There are some table sauces that every nation takes to its heart -- for us it’s probably HP, Heinz ketchup and Colman’s mustard, but in Malawi the market is pretty much sewn up by a brand called Nali, who make a tasty hot sauce with various intonations. My favourite was the ginger one, closely followed by the garlic, and I’ve kind of mixed and matched them together to come up with this recipe.
There are more species of fish in the Rift Valley than in any comparable area -- that is to say, more freshwater fish in the lakes there than in all those of Europe and North America put together -- so from teeny-weeny ones that get fermented and ground, to big mammas chopped up in the markets, you see a lot of fish in Malawi. Back home, I used red bream, but you can use any other portion-sized fish that’s fresh and sustainable.
Apart from a maize porridge mush called nsima (not exactly yummy to me, but very cheap and useful for filling hungry tummies), rice is the other main carb of choice. They have a particularly delicious rice over there called Kilombero, with long and thickish grains. I was excited enough to carry 3kg (6lb) of the stuff back with me, but dismay doesn’t touch the sides of what I felt when I opened it up and it was a bad batch alive with l’il critters. Over the years of bringing foodstuffs back home this has happened to me more times than I care to remember, and every time it still seems so unfair after one’s gone to all that effort.
In a blender blitz up the ginger, chillies, garlic, spring onions, paprika and a teaspoon of salt with the groundnut oil and vinegar. Make some deep diagonal cuts across both sides of each fish -- about 5 cuts along each side.
Reprinted from Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Traveling Chef by Allegra McEvedy (Conran, 2011). Reprinted with permission.
"[Side dishes] have to be quite dramatic," says Australian author Donna Hay. "They're like the good supporting actors in their roles."