Three Yummy Breakfast Smoothies

Breakfast smoothies have become part of my staples. They’re quick and easy to make in a blender and don’t need a lot of ingredients. Plus, they’re deliciously yummy and satisfying. So I thought I’d share three of the ones I do most, depending on what I feel like having in the morning. The mocha and…

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Sinking in tradition, with a Glass of Mursik.

mursik

Mursik is sour milk with a sharp almost bitter taste popular among the Kalenjin community. To the newbies mursik may look “dirty” until they get a good taste of the beverage.

When hit on the palate by the sweet crispy flavor most overlook the “dirt”, which is actually a herb that is burnt and ground to charcoal powder and blended in the milk during fermentation. The milk is typically served from colorful gourds or sotet, a tradition that has fast been elevated to the national psyche as a ritual in honoring Kalenjin heroes and athletes for astounding achievements.

Due to widespread awareness on hygiene standards and changes in lifestyles, pasteurization of milk as a first step is requisite. Earlier on direct milking was done into a treated gourd then the milk would be mixed with blood and stored in a cool place to ripen.

Fresh boiled milk is covered to avoid contamination and allowed to cool down before pouring into a treated sotet. The sotet is then corked tightly with a treated lid and stored in a cool place for several days, usually three but can be up to one week, to allow it to ripen.

New and old gourds are first cleaned and left to dry in the sun for a few days. Cleaning is done using bow shaped branches of palm trees or sosiot whose edges have been pounded until they become brush-like. The inner linings of new gourds and the coating of previous milk stored in old gourds are removed to prevent passing bitter taste to mursik.

Treating the sotet is the hard part and requires extreme care and skill. The skill is passed from generation to another.  Cassia didymobotrya (acacia) or sertwet is the preferred tree for imparting preservative and aromatic effect to milk. The sertwet herb added to the milk helps in quick fermentation and has medicinal value.

Other popular ones include simotwet and wattle but Senetwet is by far the most commonly used because of its availability. Burning embers of sticks from the tree branches are put inside the clean dry sotet and shaken vigorously to drop the charcoal formed and to avoid burning the gourd.

Using the iitet, a tool used as a mortar in many mursik preparation sessions, the embers are methodically pressed and ground against the wall of the sotet in a circular in and out motion of the hand, an action described as suutet. This action is repeated until the charcoal powder is evenly distributed on the walls of the gourd. Excess and large particles of charcoal are discarded and the gourd is allowed to cool down. The sotet is now ready for the freshly boiled cool milk.

The gourd can be filled in one or several portions depending on availability of milk. One portion filling is however the most preferred because it avoids many problems related to milk quality, flavor and exposing to harmful bacteria.

Serving mursik

serving

Shake the sotet to stir the mursik into fine sour milk with smooth and uniform consistency.  White globules of butter occasionally float at the top of the gourd when milk is ripe. A good ripe sotet should produce a popping sound upon tapping the lid, allowing excess air to escape. Mursik can be taken on its own or served as a supplement cold with hot ugali.

Mursik has been around for the last 300 years as a traditional method of preserving excess milk. Popularity of mursik has surpassed all the other versions of sour milk and has become part of the national heritage.

The growing market for traditional foods puts mursik as one of the products that can be harnessed and value added to fetch stable income for the producers.  Issues on quality and acceptability of the “charcoal” by a wide range of consumers can be sorted out.

If you happen to be in Kalenjin land, you have to follow my footsteps, sink in this tradition with a glass of Mursik.


A (Foodie) Weekend in Brighton

My mum pointed out the other day that whenever I go to a place, I find a nice (sometimes unusual) restaurant, some new snacks, dessert places and what not. Basically, I find food and I like to experience new places through food, culture and people. I think it can be magical to fill your belly…

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Adding Heat to your Food.

melville
Our Table at Melville, 9th Street, Johannesburg.

If you have a wife like mine, who sometimes wonders what is it you enjoy when eating spicy food, how you eat it and why you decide to eat it, yes you are welcome…….to my world. I love spicy foods and typically enjoy 1-2 habanero peppers a day. If you like spicy food, there’s good reason to indulge your cravings, as the spicy chemical in peppers – capsaicin – and other compounds in spicy food can improve your health, just like mine.

Chili peppers, one of the main sources of capsaicin, are regarded as a staple in Central America, Asia, and India, but even in the Africa there are many devotees to spicy food whose mantra is “the spicier the better.”

Interestingly, the heat and pain you experience when you eat chili pepper seeds is designed to make you not want to eat them (hence protecting the plants’ ability to spread seeds and survive).

And it’s believed that humans are, in fact, the only animal that chooses to willingly eat them. Perhaps, on some level, our bodies have learned to tolerate and even crave chili peppers’ heat because of their many proven benefits to our health.

I have found at least three of the major benefits of eating spicy foods, this has been proved by scientists but any other advice from me has no basis or reliability than my own meandering experience.

1. Reduce Your Risk of Tumors

Capsaicin has been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors. Mice genetically prone to develop tumors had reduced tumors and extended lifespans when fed capsaicin, and the researchers believe the compound may turn off an over-reactive receptor that could trigger tumor growth.

Capsaicin has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has even shown some promise for cancer treatment. Research has shown, for instance, that capsaicin suppresses the growth of human prostate cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.

In one study, about 80 percent of the prostate cancer cells in mice were killed by capsaicin, while treated tumors shrank to about one-fifth the size of untreated tumors.

Capsaicin has also been shown to be effective against breast, pancreatic, and bladder cancer cells, although you might need to eat unrealistically large amounts of capsaicin to get such benefits (such as eight habanero peppers a week).

2. Improve Your Sex Life

In this case, it’s not the spice from chili peppers but that from ginseng and saffron that showed benefit. In a review of purported aphrodisiacs, both ginseng and saffron were found to boost sexual performance.

3. Help with Weight Loss

Spicy foods increase satiety, helping you to feel full while eating less, and hot peppers may even help your body to burn more calories. Capsaicin has actually been used to selectively destroy nerve fibers that transmit information from your gut to your brain.

This procedure was said to have a “remarkable” impact on weight, but destroying these nerve fibers could have serious long-term implications on your health. Fortunately, capsaicin may be effective for weight loss when added to your diet, as opposed to via surgery.

For me, “It’s not hot enough unless I’m dripping in sweat as I eat it,” I have always told my wife when I choose to go big on the HOT. She always asks “Do you really taste the food? Does it not burn your tongue?”. Both in awe and disgust, she  watches me pour threatening levels of neon orange and green sauces on my food, as I relish the buzzy head rush from the standard medium-level red salsa.

I have learned that spicy food lovers aren’t born with an affinity for hot sauce. Rather, it’s acquired over time, as capsaicin and other spicy food molecules deplete a neurotransmitter called substance P, which is responsible for sending pain signals to the brain…… its sad that I have gotten here. I have no idea what it it you feel when indulging in your hot sauce, lets agree that hot is hot, and we love it when its hot. We care about hot and when it’s not hot we are not happy. We are sad!