Spinach and tangerine soup, or Butha-Buthe, comes from the country of Lesotho. Lesotho is a landlocked nation in the southern part of the African continent and bordered on all sides by the country of South Africa. The soup is a typical vegetable-based dish made of split peas, spinach, tangerines, chicken broth, onion, turmeric, parsley and cumin. Spinach and tangerine Soup is a simple, traditional meal served by the Lesotho people.
Lesotho: Location & Food Culture
A mountainous country boasting the highest elevation in Africa, it imports most of its food from neighboring African countries. Lesotho’s residents are made up of subsistence farmers who grow only what is needed for their families and sell or trade foods for materials or other resources. Grain, potatoes and corn are grown throughout the country and cornmeal porridge is the most commonly eaten food in the country.
Animals such as goats, sheep and cattle are raised and kept for milk, though chickens and cows are often eaten for special occasions. Serving beef and chicken is so essential in the culture of Lesotho that families are often judged on their ability to provide an abundant meal following special ceremonies like weddings and funerals.
Because of its close proximity to South Africa, Lesotho shares many of its food cultures and traditions with its neighbor. Food from Lesotho includes corn-based dishes like porridge and cakes, stews made from vegetables and meats, and salads made from roots like carrots and beets. Potatoes and rice are also common, and seafood is often imported from the coast.
Because of the history of British influence, the cuisine of Lesotho is a blend of traditional and new influences. Tea is a common beverage and beer is often made by women at home after the grain harvest. British influence can also be seen in sweets and desserts in Lesotho, which often include small biscuits and other treats.
Though animal foods are only eaten on special occasions, the pen keeping cattle and other animals is often central to the design of a village. Traditional Lesotho family houses are situated around the cattle pen and village socializing and business is conducted in these areas. Lesotho traditional houses include bright colors and patterns which signify status of families and villages, and women often weave these same designs into clothing and other textiles.
Lesotho People, Cultures & Traditions
The people of Lesotho are also called “basotho”, or bantu-speaking, and while about 25% of the population lives in its few urban cities, the rest of Lesotho’s people live in the lower highland agricultural areas. The major religion of the country is Christianity, though Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are also practiced throughout the kingdom.
The country of Lesotho was under British rule from the late 1800’s until 1966, when it received its independence and the Kingdom of Lesotho, a constitutional monarchy, was established. The political climate of Lesotho has been turbulent in the years since its independence, with many protests and attempted coups throughout the last fifty years.
Spinach and tangerine Soup, or “Butha-Buthe”
Spinach and tangerine Soup is often called Butha-Buthe, as it is associated with the Lesotho city with the same name. The soup is made by soaking split peas and adding them to a pot of broth. Meanwhile the onions are softened and mixed with turmeric and rice flour and then mixed in with the broth. The sauce thickens while cooking and greens such as spinach, cilantro and parsley are added. Juice and zest from tangerines give the soup a complex and light flavor and a dollop of yogurt is added just before serving.
The soup is a simple yet flavorful way to explore the little-known flavors of “The Kingdom in the Sky” of Lesotho !
- 3 quarts chicken broth
- 3 onions , thinly sliced
- 1 lb fresh spinach , finely chopped
- ¾ cup yellow split peas
- 3 teaspoons turmeric powder
- ⅔ cup rice flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 lb tangerines (or mandarins)
- 1 bunch flat parsley , finely chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro , finely chopped
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- The day before, rinse the split peas and soak them in a large bowl of cold water.
- The next day, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large pot.
- Rinse and drain the split peas and add them to a pot with the simmering chicken broth. Cover and cook over high heat for 20 minutes. Add boiling water if necessary, if the level is below the initial level.
- Add the butter in a pan and sauté the onions for 5 minutes over medium heat until translucent.
- Sprinkle turmeric on the onions and stir constantly over low heat for one minute.
- Dilute the rice flour into ½ cup of cold water and stir, then add this mixture to the onions and stir well. Pour this mixture immediately into the chicken broth.
- Add the spinach, parsley, half of the cilantro, the zest of 2 tangerines (or mandarins) and the juice of four.
- Cook for 20 minutes over low heat, stirring regularly.
- Serve in individual bowls, and pour 2 tablespoons of yogurt in the middle of the bowl and lightly sprinkle with cilantro.