It’s getting to be that time again…when my stash of comfort foods from home has waned and I’m weeks away from my next trip, so it’s time to get creative with local finds in a non-local kitchen (see Somali loxoox, still beyond my level of skill). It’s an expat food-lover’s conundrum: How to create magic, or at least something edible, out of a selection of options you’ve spent too much time with already. (This may also be a regular lover’s conundrum). In the interest of honesty, I’ll admit that the first cute little flour volcano I molded and filled with bright yellow eggs on our slightly angled counter top turned into a sticky, slip-and-slide disaster; I tried to whip it together with the gentle dexterity of Godzilla and ended up with egg yolks in my lap. That may have happened with the second cute little flour volcano as well. Then I wised up, forwent my ego, and mixed the dough in a perfectly reasonable bowl, which worked out a bit better, per my lap. A breakthrough: orecchiette. Al dente thumbprints that held pockets of buttery tomato sauce and delivered them in perfect form right down the hatch, one after the other.
Perhaps the best known drink in this part of the world is Somali tea, well-featured on these pages. But there’s another, less-noticed cuppa that pops up from time to time. It’s well-known around these parts, but not as embedded in local culinary identity as Somali tea.
Like most cross-cultural foods, there are a zillion and one recipes for loxoox, from Somalia and Somaliland to Djibouti, Yemen, and even as far as Israel. Locally, loxoox is eaten for breakfast with Somali tea, or honey and goat ghee, or olive oil. Oftentimes , Somali breakfasters plop a small stack of loxoox on a plate and pour tea right on top of it. Usually cooked on a cast iron skillet with a thin veneer of vegetable oil rubbed across it using a folded piece of loxoox, the batter is drizzled onto the center of the pan and then pushed outwards in a circular motion with a spoon, spatula, or the bottom of a cup, creating a beautiful swirl.
Working lunch date with myself at Café Royal, on the outskirts of Hargeisa. I started with crumbly orange cake and Somali tea over an Excel spreadsheet… …and finished with vegetable soup, pasta with goat meat, and a very spicy chili salsa.