International Cooking: Food from Lesotho

Lesotho is a small African country I’d never heard of before beginning this challenge, so I had no idea what to expect. I was lucky to get a few suggestions for food from Lesotho from Reddit which was very helpful.

Lesotho is a small landlocked country that is an enclave of South Africa, meaning it’s completely surrounded by that country. It contains the highest peak in Southern Africa, called Thabana Ntlenyana.

The majority of the people in Lesotho are from the Sotho ethnic group, whose native language is Sesotho. This is where Lesotho gets its name; it means ‘land of the Sesotho speakers’.

Lesotho was established as a state in 1822 by King Moshoeshoe I. Constant encroachments by Dutch settlers caused the king to agree to become a protectorate of the British Empire, and later, a crown colony. Lesotho became independent in 1966.

Lesotho faces many challenges: almost half its population is below the poverty line and HIV/AIDs is prevalent. However, the country is focused on a high rate of universal primary education and has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.

What Do People Eat in Lesotho?

Lesotho is a poor country where people primarily eat what they can easily obtain. This means the diet of most Basotho people consists primarily of beans, grains, and vegetables. Sorghum and corn are common.

There are some meat-based dishes, such as oxtail stew, curry, and kebabs. The seasoning is generally not as spicy as in nearby African countries.

British desserts can also be found, most likely a relic from the years of British rule.

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Basotho dishes I didn’t make!

Papa Le Moroho (Cornmeal Porridge and Greens)

Papa Le Moroho (Cornmeal Porridge and Greens)

Papa le moroho is a very common meal in Lesotho, consisting of porridge (papa) and greens (moroho). The porridge can be made from various grains such as maize, sorghum, or wheat, and the greens can be whatever is available; I used kale. This can either be served as is, or with eggs, beans, or meat. I chose to add eggs and made this into a breakfast meal.

First, I brought some water to a boil and stirred in fine white cornmeal and a little salt. I let that cook, covered, over low heat before starting on the greens.

I sautéed some onion, then added chopped kale and salt. After a few minutes of cooking, I added a little water and simmered for a few minutes more.

I’ve not generally been a fan of dishes like papa when I’ve tried them for other countries. But I do think that it was actually quite good when combined with the kale and eggs.

I loosely followed a recipe from a pamphlet posted on City Farmer.

Nyekoe (Beans, Grains, and Pumpkin)

Nyekoe (Beans, Grains, and Pumpkin)

Nyekoe is a simple dish made from sorghum, beans, and not much else. Pumpkin is a fairly common addition, so I included it. I also used pearl barley instead of sorghum so that I wasn’t buying sorghum for just one meal. I already have too many ingredients I’m trying to use up from previous weeks!

I started by soaking dry kidney beans and pearl barley separately. Then I cooked them together (but I added the pearl barley after the beans) and when they were just about done I added some chopped butternut squash. The recipe I followed didn’t include any seasoning other than a little salt, but I added some garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and pepper to try and add a bit more flavor.

I can’t say I loved this; it just felt a little bland despite my best efforts. I think that sautéing some onion at the start would have made a difference. I served it with some more kale, prepared the same way as I did the moroho, except I added tomato. There’s also a sad flatbread in the background which was meant to be a steamed roll called ‘mochahlama’; the dough came out far too liquidy so pancakes was the best I could do!

This recipe also came from the pamphlet posted on City Farmer.

Motoho (Sorghum Porridge)

Motoho (Sorghum Porridge)

This is a simple porridge made from crushed sorghum and water, then left to ferment so it develops a slightly sour taste. It’s often served cold with sugar.

I used sorghum flour (which is what it looked like was being used in the recipe photos). First I mixed a little with some water and let it sit to make what was referred to as ‘tomoso’. This part wasn’t described well but I think it’s like a starter that can be used for subsequent batches of motoho.

After a couple of days, I combined the tomoso with sorghum flour and warm water and then let that sit for another day.

Next, I boiled some of the liquid sitting on top of the mixture with some fresh water, and added the remaining sorghum mixture. I cooked, stirring often, until the porridge thickened. I think my first mistake was not adding sugar and a bit of salt at this point. My second mistake was listening to the recipe and deciding to eat my motoho cold the next morning. I tried a little and it just tasted like absolutely nothing, but it was cold, so that was worse somehow. I decided to add both brown sugar and cinnamon for flavor, but it still just wasn’t very good. But it might have been okay with more flavor cooked into it, and if I’d eaten it warm.

The recipe I used is from Mrs. Mabolaemokoma (hopefully that’s right; there is no text on the website with the name so I don’t know if that was meant to be two words or not).

  • Likahare – a dish made from stewed offal, usually from cows, goats, or sheep.

Final Thoughts

My favorite dish this week was the papa le moroho. I don’t think I’ll ever really be a fan of papa or similar dishes, but I did think it was pretty good when paired with the kale and eggs.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Liberia.

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