Chef Ukhonaye Mconi believes that it’s time South Africans started embracing and promoting their own cuisine.
“It’s all very well talking about regional and seasonal ingredients but we also have to take these and use them in uniquely South African dishes updated for a new dining generation,” he says.
Mconi is a chef lecturer at the Rosebank, Johannesburg, branch of Capsicum Culinary Studio and is also an alumnus of the school, having studied and graduated at the Cape Town campus in 2017. Since then he’s also run his own events and catering business and worked in the US.
“Your best meal is formulated in your heart and soul. And any person who eats your food is affected by what you have in your heart; happy or troubled,” he says.
Mconi talks about what Heritage Day means to him and shares his updated arancini version of umngqusho.
What does Heritage Day mean to you?
The celebration of who we are as Africans. Also celebrating each and every culture.
How do you define South African cuisine?
Diverse and underappreciated.
What would be your perfect Heritage Day meal; why, and who would you share it with?
Any meal cooked by my family. We are a family of people who love celebrations and shared meals.
What are your favourite three South African dishes and why?
Umngqusho – I love samp and beans.
Pig’s head – cooked in a cast iron pot outside.
Tripe – delicious and underrated.
These meals shout ‘home’ to me and really got me into cooking from a young age.
Are there any South African dishes that have fallen out of favour that you would like to see make a comeback?
I think we need to introduce all our dishes to the world. There are so many wonderful South African dishes that deserve to make their way onto mainstream menus at our restaurants. It’s time we start celebrating them and updating them which is what I have done with the Umngqusho recipe below.
Bacon Umngqusho Arancini (Gift’s childhood favourite with a cheffy twist)
450g samp and beans, soaked overnight
20ml olive oil
300g streaky bacon, chopped
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
3 tbsp chopped garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 tbsp curry powder
1100ml vegetable stock
400g all-purpose flour
1kg panko breadcrumbs
400ml egg wash
oil to deep-fry
black pepper and salt
Cook samp and beans in half the vegetable stock for about 50 – 65 minutes, till soft. Strain.
In a pot, fry the bacon, onion, garlic and thyme with the oil and butter till fragrant and golden.
Add carrot and curry powder and deglaze with the stock; pour the cooked samp into the stock pot and simmer till it thickens fully. Stir in the chilli.
Once cooked, cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge till is stiffens.
Set up a breading station. Flour bowl, egg wash bowl and breadcrumbs container.
Take the samp mixture out onto a cutting board and cut into even sized squares.
Coat each square in flour, then dip into the beaten eggs and finally roll in the breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry squares till golden and serve with a condiment of your choice (I suggest chipotle mayo).
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