Emma Forbes: Art teacher turned Swahili foods curator


Arts educator Emma Forbes traces her appreciate of cooking, seafood and fishing to her upbringing on the coastline of Scotland.

“When I was fishing with my father we’d often take our minor jiko, and as we caught the fish we would cook them straight away,” mentioned Forbes, who has lived in Nairobi for 23 many years. “A extremely uncomplicated fish meal on the boat with salt or lemon or mustard.”

Previous month, she unveiled her 1st cookbook Bahari Safari, a compilation of recipes primarily based on Swahili food items and lifestyle. The thought for the reserve came in December 2020 though driving to the coastline for a family vacation.

Soon after graduating from the Lincoln Higher education of Art in the Uk, with cookery as a vocational issue, Forbes trained as a trainer prior to transferring to Kenya in 1997. She taught art in faculties, but from time to time substituted it with cooking lessons.

More than lots of a long time of going to the Kenyan coast, Forbes developed a network of nearby pals who assisted deepen her adore of the region’s cuisine.

“Swahili cooking is fragrant, new, mild and nutritious,” she suggests. “It has a fragrance from the coconut, lime and dhania, and the recipes are rapid and flexible to make.”


In 2011, she remaining training and opened The Shuka Duka, a shop that features accessories and textile items built from Maasai shukas. But cooking and instructing were often calling. She would give lessons at household to young children, domestic staff, novices to the kitchen or her two daughters whom, she suggests, have caught the cooking bug.

In Lamu, Forbes got a lesson on generating curry “cooked in shiny sufurias on a small gas jiko”. This was the inspiration behind her favourite coastal dish — Swahili fish curry working with red snapper.

Watermelon and honey sorbet.

Watermelon and honey sorbet. Image | COURTESY

When leasing an condominium in Lamu, Babu the operator showed her how to make tamarind-flavoured tuna filets served with a coconut sauce. In Watamu, a restaurateur referred to as David Kanyeri ready a seafood barbeque over a charcoal fireplace. His spicy marinade, shared in the book, is another of Forbes’s favourites and functions with lobster, fish, calamari or prawns.

The components in her recipes are quick to uncover even if you really don’t are living at the coastline. Forbes endorses purchasing new seafood as it has the very best style and texture.

“If you want to invest in substantial amounts then freeze it you so you know how prolonged it has been in the freezer. And often address seafood with regard.”

Forbes has found out distinctions in the cookery, like how coastal bhajias vary from those people of Nairobi, the four types of lobster uncovered in Watamu, or that Lamu cooking uses far more black pepper than Watamu cooking.

“I have also discovered distinct strategies of scaling fish, planning an octopus and how to smoke fish by working with an previous roasting tin,” she suggests. The simplicity of the cooking strategies at the coastline was one more attractiveness and Forbes has endeavoured to continue to keep her recipes user-pleasant. although embracing the society. “You do not require fancy package to do these recipes. Just a jiko, a sufuria, sharp knife and a cutting board.”

She prefers contemporary coconut which is additional aromatic, but acknowledges that it is time consuming to grate and squeeze. Her choice is coconut milk, “but make positive it is unsweetened,” she suggests.

Saturdays typically locate Forbes at the KSPCA’s Natural and organic Farmer’s Market place, her stall unfold out with freshly baked products, pre-requested meals in amazing boxes, and samples of her latest dishes. There ended up tasters of her well-known Swahili curry in current weeks and I’m searching forward to sampling her impending Xmas menu.

Related Articles

Back to top button