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Why MasterChef SA guest judge’s eatery is a fitting tribute to Africa month

Chef Molefe shares her African journey through food at her Emazulwini Restaurant in Cape Town

26 May 2022 - 11:56
Tartlet with chicken neck mousseline.
Tartlet with chicken neck mousseline.
Image: Hilary Biller

I remember her calm presence as a guest judge on the recent series of MasterChef SA. Chef Mmabatho Molefe walked around the MasterChef kitchen eager to see the contestants’ interpretations of her passion, Zulu cuisine.

She highlights this cuisine in her restaurant, Emazulwini, where a friend and I found ourselves sitting recently. In the tiny 10-seater restaurant, the wall behind is a beautiful collection of photographs and African craft.

Chef Mmabatho Molefe hard at work.
Chef Mmabatho Molefe hard at work.
Image: Hilary Biller

To one side there’s a view over the busy harbour and in front of us is the open kitchen, offering a bird’s-eye view of the goings on and where we find the chef working, her head down, quietly crafting her Nguni cuisine.

The scene is exactly as Molefe describes in a recent social media post: “I feel most comfortable when my head is down and I’m working.” And she is. She's surrounded by a small team. The mood is one that is serious about food.

The seven-course menu reads like a beautiful African tale sharing anecdotes of Molefe’s life and is dedicated to her Zulu mom and Sotho father. She warns, very gently, that it will take a diner about two and a half hours to eat.

Each dish is prefaced with an enchanting story that makes the perfect entrée to the course. With a chilled glass of Limestone chardonnay in hand we are charmed by the first umbila.

Presented in a beautiful wooden bowl are two small mielie breadsticks with a sweetcorn dip and parsley mayo.

This is a tribute to the memory of her father and her walking to school and the evocative sensory delight of braaied mealies sold by a lady on the street.

It’s good. Next gorgeous chicken liver truffles, creamy and rich as a truffle should be and so cleverly rolled in a chocolate crumb, the richness balanced with an onion jam.

A highlight was the corned beef tongue, ulimi moshatini, brined and slow-cooked beef tongue cut into thin slivers and served with variations of tomato and amazi dressing.

Corned beef tongue with tomato purée.
Corned beef tongue with tomato purée.
Image: Hilary Biller
Mielie bread sticks with sweetcorn dip.
Mielie bread sticks with sweetcorn dip.
Image: Hilary Biller

It’s a tomato smoor given a gourmet makeover. Her imiqala yenjunju, tartlet of chicken mousseline with brown vinegar jellies, is like an artistic masterpiece, almost too beautiful to eat. And the ipapa neklasbishi, braised beef heart with sautéed cabbage, creamy pap and beef heart biltong shavings is surprisingly good though a little chewy.

We finished with a warmest embrace, incwancwa, a bowl of the most delicious fermented warm maize porridge, with just the right amount of lemon and lime jellies and lemon ice cream. Yummy.

Molefe’s quite right, you need Africa time to really soak up and enjoy the full experience.

The seven-course menu is R475 a person. 

• Bookings: tableagent.com


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