The gospel of 7 Colours

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Noth­ing says South African cel­e­bra­tion quite like a 7 Colours fam­ily feast. The sim­ple plea­sures of to­geth­er­ness amid plates piled high with meat, coleslaw, beet­root, tomato gravy, pump­kin and/or car­rots, three-bean salad, and rice and/or pap and pota­toes are hard to beat.

Not ev­ery­one knows the term, but we all know the con­tents. Sbu Nh­leko, sous chef at the Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Dur­ban (bigeasy­dur­, says: “I grew up in Em­pan­geni and as a kid we never used that name, but we def­i­nitely had that meal. Dur­ing the week, my sis­ters did all the cook­ing, but on a Sun­day my mother would go into the kitchen and make roast chicken, with ujeqe [steamed bread], roasted but­ter­nut, pota­toes, beet­root, coleslaw and gravy. We just called it mommy’s lunch.”

So fa­mil­iar and faith­ful are we to this culi­nary combo that coleslaw is of­ten re­ferred to as John 14 – be­cause, like the 14th chap­ter of the Gospel ac­cord­ing to John, the cab­bage salad is al­ways present at im­por­tant cer­e­monies.

But just be­cause we give food bib­li­cal names doesn’t make it good for us. Rusten­burg di­eti­cian Mpho Tshukudu says: “The trou­ble with 7 Colours is not so much the in­gre­di­ents, but the way we treat them, which has a lot to do with our psy­cho­log­i­cal bag­gage. Some clients tell me that they cook at least two dif­fer­ent meats ev­ery Sun­day be­cause they grew up poor and now that they can af­ford to buy ex­pen­sive food, they feel the need to serve much more than is nec­es­sary.

“Even when there is only one meat, the por­tions tend to be very big and the cook­ing meth­ods un­healthy – deep-fry­ing the chicken or adding may­on­naise to the cab­bage. The plates have mul­ti­ple starches and very lit­tle fi­bre – rice, pota­toes, pump­kin, car­rots and beet­root are all car­bo­hy­drates. A healthy plate should con­tain about half a cup of starch in to­tal, but 7 Colours makes it very hard to stick to that. Plus there is all the sugar – whether it is hid­den in the veg­eta­bles or ex­plicit in the desserts and bev­er­ages, it all adds up.”

It is easy to get stuck in a cy­cle of cook­ing the same thing ev­ery Sun­day. City Press asked South Africa’s best and bright­est epi­curean elite for lighter, more mod­ern, but no less ap­petis­ing 7 Colours cre­ations. It is im­por­tant to stress that the recipes be­low are not di­eti­cian sanc­tioned, but they are de­li­cious. All recipes serve four to six.


Nom­pumelelo Mqwebu, head chef and chief blog­ger at africameet­seu­, ar­gues for food flex­i­bil­ity.

“There is no rea­son for it to al­ways be chicken or beef. Why not do some­thing dif­fer­ent and cook goat in­stead? South Africans have all sorts of prej­u­dices against goat. Often, there are class and race is­sues in­volved. Whites tend to think it’s black peo­ple’s food. Af­flu­ent black peo­ple think it’s only for the poor.

“The truth is, goat is great and very hip in­ter­na­tion­ally. I’ve sam­pled many goat dishes around the world, from New York to Lon­don. It’s time we brought im­buzi out of the culi­nary closet. South African food­ies hap­pily eat goat’s cheese, so why not the meat? Peo­ple think the meat smells, but it doesn’t when it is prop­erly slaugh­tered. The flavour is rich. It’s high in pro­tein and much less fatty than lamb. I love to serve this ro­bust, richly flavoured, meat as a Sun­day meal.” Nom­pumelelo’s Roast Goat with Honey and Orange Glaze 1.5kg goat-leg meat cup of honey cup juice of or­ange

cup brown sugar salt and pep­per to taste wa­ter rose­mary lemon thyme Pre­heat the oven to 160°C. Mix the sugar, juice and honey to­gether in a bowl to form a glaze.

Cut off ex­cess sinew from the meat. Put a sprig of rose­mary and then the cleaned meat into an oven­proof dish, and sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Add the glaze, pour­ing over the meat, then cover with foil and roast. Those who like rare will need about 2 hours. Those look­ing for well-done meat may need up to 3 hours. Baste oc­ca­sion­ally.

If the glaze liq­uid re­duces con­sid­er­ably, add a lit­tle wa­ter so that meat does not stick.

Once meat is cooked to your sat­is­fac­tion, set it aside to rest while you make the meat juices into a gravy by boil­ing with a sprig of thyme un­til thick. You may choose to thicken by whisk­ing in a knob of beurre manié (equal quan­ti­ties of flour and soft but­ter).

