Irio, a Kenyan food

Like N, I have been accused of being far too active on Facebook. I have been unfriended because my contacts only see me on their feeds.
It's all you, you, you and you. So annoying.
Well, of course, it's all about me, me and me. That's why it's called my Wall.
How much do you write?
I write a lot. A lot. A heck of a lot. Facebook doesn't even make a dent in the lot that I write.
Where do you find the time?
Do you talk to people during the day? You know, like in the next cubicle or desk or at the water cooler? Where do you find the time to do that and, also, update your Facebook Wall or comment on mine? Facebook is my watercooler. Your friends have to listen to you talk whereas you can Hide me and never hear from me again, unless you seek me out.

Thanks to Facebook, I've reconnected with a whole bunch of my schoolfriends from Kenya as well as college friends from India. And, very recently, one of my favorite friends from Bombay. She disappeared without a trace a few years ago, as did I for her. Facebook to the rescue!

Mso chicks!

It was during one of those infinite updates that one of my school friends asked me if I knew how to make bhajias, the kind we gorged on in Kenya. And if the pictures that these gals had posted had not taken me down memory lane, this question sent me hurtling down its path. I rued that I was a pathetically under-nourished kid who was not interested in food when we lived in Nairobi. I remember names of dishes and there are memories wound around most of them; but the flavors? For the most part, I have no recollection whatsoever.

I do, however, remember some things: like the time I ate ugali for the first time and didn't need to eat again for the next two days! It was like a giant idli that sat like a rock in my stomach forever. Whee! The freedom it gave me!

I had my first taste of rhubarb at one of my first hot lunches at school. I felt like I had licked someone's sweaty underarms and both, the smell and the image, made me extremely nauseous. If you had told me then that I would grow to love rhubarb, especially in a crumble, I would have given outlaughed all the hyenas on the Kenyan savannah.

Indian cuisine has had a fair amount of influence on Kenyan cooking; for example, chapatis and samosas are now as Kenyan as they are Indian. Spices and aromatics find their way into everyday Kenyan fare. A friend who is currently vacationing in Kenya reports that the "food is really good here!" And I believe her!

As my subconscious continued to be bombarded, I awoke one morning with the word irio ringing in my ears. Now, that was a stark change from the strange dreams that play vividly in my mind's eye otherwise! I remember it being described simply as food. Some sort of a nutritious mash that I am pretty sure I did not care for.

It had been served to us at a friend's home in rural Kenya, when he took us on a tour of his farm. His family had been fascinated by my mother. They couldn't stop touching her sari and asking about the bindi she wore on her forehead. All I wanted to do was run around outside after having been caged inside a car for over three hours. Who cared about the food when there were new kids to play with! Especially kids with an endless yard to romp around in.

But I am a different person now - the same friend who asked about bhajias wrote something about Sammy Sosa on her Wall and all I could see was samosa. I had to look up irio and while I was very tempted to make this spiced up version, I chose to stay closer to the home recipe and used Congo Cookbook's recipe instead. A simple mixture of mashed potatoes, dried peas and maize with a healthy dose of greens.


  • 1 cup dried split green peas
  • 6 medium red potatoes
  • 6 ears of fresh corn
  • 1/2 lb baby spinach, washed
  • green and yellow beans, a good handful
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • salt to taste

  1. Soak dried green peas overnight or give them a quick hot soak. Cook in a pressure cooker or boil in a saucepan until done.
  2. Peel and dice potatoes into large pieces.
  3. Scrape the kernels off the cobs.
  4. Mix peas, potatoes, corn kernels and baby spinach and cover with just enough water to cook the veggies.
  5. Mash the cooked mixture to a thick consistency.
  6. Serve hot.

This is a great alternative for mashed potatoes and a lot healthier, too. Traditionally, irio is served with grilled meat, usually steak. I served it with broiled lamb chops. No special recipe: I marinated the chops with ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt.

Leftovers can be rolled into small patties and shallow fried. Or used as stuffing for a toasted sandwich.

This was supposed to be my second entry for my own event, IFR: Memories. Remember that? I have been a terrible host but this particular post was a mental block. The pictures were awful, the words wouldn't flow and it came at a time when I haven't been able to sit at my desk for several hours at a stretch. Whatever time I do get is focused on work and at my watercooler. I have been very self-absorbed lately, for which I apologize profusely.

Does this post mean the round-up is coming up? Like you, I sure hope so, too!

Disclaimer: I'm really sorry but I do not add friends to my Facebook page unless I know them personally or have had a reasonably long online association with them.