Burger with Seswaa and Watermelon Salsa
Africa has been the most interesting part of this journey. Before this, I hadn’t spent a lot of time reading or thinking about Africa and I’m so glad that this project has changed that. The Republic of Botswana is in the southern part of the continent, just north of South Africa and bordered by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Seventy percent of Botswana is the Kalahari Desert. Just this evening Michelle Obama finished up a tour of Africa in Botswana, if only I could get her take on the food… Alas, I will have to settle for stories from Peace Corp volunteers and articles from travel writers. Researching the food of Botswana has been really interesting. I can’t decide whether it is Western writers feeling like they need to say something nice, or if people really think the food in Botswana is really amazing. I’ve read several general description about how remarkable the food is in Botswana, yet when they get to specifics there doesn’t seem to be a lot of there, there. The national dish is Seswaa – ingredients are beef (all sorts of cuts), onions, water and salt – cook for hours until meet is tender. This is usually served with a mash/mush made of sorghum water and salt. This is really simple food. As it turns out the seswaa is pretty good (it just looks terrible), but the sorghum is nasty. Maybe the sorghum we get here is different, maybe I just don’t have a sophisticated enough palate, but this tasted like cardboard. Yuck.
So this left me with grey meat and very little other inspiration. Oh yeah, they do have a spinach-like green. At this point I became a little desperate – it would suck to get stumped on the B’s, so I bought a bottle of Goats do Roam (a cheap but tasty South African red wine) and kept searching. Inspiration strikes in the oddest of places – turns out Botswana is the birthplace of watermelon. Ok, I know, watermelon and a burger – crazy right? I tried a couple of options, a chili lime watermelon mixture just didn’t work, but I hit pay dirt with a simple salsa.
Instead of sorghum I used cornmeal and it was much more palatable. The seswaa added a rich undertone to the burger while the watermelon added a light freshness. It surprised the whole family that this burger actually works. I would never have paired watermelon and beef, but now that I have I’m beginning to think anything is possible. We paired the burgers with a nice South African Chenin Blanc (since I had finished off the Goats do Roam) and it was a perfect summer dinner.
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Cornmeal Mash (recipe below)
Seswaa (recipe below)
Watermelon Salsa (recipe below)
Mix ground beef with salt and pepper and form 4 paties. Cook to desired temperature (I recommend cooking these burgers over a charcoal grill). Serve up about half a cup of the Cornmeal Mash on each plate then place a couple Tablespoons of Seswaa on each serving. Place patties on top of the Seswaa and top with Watermelon Salsa.
2 cups corn meal
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix all ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until mixture is smooth. Cook 10-15 minutes stirring regularly until mixture is thickened.
Seswaa (tastes a lot better than it looks)
½ pound sirloin tips (or other cut of beef)
1 onion chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 2.5 hours until meat is fork tender. Mash the mixture with a fork and keep warm until ready to use.
1 pound watermelon diced into ¼ inch cubes (about 2 cups)
½ cup minced Vidalia onion
1 jalapeno minced
½ inch ginger root grated
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach