ginger was one of the most used spices in the Middle Ages, for its analgesic benefits, but also because it was widely considered an aphrodisiac, and over time, it fell into disuse, although since the end of the last century, it seems to have become popular again.
It can be used peeled, sliced, or grated. It is obviously ubiquitous in Asian cuisine, but it is also used by Europeans for different preparations. The uses are really the most disparate, and go from a typical sushi accompaniment in a marinated form, to candied ginger, proposed during a meal.
In England, it is highly appreciated as a flavoring of the popular soft drink called ginger ale. During the Christmas season, in England, the United States and Northern Europe, it is used as an essential ingredient for the preparation of gingerbread, as well as a spicy mixture used in the manufacture of cookies such as the speculoos.
What are the benefits of ginger?
The properties attributed to ginger are really numerous and very important, and it would be impossible to list them all. Some come from tradition, while others have been discovered by science in recent years.
For example, ginger helps fight migraine, seasickness, motion sickness, flu and colds. It has anti-inflammatory properties, it helps to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood, it regulates the intestinal functions and also has anti-cancer preventive and curative properties.
Ginger was a spice dear to Confucius (5th century BC). Dioscorides, a Greek physician of the first century BC, recommended it to “warm and calm the stomach”. Pythagoras considered it an antidote to the snakebite. Galen, for its pungent taste, ranked it among the aphrodisiac substances. The Arabs beat it with honey to reinvigorate sexual performance.
In the eleventh century, the medical school of Salerno, Italy, prescribed it “to facilitate the circulation of blood”. It was also recommended that men, before a date, drink a potion composed of ginger, cinnamon, clove, breadcrumbs and rose water.
Between the aphrodisiac avocado, also known for its suggestive form of testicle, and the ginger that seems to be very promising, why not prepare a slaai for Valentine’s Day?
Delicious and promising salad for all the lovers!
Slaai is a traditional avocado salad with unique flavors of coconut, ginger, and peanuts that is originally from Eswatini (Swaziland).
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large avocados (ripe), diced into ½ inch/1cm cubes
- ½ cup peanuts , crushed
- Radishes , thinly sliced (optional)
- Mix lemon juice, ginger and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the avocado and mix gently.
- Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, thinly sliced radishes (optional) and serve.