Ugandans are crazy about beef. For that matter, boiled beef is a dish that in many ways has managed to attain the status of being national status and by all accounts, it remains a rare gastronomic delight. Let me share a tale I heard years ago regarding beef on the bones and a certain Ugandan living in England. While the story may sound apocryphal, it shows the warped and curious sense of the English way of humouring or, patronising we Africans.
Beef on the bone
There was a certain Ugandan man and by all accounts learned. He would frequent his local butcher and invariably request for beef on the bone. In those days, there were not as many emigrants from the hinterland as might be today. Therefore, asking for beef on the bone was in many ways somewhat of a novelty than asking for a steak or boneless beef stew. Several months down, the butcher casually remarked, ‘I bet you guv, you must have a pretty well-fed and good looking dog upstairs in your digs?’ To which the Ugandan retorted, ‘I doubt whether you folks would know the difference between a dog and an African being.’ Touché!
How to prepare it
Unfortunately, few Americans have come to realise how wonderful such an item can be, unlike their compatriots in Central Europe. By the way, of great importance with this recipe, is that the meat must be well marbled, and the preferred cut would be the ribs. At any rate, bottom round or solid meat would never be appropriate. To a native Ugandan, anything lean and without bones would be sheer folly, the gravy must have what the people call a top layer. This is a cream-like effect caused by the fat content of the meat. Thoroughly unhealthy and full of cholesterol, nevertheless smoked boiled beef would never be the same without it.
Traditionally, we would put banana peels over the charcoal embers while smoking the meat. Besides dousing the fire from the charcoal, it gives the meat a fine brownish colour. By the way, potato peels will also do.
Prepare smoked boiled beef
2 kg marbled beef, preferably ribs 1-1 &1/2 kg tomatoes
4-5 tablespoons tomato paste crushed garlic
4-5 medium-sized onions chopped Salt and pepper
Coriander (chopped cilantro for
2 bay leaves
• Have ready a barbecue grill. We used to use a locally made jiko or sigiri. Grill the meat over charcoal embers until it becomes a pleasant sort of brownish-reddish.
• Cut the meat into acceptable bite size pieces and then set aside.
• You will need a medium cooking pot that can accommodate the meat comfortably. Place the meat in the pot and make certain that the meat is immersed with water or stock. Homemade stock is more exciting.
• Dice the tomatoes, chop the onions, crush the garlic, and add these items to the pot. Bring to a simmer; add the tomato paste, salt and pepper, bay leaf. If you are into chillies, add a few.
• Continue simmering until tender. When ready, your gravy ought to be a rich reddish/brownish colour. Correct seasoning and make certain that salt and other items are what are desired. In all instances, make certain that you taste the meat for doneness. Take some ashes and then heap over the charcoal embers. Make certain that you close the hatch, and lo and behold, this shall simmer the meat.
• Just before serving, add the chopped cilantro.