• Jenny

This guide to cooking with local greens takes the guess work out of textures, preparation, and cook times so you can incorporate more of these super foods into your meals.

Cooking with greens can be a bit intimidating in any locale because there are so many varieties and they can vary considerably in their texture, cook times, and flavors. This guide provides information about three fairly common greens in Uganda: spinach, sukuma wiki, and doodo. Each section provides an introduction to the greens, how to clean and prepare them, recipe suggestions, and cook times.

Each of the bunches are sold for 1,000 shillings. As I write, it is toward the end of the rainy season so greens are readily available and gorgeous. Certain times of the year, like the end of dry season and beginning of rainy season, greens are harder to find and don’t look as good.

I haven’t tried any of these greens raw in salads or smoothies, so please share information if you have something to add.


Spinach is fairly common in Kampala markets and it is perhaps the easiest of these three greens to work with. Americans of a certain age may not recognize this variety of spinach, but it used to be quite common before baby spinach stole our hearts. Mature spinach is what comes in frozen packages or cans like Popeye used to eat. Mature spinach is actually preferable to baby spinach for cooking because it maintains a better texture.

To prepare spinach, I like to de-rib each leaf with a knife and then clean all the leaves. Removing the ribs makes the spinach leaves easier to work with and makes the texture more uniform when cooked. Once the leaves have been cleaned, you can chop them up for recipes like lentils or keep them whole for a dish like swimming rama.

To cook a bunch of spinach, dice half a Kampala onion and pre-cook onions in oil over low heat until tender. Add chopped spinach and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, chopped spinach can be added to stews and sauces. Chopped spinach takes about 2 minutes to wilt in soup and 15 minutes to cook until it is so tender there is very little texture left and it fades into the background of the dish. This is a great way to sneak more iron and other nutrients into your diet.

Sukuma wiki

Apparently, sukuma wiki means to “stretch the week” by adding a bit more volume to the sauce. Sukuma wiki is a common green in Kenya and in the U.S. we call this leaf collard greens. It is sometimes referred to as kale, and it's true that kale and sukuma have a similar chewy texture, but sukuma isn’t kale. It’s collard greens. If you like your greens to be chewy, this is your best bet.

Prepare and clean sukuma wiki similarly to spinach, by de-ribbing and cleaning the leaves and then cutting them according to your recipe.

To cook a bunch of sukuma wiki, dice half a Kampala onion and combine with chopped sukuma wiki and cooking oil over low heat. Because of its chewy texture, sukuma wiki takes longer to cook than spinach or doodo so there is no need to pre-cook the onions. The texture of sukuma can also cause the leaves to crisp rather than soften, so I prefer low heat and I often cover the pan for at least part of the cooking time. I find it works well to cook the greens in oil for about 5 minutes and then add a lid to steam them for 2-3 minutes to finish them off. Cooking sukuma wiki in this way is my family's preferred side dish of greens because we like them to be a bit crispy and chewy but still tender at the same time.

If you are adding chopped sukuma wiki to a stew or sauce, it takes about 25 minutes to soften and I don’t even think it is possible to cook them so long that they are unnoticeable. Add sukuma wiki to your stew or beans if you want to add texture, in the same way that some recipes call for cooked kale.


Doodo is a tender green like spinach but it takes more work to clean and remove the stalks. This local green is a relative of amaranth, which is a high protein grain. Doodo grows wild in many parts of Uganda, though the variety of doodo sold in markets is different than its wild relative. You may also see red doodo in the market place, which is purplish in color.

To prepare doodo, cut off the stalks of the bunch as shown below.

Then, taking each stalk individually, remove the leaves and place them in a bowl. Discard all the stalks and clean the leaves according to your usual method for cleaning vegetables.

To cook doodo, pre-cook half a Kampala onion in oil over medium heat. Chop the doodo, add to the onions, and saute doodo and onions over low heat for about 5 minutes.

To include doodo in sauces and soups, add chopped doodo to the hot soup and cook about 8 minutes until the doodo leaves are tender.

#greens #sukumawiki #spinach #doodo #vegetarian #glutenfree #dairyfree #uganda #kampalakitchen

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  • Jenny

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

Red curry paste and coconut milk make these lentils spicy and creamy with great texture. They can be served as a hearty side dish or a vegetarian main dish.

I love lentils. They are available in most parts of Kampala and they are so versatile. A wide range of cuisines incorporate lentils so you never have to get bored of eating lentils as you can add a variety of spices, veggies, and meats. Red curry paste is available in major supermarkets in most regional cities, though there have been times when the country is out of curry paste. Those are sad times. The good news is that curry pastes keep for a long time in the fridge so you can always have some on hand.

