SA chef shares lo­cal favourites

Chef Le­sego Se­menya loves South African food, es­pe­cially dishes from his child­hood grow­ing up in Soweto. Here are a few to try


EV­ERY dish in Le­sego’s first cook­book, Dijo: My Food, My Jour­ney, has a story that speaks of nos­tal­gia and the his­tory of his food back­ground.

From much-loved town­ship clas­sics from his child­hood to more com­plex fine-din­ing com­bi­na­tions he learnt while work­ing as a chef, the dishes in his cook­book cel­e­brate South African cui­sine, food her­itage and unique flavours.

Le­sego has cooked for the rich and fa­mous, in­clud­ing Richard Bran­son, Bill Gates and War­ren Buf­fett.

He’s also been on the judg­ing panel of food pro­grammes and a res­i­dent foodie for var­i­ous news­pa­pers and ra­dio shows, and has his own culi­nary brand, LesDaChef.

Here are tasty treats from his book.


I’m a big fan of us­ing cheaper cuts of meat and what we call “head-to-tail” cook­ing, us­ing as much of an an­i­mal as pos­si­ble.

Note that trot­ters can’t be rushed. They take a while to be per­fect and you want them to be as soft and gelati­nous as pos­si­ble. SERVES 6 PREPA­RA­TION: 20 MIN COOK­ING: 3-4 HOURS REST­ING: 20 MIN 6 pig trot­ters 2 litres (8c) veg­etable stock 1 leek, chopped roughly 3 car­rots, chopped 4 red chill­ies, chopped 125ml (½c) brown sugar hand­ful of sage hand­ful of tar­ragon hand­ful of rose­mary 2 large onions, chopped 6 cel­ery stalks, chopped 3 lemons, sliced 30ml (2T) salt 15ml (1T) pa­prika pep­per to taste 1 Us­ing a sharp knife, cut a large gash down the mid­dle of each trot­ter from hoof to end. Us­ing strong string, truss (tie) three ar­eas along each trot­ter tightly. This helps them keep their shape as they cook and pre­vents shrink­ing and curl­ing up. 2 Put the trot­ters and the rest of the in­gre­di­ents ex­cept the salt, pa­prika and pep­per in a large pot on the stove, and bring to the boil. 3 Turn the heat to as low as pos­si­ble and cover tightly with a lid. Check up on the trot­ters ev­ery hour. The cook­ing should take 3-4 hours. Top up the stock if it looks as if it’s re­duced too much. 4 Add salt lit­tle by lit­tle, tast­ing the liq­uid af­ter each pinch to make sure it isn’t too salty. 5 When the flesh is ten­der, re­move the pot from the heat and let the trot­ters rest in the cook­ing liq­uid for 20 min­utes. Drain and sea­son them with pa­prika, the rest of the salt and pep­per.


When I was grow­ing up, my dad would buy fish and chips at the end of the month when he and my mom got paid. It be­came a bit of a rit­ual. SERVES 4 PREPA­RA­TION: 20 MIN REST­ING: 30 MIN COOK­ING: 30 MIN BAT­TER 250ml (1c) cake flour 250ml (1c) corn­flour 1 can (340ml) lager beer 1 large egg 5ml (1t) sea salt FISH 1,5 litres (6c) canola oil 700g skin­less hake fil­lets, cut into four pieces salt and pep­per TO SERVE red wine vine­gar slap chips 1 Bat­ter Sift the flour and corn­flour to­gether. This will help pre­vent lumps. 2 Whisk the flours, beer, egg and salt in a bowl. The beer will foam up at first. Make sure there are no lumps. Cover the t – tea­spoon/s T – ta­ble­spoon/s bowl with cling­film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 min­utes. 3 Fish Pour the oil into a large pot. Turn the heat up to medium and bring the oil to 180°C. 4 Pat the fish with clean pa­per tow­els to re­move ex­cess mois­ture. Sea­son gen­er­ously with salt and pep­per. 5 Put the fish pieces in the

bat­ter. 6 When the oil is at the cor­rect tem­per­a­ture, gen­tly lift a piece of fish out of the bat­ter with a pair of tongs, let­ting the ex­cess drip off, and slowly lower it into the oil to avoid splash­ing. To pre­vent the fish from sink­ing to the bot­tom of the pot and stick­ing, use the tongs to hold it in the oil for a few sec­onds so the bat­ter can so­lid­ify. 7 Once it starts form­ing c – cup/s a crust, you can let go of the fish. Don’t fid­dle with the fish too much at first as this will break the shell the bat­ter has formed. 8 Cook the fish un­til golden brown, about 5 min­utes. You can push the fish down into the oil with the tongs to get an even colour. Re­peat the process un­til all the fish is cooked. The oil tem­per­a­ture will drop as you add more pieces. Counter this by in­creas­ing the heat. Keep check­ing the tem­per­a­ture of the oil with a ther­mome­ter. You need to stay at around 180°C. 9 Put the fish on pa­per tow­els to drain the ex­cess oil. 10 To serve Serve the fish the sim­ple old-school way with vine­gar driz­zled over a por­tion of slap chips.


