I grew up knowing that you never need an occasion to bake a batch of brownies.
The go-to brownie recipe of my childhood is one that came from my aunt when she spent some time in Zambia. I originally thought it was just your average brownie recipe, but these Zambian brownies are more special, because they take very few ingredients, very little effort, and they come out tasting delicious every time.
My Aunt’s Zambian Brownies:
2/3 cups flour
2 Tablespoons plus 1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla (I always throw in a little extra too)
Bake at 350º for 20 minutes.
The recipe–written down on a scrap piece of paper in my mom’s recipe binder–doesn’t really have any other directions, so I always just put everything in a bowl, mix, and then pour the batter into a square baking pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.
Occasionally, I’ll sprinkle some turbinado sugar on top before baking, to add a sweet crunchiness.
I made Zambian brownies for a few friends recently and was happy to see that they were a hit (we devoured them in one sitting).
Then, last week my friend Matthew casually asked for my recipe, saying he needed it “for a friend.” He learned from this that I am very easy to trick and showed up to my Valentine’s Day party surprising me with his own version of Zambian brownies.
Matthew said that as he was mixing the ingredients, he was worried they would be too dry, so he added a few things which made them twice as delicious in my opinion.
Matthew’s Zambian Brownies:
Add in half a can of cherry pie filling and a quarter cup of chocolate chips.
Baking time may vary.
The thing I love about this whole brownie saga is that it shows how cool food culture can be. A recipe that came from Zambia was passed down to me from my mom, who got it from her sister, which I then passed to my friend, who added some things and came up with his own version. This same type of process has been happening with recipes for centuries, and it’s what makes the food we eat into culture.
Also, brownies are delicious no matter what. Better than cake, to be quite honest.
I hope everyone is enjoying their President’s Day long weekend! Make some brownies if you’re bored!!