Multitalented TV chef, emcee, fashionista and entrepreneur Nthabiseng Nti Ramaboa – AKA Chef Nti – has her first cookbook out. And if her catering is anything to go by, it’s a winner, writes Grethe Kemp.
The first time I tried Chef Nti’s cooking was at a media event for Love Beets. The focus, of course, was beetroot and using the sometimes-overbearing ingredient must have been a challenge. But Nti pulled it off with ease, pushing out sumptuous salads, plush purple cakes and beautiful cordials to the hungry guests.
The beetroot was beautifully showcased, but at no point overpowering.
Now Nti has graced us with her first cookbook. Called My Modern African Kitchen, it’s among a host of cookbooks by black chefs who highlight traditional ingredients.
“It is inspired by my life’s story, where I grew up in Tladi, Soweto, with my mother, whom we call Mama D, and my grandmother,” says Nti about the book.
“It’s with this heritage of mine and our shared South African heritage that I would like to use this‘love letter’ of mine to speak to a new generation by reinventing the flavours we grew up with in a fresh, innovative way – celebrating food that is proudly South African.”
A distinctive element in the book is an entire chapter dedicated to one of Africa’s food staples – mealie meal.
“From the rural villages to urban townships, mealie meal porridge and pap complete the food experience of many families in our country,” says Nti. “I grew up in a small family in Soweto and we ate pap at least five times a week, like many families in the country.
“It’s so important for me to use this book to celebrate this part of our shared, diverse heritage and show you exciting modern twists you can play around with using traditional foodstuffs.”
Nti shared these recipes with us:
This cheesecake looks so delicious, you don’t have to convince anybody.
It’s a must!
It’s a recipe from Nti’s live TV days – an unbaked cheesecake made with fermented milk and jelly.
100g butter, plus extra for greasing
225g (1 packet) Oreos or any chocolate biscuits of your choice
1 packet strawberry jelly powder
1 cup rich and creamy amasi (very cold)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh berries, sliced (optional, for decorating)
Grease the inside of a springform cake tin with butter and line it with cling wrap.
Melt the butter and crush the biscuits finely.
Mix the biscuits with the warm butter and spread this over the base of the cake tin.
Mix the jelly powder with a cup of hot water (or follow package instructions).
Whip the amasi with lemon zest until smooth and add to the warm jelly liquid.
Pour the mixture over the crushed biscuit base.
Put the cheesecake in the fridge to set, preferably overnight or for a few hours at least.
Remove it 15 minutes before serving.
Decorate with fresh seasonal berries, if you like.
This Middle Eastern salad normally uses bulgur wheat. Nti likes to use everyday ingredients to make special meals, so for this recipe she substituted the bulgur wheat with uphuthu. Mealie meal is a staple in South Africa.
Tabbouleh is a vegetarian dish, but Nti always serves hers with a topping of fish or lean meat like ostrich. It’s such a generous salad, and Nti uses it often when she’s hosting.
½ cup boiling water
1½ cups mealie meal
1 cucumber, unpeeled but
seeded and finely chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup finely chopped spring onion
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Lettuce for plating
(Nti uses romaine)
Pour a little salt and the hot water into a pot with a thick base and bring to the boil. Add the mealie meal (don’t stir) and close the lid.
Reduce heat and simmer gently for five minutes. Fluff with a fork during cooking until it’s crumbly.
Set aside to cool completely, then crumble using your hands for a super-fine texture.
Mix in the spring onion first, then add the cucumber, tomatoes, cumin, parsley, mint, lemon juice and oil, and season to taste.
Arrange a bed of lettuce on a serving platter and heap the tabbouleh on to it. Drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.
Lemongrass Ginger Beer
This is the in-house drink at Taste Kitchen, and Nti’s mum would always politely suggest that it be finished with pineapple as a garnish and for flavour.
Of course, Nti ignored her. Oh, until she did try it with pineapple. Magic! Treat your own guests to some homemade goodness.
4 litres water
150g lemongrass, chopped
250g ginger, chopped
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp yeast
1 pineapple, cubed
Bring one litre of water to the boil in a large pot.
Add the lemongrass, ginger and sugar, and allow the sugar to dissolve.
Add the rest of the water, with the lemon juice, zest and yeast. Stir well. Leave to rest for 10 to 12 hours, then strain the ginger beer and refrigerate.
Add pineapple just before serving.
It can be served cold with ice, or slightly warm in winter. Add slices of fresh ginger at the end for another dimension.