Known as ugali in Kenya and Tanzania, this starchy, polenta-like side dish goes by different names in sub-Saharan Africa. In Malawi and Zambia it is called nsima or nshima. The South African name for it is pap or mealie pap. Zimbabweans call it sadza.
4 to 6 servings
Water -- 4 cups
Salt -- 2 teaspoons
White cornmeal, finely ground -- 2 cups
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the cornmeal slowly, letting it fall though the fingers of your hand.
Reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring regularly, smashing any lumps with a spoon, until the mush pulls away from the sides of the pot and becomes very thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat.
Place the ugali into a large serving bowl. Wet your hands with water, form into a ball and serve.
White cornmeal is the most commonly used grain for ugali. But you can substitute sorghum, millet or coarse cassava flour or even hominy grits.
More or less water can be added to achieve the consistency you prefer.
Stir in a little butter if you like for a richer flavor.
Ugali is usually served as an accompaniment to meat or vegetable stews, greens or soured milk. To eat ugali, pull off a small ball of mush with your fingers. Form an indentation with your thumb, and use it to scoop up accompanying stews and other dishes. Or you can form larger balls with your hands or an ice cream scoop, place them in individual serving bowls and spoon stew around them.
Cornmeal mush is also found in Caribbean creole cuisine and was certainly brought there by imported slaves. On the islands of Curaçao and Aruba it is known as funchi, funjie in the Virgin Islands. In Antigua and Donimica it is called fungi. Haitians make mayi moulin.