Matapa is a dish that is truly quintessentially Mozambican – it’s a thick stew of cassava leaves with ground peanuts and coconut milk. A lot of recipes suggest using spinach or collared greens if you can’t find cassava leaves, but there are a lot of African grocery stores here in Ottawa – I found frozen chopped cassava leaves at Africa World Market in Vanier.
The recipe varies with different sources – I based it off a combo of this recipe at Big Girls Small Kitchen and the notes and video from Mozambique Experience. Most recipes include shellfish, but they’re not mandatory (and I’m allergic, which settles it). I added some tomatoes, based off the matapa I saw in videos actually being made in Mozambique, and used a generous hand with the garlic.
To go with the matapa, I made xima! This side dish goes by a million different names in sub-Saharan Africa – ugali, pap, ogi, akamu, and many more listed here, but xima seems to be just used in Mozambique. It’s fine ground corn meal boiled to a paste, and is meant to be a bland “supportive” starchy side for a more flavourful dish like a stew. It needs to be a very fine ground corn meal – I picked up a bag of flour specifically milled for this purpose at the same grocery. I halved the recipe from whats4eats – basically 2:1 water to corn, stir like hell.
The matapa turned out tasty – cassava leaves have a green vegetal flavour that’s distinct from kale or spinach, and the tomatoes tempered the richness of the peanuts and coconut milk. I made sure to try eating it the right way – using my fingers to get both xima and matapa. It worked pretty well, though since I used my right hand (I’m lefthanded) and didn’t wait for it to cool, I may have been a bit graceless.