Jenny’s Diner Betty Phiri-Chibwe

Betty Phiri-Chibwe has co-owned Jenny's Diner in Chesterfield since 2018.

While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.

Betty Phiri-Chibwe co-owns Jenny’s Diner in Chesterfield. The greasy spoon-style, brunch-centric diner also features a menu of authentic Zambian specialties and is currently open for dine-in, curbside service and delivery. Its current hours of operation are Tuesday through Sunday from 7am to 2:30pm.

What are some essential pantry ingredients commonly used in Zambian cooking that home cooks can use to take their food to the next level? Do you have a favorite go-to? Zambia, being a landlocked country, has embraced the cooking influences of all the neighboring countries. That means we have the Indian touch from Tanzania, Dutch from South Africa, German from Namibia, Portuguese from Mozambique and Angola, French from D.R. Congo and British from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia itself. Our everyday ingredients are tomatoes, onions, turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt. These ingredients go in almost all our dishes. My first cooking lessons were based on tomatoes and onions as the main ingredients and it has remained the same since.

What are your favorite things to make for breakfast? On a regular day, I love to make grits or oatmeal with peanut butter and honey. On certain days, I enjoy making British-style breakfast – bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, tomatoes and toast.

If you could tell home cooks one thing, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients. You’ll be amazed what you’ll come up with.

 

Can you share a recipe or quick tutorial for one of your go-to meals at home when you’re seeking something comforting? Nshima, a.k.a ugali, pap, fufu in other parts of Africa, is a Zambian staple dish made from corn (maize) flour. It’s an easy to prepare, soft, delightful and filling side dish.

To prepare, make porridge in boiling water. Let it cook for a few minutes. Gradually add more corn flour to make it stiff or firm dough. Serve with greens, stews and proteins. Enjoy!