Every year in September South Africans marry culture and heritage with their love of cooking over an open fire. Talented local chef Lerato Zondi wants all South Africans to embrace their multi-cultural food roots even more than they already do.
There is more to South African food than bobotie, braai or shisa nyama and koeksisters Lerato Zondi believes. While September 24 is traditionally the day in which fires are lit, this talented up-and-comer would like to see people extend their repertoires beyond steak, chops and wors – and also beyond that single day.
The country was dubbed the rainbow nation by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. There’s no reason that food appreciation can’t embrace a broad spectrum of flavours and inputs too. One of Lerato Zondi’s goals in life is to challenge all communities and cultures to be more open minded to food from around the world, but more importantly to introduce the world to South African flavours.
The 25-year-old chef, who graduated from Capsicum Culinary Studio in 2014 and lives in Thornton, Cape Town, says: “I want to demonstrate how local ingredients can be used in many different ways to create dishes that are unique, exciting, tasty and quintessentially South African.”
Zondi runs her own company called Otarel eats, catering for events big and small and making bespoke cakes to fit any occasion. (For more on Zondi and her company, visit her Instagram page @Leratozondi_lz.)
Her challenge to South Africans was to consider setting aside the braai tongs and “have a go”. Expand the cooking repertoire and try new things, like the three recipes set out below. Created by Zondi, she has added a distinctly local twist to each.
Rooibos tea smoked chicken wings
“I've experimented with all sorts of mediums and flavours, but rooibos really hits the spot. This is my lazy braai cheat dish but I advise you to open the windows if you decide to smoke the chicken for longer than the suggested 10 minutes!”
10-12 chicken wings
2 garlic cloves garlic, finely minced
1 thumb fresh ginger, finely grated
2 Tblsp cumin seeds
1 Tblsp coriander seeds
5 Tblsp apricot jam
½ tsp turmeric
4-6 rooibos teabags
Salt and pepper to taste
Season the chicken wings with salt and pepper. Place a rack inside a baking tray, tear open the rooibos tea bags and scatter leaves onto the bottom of the tray. Place the chicken wings on the rack, cover with foil and place the tray on your stove top over a medium heat. The teabags will heat up and start to smoke the chicken but not cook it as this is only to flavour the wings. Smoke the chicken for 7-10 minutes depending on how smoky you want it, then remove from the stove top. In a frying pan over medium heat, add oil then add the chicken wings, skin side down and cook until golden brown. Turn the wings over and repeat. While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. First, lightly toast the cumin and coriander seeds and then grind them together in a pestle and mortar. In a bowl, add the finely grated ginger along with the minced garlic, apricot jam, and turmeric. Add the crushed seeds and mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Spoon half the mixture over the chicken wings while they are still cooking in the frying pan. Gently heat the remaining half of the sauce and when the chicken is ready, remove from the pan place in a serving bowl and pour over the remainder of the warm sauce. Serve with uPhuthu salad (see recipe below).
“I love using our natural vegetation and finding different vehicles to celebrate the beauty our land has to offer. This is my spin on a couscous salad – healthy, fresh, gluten-free, and wholly South African.”
½ tsp salt
2 cups maize meal
½ tsp turmeric
½ butternut, cubed
Bunch of spinach, chopped
½ white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
2ml smoked paprika
Pour boiling water into a pot and add the salt and turmeric. Cover until it starts to simmer then immediately add the maize meal. The heat should be low as steam is used to cook the maize. If you cook over a high heat the uPhuthu will burn and still be raw. Use a fork/or a wooden spoon handle to mix (not a spoon). Stir until lumps form and there is no dry maize meal in the pot. Cover and stir again every 5-10 minutes, cooking for 30-40 minutes. To test if ready, grab a little bit of the uPhuthu, form a small ball and gently toss it on your surface. If it bounces it’s ready. If not cook it for a little longer. While the uPhuthu cooks, prepare your vegetables for sautéing. Peel and cut up the butternut and place in a large pan with a little olive oil. The smaller the cubes, the faster they will cook. When they start to turn brown, season with salt and pepper and cover for 5-8 minutes or until they are soft. To this, add the chopped spinach and onion and the garlic, stirring continuously. Taste and season if required. Add the chickpeas and smoked paprika and stir in the butter so it melts into the vegetables. Once the uPhuthu is ready, toss the vegetables and uPhuthu together. Add a little olive oil and the butter from the vegetables, correct the seasoning, add the chopped coriander and serve.
Amadumbe crisps and sriracha dipping sauce
“A great way to introduce children to various vegetables is to adapt the cooking method and incorporate vegetables in sneaky ways. I came up with this snack because my little sisters didn’t want to eat amadumbe cooked the normal way. These, they devour!”
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ sprig rosemary
1 onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Sriracha to taste
Thoroughly wash the amadumbe. Peel the amadumbe and discard the skin. Shave the peeled amadumbe with a peeler or mandolin until you have fine strips. Rinse the shavings in cold water until the water runs clear and then pat dry using kitchen paper towels, making sure they are as dry as possible. Heat oil in a pot over medium temperature. Test the oil by dropping in a shaving. When it starts to sizzle, the oil is ready. Drop a handful of shavings into the oil at a time, moving them around with a slotted spoon. Once they are crispy and golden, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
For the sauce
Sauté the chopped onion, garlic, and rosemary in a little oil. When the onions are translucent, add the whole peeled tomatoes and simmer until they start to break down. Remove and blend with a hand blender, then pour the mix back into the pot until the residual liquid starts to reduce into a thicker paste. Add the sriracha and salt to taste.