One of the most interesting parts of the Home Supper Club is the information pack included with the food. Not only are there recipe cards (of which I am amassing a growing collection), but there is a section devoted to exploring the culture of the country from which that week’s dish is taken. This week, we were treated to Ugandan cuisine, in the form of luwombo, mashed matoke, mandazi, and groundnut (peanut) sauce. The accompanying examination of Ugandan food culture has given me some food for thought (pun intended).

My relationship to food is one to which I haven’t devoted a lot of thought. Mostly, I eat when I’m hungry. I cook relatively late in the evening and eat alone at my desk in front of Netflix or, if my housemates are up for it, we watch something together. Very rarely do we eat together at a table as a house, or with friends. This was the case even before the lockdown confined everyone to their homes. So, with that in mind, the focus on dinner being a family meal in Uganda is one I can easily imagine, but with which I struggle to empathise. When I was growing up, my meals were quiet affairs at a dinner table, punctuated by BBC Radio 4 comedies or the news. By contrast, Ugandan dinners are a truly communal affair: any guests or neighbours are welcomed to eat dinner with the family. Diners sit on mats, eating together until everyone is finished, and the chef (traditionally the mother) is thanked and complimented.

With this in mind, the dishes this week felt very much like the kind of meal that, even in Britain’s more atomised food culture, should be enjoyed communally. I couldn’t do that for various reasons, but that was the feeling I got from the food. Luwombo is a meat dish (easily made vegan by using vegan sausages) in which the meat is cooked in a lightly-seasoned sauce, portions of which are then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Pieces of chicken leg provided the meat this week. Chicken is probably my favourite meat, but I have a vehement dislike for bones, so I confess that I removed as many of the bones as I could before tucking in. Once de-boned, the luwombo was delicious, as was the vegan version.

Served with the luwombo was mashed matoke, or plantain. Plantain is a fruit to which I have only recently been introduced, so a dish of mashed green plantain was an intriguing proposition. Lightly spiced with chilli, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, and coriander, the mashed matoke felt a little like mashed sweet potato in the mouth, and tasted wonderful. This was especially true when mixed with the groundnut sauce. I’m not a fan of nuts on their own, but groundnut sauce blends peanuts with garlic, ginger, onion, and tomatoes into a sauce with an earthy, nutty flavour. The chapati flatbreads which accompanied everything served a useful purpose in mopping up all the remnants. More enterprising diners could make a wrap out of them.

For dessert came the mandazi. Rather like a small doughnut flattened out and fried, this pastry dessert is coated in ground cardamom and tastes divine. Best when fresh, it’s entirely possible that if I am ever a dinner guest in Uganda, nobody else at that table will have a chance to enjoy any of the mandazi on offer.

All of this combined into what felt like a proper family meal. It’s easy to picture steaming trays of luwombo and matoke being carried out to waiting guests, all of whom tuck in with relish. With the recipe cards in hand, I look forward to making that a reality with my friends soon enough.

Written By Nick Dunn