CHICKENS PURCHASED from the chicken lady . . . coconuts opened by the grower . . . tomatoes layered into a mountain of freshness. All items brightly displayed for inspection, purchase and praise. These are the foodstuffs of Africa's markets that photographer-painter Sherrie Dorr Bork recorded on film, interpreted in acrylics and recently recaptured in Washington one weekend.
As an artist, Bork's primary interest during two years in Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, was in photographing the markets and the people and then transforming the works into large-scale acrylic paintings. Occasionally, her shopping found her traveling directly to the Kikuyu tribe, the agrarian growers of the city's produce.
She traveled to Lamu, an island with few 20th-century comforts, to learn about the Swahili peoples. Cooking became a logical accompaniment to her painting and photography, and that led her to two island teachers. First, there was Famau, a cook in a 17th-century resort house who introduced her to two dishes that are now standards for all her African parties: smaki wa mchuzi and kuku wa mchuzi.
Then Amina, known as Lamu's best cook, shared her small, stapled recipe book and explained the key spices and seasonings of the Swahili culture, a mix of Arabian and African roots. Hummus, a popular appetizer commonly recognized as a Middle Eastern dish, is a typical Swahili blend of two cultures, though appetizers play a secondary role to entrees in African meals.
The final influence came from the American owner of a restaurant and gallery in Nairobi; the nightly buffets inspired Bork's cooking, and the environment influenced the decorating of her present Southeast Washington town house with wicker, straw and ceramics.
Bork's Sunday night Swahili supper for 45 guests, some of them friends from Kenyan days, began Sunday at Eastern Market and Maine Avenue. "The coconuts are the biggest in the city at the waterfront site," she explained.The day was then spent cooking.
Between preparation and presentation, the cook returned to her role as artist, completing work on her two seperate one-woman shows: American market paintings at the Gallerie Triangle in Southwest Washington and photographs of the people of Maasai, Kenya's most famous tribe, at Volta Place Gallery in Georgetown.
The dinner menu included dishes from other African and South African ports, but it centered around coconuts, rice and nuts, combined with fish, chicken, beef or lamb. Her African recipes use large quantites of garlic, onions and lemons and the mchuzi spices: cumin, cardamon, coriander and curry. Turmeric, ginger and cinnamon play a lesser role, but the overall theme is freshness: coconuts freshly opened, peanuts freshly shelled and seasonings freshly chopped.
The small galley kitchen, equipped with few modern appliances, was in African re-enactment, for the chopping, pounding and grating gave the room an old-fashioned village atmosphere. As Bork sampled, she added more garlic or onion to match the spiced rememberances from Famau or Amina. Baskets came down from the walls; straw trays appeared under hand-fired Kenyan pots. It was time for an African feast. Menu for 8: Appetizers: Curried peanuts Hummus with pita bread Samaki wa mchuzi Entrees: Kuku wa mchuzi Kuku wa mjugu Muhogo tamu Bobotie Arroz de coco Geelrys Dessert: Fresh fruit salad with madeira custard sauce Coffee with fresh ground ginger
Prepare as many dishes as possible the day before, as this will enable the seasonings to permeate the foods. Dishes that are prepared the same day may require additional spices. These recipes are mildly seasoned. CURRIED PEANUTS 1 pound fresh, roasted peanuts 1/4 cup peanut oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons curry powder
Shell the peanuts and peel off the brown fiber wrapper. Dust off any remaining particles. Save the peanuts that could not be peeled completely to garnish rice or chicken.
In a wok or skillet, heat the oil. Toss the peanuts in the oil until they are evenly brown. Be careful, as they burn quickly.
Drain and toss with salt, pepper and curry powder. HUMMUS (20 servings) 3 16-ounce cans chick peas (garbanzo beans) with liquid 15-ounce can tahini (sesame seed paste) Juice of 4 lemons 1 whole head of garlic, peeled and finely chopped Salt
Grind the chick peas, 1/2 can at a time, to a smooth paste. Mix together small portions of tahini and chick peas until well blended.
