Sukuma wiki (© Mara Yamauchi)
Leafy green vegetables are seriously good for us. They are rich in iron and vitamins C and K, and high in fibre. A plentiful supply of leafy greens in any runner’s daily diet is a must. And there are so many kinds to choose from.
The cabbage family, including spring greens, sweetheart cabbage and Brussels sprouts are my staples when I am at home. When I lived in Japan and travelled in Asia, I loved trying all sorts of different leafy greens including mizuna, moroheya, morning glory, shungiku, nozawana….we really are spoilt for choice!
The key to eating plenty of leafy greens is to find irresistible ways to cook them. When they’re in season, fresh and young, the leaves are delicious enough to eat just plain. But for many months of the year, this isn’t possible, so I’m always looking for tasty recipes to keep things interesting.
Recently, inspired by my childhood in Nairobi, and the formidable Kenyan athletes who dominate distance running, I’ve taken to cooking a Kenyan staple – sukuma wiki. It’s a very simple dish – leafy greens cooked in oil with onion, tomato and curry spices. Although it’s easy to make and a basic daily dish, the curry spices (cumin, coriander and turmeric) give it plenty of flavour and a hearty, wholesome warmth.
If I close my eyes when I eat a mouthful of sukuma wiki, I can go straight back in my mind to running around as a child in the hot Kenyan sun. The curry spices are a reminder of the south Asian influences in East Africa.
Classic sukuma wiki uses collard greens but I use spring greens which are very similar. Kale or other leafy greens are also good alternatives.
1 large onion, finely chopped
400g spring greens, washed and roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes or 10 cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon ground coriander
Half teaspoon ground turmeric
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
• Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for five minutes until softened.
• Add the spices and stir for about one minute until they give off a good aroma.
• Add the tomatoes and fry for a further five minutes, mixing well.
• Pour in the chopped greens and stir well, ensuring they are well-coated with the spicy mixture.
• Finally mix in 200ml of water, and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can reduce this time if you prefer your greens a little crunchy.
• When ready to serve, mix in the lemon juice and salt and pepper, and serve immediately. In Kenya sukuma wiki is served with ugali, a type of stiff porridge made with maize flour.