‘Our heritage should be celebrated year-round, by embracing and promoting our own cuisine, ‘says Chef Ukhonaye Mconi.
‘It’s all very well talking about regional and seasonal ingredients but we also have to take these and use them in uniquely South African dishes updated for a new dining generation. Your best meal is formulated in your heart and soul. And any person who eats your food is affected by what you have in your heart … happy or troubled.’
Ukhonaye chats about what Heritage Day means to him and shares his updated twist on Arancini – Bacon Umngqusho Arancini.
What does Heritage Day mean to you? The celebration of who we are as Africans. Also celebrating every culture.
How do you define South African cuisine? Diverse and underappreciated.
What would be your perfect Heritage Day meal? Any meal cooked by my family. We are a family of people who love celebrations and shared meals.
What are your favourite three South African dishes? Umngqusho – I love samp and beans; Pig’s head – cooked in a cast-iron pot outside; Tripe – delicious and underrated. These meals shout ‘home’ to me and really got me into cooking from a young age.
Are there any South African dishes that have fallen out of favour that you would like to see make a comeback? I think we need to introduce all our dishes to the world. There are so many wonderful South African dishes that deserve to make their way onto mainstream menus at our restaurants. It’s time we start celebrating them and updating them which is what I have done with the Umngqusho recipe below.
Bacon Umngqusho Arancini
450g samp and beans, soaked overnight; 20ml olive oil; 15g butter; 300g streaky bacon, chopped; 2 large onions, finely chopped; 1 medium carrot, grated; 3 tbsp chopped garlic; 4 sprigs fresh thyme; 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced; 1 tbsp curry powder; 1100ml vegetable stock; 400g all-purpose flour; 1kg panko breadcrumbs; 400ml egg wash; oil to deep-fry; black pepper and salt
Cook samp and beans in half the vegetable stock for about 50 – 65 minutes, till soft. Strain.
In a pot, fry the bacon, onion, garlic and thyme with the oil and butter till fragrant and golden.
Add carrot and curry powder and deglaze with the stock; pour the cooked samp into the stockpot and simmer till it thickens fully. Stir in the chilli.
Once cooked, cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge till it stiffens.
Set up a breading station. Flour bowl, egg washbowl and breadcrumbs container.
Take the samp mixture out onto a cutting board and cut into even-sized squares.
Coat each square in flour, then dip into the beaten eggs and finally roll in the breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry squares till golden and serve with a condiment of your choice (I suggest chipotle mayo).
Ukhonaye is a chef lecturer at the Rosebank, Johannesburg, branch of Capsicum Culinary Studio and is also an alumnus of the school, having studied and graduated at the Cape Town campus in 2017. Since then he’s also run his own events and catering business and worked in the US.