Making the Cut

Nederburg partners with Harvesting Heritage and Socio Tech to celebrate local flavour

Chef Wandile Mabaso has worked in Michelin star restaurants around the world and for some of the world’s most celebrated stars at his Afro cuisine restaurant, Les Creatifs in Johannesburg, South Africa.

On a cloudy Saturday at the Brooklyn Bridge, which houses Forti Bistro in Pretoria, in a makeshift outdoor kitchen, Wandile and nine other chefs brought local flavour alive in an inaugural cooking competition which celebrated local flavours, ‘Harvesting Heritage’.

Chef Wandile (image below) won the inaugural Harvesting Heritage competition as voted for by the professional panel, with his original and unique interpretation of the theme, cooking beef tripe, with ditlou beans, nutmeg mustard greens, okra leaves, dipokoniso beans, coconut and atchar mousse and beetroot purée.

When asked if he was surprised that he won, Wandile simply responded, “no.”

Wandile was also awarded the prize for best prime cut dish for his ‘beef shin biltong mousse, with mopane textures, pumpkin and rosemary purée, eggplant and bone marrow caviar, beef jus smoked in impepho, cabbage chutney and caramelised onion‘.

In addition to their sponsorship support of the competition, Nederburg worked with acclaimed sommelier, Moses Magwaza who hosted a series of wine and food pairings alongside Nederburg winemaker, Zinaschke Steyn.

“Not everything necessarily pairs well with your wine, which is why when you cook, you have to select your ingredients carefully,” Moses explained.

Moses demonstrated his philosophy to enthusiastic home cooks and gourmands by pouring various wines and pairing them with three wines from the Nederburg Heritage Heroes’ range, namely The Anchor Man Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021, The Brew Master Bordeaux-style red blend 2019 and The Motorcycle Marvel Rhône-style red blend 2019.

“One minor ingredient can make your wine seem very big and beautiful, or kill it, that’s why you have to be very careful,” Moses explained.

He illustrated his philosophy by pouring the Nederburg wines alongside Nederburg winemaker, Zinaschke Steyn and giving guests the opportunity to taste the pairing effects of cinnamon, mushrooms, vinegar, thepe, lemon and lerotse (a local less-sweet melon fruit) on the wines.

Moses explained how the lerotse with mealie meal cooked into a thick porridge paired well with the Chenin Blanc, while thepe - a fragrant and textured spinach - made The Brew Master appear to be more acidic.

The SA Chefs Association lauded the bold chefs who brought local flavour to life at the competition for their passion for local flavours, cultures and ingredients.

Acclaimed Chef, Forti Mazzone congratulated the participating chefs stating that the standard of the competition was exceptional, adding: “young chefs, it’s your job to get these ingredients and bring them to your customers. We’ve got to appeal to and intrigue a whole new milieu of South African customers.”

Experiencing the chefs’ creativity alongside Nederburg’s Heritage Heroes wines and ingredients from eco-growers from Strydkraal, in the Greater Sekhukhune district of Limpopo broadens the paradigms of the ways in which South African wine can meet indigenous ingredients from the very north of the country.

The SA Chefs Association emphasised that: “a plate is never just one person, a plate is a whole brigade.”

The partnerships between NGO’s Harvesting Heritage brought the growers’ ingredients closer to the chefs’ prep boards. Harvesting Heritage endeavours to find ways to protect and preserve local heritage ingredients, cuisine and culture. SocioTech Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) has mobilised 300 communities in 8 provinces to make people economically active where they are, with what they have.

Using these ingredients, Chef Lebo Phala’s (image below) fillet plate was comprised of a deconstructed beef Wellington with red wine jus, lerotse twirl and mokhuša (a spinach-like leaf) gel which would pair brilliantly with pre-eminent South African Chenin Blanc, such as the Nederburg Heritages Heroes The Anchor Man Old Vine Chenin Blanc. In parallel, her team’s offal plate was comprised of braised oxtail with sorghum and tapioca crispy pap quenelle tart tartin, tapioca crisp crackers and sorghum crackers. Paired with the Nederburg The Brew Master, this dish was a masterpiece.

Chef Lindo Mbalati was the only chef who presented a dessert alongside her dishes. She spoke of how the nomads who walked along South Africa’s plains ate a peanut snack to generate energy. With further nods to heritage, she used grasshoppers in her dishes, a braised chuck with sinkwa sombila (cornbread), izindlubu (cowpeas) purée and imfino (leafy green vegetables). Her offal dish was comprised of pan-fried liver and onion, tindluwa (a type of groundnut) purée, morogo salsa and tinjiya (locusts). Chef Lebo proudly wore Sepedi garb on her chef’s jacket in celebration of her marital heritage.

The broad array of flair and creativity from the chefs resulted in further accolades from the organisers.

Attendees voted Chef Mzwandile (Hector) Mnyayisa as the people’s favourite dish. The dish was comprised of a slow-braised BBQ brisket, jugo bean cassoulet, and sautéed morogo, served on cilantro/coriander flatbread.

In addition, Chef Andile Somdaka was awarded best offal dish for his beef tallow pastry filled with sweet lerotse pudding. Best plating, judged by Continental, was awarded to Chef Napo Ramaili and Chef Themba Chauke.

While flat ribs with amadumbe (a potato-like root) and moringa smoked silverside might fall off the tongue, the Harvesting Heritage Culinary Competition paired with local wines brings indigenous and heritage food production to the table. Nederburg’s support of these unique suppliers assists to create further economic opportunities, which in turn can become South Africa’s food, wine and farming heritage.

- Blog Tshepang Molisana