Anyone can make great meals from scratch on a budget, says celeb chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo
The famous foodie proves it with simple and scrumptious recipes her new cookbook, 'Hearty Home Food with Sipho'. She gives us a taste
Siphokazi Mdlankomo is a chef who loves cooking the hearty, home-cooked food you yearn for when you're missing home or need a tender pick-me-up.
In 2016 she published her first cookbook, My Little Black Recipe Book, and has now brought out her second, Hearty Home Food with Sipho (Human & Rousseau, R350), a book packed to the brim with recipes that will inspire you to start cooking in your kitchen without fanfare, using everyday ingredients.
Here, Mdlankomo tells us about her food journey and her food philosophy, and shares some recipes from her new cookbook:
You are now a two-time published cookbook author. Tell us about your journey in getting here?
My food journey has been amazing. I worked as a domestic worker for 19 years and taught myself how to cook. I would just go to the shops and start looking and start learning about all these fresh vegetables.
I would watch competitions like MasterChef and that's where I became very interested in cooking. I loved it and wanted to enter. Luckily, the lady I was working for was supporting me in every way. I entered MasterChef SA in 2014 and I was the runner-up.
[After this] I started working for different brands, for instance Pick n Pay. I used to do Budget Beaters recipes in the Fresh Living magazine and one-minute videos. I was also a brand ambassador for Royco for four years. That's when I had my cooking show, Let's Eat with Siphokazi, for four seasons.
What is your food philosophy?
I don't do fancy food at all. I like simple food [and] I like to cook food that anyone can cook.
I like to make food that you can just go to your pantry and you have everything you need in the pantry - you don't have to go to the shop. [If] you have beans, cans of tomatoes, onion, flour, garlic, then you can make simple food.
Even my book is all about budget. I wanted the book to be for everyone. If you feel you can add some artichokes to a recipe, that's fine because you can afford to buy artichokes.
How did you select the recipes for your cookbook?
I worked for different families for 19 years. Some of those recipes are for dishes I've cooked so many times I can just close my eyes [and do them]. Some recipes I learned from my grandmother.
For this book I didn't want to make a mistake. With my first cookbook I didn't think about my target market. This book is so different. I said, "let me think, what do people like?" I would post different recipes on social media and found that people are interested in normal recipes.
You include some basics such as sauces and dips and stocks in your cookbook. Is that also a way for you to make cooking accessible for people?
Yes. I just want people to start learning how to make things from scratch. Make your own stock, make your own sauces and freeze them. I love sauces but I don't like sauces that are store-bought. The only salad dressing I would eat is my own dressing at home - just a simple dressing. I love soya sauce but it's expensive so I'll use soya sauce and olive oil - things that are very simple. Make your own pasta. It's not rocket science - you just need eggs, flour and salt.
What's next for you on your food journey?
It's been very hard because of Covid and lockdowns so I haven't done anything, but I'm hoping to get sponsorships to do a cooking show. I want a cooking show that's going to help other people. There are people out there who are passionate about food, there are people who want to become chefs but they don't have the means to do that. So if I can get a cooking show that's going to help those people to fulfil their dreams of becoming professional cooks or chefs I will be happy.
With an eye on Heritage Day, what are your go-to dishes if you're hosting people?
At the moment I like eating healthy and eating things that I like. I don't know if I'm getting old. I would make Moosh Moosh (see recipe below), which is a mixture of all the vegetables you have [at home] which I grew up eating. You just cook some potatoes, cabbage, spinach, onions, carrots, add some salt and oil. It is just vegetables and it tastes so good.
I would make that with some pap or with samp and Umleqwa and, of course, some ginger beer.
TRY SOME RECIPES FROM 'HEARTY HOME FOOD WITH SIPHO'
DEEP-FRIED PAP BALLS WITH CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM FILLING
Says Mdlankomo: "Leftover chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken works well for this recipe, especially if you do not have a lot of time."
1 cup (250ml) chopped cooked chicken and mushrooms
Bisto sauce (recipe below)
2 tbsp (30ml) butter
2 tbsp (30ml) flour
1 cup (250ml) milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups (500ml) water or chicken stock
1 tbsp (15ml) butter
A handful of spinach, chopped
2 cups (500ml) maize meal
Oil for deep frying
1 cup (250ml) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250ml) amasi or buttermilk
3 cups (750ml) breadcrumbs
6-8 small cubes of cheese of your choice
- First make the bechamel sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the milk while whisking to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked chicken and mushrooms to the bechamel sauce, and stir through. Remove from the stove, set aside and leave to cool completely.
- Make the Bisto sauce fresh and set aside.
- To make the pap: In a saucepan, bring the water or stock to a boil. Add the butter and spinach, and stir through. Whisk in the maize meal. Once the maize meal is thoroughly incorporated, use a wooden spoon to stir the pap. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or deep-fryer.
- To assemble the pap balls: Place the flour, amasi or buttermilk, and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Take a spoonful of the stiff pap and flatten it in the palm of your hand. Take a spoonful of the chicken and mushroom mixture and place it on the flattened pap. Place a cube of cheese in the middle. Shape into a ball with the cheese concealed in the centre. Repeat with all the pap, chicken mixture and cheese. Dip each ball first into the flour, then the amasi and lastly the breadcrumbs.
- Deep-fry the balls in the hot oil for 5 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Serve with the Bisto sauce.
Says Mdlankomo: "Fun fact: The well-known brand of gravy, Bisto, stands for Browns Instantly, Seasons and Thickens in One. I make my own Bisto-style gravy, without any flour. This gravy is a hit with any meat, and it is the perfect example of how a sauce can take a dish to the next level by adding layers of flavour."
Makes: 2-3 cups
2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp (15ml) mixed herbs
1 tbsp (15ml) chutney
¼ cup (62.5ml) vegetable stock
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over moderate heat and fry the onion until soft.
- Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the herbs, chutney and stock, cover with a lid, and cook for 10 minutes until slightly reduced.
MOOSH MOOSH (MIXED VEGETABLES)
Says Mdlankomo: "My mama used to make this dish when I was a child, using whatever vegetables she had in the house. I grew up calling it Moosh Moosh. Serve on your favourite starch or with any meat or fish main."
3 tbsp (45ml) olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock
½ small cabbage, shredded
1 bunch spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion until translucent.
- Add the garlic and fry until fragrant.
- Add the carrots and potatoes, and fry for 2 minutes.
- Pour in the stock, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the cabbage, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Roughly mash all the vegetables together. Season with salt and pepper.