By The African wild spinach
February 2011
Eating Out
THE African wild spinach are green leaves found (not cultivated) in the wild after the rain season.

There are many types of these greens throughout Africa. In the Congo, they call it Fumbwa. In Angola they call it M’fumbwa. In Setswana spoken in both South Africa and Botswana it is called Morogo.

In Namibia the Herero people call it Ombowa. Then we have Omutete from Kavango and in Oshiwambo with its many dialects it goes by the names Ombivi, Omboga, and Ombidi.

Being born and raised in Uukwambi by Ombalantu parents in a village northern central of Namibia, Ombivi, as we call it at home, was a delicacy and a staple food in my family and other surrounding households.

It was easy to get as it grows almost everywhere after the rainy season and is served on important days such as when someone is travelling and when important people are visiting. It is considered a good luck charm, when a man is being introduced to his future in-laws. As my mother puts it, Ombivi is simply omundilo weumbo, the fire of the house.

In the rural areas, a fridge is often non-existence. Households find ways to preserve food for the future especially when they are seasonal. In Oshiwambo tradition, Ombivi is cooked, compacted into a size of a CD and dried. The dried product is thus called Ekaka.

Often you would find five fingerprints on Ekaka and according to my father; the fingerprints symbolise blessings.

Nutritionally, Ombivi contains up to 36% protein, and depending on the method of cooking and age it also contains vitamin A and C.

Studies have also shown that the African wild spinach (ombivi) contains high level of fibre which contribute to the low rates of colorectal cancer.

Ombivi is very nutritious and delicious when cooked and it seasons well.

There are various methods of preparing Ombivi depending on one’s innovation, but make no mistake, the African wild spinach must be well cooked preferably for one hour or more on high heat. This would eliminate the sour and unpleasant taste. Being a self taught gastronomist, I find pleasure in inventing and experimenting with different cooking methods and recipes. I would like to share with you the following of my recipes. Do try them out and I would love to have your feedback.

Oshiwambo traditional wild spinach

250 g cooked Ombivi
1xhandful of cherry tomatoes
1xchopped onion
Half a cup of water / vegetable stock
Fondor / aromat to season
2xtablespoons of cow fat

Heat cow fat on low heat, add onions and stir fry until golden brown
Add cherry tomatoes, water, cooked ombivi and seasonings,
Stir and cook for ten minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally until a puree is formed.
Remove from heat, drizzle with Ondjove (marula nut oil) and serve with oshifima (mahangu pap).

Creamy Ombivi mushroom on a bed of tagliatelle

1xpacket of tagliatelle (Italian pasta),
250g cooked and drained Ombivi
1xhandful of cleaned and sliced mushrooms
1xteaspoon original aromat seasoning
2xtablespoon olive oil
¼ cup of dry white wine
Half onion chopped
Half chopped orange or red bell pepper
1xteaspoon minced garlic
2xtablespoon of fresh thyme
1xteaspoon of grounded peppercorn
125 ml fresh cream
3xtablespoon of coconut cream
Chopped parsley to garnish
Parmesan cheese to garnish

Cook tagliatelle as per packet instruction.
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat.
Place mushrooms, onion, garlic, peppers and stir fry until onion is golden brown and mushrooms brown and tender.
Pour in ombivi, add thyme, peppercorn, aromat and wine, stir and leave to cook for 3 minutes.
Stir in fresh cream, coconut cream, cover and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes on low to medium heat.
Remove from heat and pour on top of tagliatelle in a pasta bowl.

West African (Mafe) fusion ombivi with savory couscous

Mafe as they call it in Ghana and Senegal is a stew dish made of peanut butter. In the Gambia they call it Domoda and in other parts of Africa they call it Nkate Nkawan….
Basically peanut butter stew is a heart warming West African traditional dish which can be made with any type of meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, game and in a vegetarian form, in this case ombivi.

In a skillet, sauté diced red peppers, and leek with coconut oil.
Add vegetable stock and boil, remove from heat; add couscous, aromat, peppers and cover with lid.
Wait for 3-5 minute, place in a bow or basket, fluff with your hands and place in a serving plate.

Preparing Savoury couscous
1 cup of couscous, preferably Martini prestige or bachinni brands
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
Half of diced red bell pepper
1 half of chopped leek
Aromat and peppercorn to season
1 cup of vegetable stock

Preparing Ombivi for couscous

250 g of cooked and drained Ombivi
Half chopped onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Half cup of chopped carrots, aubergine and green beans
2 tablespoon of tomato paste
Salt and black peppers to taste
1 or two cups of vegetable stock
3 teapoons of peanut butter
3 tablespoons of palm oil
2 tablespoons fresh fennel
Toasted almond flakes to garnish

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, add onions vegetables and stir fry until tender.

Add cooked ombivi, tomato paste, fennel, salt and black pepper, and stir in vegetable stock.
Cook with a lid on for 5 minute stirring occasionally.

Stir in peanut butter and palm oil, cover and cook for another five minute on medium to low heat.

Remove from heat and pour over couscous.
Garnish with toasted almond flakes.

Grilled marinated Ombivi stuffed beef fillet

Preparing the Stuffing

250 g whole beef fillet
125 g cooked and drained Ombivi
2 peppadews sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
¼ chopped orange bell pepper
Mozzarella cheese as desired
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Aromat and grounded peppercorn to taste

In a skillet, sauté bell peppers with olive oil until tender, Add Ombivi, peppadews, rosemary, grounded peppercorn, aromat and stir fry for 3 minutes

Preparing Marinade

1 cup of red muscadel or port wine
¼ olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 table spoon soy sauce
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of grounded cinnamon
1 tablespoon of minced mixed garlic and ginger

Blend all ingredients together,
Add the beef fillet, place in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from heat and mix with mozzarella
Remove the beef fillet from the marinade and cut a deep middle lengthwise down
Stuff the beef with ombivi mozzarella mixture
Cover the cut with toothpick
Brush the stuffed beef with olive oil and place on a medium heated griller, much better on coal griller.
Grill to your desired taste.

Remove from the griller,
Boil the marinade to make a smooth sauce and pour on the grilled beef.
Best served with steamed vegetables.

About the Author
Rebekka Hidulika is a self taught gastronomist with a university degree in Tourism. She has travelled and worked for a world-renowned cruise liner where she revived her love and passion for culinary. She owns and manages an African inspired eatery called Fusion restaurant in Windhoek West. These dishes can be found on special at Fusion Restaurant depending on seasonal availability.

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