Our trip to Nairobi from Sharon Springs took about 32 hours door-to-door. So before we trekked another 11-ish hours into the remote Samburu region, we swung by Lamu, on the coast of Kenya, to pick up our friend Jane. She was staying at a friend’s collection of huts on the beach for the New Year’s holiday weekend. Together, we spent a beautiful couple of days resting up and getting the supplies we needed to go visit the schools in faraway Sereolipi and Ndonyo Wasin.
The huts were magnificent in their simplicity…minimally solar powered and constructed entirely from coconut palms. It’s wonderful to remind oneself how little one truly needs in the world. And what luxury really means. Luxuries like freshly fried Mandazi – or “East African Doughnuts.” Who needs a BMW or the latest iPhone when you wake up in a hammock on the beach and have Mandazi for breakfast?
Another luxury was Francis. Francis is the cook in the huts’ communal kitchen building. Naturally, we spent a lot of time with Francis. His life’s goal is to own his own restaurant. When he does open one, we’ll be the first customers. Even if we have to fly another 32 hours to get there.
Here’s a step-by-step photo guide of how Francis makes Mandazi. (The full recipe is at the bottom of the post.)
One of the first thing Francis does is make coconut milk. In Lamu, that requires more than opening up a can. He grates the coconut flesh and squeezes it dry through a woven, palm-leaf sleeve sieve.
In one large bowl he mixes the dry ingredients. We don’t know about you, but we love checking out the packaging on foods in other countries.
Francis keeps his kitchen immaculate as he works.
What is it about visiting other peoples’ kitchens? They always seem more beautiful than our own.
Ok. Back to work. Next, Francis combines the wet and dry ingredients. Slowly, though. He adds only enough of the liquid until he’s satisfied with the dough’s rough texture. Francis pronounces “dough” as “duff,” which makes total sense if you look it spelled next to “rough.” In fact, we’re going to start pronouncing it that way too. “Duff.” Everyone will think they’ve been pronouncing it wrong all along. Let’s spark a culinary trend, started by chef Francis. Deal?
Needs a little more liquid.
This was about right.
He kneaded it for about 5 minutes with his hands.
Then turned it out onto a lightly floured counter.
He flattened the “duff” out into a long rectangular shape with his hands, then started rolling the two long ends towards the middle.
Have you ever made palmier? Sorta like that.
Let’s take another second to look around this amazingly simple kitchen. Every corner was like a painting.
Next, Francis cut the duff log into approx 2 inch slices.
Using his hands, he folded each one over-and-over on itself to form a flattened ball. This helped to create more air pockets which helps it rise.
Then Francis rolled each duff round flat and cut it into quarters.
Towards the end of the rising time, Francis began heating the vegetable oil.
Working quickly, he dropped in about four Mandazi at a time into the hot oil.
Once done, Francis gently laid them on fresh paper towels to absorb excess grease.
He then sprinkled them with confectioners sugar. Hey…speaking of which, we just got one of these during a trip to Atlanta and we totally love it. It keeps the sugar from flying all over when dusting stuff.
Ok…back to Francis…
And back to Mandazis…
View from the kitchen…
Who needs fancy 15-burner stoves and programmable refrigerators and undercounter dish sanitizers?
We’ll just hang with Francis rolling out duff on the beach.
Ruff life, huh?
(Thank you, Francis, for sharing your kitchen with us.)
- 1 cup water
- 1 ¼ cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 cups flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon chai spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger & allspice)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large egg
- pinch salt
- 3 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
- Prep Time: 40m
- Cook Time: 15m
- Total Time: 55m
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices in large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together egg, olive oil, coconut milk, & water. Slowing add liquid mixture to dry mixture, in batches, and work dough with hands until rough and shaggy. Continue kneading 3-5 minutes until surface of dough is slightly shiny.
Turn dough onto floured work surface. Flatten with hands until it forms a ½ inch thick rectangle. Roll long ends of rectangle towards middle. Roll entire log together until round. Cut log into 2 inch slices. Using hands, stretch and fold slices over onto themselves repeatedly until they form a flattened, rounded disk, about 4 inches in diameter. Use rolling pin to roll disks to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into fourths. Set dough wedges aside to rest and rise slightly for about 20 minutes.
Heat oil to 325F. Drop Mandazi wedges into the oil in batches. Add only enough so that they float freely, untouching. Turn every minute or so until fully puffed and golden brown on both sides. Remove from oil and drain paper towels to absorb extra oil. Once dry, dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.