I don’t have many memories with my maternal grandmother because she lives in a different country, but the memories that I do have, affected me profoundly. The stories that my grandmother shared with me showed me how a woman can. A woman can grow from a cushioned girl to a lady who can walk gracefully among thorns so quickly, that tears don’t have time. These women are my very own mother and grandmother.
My grandmother told me about the comfort she lived in during her life in Uganda. She wore jewellery, was pretty and had long tresses which she put fresh flowers in. She had the support of hired help who worked with them and shared the busy tasks of looking after three little ladies; my mother and her three sisters.
As a child I found it strange for her to draw on memories of having a large dining table, big fridges containing bounties of sugary drinks and not having to go to work. She talked about the lovely fresh fruits, cassava curry and crickets singing them to sleep.
They were expelled from their homeland and my apparently stern and stubborn great-grandmother chose to go to India, because it would be too cold in England. My grandmother told me stories of flushing money down the toilet in case the army would find them and covering her daughters under blankets in a jeep, just in case the army would steal them. I wonder if they knew that they were actually going to a life much more humble and restricted by a small income, far smaller than what they had known.
I only ever saw my grandmother’s Indian home, the one bedroom, basic residence. She cooked on the floor and I saw mice run around the courtyard once or twice. She made the best khichdi ever and I loved scooping it up with spring onions. Her room was grey, two small beds and you could see the kitchen from the beds. The front door no longer lead out to leafy green fruit trees, but a dusty side street filled with children playing and the occasional vegetable seller.
My grandfather died soon after arriving in India, when my mum was a teen. They say that depression due to the transition massively affected him. My grandmother raised her three daughters and married them all off to suitors in the UK, so that they could have better lives, like the life she had before being expelled from Uganda.
My mother was the first one, married at 19. She counts her blessings that she met a person that loves her and her every smile, every day.
So, when I dwell upon my own transitions in life, from an academic, focused ambitious and day dreaming achiever, to a corporate career-focused and travelling young achiever, to lost and smiling mum. How can I not find strength from thinking about the women in my life who so gracefully took responsibility of the changes in their life and simply made it better.
I can never eat cassava without thinking of my mothers childhood, my grandmother’s struggles. My recipe is thick, steaming and nutty like there’s would have been, full of comfort and colour. The difference is that my recipe includes some of my heritage, well some that I learned from my beloved london, a Thai influence. I’ve used galangal, palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind, mango, and coconut. On the other hand, I’ve used cloves, cardamon, broccoli and tomatoes. It works so well, I felt flutters of excitement when I tasted it. Join in.
600g frozen cassava chops
Half tin of chopped tomatoes
4 green cardamon pods
A stick of cinnamon
3 green chillies, finely chopped
100g coarsely ground toasted peanuts.
150g mango chunks, (from a firm mango)
150g broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp minced galangal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tamarind juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1200 millilitres of water
3/4 cup of desiccated coconut
1. Boil the cassava chips in plenty of hot water until they are tender, but not mushy. When they are cooked, drain the water and cut the cassava into one inch pieces.
2. In a deep pan heat the vegetable oil and then add the cumin, coriander, Turmeric, chilies, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, mace and nutmeg with the salt. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes before adding in the garlic and galangal. Sauté for another minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes and stir well before adding the palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind juice and ground peanuts. You’ll find it’s a thick and nutty mixture now that smells absolutely wonderful.
4. Introduce the cassava, desiccated coconut, mango chunks and water and then simmer the curry for ten minutes.
5. Stir in the broccoli and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Serve hot, I ate it just as it is.