After telling me that the mkate wa mchele (rice bread) that I had bought at a roadside stand was inedible (although it tasted just fine to me), Ms. Nahya recommended that I ask Hasina to make it for me at home. Little did I know the adventure that was to ensure….and the cooking blog that it was to produce….
- 3 cups white rice – pebbles and insects removed, washed thoroughly and soaked in water over night
- milk of one small nazi (mature coconut)
- 2 large spoonfuls of ugi, optional (porridge similar to cream of wheat)
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- ½ cup raw sugar
- 3-4 cardamom pods – seeds removed and crushed with mortar and pestle
- 1 teaspoons of salt
After the rice was softened from its water bath the first things to do were to make the ugi and grate the coconut so that we could extract the milk. While Hasina worked on the Ugi, I sat myself down and started grinding away. It takes Hasina about 10 minutes to grate an entire nut, I myself took about 20, but it was fun none the less. Currently I’m reading Anna Karenina and there is a part where Levin works the fields with the local farmers as a way to clear his head and just focus on a manual task…..as I ground that coconut, I felt the exact same way.
Once the Nazi was ground it was time to squeeze it for all it was worth….this is the really fun part because you get to take handfuls of juice filled ground coconut and compress it between your palms until you’ve milked it dry. After about 4 washings, I had extracted approximately 4-5 cups of milk and it was time to continue.
Thanks to the modern technology of a blender (traditionally this step would be done with a large mortar and pestle), our task was made easier. Place the rice in the blender with 2 cups of milk and grind until smooth. Then remove half of the mixture. Add to the half remaining in the blender, salt sugar and cardamom. After a slight blend – add in yeast. Blend until slightly warm and the smell of the activating yeast hits your nose. Mix in with the other half of the mixture and let sit for approximate 30 minutes.
Now here is where it got really cool. Since our oven doesn’t work and all we have is a little microwave oven that might as well not work, we decided to cook the bread on charcoal. Hasina brought her stove from home along with a tandoori clay cover and some coconut husk to use as charcoal. She started up the fire and once the coals were ready, she divided them between the bottom of the stove and the top of the clay lid. Then, placing the pot on the stove, she added a little bit of oil just before pouring in the bread batter. We then covered the pot with the clay lid and waited. It cooked for 45 minutes and was ready when an inserted wood stick came out clean. The end result was a dense, yet spongy rice goodness. I will confess that a piece of my Mom’s fudge would really be nice for Christmas, but mkate wa mchele isn’t a bad substitute.