Saturday, 1 December 2012

Mealie Bags and Biscuit Boxes... (pt 1)

Thanks for your patience everyone, it has been a bit of a rough fortnight what with funerals and floods and flu (Mrs Zulu Dalek has been a tad poorly...). However all is back as it should be... On with the show.

First of all this mini-series of posts is not a lesson in building barricades from empty Hobnob packets nor is it a guide to surprising your next door neighbours with an ornamental redoubt as a delightful garden feature (even if they do flood one's kitchen...). I am more concerned with what our chaps ate on campaign.I will be taking a quick look at the diet and kitchen facilities available at Rorke's Drift and providing recipes for the basic rations so that you can try them at home should you want to add a touch of realistic ambience when wargaming the period with your chums. So what were the plucky chaps in red  expecting to eat on that fateful day..... Read on, Dear Reader, read on...

Now...I'm going so stick my neck out here and hazard a guess that one or two of you will have seen the film Zulu... You know know the one; more stiff upper lip than a frozen trout and a slightly dodgy accent from Maurice Micklewhite. It is, however, one of the all time greats and an absolute must when my wife pops out shopping with her sister. Anyway, in one of the first scenes of the film the camera introduces us to the field kitchen with the Company Cook {played by that fine character actor, Kerry Jordan) tasting a very suspect looking soup while around him delightful African ladies are preparing bread and performing various other tasks. On a completely personal note, I am very impressed with the staff uniform worn by these ladies and would be happy to implement it in any of my kitchens  I digress...

The aforementioned ladies can be seen grinding some of the contents of the sacks that ended up forming an integral part of the defenses at Rorke's Drift, mielie-meal. This is one of those interesting names that basically repeats itself. Mielie  is Afrikaans for Meali which in turn is a local dialect word for the local maize or corn. It is also known as nshima and, as this is what my lovely wife calls it, thus shall it be known thoughout this post. It was used to make bread and also a type of porridge which I am now going to teach you all how to make.

The Cooking of Nshima

Nshima can be bought reasonably easily. If you are lucky enough to have a decent sized market near you there is usually a stall that sells African/West Indian foods. If not, Morrisons have started selling a similar product in most of their stores. One of the most common brands is shown below but if you can't get this then any medium ground corn meal will do (not  cornflour).

Modern day ground mielie-meal...or nshima.

You will need:
1.25 pints of boiling water
8 ounces nshima
A sturdy pan
A wooden spoon

Put a quarter pint of water and 2 ounces of the nshima into the pan and bring to the boil. Let this boil for a minute then add the rest of the water. Bring back to the boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for around 10-15 minutes. Stir this occasionally especially if your pan has a thinnish bottom. 

It will look like white lava...
After simmering this thin porridge gradually start adding the rest of the nshima making sure you stir all the time. It will become quite hard work but keep at it for about 5 minutes.

Stiff mixture
When all done get a jug of cold water and a wooden spoon. Wet the spoon and scoop onto serving dishes or plates wetting the spoon each time (it tends to stick like billyo when fresh).

The finished article

Traditionally nshima is eaten by breaking a piece off, rolling it into a ball and using it to scoop up the other parts of the meal...more about that in Mealie Bags and Biscuit Boxes... (pt 2) when I will also have a look at the equipment used to cook these culinary delights back in the day.

Tomorrow will see the first of my Christmas Dinner Specials and also a brief introduction to the forthcoming launch of my small range of diorama pieces cast in resin and pewter that I will be making for release early in the new year (I am toying with the idea of giving away a free recipe card with the first 500 purchases). The Ila Army Project will be back on Tuesday and Friday will see the first part of my Darkest Harrogate Project.... Busy, busy, busy!!!



Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Welcome Back My Friends...

So... I get back to my humble abode and find a flood! Not from rising river levels but from a tap that runneth over in the flat above.
Normal service ASAP.