South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu is taking local cuisine to the world with the release of her new cookbook, Through the Eyes of an African Chef, to be published in October 2017.
Mqwebu runs the Africa Meets Europe/Mzansi International Culinary Festival chef school, skills training company, hospitality service provider. Before this, she spent 10 years training and developing her cooking skills in South Africa and around the world, including at cooking schools and kitchens in New York, London and Ireland.
Her first love, though, is African food and in her new book of South African recipes, she writes about her intention to introduce the world to authentic South African food, as well as tell the story of how food plays an important role in the country’s diverse heritage.
“This book aims to introduce authentic South African cuisine for both simple home and professional restaurant cooking. It reintroduces traditional practices and recipes cooked with ingredients straight from an organic garden with modern adaptations and fusion with other cultures who have touched this soil. Food evocative of a nation blessed with generous resources, arable land and inhomogeneous cultures. It is time to prove South African cuisine can rub shoulders with the food currently served in our restaurants,” Mqwebu says in the introduction to Through the Eyes of an African Chef.
Mqwebu grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, in a family proud of its heritage and enthusiasm for African cooking. A chapter in the book is dedicated to her father’s favourite dishes, including unique takes on an umhlazi (tomato) and meat broth, as well as oxtail.
“[My father] enriched our lives with his Sunday meals… and instilled in us a sense of culinary adventure,” she writes. “I appreciate and acknowledge those who passed on food recipes, styles, preferences, tastes, culture and life through generations… we should continue to honour [this].”
Another of the book’s chapters covers the history of Khoisan food culture, and includes recipes for honey-glazed springbok and natural tsamma melon juice.
Other chapters feature recipes Mqwebu developed during her travels across Africa and her training in Europe, including her tenure at the Ballymaloe Organic Farm & Cookery School in Shanagarry, Ireland. Here she learned the importance of small-scale organic farming and sustainable farming techniques.
Developing small-scale food producers
Currently, Mqwebu, through Africa Meets Europe, works with female small produce farmers around the country, developing their farming and business skills to supplement their incomes. On the company’s website, she writes: “producers… are a vital part of our growth and economy. I [want] to showcase unity in food… [and create] a revival and evolution of our food culture [that] pays respect to our history and teaches us how we can best bring life back as it should be in Southern Africa.”
At Africa Meets Europe, the ethos is producing and using good, clean and fair food through the promotion and upliftment of small organic producers. The company also specialises in fresh produce market events and food security education.
Additionally, Mqwebu is concerned with the advancement of women and young people in the hospitality industry. She teaches and employs new chefs and food industry entrepreneurs, and develops new skills for the community.
With Through the Eyes of an African Chef, Mqwebu wants to ignite the world’s passion, as well as rekindle South Africans’ love for the country’s rich and diverse food heritage, through finding “fresh new ways of practising, preserving and upholding Africa’s finest culinary traditions”.
Through the Eyes of an African Chef by Nompumelelo Mqwebu will be published on 6 October 2017.
Source: Africa Meets Europe
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