East Africa is a region of contrasts and home to literally hundreds of ethnic and tribal groups, who speak a variety of languages and have many different religions. One aspect that many of these groups have in common, however, is the kind of meals eaten, which for most people are based around a starchy staple such as a grain or root vegetable dish, accompanied by thick, flavourful soups and stews and speciality breads. The starchy part of the meal is commonly rolled into a hollowed ball with the fingers of the right hand and then used to scoop up other foods. Because cutlery is rare it is important for the hands to be cleansed before the meal begins and in many countries hand washing both before and after meals is a ritual. Before the meal starts a jug and bowl are brought in and water is poured over the diners' hands, which are held over the bowl. A towel is passed around to dry the hands and the same thing is done again at the end of the meal. Entertaining guests is seen as a great honour in many East African households and extra food is often prepared just in case any unexpected diners arrive.
Recipes are not generally written down, but are passed on by word of mouth or simply created by the cook by experimenting with what ingredients are available. East African cuisine is sadly often overlooked outside the region, with many people believing that it consists only of starchy tasteless stodge! Hopefully this book will help dispel that myth and show that instead there are dozens of creative, richly-flavoured traditional dishes made from an exciting array of exotic and nutritious ingredients. As all the basic ingredients are plant-based the recipes are eminently suitable for vegans and with many of the dishes extremely quick and easy to prepare they should also appeal to vegans who have little time to cook.