Pap or Sadza or Ugali or ...

"Posted for "Look to Africa", African Cooking Forum, Jan 2009. This is the real African staple food (in Central and Southern Africa). And if you think it's straighforward, nope! This cornmeal (maize, polenta) recipe is changed to form a consistency varying from dry and crumbly ("krummelpap" in South Africa) to various stages of firmness and smoothness. It is a bland porridge which forms a basis for a tomato-onion sauce or a soupy stew. Traditionally, in deeply rural areas, everyone sits around the cooking fire. There will be two black, three-legged iron pots: one with pap, and one with the sauce or stew. The pap is taken with the fingers, formed into a ball, and dipped into the stew. SADZA is the Shona (in Zimbabwe) word for it, it is called UGALI in Kenya and Tanzania, NSHIMA in Zambia and Malawi, and POSHO in Uganda. In West, East and areas of Central Africa the generic staple is FUFU -- a close relation to PAP. FUFU is called GHAAT in Eritrea and Ethiopia. FUFU is made rather arduously by pounding starchy root vegetables like cassava or yams in large vessels (much like a pestle and mortar). In Ghana, for example, FUFU is often made from boiled cassava and unripe plantains beaten together. It's also made from cocoyam and yam. These products are now also made into powder form, which can be mixed with hot water to obtain the porridge-like final product, eliminating the hard work. The following is a basic PAP recipe."
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Ready In:


  • 4 12 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cornmeal (preferably finely ground and white)


  • Bring water and salt to a boil in a large pot. When it boils, add the cornmeal all in one go, mix, cover and cook undisturbed over very gentle heat for about 30 - 60 minutes.
  • That is the method a black lady I know always used (although she didn't measure a thing, but neither do I, when I make pap).
  • It gets to be easy after a few times, just pouring a small stream of cornmeal into the boiling water and stirring. You know when the consistency will be to your liking.
  • I find it easier, and safer for the final smoothness, to stir or whisk while I pour in the dry cornmeal.
  • (Cornmeal in Africa is known as maize meal or mealie meal. White cornmeal is preferred by African peoples, and it's a bad year for corn when producers have to add yellow corn to the white in order to produce enough of the product for the market).
  • As pap is bland and merely a vehichle for other tastes, it is always eaten with a savory soup or stew or sauce. A favourite meal among Black and White alike is pap with tomato-and-onion sauce, with grilled meats alongside. But where the eaters have to make do with little, a sauce or soupy stew will suffice.

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  1. DH remembers this from his childhood in Zim. Wanted me to try it. Had it with a beef stew I cooked. Very filling, but loved it. Thanks for posting.


I'm a widow, retired, and I love cooking. I live on the coast in South Africa and I love seafood. You're welcome to my recipes (all kinds, definitely not just seafood!) Just remember that no recipe is ever cast in stone -- adjust to your taste! The photo was taken at a rustic seaside restaurant on our West Coast, approx 1 year ago (2016).
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