The Sudan is Africa in microcosm: a large country with geographic, extremes ranging from sandy desert to tropical forest. It is culturally a loose association of almost 600 tribes who have Arabic as their common language. The French, the English, and the Italians have all had colonies in the Sudan. The cuisine is a melding of the many varied backgrounds of the peoples who have influenced its history.
The ritual of hospitality is as important in the Sudan as it is in other Arab countries. And while there is a measure of similarity in all the Arab countries, each has its unique characteristics. For example, no other country prepares coffee as the Sudanese do, and if this country acquired culinary fame, it is for its Jebena Sudanese. The Sudanese fry their coffee beans in a special pot over charcoal and then grind it with cloves and certain spices. They steep it in hot water and serve it lovingly in tiny coffee cups after straining it through a special tresh grass sieve.
In Sudan, if you are an important guest, a sheep will be slaughtered in your honor. Many dishes will then be prepared, each more delicious than the last.
Favorite meats are lamb and chicken. Rice is the staple starch. Breads are the Arabian Khubz, but the Sudanese also make Kisra, an omelette- like pancake which is part of the Sudanese dinner. Vegetables, fresh and cooked, are of infinite variety. The okra, which incidentally came to the United States from Africa, is an important ingredient in a Bamia- Bamia, an okra lamb stew. You must try Maschi, a triple tomato dish stuffed with beef, as it is such fun to make.
As in most Arabic countries, fruits are peeled and cut in small slices for dessert, but the Sudanese also love sweets and every housewife knows how to make Creme Caramela (page 22).
You will like their unusual teas which can be made quite simply. But if you prefer to serve coffee, make it a demitasse.
The concern and respect shown to one's guest throughout Africa, and from which we can learn much, is no greater anywhere than in the Sudan. As a guest enters a Sudanese home, he is immediately offered Abre or Tabrihana, a refreshing nonalcoholic fruit drink only slightly sweetened so as not to dull the appetite. This is a symbolic gesture welcoming him after his "long journey."
Dinner is served on a low table and guests are made comfortable on pillows decorated with ostrich feathers. The table is bare. The Arabic custom of pouring water over the hands of the guests from the Ebrig, a handsome shiny copper ewer (pitcher), and catching the water into an equally handsome copper basin is an important ritual in the Sudan. Each guest is offered a towel with which to wipe his hands. Large cloths to cover the knees are given to each guest in place of napkins.
Upon the signal of the host, dinner is served. It starts with soup, brought out in individual bowls on a huge, round, decorated copper tray. The large tray is placed on the table. Spoons are offered to the guests.
After the soup has been enjoyed, the entire tray is removed and a second large tray is brought in with all the dishes of the main course resting on beaded doilies made by the women. There may be five or six dishes to dip into. (No knives or forks are used but spoons may be provided.) But most of the Sudanese eat the main course from common dishes using Kisra or Khubz (their great flat breads) to sop up the mixtures. Four dishes are individually served-the soup, the salad, the Shata (red-hot spice) and the dessert.
When the entree is served, small plates or bowls are also brought in from which the host or hostess dishes out portions of salad and gives each guest a spoon with which to eat the salad. Again hands are washed and everyone looks forward to dessert. Sweets like Creme Caramela are usually served and are preferred to fruits. No beverage is served with dinner but one may ask for water. After dinner everyone relaxes and enjoys the famous Guhwah, coffee served from the Jebena, the stunning little coffee pot from which it is poured into tiny cups. If tea is preferred, the succulent spiced teas with cloves or cinnamon are served. Finally an incense burner filled with sandalwood is placed in the center of the room, a touch leaving the guests with a feeling of delightful relaxation.
Use a low table, perhaps in the living room, and place cushions on the floor around it. Remind your guests to be comfortably clad if you plan to serve dinner in this way. Use a plain cloth on the table and, instead of a centerpiece, place flowers around the room. The table should be bare. Give your guests large cloths to cover their knees instead of napkins.
Have a pitcher of cold orange or grapefruit juice on hand and offer each guest a small glass filled with juice as he arrives.
You will need large trays on which to serve the meal. On the largest tray place a small bowl of soup, Shorba, for each guest and pass the spoons separately. The guest holds the bowl in his left hand as he eats and, when he is finished, returns the empty bowl to the tray. The entire tray is then removed.
Use the second largest tray for the platter of Maschi, a two-quart bowl of white rice, a stack of eight Kisra (bread), a bowl of Salata and individual tiny dishes of Shata, the hot spice which each guest uses to his taste. If there is room on the tray, there should be a stack of little plates or small salad bowls. The hostess may serve individual salads or guests may help themselves.