Add the lemon, garlic and salt to the mixture and blend well.
Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature with pita bread cut into small pocket triangles. SAMAKI WA MCHUZI (Fish Balls) (8 to 10 servings) 3 pounds filleted white fish (trout or snapper) 1 cup onion, finely chopped Juice of 3 lemons 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tablespoon each of cardamom, cumin, corlander and cinnamon 5 freshly crushed cloves 2 large eggs 3/4 cup peanut oil
Place fish in soup pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook 15 minutes until tender. Drain well and double-check for bones. Flake the fish.
Stir in the onions, lemon juice and garlic, then the spices.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix with your hands. Adjust seasonings.
Roll into balls, cover and refrigerate.
Remove fish balls from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving time, and heat oil to 400 degrees. Fry fish balls until browned.Drain and serve. KUKU WA MCHUZI (Chicken With Coconut) (6 servings) 4- to 5-pound chicken, cut into small pieces with skin and bones intact. 4 large garlic cloves, chopped 1 cup onion, chopped Juice of 1 lemon 4 fresh tomatoes or 1-pound can of whole tomatoes 1 1/2-cups coconut milk (recipe follows) 1/2 cup chopped coconut 2 tablespoons each of curry powder, cinnamon, corlander, cumin and cardamon
Put the chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Mix together remaining ingredients. Drain the chicken. Reserve the broth for other uses. Allow the chicken to cool a little if you plan to remove the bones and skin. It may be served either way.
Combine chicken with the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover: reduce heat and simmer approximately 40 minutes unil thickened.
Serve hot over coconut rice (recipe follows). KUKU WA MJUGU (Chicken-Ground-Nut Stew) (8 servings) 5- to 6-pound chicken, cup up in small parts 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon ground ginger 1/2 cup peanut oil 1 cup onion, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, finely grated 5 medium-size tomatoes, pureed 1/4 cup tomato paste 6 cups boiling water 2 whole fresh hot chilies, each about 3 inches long, or 1 large whole green pepper, cut in thin strips 1 cup peanut butter and 1 cup cold water, blended into a smooth paste 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted roasted peanuts
Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the salt and ground ginger and rub well onto the chicken.
Heat the oil in a flame-proof heavy 5- to 6-quart casserole until very hot, but not smoking. Add the chicken, 4 to 5 pieces at a time. Brown evenly, being careful not to burn. When brown, set aside in a bowl.
Drain all but 1/4 cup peanut oil. Add the onions, garlic and fresh grated ginger. Cook until soft and lightly browned, stirring and scraping the pan to incorporate the browned chicken particles.
Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Cook over high heat until boiling. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
Stirring constantly, add the boiling water in a continuing, fine stream. Add the chilies or the peppers. Add the chicken pieces with any liquid that has collected from them. Turn the pieces until each is well coated. Cook uncovered over low heat for 15 minutes.
Stir in the peanut butter paste and continue cooking for 1 hour until all the chicken is fork-tender.
When ready to serve, place in a heated casserole and sprinkle the peanuts around the center. Accompany with hot rice. MUHOGO TAMU (Beef-Yam Stew) (6 to 8 servings) 1 pound fresh yams 1 1/2 pounds lean boneless beef, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes 1/4 cup peanut oil 1 cup finely chopped onions 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 teaspoon tumeric 2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges, or 6 whole canned tomatoes 1 cup water 3 tablespoons fresh corlander, finely chopped 1 cup coconut milk (recipe follows) 3 tablespoons hot chilies, finely chopped (optional)
Place the yams in a pot of lightly salted water to cover. Boil for 30 minutes until just tender. Drain. Cool and peel. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. m
Dry the beef completely, and lightly brown, 4 to 5 pieces at a time in the hot oil in a heavy pan. Do not let it burn. Transfer to another plate.
