Monday 22 December 2014

Food fit for Mandela Day

Bush Tucker: Rozanne with a birthday lunch for Nelson Mandela, who turned 95 last week
Bush Tucker: Rozanne with a birthday lunch for Nelson Mandela, who turned 95 last week

On July 18, Nelson Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday. And the world celebrated with him, as this was declared 'Mandela Day' and is even recognised by the UN. This day commemorates the pivotal part he has played in world history and also aims to promote and inspire peace and global cooperation. 'Madiba' is such an iconic figure I thought I would look at some of his favourite dishes that he might have enjoyed on his birthday.

To help me with this task, I enlisted the help of a book written by his own personal chef. It gives another wonderful insight into this humble man, as his favourite dishes are homely, traditional South African and Xhosa recipes. Many I would have eaten growing up, and keep alive this part of my culture and heritage. Here I have listed some of Madiba's favourite foods:

Amasi – African Buttermilk:

On August 31, 1970, Nelson Mandela wrote to his then wife Winnie from prison: "How I long for amasi, thick and sour!"

Amasi is fermented milk which you can drink chilled or stir into mielie pap (maize porridge). This is called umphokoqo and is one of Mandela's favourite meals. Amasi can be an acquired taste, but buttermilk, which has a milder flavour, is a good substitute. Amasi is a great as a marinade, as it tenderises the meat and is also delicious added to dough to create a rich, moist bread.

Chakalaka – Curried Pepper Salad:

Chakalaka is a spiced vegetable and bean dish with a rich tomato sauce. Born in the townships of South Africa, it is traditionally served with mielie pap, samp (maize) or as a side dish with braais (BBQ) and stews.

Chakalaka is such an integral part of South African cuisine that you can buy it in cans like you would baked beans. I love chakalaka as a condiment in a boerewors roll (a traditional South African sausage).

Dombolo – Steamed Dumplings:

Dombolo are Madiba's favourite accompaniment to traditional oxtail stew or tripe. The yeast bread dough for the dumplings is made with a mixture of white flour and mielie meal (maize meal).

The dough is kneaded then placed in a clean, oiled plastic shopping bag to let the dough rise. The dough is then kneaded again and rolled into small dumplings. Traditionally, these dumplings are steamed over simmering water or placed on top of your stew or casserole and left to steam for about an hour. The dumplings come out light and fluffy and are perfect for mopping up the rich gravy from the stew.

Gnush - Samp and Beans:

Gnush, or umngqusho, is a daily staple and is also served on celebratory menus from weddings to harvest festivals. Two indigenous varieties of beans, jugo bean and cowpeas, would have traditionally been used in this dish. Nowadays, black-eyed beans or sugar beans are commonly used.

Samp is dried corn kernels that have been stamped and chopped until broken but not ground. The beans are soaked overnight, then cooked in chicken stock with the samp until soft and starchy. I grew up with lamb knuckle being cooked in with the samp until the meat fell off the bone, real comfort food. Samp and beans can be served on its own or with chakalaka.

Useful contacts:

* Research taken from: 'Ukutya Kwasakhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela's Kitchen' by his personal chef, Xoliswa Ndoyiya.

* For South African ingredients: www.jabula.ie

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