Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s unspoilt Eastern Cape province lies Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, a world-class Big Five safari destination.
The 22 000 hectares of pristine private wilderness stretches either side of the Great Fish River which meanders for 30 kilometres through scenic landscape and comprises just 30 rooms split across six very individual and distinct safari lodges, camp and villas, affording it one of the highest land-to-guest ratios in South Africa.
Renowned for quality guiding, understated luxury and the thousands of animals and wildlife that call the reserve home, Kwandwe also offers guests a superb dining experience under the leadership of Executive Chefs Mandi and Jaco Hough who have been at the reserve for just over a year.
We asked the Houghs a little bit about themselves, and what’s on the menu at Kwandwe and to share a favourite recipe of theirs.
Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
Mandi: I was born in Rossenekal in Limpopo and grew up in Shakawe, Botswana. Immediately after I finished school at the age of 17, I stepped into the kitchen as I knew that is where I needed to be. I gained experience in South Africa, the UK, Botswana and Israel. My love for this life was initially inspired by my grandmother.
Jaco: I was born and bred in Kathu in the Northern Cape, and studied at the Connoissuer Cookery & Hospitality College in East London, before going on to work at the Aviation Club in Dubai, Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve and the Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet.
What’s on the menu at Kwandwe?
We both favour tradition, aiming to bring back food forgotten from our pasts, the smells, flavours, and memories we grew up with and long for. We keep a sturdy eye on South African heritage food, ouma’s cookbook and foraging food that surrounds us in the bush with the help and knowledge of our chefs and trackers. At Kwandwe we are working towards the less wasteful approach with pertinent flavours as opposed to the wasteful heavily laden tables of the past.
How often do you change the menu?
Depending on local resources and supporting small scale farming, subtle changes happen on the menu all the time. The more drastic changes happen seasonally.
Can you tell us about two or three items on the menu for which you are particularly proud?
Definitely our Kwandwe Eggs Benedict, whereby we replace the English muffin with umfino (a traditional African dish made with onions, garlic, spinach and maize meal) and the hollandaise is made with inkomaas instead of butter. It is definitely a game changer. Also, our Sheba Eggs, which is eggs poached in our favourite spicy tomato sheba with a side of very addictive homemade potbrood. Lastly, we have hit a sweet spot with our Tamatie Bredie which is made with the leaner venison shin and the addition of dombolo instead of the normal rice. We love it so much we’ve shared the recipe (below).
A few personal questions. What is always in your fridge at home?
Farm butter from a local supplier, homemade peppadew chutney, herb pesto from the garden, a half-eaten tin of condensed milk and usually something about to go off.
What is your favourite meal and what five famous people (dead or alive) would you share it with?
Definitely Grandma’s Tomato Bredie (with our dombolo), shared with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Siba Mtongana, Bertus Basson, Karen Zoid and Trevor Noah.
Is there anything you don’t eat?
M: Anything with more than four legs, fungi and peppers.
J: I eat everything! I’m just very fussy when it comes to certain food and its preparation.
Anything else you’d like to add?
For us, we like to treat every reached goal in the kitchens, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, with great applause and noise. Getting our chefs to understand and appreciate an ancient grain, the art of making pasta by hand, realising the clay-like texture of rye, the science of making ricotta. All these things are huge milestones for us in uplifting, educating and learning alongside our chefs. Mistakes are plenty but that pleased smile of having acquired another skill is priceless. We would not trade this for all the n’xabas in the world!
With travel and accommodation restrictions now lifted, Kwandwe is gearing up for the return of guests and has reduced rates for domestic travel until December 15, 2020 (email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 046 622 7897 for details)
The Hough’s Tomato Bredie with dombolo (serves 4)
1kg venison shins
3 cloves of garlic
400g tinned tomatoes
1 onion chopped
2tbsp brown sugar
1tsp black pepper
3tsp Worcester sauce
1tsp curry powder
This bredie can be made in the oven, on the stovetop or in a slow/pressure cooker.
All the ingredients are added together and very slowly braised over about 3 to 4 hours. No need to add or thicken anything, this recipe takes care of itself
For the dombolo
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
250 ml warm water plus extra if necessary
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Mix your yeast and warm water together
Mix all other ingredients and add your water mix and bring together
Do not beat or work roughly with your dough, rather fold inwards over itself to build the gluten. Depending on outside factors, you might need to add more water if the dough seems to stiff/hard. The dough should be soft and almost “wet”
Fold until the dough comes together nicely and leave covered to prove
Breaking off small balls lay on top of your cooked bredie and close the lid to “steam.”
This does not take long. When the dough is firm on top, your dish is done.
Serve and enjoy soonish rather than later, accompanied by a glass or two of Nitida Calligraphy.