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RECIPE | Mandela’s personal chef cooks up a Madiba treat, oxtail stew

In celebration of Mandela Day on Monday we spoke to Xoliswa Ndoyiya who shares one of his favourite recipes

14 July 2022 - 08:37
Xoliswa Ndoyiya.
Xoliswa Ndoyiya.
Image: Kabelo Mothoa

Xoliswa Ndoyiya first started working for Nelson Mandela soon after he was released from prison. She now finds herself back in the remodelled home of the late statesman which opened last year as a boutique hotel, Sanctuary Mandela in Houghton.

“This is the house where I first met him,” said the loyal chef who spent 22 years working for the late former president. “A lot of  memories have been made in the house of the father of the nation,” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice.

After Madiba’s death she carried on working for the family taking care of his grandchildren, and in 2015 joined the kitchen team at the president's official residence, Mahlamba Ndlopfu, in Pretoria, where she worked for three years before returning to her hometown Komani in 2019.

In her role as chef de tournant at the hotel’s Insights Restaurant, she cooks up many of Mandela's favourites — oxtail stew, samp risotto, prawn curry, peri peri chicken — to much applause from guests. They are always eager to hear stories about the man and Ndoyiya is often found sharing her memories of the great leader.

“The young people are coming here to have knowledge of the man he was. The older generation love to listen and share their stories about the late president and then there are the many visitors who knew Madiba and visited this house often when he was living here and come back for old time’s sake,” said Ndoyiya.

Many of the dishes on the menu are from Ndoyiya’s recipe book, Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen, first published in 2011. She tells me the famous oxtail stew is by far the most requested dish on the menu. The late Ahmed Kathrada is quoted in the cookbook as saying: “From the first time I had her (Ndoyiya’s) oxtail, every time I was invited to lunch there I was just wishing it would be oxtail and nothing else.”

This is her famous recipe:

Xoliswa Ndoyiya’s oxtail stew.
Xoliswa Ndoyiya’s oxtail stew.
Image: Supplied


Umsila Wenkomo

Serves: 8-10


3kg oxtail, excess fat removed

5ml (1 tsp) paprika

15ml (1 tbsp) barbecue spice

5 large carrots, peeled and sliced

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

60g packet of oxtail soup powder

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Put the oxtail in a large pot and add just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook until the water has evaporated.
  2. The meat will start to brown in its own fat. Add the paprika and barbecue spice together with enough water to cover the oxtail. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat until the oxtail is tender, about 2 hours.
  3. Keep checking that there is still enough liquid to cover the meat, adding more water when necessary.
  4. Add the carrots, beans, potatoes and soup powder and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes. Season and serve with mash or rice.

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