I didn’t start cooking until I got married. I had to remember the recipes that were made for me as a child. I didn’t have to ask anyone for this recipe – it was in my memory. I was always there when my grandfather would make it. He would tell me, “Sido, go get this. Sido, go get that,” so I didn’t need to ask. I remembered it all.
This recipe for Congolese chicken meatballs belonged to my grandfather, my mum’s father. He was a cuisine – a cook. I was a picky eater, so my grandfather would cook this to take care of me and try to get me to eat. He would cook this for all his grandchildren.
In my mother’s native language of Ruund, we call this recipe matend. But in Swahili, it is poulet au coco rico. When the morning comes in my country, the chicken calls, “Coco Rico!” It’s saying, “Voilà! It’s a new day. Yesterday has passed, it’s a fresh start.”
Grandfather would make it with different meats, such as chicken or salted fish, and with pepitas and peanuts. He would serve it with rice or fufu – a dough made with semolina, cassava or plantains. In other parts of Congo, it’s eaten with chikwanga. In our area, they would cook the meatballs inside banana leaves. In Swahili and Lingala, this method of cooking is called liboké, or makobé.
My grandfather died in 1980, when he was very old. When I cook this recipe for my kids, I tell them about him, how he cared for us, and how he was so happy to cook for us. This dish is like a memorial for my grandfather, so when I have special visitors, I cook this for them. I like to share this dish with people from all different cultures and share the happy memories of my family.
2 tablespoons oil
200g red onion, finely diced
20g garlic, minced
350g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1kg chicken mince
175g crunchy peanut butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper, ground
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
Rice to serve
Yellow curry sauce
20ml vegetable oil
120g yellow curry paste
600ml coconut cream
1 kaffir lime leaf
20ml fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ bunch coriander, chopped
500g vegetables (such as beans, broccoli or zucchini)
Sauté onion and garlic in a little oil until soft and translucent. Set aside to cool.
Heat oven to 160°C and toast pepitas on a tray for 6 minutes. Cool, then blitz into a powder in food processor.
Combine all meatball ingredients in planetary mixer with paddle attachment, mix thoroughly. Shape into 30-35g balls, and place on a lined tray. Spray with a little oil. Cook in oven at 180°C for 15 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.
For the curry sauce, heat oil in a heavy pot. Add curry paste and cook over medium heat until paste becomes aromatic, and begins to catch to the bottom of the pan and splits from the oil.
Add coconut cream, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.
Add lime leaf, fish sauce, sugar and half the water. Simmer for 15 minutes to enrich flavours. Adjust consistency with more water if needed. Check seasoning, balance with more sugar and fish sauce if required.
Lightly steam or blanch the vegetables of choice and add to sauce once complete.
Add cooked meatballs to the sauce, and finish with chopped coriander. Serve with rice.
Come and try Sido’s Poulet Au Coco Rico at Meals With Impact, a social enterprise cafe in Melbourne’s Docklands that empowers women from migrant and refugee backgrounds through employment and co-designed food: mealswithimpact.com.au.
Published in ed#696