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.
FISH & CHIPS
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!
FROZEN STRAWBERRY YOGHURT
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.
CARROT, PINEAPPLE & RAISIN SALAD
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
THIS IS AN EDITED EXTRACT FROM DIJO: MY FOOD, MY JOURNEY, BY LESEGO SEMENYA. PICTURES: CLAIRE GUNN (JACANA). R345 AT TAKEALOT.COM PRICE CORRECT AT TIME OF GOING TO PRINT AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.