Basico – Sesame, Greens and Smoked Meat recipe
Basico – sesame, greens and smoked meat recipe is a South Sudanese traditional meal of ground sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables and smoked meat or fish. This is a specialty of the Kuku tribe of KajoKeji village in South Sudan. It is said to properly welcome your Kuku in-laws, cook a meal of Basico and Asida, and you will win their favor. The equivalent meal in West Africa is called egusi soup, in which, instead of sesame seeds, they use ground melon seeds. This commonality of cooking practice points to a common ancestry, as the Equatorian people of South Sudan, of which Kuku tribe is a part of, trace lineage to Bantu people. All the Bantu people share this method of cooking ground seeds(melon, gourd, pumpkin) with green vegetables and meat or fish.
Basico is a fat and protein dense meal, with the main protein source from the sesame seeds. Smoked meat or smoked fish is added for flavor and nutritional value. In KajoKeji, Nyete, is the leafy green vegetable of choice to cook Basico. These days we may use collard greens, kale greens, Swiss chard or mustard greens. Basico is a meal of medium difficulty to prepare.
How to Cook Basico – Sesame, Greens and Smoked Meat recipe
First: Grind Sesame Seeds
Obtain raw sesame seeds. Wash seeds in water and drain water to remove any soil particles. Dry sesame seeds in the sun or in an oven. The next step involves grinding the sesame seeds. Traditionally a stone grinder is used. Now folks use hand operated meat grinder, and for those with access, an electric spice grinder, or a food processor. The grinding process is a rough grind to crush the seeds, not to mill it finely into a paste.
Second: Knead ground sesame seeds by hand
This is the difficult and essential part of Basico preparation. In a flat surface, knead the ground sesame seeds, add small aliquots of lukewarm water until it hardens and the oil can be squeezed out. I liken this process to that of making feta cheese to curdle and harden. There is a finite end point. Too much water can destroy this process irreversibly. It requires lots of practice to get it right.
Third: Prepare your green vegetables
Wash and chop your green vegetables. In KajoKeji, Nyete, is the leafy green vegetable of choice to cook Basico. I chose to use Swiss chard. One of my cousins use collard greens, and another uses romaine lettuce to make Basico.
Fourth: Boil smoked meat and onions
In a pot set on medium heat, boil 2 cups of water, diced onions, and cubed smoked meat. Follow this link for recipe for smoked meat.
Fifth: Finish cooking Basico
Layer Swiss chard over the onions and smoked meat. Take the kneaded ground sesame seeds and carve out 1/2 to 1 inch round pieces over the greens. Place another layer of greens and repeat addition of kneaded ground sesame seeds until the whole batch is finished. Cover and cook. Avoid too much stirring at this point. Add salt. Add fresh green or red pepper if desired. Serve with Asida. Enjoy.
- 1. 4 cups raw sesame seeds. Prepare as follows:
- Wash and sieve 3 times. Layer the sesame seeds on a pan and dehydrate in oven on low heat for 30 minutes. Alternatively you can air dry in hot sun.
- Grind the sesame seeds using a spice grinder. Then knead the ground sesame seeds; add small amounts of lukewarm water.
- 2. 1 medium white onion, diced.
- 3. Swiss chard, 3 bunches, chopped. Prepare by washing thoroughly, and chop them.
- 4. Smoked meat, cut into cubes. Prepare smoked meat by following Smoked Meat recipe link in post.
- 5. Salt
- 6. 2 cups of water
- 7. Bicarbonate soda, 1 teaspoon, only for tough to cook vegetables like Nyete, collard or kale greens.
- In a pot set on medium heat, bring to boil water, diced onions and smoked meat.
- Add 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda if the vegetables are Nyete, collard or kale greens.
- Layer Swiss chard chopped greens over the smoked meat and onions. Carve out the ground kneaded sesame seeds into ½ to 1 inch balls over the greens as you would layer feta cheese over a salad.
- Add another layer of greens and repeat process until all the ground sesame seeds have been added.
- Cover and cook for 30minutes until the greens are tender, and the ground sesame seeds are soft and flaky.
- Adjust salt and add pepper, if desired.
- Serve with Asida.