Chef Mqwebu sug­gests serv­ing a side of roasted beet­root, which she says “has a much more in­tense flavour than boiled beet­root”, and steamed, stuffed pump­kin flow­ers, which are “so much more de­li­cious and bet­ter for you than a great sug­ary pile of mashed pump­kin”.


For those wor­ried about the calorific con­tent of may­on­naise, MasterChef SA judge Reuben Rif­fel’s mod­ern rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of coleslaw sees shred­ded cab­bage salad served with chilli lime dress­ing. Reuben’s Shred­ded Cab­bage Salad with ChilliLime Dress­ing For the chilli lime dress­ing: 1 fresh green chilli, seeds re­moved and very finely chopped (or more, to taste) 1 fresh red chilli, seeds re­moved and very finely chopped 3 tbs (45ml) white caster sugar 3 tbs (45ml) Thai fish sauce 3 tbs (45ml) Chi­nese rice wine vine­gar 4 tbs (60ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (lemon juice will do if you can’t find limes) For the salad: 2 baby cab­bages (or half a big cab­bage) 1 pun­net (about 2 cups) sugar snap peas or snow peas (mangetout) 1 hand­ful of chopped fresh co­rian­der (dha­nia) 1 hand­ful of roasted peanuts (op­tional)

Dress­ing: Put the green and red chill­ies, sugar, fish sauce and rice vine­gar into a saucepan. Set over a high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then re­move from the heat and set aside to cool to room tem­per­a­ture. Once cool, stir in the lime or lemon juice and set aside.

Salad: Cut the cab­bage into very fine shreds. Make a stack of peas and cut them on a sharp di­ag­o­nal into fine slices. Put the cab­bage, peas, co­rian­der and peanuts into a salad bowl and toss well. Pour the dress­ing over the salad and toss a fi­nal time.


Robyn Mar­ney, sous chef at the Radis­son Blu Ho­tel Cape Town (radis­son­, sug­gests steam­ing the cab­bage. She says: “Peo­ple who think they don’t like cab­bage should try a stuffed cab­bage. I like to use baby cab­bage with each one as an in­di­vid­ual por­tion. I serve it on a rich cream and cau­li­flower purée so that I have put all the 7 Colours into the dish.” Robyn’s Stuffed Red Baby Cab­bage 1 tbs olive oil 50g onion, finely chopped 120g red pep­per, finely chopped 120g yel­low pep­per, finely chopped 120g green pep­per, finely chopped 100g baby corn, finely chopped 10g Robert­sons veg­etable spice 5g chopped chilli 200g beef mince 150ml tomato juice Pinch of salt to taste Pinch of pep­per 500g baby red cab­bage

Over a medium heat, sauté the onions un­til soft and golden, then add the re­main­ing veg­eta­bles, the chilli and the spices. Mix well and cook for a fur­ther 2 min­utes.

Add the mince, in­crease the heat and cook un­til the meat is browned.

Add the tomato juice. Mix well and sea­son to taste, and lower the heat – your aim is to gen­tly keep the fill­ing warm while you quickly steam your cab­bage bas­kets.

Steam the baby red cab­bage un­til cooked but still firm (about 15 min­utes).

Cut baby cab­bage tops off to make a hole in the in­side about the size of a golf ball. Take care not to pierce the bot­tom of the cab­bage.

Fill the hol­lowed out cab­bages with the mince mix­ture and serve hot.


While all of the recipes above make mi­nor changes to the clas­sic 7 Colours for­mula, they all stick broadly within the stan­dard shades.

But Ten­dani Nethengwe re­cently chose blue as her hue when she en­tered the Tas­tic Just Add Colour com­pe­ti­tion – which re­quired young chefs to rein­ter­pret the 7 Colours con­cept by mak­ing use of rice in un­usual ways.

The 23-year-old stu­dent from the Cape Town Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy won the com­pe­ti­tion with her un­usual dessert of Cu­raçao liqueur rice cream (ice cream made with rice). Ten­dani’s Blue Rice Cream 1 cup of jas­mine rice, cooked cup of blue Cu­raçao can of con­densed milk 500ml cream 1 tsp of salt

Blend the rice and the liqueur to­gether un­til smooth. You can also leave the blended mix­ture a bit coarse to give it tex­ture.

Whip the cream un­til soft-peak stage and fold in the con­densed milk.

Fold the rice mix­ture into the whipped cream and add the salt.

Put the mix­ture into a con­tainer, cover and freeze it overnight.



Chef Nom­pumelelo Mqwebu uses the meat as a cen­tre­piece


I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM Ten­dani Nethengwe won a com­pe­ti­tion with her rice-based ice cream


COLOURS OF CAB­BAGE by chef Robyn Mar­ney

Stuffed cab­bages

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