This slaai recipe made with avocado, spinach, and quinoa is an amalgamation of common Eswatini flavors and ingredients combined into a fresh, tasty dish. Avocado is marinated and tossed with quinoa, peanuts, coconut and spinach for a perfect summer side.
Country Number 58: Eswatini (previously Swaziland)
Eswatini is a small, landlocked kingdom in Southern Africa. The country has a varying landscape and rolling hills, and is bordered by Mozambique to the northeast and South Africa to the north, west, and south. The majority of the population consists of ethnic Swati (Emaswati), and the main language is siSwati. The country was formed into a kingdom in the mid-18th century, and the name is drawn from the 19th century king Mswati II, under whose leadership the territory was expanded and consolidated. After the Second Boer War, the kingdom was a British protectorate from 1903 until it won its independence in 1968. In 2018, as well as celebrating 50 years of independence and the 50th birthday of the king, the nation shed its colonial name, Swaziland, and re-adopted its Swati name, Eswatini.
Eswatini is quite unusual in that it is one of the last few absolute monarchies in the world: this means that its monarch has supreme authority over all forms of law; both written legislation and customary laws. By tradition, the king (referred to as Ingwenyama or lion) reigns alongside his mother (referred to as Indlovukazi or she-elephant). As such, it is theoretically a shared power which keeps the checks and balances in place. One final fact which really means that dance queen Nicola will really need to visit Eswatini one day: dancing is key to Eswatini identity, and is a common activity undertaken in cultural celebrations.
History of Eswatini Cuisine
Swati cuisine is largely seasonal and geographical. A lot of Swazis are subsistence farmers with supplementary food from markets. The Eswatini diet is based on tinhlavu (grains), with staples such as sorghum, maize, and rice, as well as tibhidvo (vegetables). Inyama (meat), particularly goat, beef, and chicken, are served on special occasions. There is now a lot of South African and Portuguese influence on Swazi cuisine, however there are many traditional dishes still consumed.
Popular Eswatini Vegetarian Dishes
- Emasi – a fermented milk delicacy.
- Sishwala – a thick porridge served with a meat or vege stew.
- Incwancwa – sour porridge made with fermented mealie
- Umbidvo wetintsanga – pumpkin leaves cooked with ground nuts
- Sidvudvu – pumpkin porridge with mealie
Vegetarian rating of Eswantini Cuisine:
Making Avocado, Spinach & Quinoa Vegan Salad (Slaai)
The dish we are making is not a traditional Eswatini salad. Rather, it utilises common Eswatini ingredients, particularly avocados, peanuts, ginger, and a grain, to make slaai. We love making light, fresh salads at lunchtimes, so we thought we’d combine the elements of slaai with a more substantial salad, bulked up with quinoa and spinach.
Just a few things to note when making this salad. It’s best to let the avocados marinate for 20 minutes or so to absorb more of the flavour of the ginger and lemon. The quinoa takes 20 minutes to cook as well, so you can have the avocado sit while the quinoa cooks, and you can prepare the rest of the ingredients and whatever else you want to have alongside at the same time.
How to make Avocado Salad (Slaai)
While the marinating step and quinoa cooking time mean this salad takes a little longer than 5 minutes of just throwing things together, it is incredibly simple to make and only takes a few fresh ingredients to create a delightful, light and summery dish:
- Combine lemon, ginger and salt. Add in avocados, toss, and marinate for 20 minutes.
- Cook quinoa by adding to pot with stock, bringing to a boil, reducing to simmer, and cooking for 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Grill corn on a griddle pan until slightly charred, and then toast coconut until lightly browned.
- Toss all ingredients together, sprinkle with crushed peanuts, and serve.
Ingredient notes for Avocado, Spinach & Quinoa Vegan Salad
- Lemon- Replace with lime if it is in season.
- Peanuts – substitute for another nut or alternatively toasted buckwheat groats if you have an aversion/peanut allergy.
- Fresh ginger – substitute with dried ginger if you do not have access to fresh.
- Quinoa – you can substitute with another grain, e.g. couscous or Israeli couscous, if you prefer.
Serving suggestions for Slaai
Serve this fresh vegan salad at a summer bbq alongside vege skewers or with our black bean cakes.
Avocado, Spinach & Quinoa Vegan Salad (Slaai)
This vegan avocado, spinach and quinoa salad (or slaii in Afrikaans) is an amalgamation of common Swati flavours and ingredients combined into a fresh, tasty dish. Avocado is marinated and tossed, with quinoa, peanuts, and coconut for a perfect summer side.
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large avocados, ripe, diced into 1cm cubes
- 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
- 1/2 cup corn
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup of spinach
- Combine lemon juice, ginger and salt.
- Add the avocado and toss gently to coat. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
- As it is marinating, cook the quinoa by adding it to a pot, covering the quinoa with vege stock, bringing to a boil, reducing to simmer, and letting it cook for 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Grill corn on a griddle pan until slightly charred, and toast coconut until lightly browned.
- Toss together avocados with corn, coconut, quinoa, and spinach.
- Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and serve.
Other healthy dishes to try
- Vegan Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Salsa
- Vegetarian Greek Stuffed Peppers (Yemista)
- Vegan Currywurst with Seitan Bratwurst