Basotho burger recipe (country name Lesotho)

BH&T Lesotho Burger Recipe

Curry Spiced Chicken Burger with Pap Pap and Spicy Kale and Peas
Perhaps it’s my lousy attention span rather than the poor state of education in the US, but I’ve never heard of Lesotho.  It’s not even vaguely familiar.  Yes, it was formerly known as Basutoland, but that’s not familiar either.  (BTW, that’s why the name of this burger is Basotho, that’s the adjective form of Lesotho)  So, assuming I’m not the only poorly educated person around, let’s find out a little about Lesotho together.  First of all, it’s pronounced li-soo-too.  And, oddly, it’s not only completely landlocked, it’s South Africa locked.  It is a country completely surrounded on all sides by South Africa.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Ok, so how did that happen?  It’s complicated, but essentially the Basotho people kept fighting during the years of European colonization and they generally caused enough trouble that the British gave them some self-rule within the protectorate of Basutoland.  When the South African Union was formed in 1910, the British wanted Basutoland to be part of the Union, but they have enough self-rule to say no.  So they remained an independent protectorate.  In 1966 the British granted them full independence and Basutoland became the Kingdom of Lesotho.


Independence has not been kind to Lesotho.  The country is poor and largely dependent on South African imports.  Worse than the poverty is the destruction that has been caused by HIV/AIDS.  Lesotho has the 2nd highest adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world.  Some estimate that there are, within the 1.9 million people living in Lesotho, almost 400,000 are HIV/AIDS orphans.  I couldn’t find a good source for that number, but CIA World Factbook puts Lesotho with the 3rd highest death rate in the world.   Life is hard in Lesotho.

On the other side of the equation, years of staying more or less independent have resulted in a rich culture.  And that leads out of the darkness and to the dinner table.  At the center of the family food experience is the 3 stone fireplace in the courtyard of the family home.  This is where the women cook a giant pot of pap pap every day.  Pap pap is the staple of the Basotho diet.  It is a cornmeal porridge.  Much like the yucca porridges so common in other parts of Africa, few meals are enjoyed in Lesotho without pap pap.  It is sometimes seasoned with garlic, but often is just cornmeal and water.  It is filling but bland to the American palate, so I spiced it up a bit with a generous amount of garlic and some fresh corn.  It helped pump up the flavor and the pap pap is a great creamy balance for the spice and acid of the rest of the dish.

Because of the British influence, flavors have come to Lesotho from various British colonies, which means we can bring some curry into our burger patty.  Meat isn’t always available, but when it is, chicken is one of the most popular.  Like I’ve mentioned before, the best way to do chicken burgers is to get chicken thighs and marinate them, then grind the meat fresh for the burger.  So that’s what I did here, lime, curry, onion and garlic flavors ground in with the meat – flavorful and delicious.

I topped the whole thing off with a kale and pea mixture with some spicy peppers.  What we got was a rustic tasting burger with just enough spice and a hearty feel.  It reminded be of a nice roasted chicken and polenta – but a little more interesting because there was a hint of curry and a touch of spice.  Perfect for the cold nights that are starting to hit New England.

If you like this burger, you should try the Gabonese burger – it’s another great chicken burger that’s packed with flavor.

Lesotho Burger
1½ pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pap pap (recipe below)
Kale and peas (recipe below)

Rub the oil all over the chicken.  Combine all spices in a bowl then sprinkle the spice mixture on the chicken.  Let it sit for an hour.  Grind the chicken then form four patties.  Cook the patties in a cast iron skillet until chicken reaches 165°F.  To serve, spoon ¼ of the pap pap on each plate, then add the cooked patties and a scoop of the kale and peas.

Pap pap
1 ear of corn
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 Tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups water
1 cup medium grind corn meal

Remove the corn kernels from the ear.  In a large sauce pan, melt the ghee over medium high heat.  Add the corn, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt and cook stirring regularly until garlic browns lightly (about 3 minutes).  Add 2½ cups of water and stir to get any stuck on bits off pan.  Add the corn meal and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt.  Turn to medium low and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the rest of the water and stir until smooth.  Cook another 10 minutes.

BH&T Lesotho Pap Pap

Kale and peas
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium onion cut in half then thinly sliced
1 jalapeno seeded and sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 cups fresh kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup frozen peas

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet.  Add onions, jalapenos and salt and cook over medium heat until soft and just starting to brown.  Add kale and peas, cover and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.  Uncover and turn up heat to medium and stir.  Cook for another 2 minutes or until kale is softened.

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach


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5 Responses to Basotho burger recipe (country name Lesotho)

  1. Derek says:

    Finally, another Southern African burger!

    I will try this one forthwith, and thank you for the ongoing series. I do feel, though, as a South African (so, encircling Lesotho), that I should point out there’s just one “pap” in “pap.” “Pap pap” would be a double helping, which, if you want, is well worth the effort and the subsequent bellyache.

    Pap is simple, but a food I love and one of my fondest memories from childhood. My parents fed it to us on a weekly basis at one stage, and while they hate it now, I can’t get enough pap, even though I don’t live in SA anymore.

    • linda says:

      Sorry to take so long to post this Derek – thank you for writing in. I love hearing from folks who have actually enjoyed the cuisines I’m trying to work with. Interesting note about “Pap” vs. “pap pap” – every Lesotho reference I found called it pap pap, but the challenge with some of these less well known countries is that the references are limited, so sometimes you get it wrong. Thanks for the correction.
      Best regards

  2. Danielle says:

    I spent about a month in Lesotho about 5-6 years ago… The food is quite bland in general. Lots of carbs, potatoes, pap pap, fried bread, etc. Beautiful country though.

    • linda says:

      Well, luckily I’m not trying to do completely authentic food, just food that is inspired by each country – this burger is rustic, but not bland (using chicken thighs freshly ground makes a huge difference). 🙂

  3. Michael Dimartigan says:

    Love these burgers! Can’t wait to see what you do with Libya!

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