Add the onions and stir until translucent. Use the spoon to work up browned meat bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the salt, pepper and tumeric and cook for 1 minute.
Return the beef and its liquid to the pan. Add the tomatoes and the water. Stir gently until well combined. Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered for 1 hour until the beef is completely tender.
Combine the coriander with the coconut milk* and stir into the simmering casserole. Add the yams and mix well. Partially cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
*For added seasoning, mix in with the coconut milk, 3 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped hot chilies. BOBOTIE Baked Ground Lamb Curry Casserole) (6 to 8 servings) 1 slice bread, broken into pieces 1 cup milk 2 tablespoons butter 2 pounds ground lamb (or combination of lamb, pork and beef) 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 2 tablespoons curry powder 1 tablespoon light brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/4 cup lemon juice 3 eggs 1 medium-size tart cooking apple, cored and finely grated 1/4 cup coarsely chopped blanched almonds 1/2 cup seedless raisins
Soak the bread in the milk. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the ground meat and cook, stirring, until no pink remains. Drain.
Cook the onions until soft but now brown. Add the curry, sugar, salt and pepper and stir together for 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice and bring to a quick boil over high heat. Add the mixture to the ground meat.
Drain the bread in a sieve over a bowl. Squeeze the bread completely dry and reserve the milk.
Add the bread, 1 egg, the apple, nuts and raisins to the ground meat mixture. Mix it well with your hands. Pack the mixture loosely into a 3-quart serving dish. Smooth the top.
Use a whisk and beat the remining 2 eggs with the milk until frothy. Pour the mixture evenly over the baking dish and bake 30 minutes in a preheated 300-degree oven until brown and firm when touched. ARROZ DE COCO (coconut Rice) (6 servings) 2 tablespoons peanut oil 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 1 small seeded bell pepper, chopped 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice 1 1/2 cups fresh coconut milk, using 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped coconut and 1 1/2 cups hot water (see recipe that follows) 1 teaspoon salt.
Using a heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and peppers and stir until semisoft but not brown. Add the rice and cook 2 to 3 minutes until well coated. Be careful not to burn. Stir in the coconut milk and the salt.
Bring to a quick moderate boil. Cover pan tightly and simmer for 20 munites until all liquid has evaporated and the rice is almost tender. Remove from flame and keep covered for 10 minutes.
Fluff with a fork prior to serving. GEELRYS (Yellow Rice With Raisins) (6 servings) 2 tablespoons butter 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice 2 cups boiling water 2 tablespoons cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric Pinch of crumbled saffron 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup seedless raisins 1 teaspoon sugar
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the rice and stir until grains are well coated. Add the water, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron and salt. Stir constantly. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat to simmer, and cover tightly. Cook for 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat. Stir in raisins. Add the sugar. Cover the pan and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Fluff with fork prior to serving. FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH MADEIRA CUSTARD SAUCE (6 to 8 servings) 1 pineapple 2 mangoes 2 bananas Madeira Custard Sauce 6 eggs, separated 2/3 cup sugar 3 tablespoons madeira 1/4 teaspoon salt
Cut the pineapple and mangoes into bite-size squares. Cover and refrigerate. Add the bananas just before serving.
To prepare custard sauce, mix the egg yolks and the sugar in the top of a 1 1/2-quart double boiler. Over simmering water, beat the mixture until fluffy.
Gradually add the madeira and continue beating until the mixture resembles whipped cream. Cool quickly in a pan of ice water. Cover and refrigerate.
Before serving beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Fold into the chilled custard and cover the fruit salad. COCONUT MILK (1 ot 2 cups) 1 cup chopped coconut 1 cup hot water
Combine coconut and hot (not boiling) water in a blender or food processor. Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Strain, pressing out the juices.
For a lighter coconut taste, add another cup of water to the coconut residue and blend, strain and add to the first batch.