The gospel of 7 Colours
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 (bigeasydurban.co.za), 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 africameetseurope.co.za/blog, 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 (radissonblu.com), 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.
GIVE GOAT A TRY
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