African Menu Chef's Table at Fire & Ice! Hotel, Melrose Arch
Thursday, 13 September 2018,
I was invited to the launch of the African Menu at the Chef’s Table at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice at Melrose Arch. The set up was very intimate as there were about 20 of us in attendance. The idea behind the menu is to give guests at the hotel that homely nostalgia as most guests are away from home for long periods of time. I attended the event with a good friend of mine and upon arrival we were greeted with “champagne daahling.” Our Chef for the evening was Chef Matthew Wright and we were looking forward to what he had in offer for us.
The popularity of particular foods around the world has become quite established - Italian food is known to be a world favourite, with pasta in particular dominating lists of the most favoured food dish.
In South Africa, the Cape Malay cuisine and Afrikaner dishes such as braai and biltong are probably the best known. But, what has not been popularised to nearly the same degree is our traditional African food heritage.
In recognition of the role that this food tradition has played in the lives of the majority of South Africans, Protea Hotels Fire & Ice! by Marriott around the country are highlighting African-inspired dishes this Heritage Month.
Features of this style of cooking include a focus on meat, with beef a favoured cut. This can be traced to traditional life, when keeping cattle was core to the existence of most families. And, since there was a need to stretch the meat of one’s own cattle to feed as many people as possible, stews slow-cooked with vegetables developed as the traditional cooking approach. Vegetables used and the starch associated with this cuisine similarly reflect the style of cooking developed from the way of life: leafy green vegetables were easily grown at a homestead, as was pumpkin. So, too, with the starch, pap, which is made from maize, a grain easily grown in most parts of the country.
According to Avukile Mabombo, Group Marketing Manager at Marriott International Cape Town Regional Office, “Together with our Chefs, we wanted to create a menu that was both elegant and clean with all of the flavours and tastes of a home-cooked traditional African meal. This is bound to be appreciated by both locals, missing the meals they grew up on, and with other South Africans and foreign guests.”
The Fire and Ice hotels’ South African Contemporary African Menu includes dishes such as ‘Inkukhu emnandi’, a barbequed lemon and thyme chicken; ‘Umsila wenkomo’, oxtail slow cooked in a butterbean and marrow sauce; ‘Ulusu Nedombolo’, tender tripe cooked traditionally or in Indian spices; and ‘Isityu Segusha Nomnqusho’, slow-stewed lamb with samp and beans.
In addition to this menu offered at the Protea Hotels Fire & Ice! Hotels in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, other African traditional food can be found at many Protea Hotels in other countries in Africa.
Head Chef at Protea Hotel by Marriott in Lagos, Ezekiel Olakunle, has included on his menu offering Nigerian cuisine consisting of a variety of dishes made up from the more than one hundred ethnic tribes making up the Nigerian population. Dishes on offer include the famous jollof rice, yam soup, groundnut oil fried plantain and sumptuous egusi stew.
In Zambia, whether visiting the picturesque Victoria Falls or attending a conference in Lusaka, one of the restaurants at the four hotels situated there is sure to offer local dishes like Chikanda or ‘African polony’, a vegetarian traditional dish resembling meatloaf but made from wild orchids and pounded groundnuts; Zambian bream; Nile perch; fresh lemon butter Kapenta; and Tanganyika sardine with a side of Nshima (pap) and coleslaw.
The Kampala, Uganda, menu highlights include Tilapia fillet,charcoal roasted Muchomo, traditional African Goat barbeque; Indian and Cape Malay spiced curries; and hearty traditional stews in flavours of beef,goat and beans with a side of matooke, a Ugandan starchy version of a banana, similar to plantain, which is prepared by mashing or pounding the green unripe fruit and transforming it into a side dish similar to South African pap.
Traditional African food has yet to be elevated to the status it deserves: considering its lack of fussiness, the use of fresh vegetables and hearty meats, and its slow-cooking techniques that ensure huge flavour, it is bound to be enjoyed by everyone.