Botswana-rama?… I couldn’t think of a decent pun… I’m so, so sorry.

August 31, 2015

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Botswana is a stable democratic country with a very high gross national income and the highest standard of living in sub-Saharan Africa, equal to that of Mexico or Turkey. Because of this, there really isn’t much to say about its history that stands out to me. After writing a fair number of these entries I am going to interpret that as a positive thing. Too many countries have gone through revolutions, invasions, and economic downturns over the centuries; an absence of that is a nice change of pace.

There are a few items of interest I came across: one good and one not so good. Botswana is home to the Orapa diamond mine, the largest by area in the world. Not only that, but it produces 11 million carats of diamond per year valued at roughly $1.6 billion, which also ranks first among world mines. Between it and its sister mine, 3000 workers are employed, which explains the onsite hospital and school system for children. And just in case you were curious, the return rate on the ore excavated is less than 1 carat for every ton of rock.

Cattle is also becoming an important source of income for Botswana, however this is leading to quickly deteriorating land and resources. Seventy percent of the country is in the Kalahari Desert, which makes water a precious and precarious commodity. But even greater than the risk of desertification and water shortage is the alarmingly high HIV rate. It is estimated that, as of 2006, approximately 25% of the adult population had the disease. However, through comprehensive prevention programs including free or cheap drugs, the mother to child transmission rate was cut from 40% to only 4%. It is hoped that over time this massive improvement will curtail the spread of the disease.

The most common dish that I could find is called Seswaa (which is a boiled then shredded meat served with a porridge) and because it seemed like every world food blogger cooked this one, I went in another direction. This one I found from the Botswana Outdoor Cookbook and features oxtail, which I just happened to have in my freezer! Over the last few years this is really one ingredient I am willing to splurge a little on. It’s not wildly expensive, but considering a lot of the weight is bone, you might pass over it when shopping at your local grocery store. If you have the time and patience to cook it long and slow, it will make a beef broth so luscious on the lips you might need to take a cold shower.

This recipe is straight forward and at first not very different from perhaps a southern European stew. What really changed it for me is the addition of the butter beans. It is a subtle and delicious element which also thickens the soup and provides protein and a textural contrast. I almost always drain and wash canned beans when cooking, but this is one case where that starchy liquid left clinging to the beans works as a thickener so you don’t have to worry about cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or any other thickening agent.

What continues to strike me after only 25+ countries is how much of the world eats soups and stews. It makes sense: they are easy to cook, able to include whatever is around, and can be a communal meal option. I just can’t help but thinking that the last thing I would want, especially in the heat of the summer in some of these countries, would be a bowl of hot soup. Then again, the desert gets mighty cold at night, so what do I know.

Next time we meet in Brazil, or as I like to call it, “the answer to the trick question about what is the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world?”… here’s a hint… it’s not Portugal…




Botswana Oxtail Stew

4 servings


oxtail + 1 lbs stew beef

1 onion sliced

1 clove garlic minced

1/2 tsp paprika

1 can butter beans (almost all the way drained)

2.5 carrots sliced

1.5 lbs potatos peeled and cut up

6 oz green beans cut up

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 bay leaves

2 TBS tomato paste

beef stock



  1. Put the oxtail in a large pot and add just enough water to cover it. With the lid off, cook the meat for about 30 minutes until the water has evaporated. At this point, the meat will start to brown in the fat released by the oxtail. Turn the meat so that it browns on both sides.
  1. Once the meat has browned on both sides, add onions,garlic, and carrots and mix well. Add the oxtail add a cup of stock, add bayleaf and spices, Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about 2 hours, until the meat is soft.
  1. Check the meat once in a while to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot to cover it. Add more if necessary. Add the potatoes and cook till ready, add the beans and cook until the vegetables are soft (about 30 minutes).



4 Responses to “Botswana-rama?… I couldn’t think of a decent pun… I’m so, so sorry.”

  1. fairymeisie Says:

    That stew looks soo yummy!

  2. dailywriter Says:

    Very nice.. was it spicy?

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