If your guests are too squeamish to sop up the dinner with the Kisra, give them each a small dinner plate with a fork and teaspoon and ask them to take a portion of Maschi and rice. Water glasses should be available on a small side table but do not serve water unless it is requested. When the guests have finished eating, the plates are put back on the tray and the tray removed.
On the third tray serve a platter of shimmering Creme Caramela beautifully decorated with candied cherries and a compote dish and a spoon for each guest.
A small tray bearing a teapot and tea cups (each holding a small piece of stick cinnamon) and an open bowl of sugar is brought in last.
This is the time to light your incense burner and fill the room with the delicate fragrance of sandalwood.
Fruit and Vegetables
This is a most interesting soup. It is a medium puree sparkled with peanut butter and lemon. The Sudanese usually add rice but it is omitted here since rice is served with the entree. Three cloves of garlic may be a bit strong so start with one clove and test the soup as it cooks to see if you would prefer a more penetrating garlic flavor.
In a 6-quart saucepan:
Simmer: 3 Ibs. LAMB BONES in
Add: 1/2 Ib. WHOLE ONIONS, peeled
Simmer for 1 hour until vegetables are thoroughly cooked.
Remove lamb bones and put the mixture through a sieve or food mill.
Add: 4 Tbs. PEANUT BUTTER thinned with
Correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, etc.
Serve in soup bowls, about 1 cup per portion.
Maschi is also made with cucumbers. The cucumbers are peeled, cut lengthwise, scooped out, filled and finished as below. You may also use eggplants. Peel small eggplants, remove the tops, scoop out interiors and proceed in the same manner. The cucumber dish is garnished with fresh cucumber slices and the eggplant with tomato and cucumber slices overlapping all around the edge.
In a 9-inch skillet:
Saute: 2 Ibs. CHOPPED BEEF
Add 1 cup COOKED RICE and blend.
Cut a Slit in 8 large TOMATOES (very firm), halfway across the center.
Squeeze at the sides to open the slit.
Scoop out all the flesh from inside of tomatoes with a spoon.
Refill tomato with beef mixture and close the tomato.
Melt 2 Tbs. BUTTER and
Saute the tomatoes carefully in the fat, rolling them gently until they become dark red on all sides.
Remove the tomatoes with the oil and place in a casserole or heavy saucepan.
Prepare sauce as follows and pour over the tomatoes:
Combine: 2 6-oz. cans TOMATO PASTE thinned with
Simmer the tomatoes gently over low flame for 10 to 15 minutes until sauce is cooked.
Remove carefully to a 15-inch round platter.
Surround with raw TOMATOES cut in thick slices.
Top each slice with GREEN OLIVES
If there is more Maschi filling left over after filling the tomatoes place it in a suitable pan and bake it alongside the tomatoes.
In a 2-quart salad bowl:
Combine: 1 cup ONIONS, cut in slivers or thin slices
Toss: with 1/4 cup OLIVE OIL
Sprinkle: 1 clove GARLIC (mashed)
Serve in small individual salad dishes.
In a 1 quart salad bowl:
Combine: 1 cup LEMON JUICE
Blend in: 3 Tbs. CRUSHED RED PEPPER
Place in small ramekin dishes and serve with entrees.
In a 2-quart bowl:
Beat: 8 EGGS with
Add: 1 oz. BUTTER, melted and
In a 1 1/2-quart (6-cup) star-shaped aluminum cake pan:
Melt 1/2 cup SUGAR and burn to caramel stage.
Rotate the pan to spread caramel all around the sides.
Beat the egg mixture again.
Pour it quickly into the cake pan.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil which has been well buttered on the under side.
Place the pan in a larger pan half filled with water (as you would do a custard).
Bake at 350' for 30 minutes.
Remove cover and test with a silver knife (when it comes out clean, custard is done).
Chill until thoroughly cold.
Turn the CARAMELA out onto a 10 to 12-inch platter.
Garnish with MARASCHINO or CANDIED CHERRIES on top and sides.
Prepare English tea according to package directions (use loose tea). Tea should be infused until it is a bright orange color. Upon serving, place 1/2-inch pieces of stick cinnamon in small tea cups and pour hot tea over the cinnamon. Serve with lump sugar.
When a Fish Pyramid with Green Sauce was served to us we thought the dish was such a great idea, we decided to suggest it as an additional dish you may want to serve at your Sudanese dinner. It is very easy to make. It can be served as a salad in place of the Salata.
Combine: 2 Ibs. COOKED FISH, boned and flaked (use haddock, halibut or any white fish)
Shape into a pyramid on a 12 inch plate (with hands moistened with water).
Combine: 1/2 cup MAYONNAISE
Pour the Green Sauce over the pyramid.
Garnish around edge of plate with: 2 HARD BOILED EGGS sliced and
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