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Cooking with the cabbage bandit: Turn pavement specials into tasty meals

Joe Nkuna, the man who famously had a run-in with the law over his Tshwane pavement garden, loves cooking vegetables nearly as much as growing them

03 October 2021 - 00:02
Joe Nkuna was issued with a fine of R1,500 after planting vegetables on the pavement outside his house in Theresapark.
Joe Nkuna was issued with a fine of R1,500 after planting vegetables on the pavement outside his house in Theresapark.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

Joe Nkuna has become a household name of late because of a run-in with the law over his carefully tended vegetable garden on the pavement outside his Tshwane house.

It's a story he's shared many times and when we talk he'd rather speak about his love for growing and cooking his own produce.

“I don't want to be a farmer,” he said. “I just enjoy producing food in my little piece of land.”

WATCH | ‘A criminal for planting cabbage’: Tshwane resident fined R1,500 for growing vegetables

He speaks proudly about the enormous, 7.9kg African pumpkin he has grown, his biggest yet. “I told my wife I would divorce her if she gives this pumpkin away,” he laughed.

It has been maturing for months. “The longer it sits the nicer it is,” he said, describing how his mother would slice and boil it and add it to pap. “Yellow, sweet, sweet pap.”

The seed for turning his hand to producing his own vegetables was sown when he went out to buy roses for his garden and instead chose a R19 packet of cabbage seed.

By growing his own produce, he said, he has saved a lot of money and now produces an array of beautiful seasonal produce.

Apart from his family, friends and neighbours who enjoy the fruits of his labour, it is shared by his wife, a social worker, with an orphanage in Soshanguve.

The pictures in the news of him with his cabbages grown on the pavement, huge orbs of green wholesomeness, are so impressive. The vegetable is his personal favourite — particularly the red variety.

Here, he shares two of his favourite cabbage recipes, being very particular about the ingredients, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and good quality red wine.

His dishes are simple, but he oozes passion and pride for his ingredients and his cooking skills.


“Mopani worms are highly nutritious and soaked in wine, mmmm. My 16-year-old son loves mopani worms and he savagely devours this dish when I make it,” said Nkuna.

Joe's cabbage with red wine mopani worms.
Joe's cabbage with red wine mopani worms.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

Serves: 4-6


100g (1 cup) dried mopani worms

250ml (1 cup) red wine (Nkuna uses a good wine like a Boschendal shiraz)

15ml (1 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

1 red and 1 green pepper, cored and chopped

1 medium red cabbage — or use a combination of red and green cabbage, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Soak the mopani worms in the red wine. Allow to stand for 1-2 hours so the worms can soak up the flavour.
  2. Preheat the olive oil in a pan big enough for all the ingredients and fry the onion and peppers.
  3. Add the cabbage and fry until just softening. 
  4. Add the mopani worms with any remaining wine. No water. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the mopani worms tender. 
  5. Season and serve with pap.
Joe's breakfast cabbage.
Joe's breakfast cabbage.
Image: Christoph Hoffman


Serves: 4


15ml (1 tbsp) avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil

125 - 250ml (½ - 1 cup) smoked eisbein, cut into strips, or any other smoked pork or bacon, optional

1 green, red and orange pepper, cored and cut into strips

1 medium red or green cabbage, sliced

10 - 15ml (2 - 3 tsp) soy sauce

125ml (½ cup) grated cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat the oil in a large pan and fry
    the eisbein strips.
  2. Add the peppers and cook until just softening.
  3. Add the cabbage and cook until soft.
  4. Season with soy sauce.
  5. Transfer to on ovenproof dish and, just before serving, sprinkle with the cheese and melt under the grill if desired.