We like to add a lot of veggies to a dish like this because they increase the nutritional value and you hardly notice them. As pictured, about a half bunch of chopped spinach has been added to the lentils, before they simmer for 20 minutes. You can also add cooked carrots, green beans cut into small pieces, or zucchini. Adding cooked chicken makes this dish even heartier if you’ve got a carnivore in your house. Red curry paste can vary in spiciness so don’t add cayenne until you’ve tasted the lentils, in case the curry paste you are using is on the spicy side.

Cost – benefit

Prep time: 50 min

Serves: 5-6


1 ½ cups lentils (300 g), rinsed and picked over

1 medium Kampala onion, diced

2 tablespoon (29g) butter

2 tablespoon red curry paste

1/2 tablespoon (7.5 mL) garam masala

1 teaspoon (5 mL) curry powder

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) turmeric

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Dash of cayenne pepper

15 oz. (425 g) of tomato puree, OR 1 cup (275 g) tomato paste + 1 cup (237 mL) water

1/4 cup (60 mL) coconut milk or cream

Fresh coriander for garnish


Place lentils and 3 cups of water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and

allow lentils to simmer 20-30 minutes, until tender. The amount of time will depend on what kind of lentils you are using. Add more water if needed, to ensure lentils are covered. Once cooked, drain lentils and set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté a few minutes, until fragrant and golden. Add all spices and stir fry 1-2 minutes. Add tomato puree, stir and simmer until smooth. Add lentils and coconut milk and stir to combine. Let the lentils simmer at least 15-20 minutes until the flavors are well combined. Serve over rice or with pita bread and garnish with fresh coriander.

This recipe is contributed by Katie Spencer, who lives on the outskirts of Kampala where she and her husband work at African Bible University. She previously lived in Malawi and moved there when her firstborn was six weeks old. This recipe is adapted from Pinch of Yum.

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  • Jenny

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

This beautiful dish features freshly caught tilapia from Lake Victoria as well as local greens and vegetables.

This corrupted chorizo paella is perhaps my only original recipe. I am always in search of good tilapia recipes because we have a fish monger who delivers fresh tilapia from Lake Victoria to our house each week. Paella is a beautiful dish and as a rice farmer’s daughter, I can’t resist a good rice dish. Adding Mexican chorizo to the paella takes the flavor to another level. I love that this dish incorporates so many colorful vegetables that are easy to find here. You can adjust the vegetables to your tastes, but let me warn you that I have not had good luck with using local peas in this recipe.

You will need a big pot with a well-fitting lid, to trap steam so the rice fully cooks. I use a big non-stick pot so I can do all the steps with the same pot. When it comes time to reduce the heat and let the dish cook, do not stir it! If you are using a non-stick pot, you have no need to stir and it will disrupt the dish.

Cost – Benefit

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves 4-6


1 pound (450 g) Mexican chorizo

2 tablespoons (30 mL) cooking oil

1 medium (Kampala) onion

1 medium carrot, cut in half lengthwise and sliced

1 bell pepper, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1/2 bunch spinach, rinsed well, de-ribbed, and finely sliced

70 grams tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried thyme

1 and 1/2 cups (225 g) rinsed uncooked medium grain rice, such as supa rice, Kibimba, or kayiso

3 cups (700 mL) water

4 tilapia fillets

Fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves (for garnish)

Half a lemon (for garnish)


Brown the Mexican chorizo in a skillet over medium heat and set aside in a bowl. Scrape the skillet clean and sauté the onion, carrot, and bell pepper in cooking oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until carrots are starting to become tender.

Stir in tomatoes and spinach and sprinkle with salt. Cook another 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Transfer the vegetables to a sauce pan and add in tomato paste, thyme, rice, water, and cooked chorizo. Stir to combine well and bring to a boil over high heat.

Once the mixture is boiling, cover the pan and reduce heat to as low as the flame will go. Try to make sure that no rice kernels are stranded on top of other ingredients, because they need to be submerged to fully cook. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes without stirring. After 10 minutes, remove the lid and arrange the tilapia fillets over the rice mixture. Do not stir.

Return the lid and cook an additional 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves and drizzle with juice from half a lemon.

#chorizopaella #paella #Mexicanchorizo #chorizo #glutenfree #dairyfree #homemade #fromscratch #uganda #kampalakitchen

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