Made with Love: Recipes and Memories from Nelson Mandela's Personal Chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya

04 Oct 2023
Even for the most ardent Joburg lovers, sometimes this city can get to you. One cold spell dashes hopes of summer, thoughts about a former beloved president, evoked by an invitation to meet Nelson Mandela's personal chef, turn to sadness and some impatience for the city and country he envisioned – a equal, safe, inclusive and vibrant place. It still seems such a long, long road away.

With these swirling thoughts, we ventured out to Sanctuary Mandela Boutique Hotel in Houghton for the launch of Xoliswa Ndoyiya’s second cookbook, Made With Love: Recipes and Memories from Nelson Mandela's Personal Chef. For 22 years, Ndoyiya was Mandela’s personal chef.

“This house was not just a house; it was a welcoming home.This hotel means a lot to me because it is still welcoming people to come and reflect on who Tata was and what he has given to people.” – Xoliswa Ndoyiya

Made With Love: Recipes and Memories from Nelson Mandela’s Personal Chef by Xoliswa Ndoyiya. Image/s by Cameron Gibb. Published by Blackwell & Ruth. Available in all good bookstores. Recommended Retail Price: R420

Today she heads the kitchen as Chef de Tournant at Sanctuary Mandela, where she leads a young team of chefs.

We cosied up in the beautiful space with smells of Ndoyiya’s recipes wafting from the kitchen while we listened to incredible stories. From her waking up at 03:30 to bring Tata Madiba his coffee and daily breakfast of porridge – a tribute to his beloved mother, for whom his heart forever ached at being denied temporary release from prison to bury her – to travelling the world and gently coaxing chefs along the way to make Mandela’s food just the way he liked it. The book is filled with the dishes that Tata loved most. 

Ndoyiya's love of food started as a young woman. Like Madiba she grew up in the Eastern Cape. She writes in the book that it was her responsibility to prepare meals while her mother worked, and she soon became curious about experimenting and creating recipes of her own. Her grandmother was a also a strong influence, and shaped her discovery of a powerful connection between food, love and comfort. 

Her job with Madiba came as something of a surprise. As she tells it in the book, she was working at an aged-care facility in Joburg, having moved here in her twenties, when a friend arranged a job interview for her to "cook for an icon". It was 1992 and she was taken to meet Nelson Mandela. She got the job.  

It doesn't sound like the easiest job, but it is one she grew to love. Her days began before 03:30 each morning when Mandela would take his first cup of coffee.

She writes: "Breakfast was prepared by 06:30, and was the same ever day – fresh fruit, porridge with nuts and raisins and sometimes bacon, eggs, green salad and a slice of home-baked bread toast with marmalade. I quicky learned that Tata liked consistency and punctuality. And yet one morning, after eighteen years, he decided he would have Frosties with his grandchildren instead of porridge. Tata never ate sugar, chocolates or sweets until that day. The next morning, he wanted Frosties again. When I asked him why, he told me he had eaten porridge all those years to honour his mother who made it for him when he was growing up. Now he felt ready to eat whatever he wanted, and at th moment it meant sharing a common food with his grandchildren. The same thing happened when Tata saw his grandchildren and Mama Graça [Machel] enjoying double-toffee ice cream."

At the launch layers of humanness were revealed through Ndoyiya’s stories as she spoke about her relationship with Madiba, the broader family and with food. He would go so far as to phone her after a meal to thank her for her contribution to the successful outcome of his meeting, as her service was a key contribution.

“To many of us in the family, Sis 'Xoli was more than Tat’omkhulu’s personal chef; she was a big sister and a mother to many of my younger cousins and our children.” – Nandi Mandela

The night of the book launch ended with delicious signature dishes from the book: oxtail so soft you could eat it with a spoon, roasted parsnips, perfectly cooked beetroot and tender chicken on a bed of flavourful lentils.

Ndoyiya got to our cold hearts and melted them with her incredible life journey, her story of service through cooking and her delicious fare, made with love. She shared stories of covering for Madiba's grandchildren when they were out partying late, of Madiba’s frustration with growing old, and of having to force him to take his medication, and finaly, of how he was most himself at the dinner table in his home in Qunu.

Get this cookbook as it showcases 50 exceptional recipes intertwined with heart-warming anecdotes of everyday life at the table with Madiba.

You can also visit Sanctuary Mandela Boutique Hotel on Sundays for delicious South African fare infused with Ndoyiya magic while soaking up some Joburg jazz. It will remind you why this may just be the best city of them all.

Xoliswa Ndoyiya's recipe for Umsila Wenkomo or Slow-Roasted Oxtail

Serves eight to 10 people.
Octail recipe from Xoliswa Ndoyiya's recipe
Umsila Wenkomo or Slow-Roasted Oxtail by Xoliswa Ndoyiya. Photo: Book Storm. 

3 kg oxtail, excess fat removed
6 celery stalks, chopped
6 large carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp barbeque spice, or substitute
with 1 tbsp salt and . tbsp pepper
1 cup red wine
1 cup tomato paste
60g (1 packet) oxtail soup powder (available from your supermarket or grocery store)
Boiled baby potatoes and steamed baby carrots and green beans, to serve

Put the oxtail in a large pot over medium-high heat with enough water to cover.
Bring to the boil, add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic together with the rosemary, thyme, paprika and barbeque spice and simmer for 30 minutes until vegetables are soft, then reduce the heat and cover.
Braise for 1 hour with lid on until the meat is soft and starts to brown in its own fat.
Add wine, tomato paste, and more water to cover.
Mix the packet of soup with a little water to make a paste, then add to the meat.
Cook for a further 1.5 hours with lid on, until the meat is soft but still on the bones, checking regularly to make sure that there is still enough liquid to cover.
Remove from the heat, separate the meat from the vegetables and sauce, and use a strainer to strain the vegetables out of the sauce to get a thick, smooth sauce.
Discard the vegetables and add meat back to the sauce.
Serve with baby potatoes and steamed baby carrots and green beans.

Made With Love is published by Book Storm, and availabe at bookstores. Price: R420.


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