Basotho Bashed Beef
In her series for Food Weekly on traditional food of Southern Africa, Chef and writer Dorah Sitole shares some of the dishes she was served in Lesotho
MY FIRST visit to Maseru was during my early 20s, on holiday with a friend. We stayed with her family, which is, I believe, the best way to experience the lifestyle and culture of a place. I'd always known that horse meat was eaten with relish in these parts, but I did not anticipate that awkward moment: having to say "no thank you" to several attempts by her relatives to get me to eat the meat! No amount of persuasion could make me change my mind. That was before I discovered my path in the culinary world. I now find myself tasting strange things, like eels, in the name of curiosity. I was not brave enough then and I'll put it down as a missed opportunity.
Horses are plentiful in this mountainous country, and in the villages, the blanket-clad Basotho men use them for transport. Horse meat is only eaten if a horse is killed accidentally, not if it dies of a disease, and horses are never slaughtered for their meat.
Years later I found myself in Lesotho again, this time to do research for my cookbook. I got to travel as far as Mafeteng. I was fortunate to spend the day with a lovely lady, Mrs Makenete, a wonderful cook and an expert on traditional Sotho food.
She generously shared her favourite recipes with me, showing me dishes like leqebekoane - an equivalent of steamed dumpling (idombolo), except it has a sour, musty taste. She also taught me how to make mangangajane (dried fruit). What I found fascinating was a dish she called nyekoe, which is eaten mainly in the rural areas. This is roughly crushed mabele cooked with dried beans. One of the South African grain companies tried to introduce a similar starch to our local market as "mabele corn rice"; apparently it did not take off because I can't find it anywhere. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that it is a Lesotho traditional dish. She served nyekoe with a meat dish known as lekhotloane. When I was growing up we used to call this dish tshotlo. We only got to enjoy it during family feasts, when an animal was slaughtered and there was plenty of meat.
It is a very unusual meat dish, full of flavour and absolutely delicious - the meat is cooked until it falls off the bone.
Served over potatoes mashed with morogo, lekhotloane is awesome!
LEKHOTLOANE (TENDER POUNDED MEAT)
750g-1kg beef brisket (you could also use leg of lamb)
1 litre water
45ml (3 tbsp) oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 beef stock cubes, dissolved in 250ml (1 cup) hot water
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the meat in water until soft or falling off the bone. Remove the meat from the bones, cut into portions and pound until it resembles stringy mince. Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onions until transparent. Add the pounded meat and stock. Simmer gently until sauce thickens. Serve warm with steamed dumpling (leqebekoane) and spinach or morogo.
MOROGO WITH POTATOES
1 bunch morogo wathepe or spinach, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste
45ml (3 tbsp) butter
45ml (3 tbsp) peanut butter (optional)
Place morogo, spring onions, potatoes and a little water in a saucepan. Season, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until cooked. Stir in the butter and peanut butter, if using them.