I pre­fer my chakalaka a bit hot and to have a kick to it, but you can tone it down. MAKES ABOUT 750ML PREPA­RA­TION: 10 MIN COOK­ING: 30 MIN 125g but­ter 2 red onions, finely chopped 4 large toma­toes, peeled and chopped 1 red pep­per, seeded and chopped 1 green pep­per, seeded and chopped 3 large car­rots, peeled and grated 250ml (1c) raw corn ker­nels 10ml (2t) finely chopped red chill­ies 5ml (1t) smoked pa­prika 5ml (1t) cayenne pep­per 5ml (1t) good-qual­ity masala 2,5ml (½t) chopped gar­lic 2,5ml (½t) ground co­rian­der salt and pep­per to taste 1 can (400g) qual­ity baked beans in tomato sauce 1 Heat a large fry­ing pan and add the but­ter. Once the but­ter has melted, add the onions and sauté them un­til they be­come translu­cent. 2 Add the rest of the in­gre­di­ents ex­cept the baked beans and cook over low heat for about 15 min­utes. 3 Add the beans. Stir oc­ca­sion­ally and cook for a fur­ther 15 min­utes un­til thick but still moist. That’s it!


In the town­ships we have a drink­ing yoghurt called Mayo, which we some­times freeze. It’s all the rage in sum­mer and one of my favourites. SERVES 6 PREPA­RA­TION: 15 MIN COOL­ING: 2 HOURS FREEZ­ING: 6 HOURS COOK­ING: 10 MIN 100g straw­ber­ries, hulled and washed 100g raw (brown) cas­tor sugar, or caramel sugar 1 litre plain Greek yoghurt, chilled 100g white cas­tor sugar 1,2ml (¼t) fine salt 1 le­mon (op­tional) 1 Slice the straw­ber­ries and put them in a pan with the brown sugar on medium heat. Stir un­til the sugar has com­pletely dis­solved and the straw­ber­ries are soft. Re­move from the heat and al­low to cool com­pletely. 2 Whisk the yoghurt, white sugar and salt un­til the sugar gran­ules have dis­solved. Taste and add a lit­tle le­mon juice if you’d like the mix­ture to be more sour. 3 Add the straw­berry

mix­ture and stir well. 4 Put the mix­ture in a con­tainer and chill in the fridge for about 2 hours. 5 If us­ing an ice cream ma­chine, make sure it’s been chilled in the freezer overnight. Pour the yoghurt mix­ture into the ma­chine and churn un­til it’s scoopable. Freeze, then churn for six more hours if you’d pre­fer a firmer tex­ture. 6 If you don’t have an ice cream ma­chine, pour the chilled mix­ture into a shal­low con­tainer with a lid and freeze for 1-1½ hours. 7 Us­ing a strong whisk, beat the mix­ture to break up the solid frozen pieces. Re­turn to the freezer and re­peat the process ev­ery 30 min­utes for an­other 1½ hours be­fore al­low­ing it to freeze undis­turbed for 3 hours. 8 Re­move from the freezer a few min­utes be­fore serv­ing to soften slightly.


The go-to salad for many when cook­ing a “seven colours” meal on a Sun­day is the grated car­rot salad. SERVES 4 PREPA­RA­TION: 15 MIN 3 large car­rots, peeled and grated ½ pineap­ple, peeled and cut into small cubes 125ml (½c) small raisins 125ml (½c) flaked al­monds 50g rocket leaves DRESS­ING 45ml (3T) honey 45ml (3T) bal­samic vine­gar 45ml (3T) ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 Mix the car­rots, pineap­ple and raisins and set aside. 2 Dress­ing Whisk the honey, bal­samic vine­gar and olive oil to­gether un­til emul­si­fied. Driz­zle the dress­ing over the car­rot and pineap­ple mix, and add the al­monds and rocket. 3 Gen­tly toss just be­fore



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