Mtori in the Crockpot

Written by The Tembas on August 30th, 2015

One of the signature dishes of my husband’s tribe, the Chagga, is a beef and plantain soup called Mtori. This is a soup that is popular with everyone but its best known use is to restore the health of postpartum women. Traditionally women are kept home for the first month, waited on by other women in the family and fed mtori.

I have tried my hand at preparing mtori a number of times with better or worse results. Recently I was planning to make a pot and mentioned this to one of our Chagga friends. She asked me how I prepared it and I mentioned a recipe I found online. She was aghast. Tomatoes? Onions? In Mtori? She wouldn’t hear of it. She told me emphatically that the only thing that should be in Mtori is beef, green plantains, potatoes, salt and pepper. OK, then. So with this try I followed her advice but did use my secret weapon: the crock pot.

Part of the reason that Mtori is so nutritious and fattening for the postpartum moms is that it uses a beef bone broth as the base of the soup. It is the same base as pho but without the star anise and MSG. While some recipes suggest boiling for a few hours, the best way to get every speck of marrow out of that bone is to cook it in the crock pot overnight. I cook it with salt. If you want to get fancy you can brown the beef but me being me, I had just pulled it out of the freezer.

I do like recipes that allow me to use frozen solid meat. I added the beef bones to the crock pot and filled it with water to about half full. Looking back on the consistency of the final soup, next time I will definitely fill it three quarters full as this soup was really thick.

Will add more water next time

The bones cooked on low for about 18 hours. These were very meaty bones and the meat easily separated from the bone. Here is what the bones looked like when I took them out. As they say, “Dry as a bone”

 

When I took out the bones I then added four thin sliced plantains, four very small potatoes (probably the equivalent of one regular sized Yukon Gold) and another pound of cubed beef. I cooked the meat, plantains and potatoes for another hour and a half.

The meat looks much redder in the photo than it was. It was very cooked at this point.

Once the plantains and potatoes were very soft I made another change at the recommendation of our friend. A lot of mtori recipes recommend blending the soup in a blender or with a blending wand. Usually they remove the cubed beef, blend, then add it back. Our friend and my husband were adamantly against this. Tanzanians did not have blenders and mtori was not a blended soup. It was like suggesting to blend clam chowder. In Tanzania the soup is mixed with a stick that has a propeller-like end but they agreed that a potato masher would suffice. So, I mashed the Mtori, making it a soup with some texture but still soft.

The final product!

 

Now go find some postpartum women to feed! A little goes a long way.

 

 

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