Bananas for bread (Or how to make GF Swahili coconut bread)

As you might have gathered, I’m still in Mombasa. In Mombasa, I can forage things like banana leaves (and not just in my mums garden which is the lazy forager’s option). Banana leaves make a truly amazing wrapping for all sorts of foods but the most delicious and uniquely Swahili of them all is Mkate Wa Fushi. Mkate Wa Fushi is a naturally Gluten Free, regional speciality bread originating in Lamu, which is where my mum grew up. It’s completely unlike any bread you have ever tasted and is 100% worth the faff of tracking down fresh banana leaves, grating coconuts and blending rice. Lightly spiced with cardamom seeds and so very fragrantly coconutty, it is by far my favourite bread-type product. So much so that I polished off four of them in one sitting at dinner! The banana leaves aren’t just a form to give the bread structure. They are integral to the final flavour profile of it so do try and find some. If you’re not in a tropical country, banana leaves can be bought from really good Chinese supermarkets that also supply Thai foods. If you can’t find any, I’ve included an alternative method for people stuck in the boonies with no access to tropical ingredients!

Swahili method for Mkate Wa Fushi

2 cups rice
1tbsp sugar
2 coconuts, flesh removed
1tsp yeast
2 small red onions
1tsp salt
1/2tsp freshly ground cardamom
1 sachet Eno salts (or 1tsp Andrews liver salts)

Grind the rice in a spice mill until it becomes a coarse powder. Put into a large bowl.

Put coconut flesh into a blender. Add chopped onion, cardamom, salt and yeast and enough water to just cover so you can blend it. Blend to a paste and scoop out into the bowl with the rice stir until mixed through completely. Leave to rise until it’s 50% greater by volume.

Add your sachet of eno and stir through. The eno will fizz and help the bread to rise and go fluffy.

Meanwhile, prepare your banana leaves into cones as per the step by step photos below.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Fill your banana leaf cones with your mixture and place in a round oven dish which will hold the cones relatively snugly. Your coconut milk will probably leak out of the banana cones but that’s ok. Don’t panic! If your mixture is too dry, your breads won’t be soft and fluffy on the inside.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the ends of the breads are golden brown.

Remove from the oven, cover with a lid and allow to cool slightly and release from the baking dish before serving.

To serve: unwrap first! 

Truly epic with coconut chicken curry!

Stuck in the boonies alternative

2 cups rice
2 cups water
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 block of coconut
1tbsp sugar
1tsp yeast
2 small red onions
1tsp salt
1/2tsp freshly ground cardamom
1 sachet Eno salts (or 1tsp Andrews liver salts)

Put dessicated coconut into a bowl. Put coconut block into a pan with the water and heat till melted. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Pour over the dessicated coconut. Leave for at least 1 hour to rehydrate.

Grind the rice in a spice mill until it becomes a coarse powder. Put into a large bowl.

Put coconut mixture into a blender and add chopped onion, cardamom, salt and yeast and enough water to just cover so you can blend it. Blend to a paste. Add to the rice meal and stir to a paste. Cover and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place until it’s risen by about 50%.

Take an oven dish and cover the base with foil. Oil it well and put it into your oven then preheat your oven to 200C. 

Stir the Eno into the bread batter then it form into patties about the size of a saucer. Plop onto your hot baking tray. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes before removing the foil and baking for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, cover with the foil and leave to cool slightly and release from the foil before serving. Truly epic with coconut chicken curry!

Muhaimina Said-Allsopp