Mahewu, A Traditional African Beverage

There is a huge interest in the role of fermented foods for overall health. Magazine articles, grocery and health food stores all tout the benefits of foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi and yogurt as functional foods whose benefits in overall health extend beyond nutrition. (More about this in another post coming soon.)  The African diet is rich in fermentation with  foods such as uji (East Africa), Ben-Saalga (Burkina Faso), Ogi (West Africa), Kenkey (Ghana) and  Kwana-Zaki (Nigeria) constantly being served. Two of my personal favorites are Lacto, soured milk with a taste very similar to Kefir milk and Mahewu (Amarewu, Togwa , Mabundu, Mapotho), a porridge based drink fermented with sorghum or finger millet malt. I had some left over sadza (ugali/posho/pap/nshima /isitshwala) and the weather was just right so I began brewing Mahewu- a childhood favorite.

Ingredients used:

Maize (corn) meal, Water, sorghum  with finger millet malt and a lot of sunshine.

leftover sadza

Most recipes call for a porridge made from 1 part maize meal/sorghum/millet to 9 cups water.  I had some left over sadza so I used that. (No measurements, just eyeballed it as I went)

sadza peices

To make it into a porridge, I tore the sadza into small peices  and added water. How much water to add is a matter of preference. Add more if  you prefer a thin beverage.

liquifey X

I used an immersion blender to blend the sadza to a thin gruel.  ( A blender works just as well or you can go the traditional route of crumbling and mashing with your fingers. (Get the kids to join in the fun….they will love it).

SORGHUM

I took a handful of malt (Sorghum and finger millet) and added it to the porridge. While I used a two-grain malt,  single grains such as finger millet, sorghum, wheat and maize meal ferment well too.  Studies however suggest that the sorghum and finger millet based malts produce the most lactic acid which could provide increased health benefits.

POT

After thoroughly blending the mixture , I transferred it to a pot, covered it , placed it in a sunny spot and allowed the fermentation to begin. My aunt had a special clay pot that was dedicated for Mahewu brewing.  She claimed that it had a “memory” of the brewing process and therefore made her Mahewu ferment a lot quicker. I now know that the clay pot had residual fermented malt from previous brewing and this added mature malt which hastened  the brewing process. I subscribe to her notion and use the same pot every time I brew Mahewu.. However, in addition to matured malt, mine is seasoned with all the curries and stews I cook in it between  batches. I guess that adds hints of turmeric and garlic to my beverage. Yum??

DSC_0581

2 days later, bubbles formed on the surface of the liquid and a strong smell of fermentation filled the pot. The Mahewu was brewed and ready for serving. I transferred it into a pitcher and placed it into the fridge for some chilling. During the cold winter months I warm it up and drink it as a hot beverage.

cup

Later that same day, I had a cup of chilled goodness and memories of my childhood flourished.  While I like my Mahewu a little on the sour side many prefer to add a spoon of sugar.

Here’s to your health (and childhood memories)!

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Categories: African Food, Uncategorized, What's Cooking?

Author:Cordialis Chipo

Cordialis is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - a nutrition consultancy that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian or on Facebook (The African Pot Nutrition.

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  1. The Nutritional Benefits of Mahewu | The African Pot Nutrition - October 2, 2013

    […] Mahewu, A Traditional African Beverage (theafricanpotnutrition.com) […]

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  2. Drinks For Health! African favorite Beverages for Improved Health | The African Pot Nutrition - October 30, 2014

    […] Want to make Mahewu? Here is my recipe using leftover Sadza. Mahewu, A Traditional African Beverage […]

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