Science Experiments

How to make Ugali

Sat, 8th Jul 2006

Part of the show Allergies, the Immune System and Parasites

What you Need

This week Kitchen Science travels all the way to Tanzania to find out how to make ugali, the staple food of Tanzania and other parts of East Africa. Derek speaks to Felicity Thompson, who has lived inTanzania for the past few years, about what ugali tastes like and joins Chelu George in her cafe in Iringa to find out how to make it. The great part is that you can make it at home too! Why don't you have a go at making ugali and tell us what you think.

To make ugali, you will need:

200g of maize flour or cornflour 1 litre of water boiling in a pan A bowl full of cold water Wooden spoon

What to do

1 - Put dry maize flour into the bowl of cold water. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it is well mixed in. If you don't mix it well then you'll get lumps!

2 - Pour the mixture into the pan of boiling water.

3 - Stir the mixture until the water returns to the boil. At this point the ugali starts to thicken, just like when you make gravy. Each granule of maize flour contains starch molecules. These molecules are long and thin and are tightly packed together in the dry granules. When the maize flour is heated in the boiling water, the granules swell and burst, allowing the neatly packed starch molecules to stretch out to their full length. Like strings of sticky spaghetti, the long starch molecules very quickly tangle with each other. By sticking together, the starch molecules cannot move past each other very easily, and it is this that makes the mixture thicken. This is exactly the process that occurs when you use gravy granules, except with ugali, you heat the mixture for much longer.

4 - Once the ugali has reached the consistency of porridge or oatmeal, add two more big spoonfuls of maize flour and stir it until the ugali is really thick. It is ready when it looks a bit like mashed potato, although the consistency will be much thicker. If you've been working hard at stirring, then there should be no lumps!

5 - Now it's ready to eat! The ugali can be very hot in the middle, so be careful not to burn your fingers.

What may happen

Once you have a lump of ugali on your plate, use your right hand (everyone in Tanzania eats with their right hand) to break off a piece, roll it up and make it into the shape of a boat. You can eat the ugali as it is, but it's not very nutritious or tasty on its own. In Tanzania, people use the boat-shaped piece of ugali to scoop up a sauce, which could be anything from beans to something with coconut.

Why not have a go at making ugali and trying it with a delicious sauce? What does it taste like and do you think that ugali could catch on where you live?

Why does it happen?


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