It isn’t very often that one gets to taste the favourite dishes of Nelson Mandela, that too prepared under the supervision of his personal chef for over two decades Xoliswa Ndoyiya . Xoli as she is called was at a pop up at The Wine Company where she cooked with the team from Fabrica by Chef Saby and gave all those present a taste of South African history. She has also authored a cookbook titled Ukutya Kwasekhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen with Ana Trapido, featuring a collection of Madiba’s favourite recipes like Hoender Potjiekos or chicken stew and Malva pudding which we were fortunate enough to try out. We were also introduced to some South African wines, which are slowly gaining a foothold in the Indian market.
The Wine Company at Cyber City Gurgaon, as most people already know, is the brain child of three enterprising young men Ashish Kapur, Ajay Saini and Joydeep Singh, who ushered in a unique concept of a restaurant within a wine shop, a concept which has made quality wines accessible to people by pricing them just a little over wholesale price, unlike most restaurants where it is marked up considerably. Their successful model has defied the current trend where pubs and restaurants struggle to stay afloat once the novelty factor wears off after a couple of months. This can be gauged by the fact that the place is always packed even on week days.
The South African wine tasting event which was co hosted with the High Commission of South Africa was a great way of showcasing the wines from this country and introducing estates like Nelson,Marianne, Ayama and Mont du Toit Kelder and meet Alan Wilson, the owner of the renowned Nelson Wine Estate in Paarl. South African wines are characterised by style and substance at a bargain price, a factor is always a plus in a price sensitive market like India. There is, however, not a lot of awareness among Indians about wines from this part of the world. Though the South African wine industry dates back to 1659, it advanced and came into its own only after the end of apartheid and isolationism in the 1990’s, aided by its readmission into world trade.
Wine production is concentrated around Cape Town, Constantia,Paarl, Stellenbosch, Worchester and the Franschhoek and Breede River Valley. Historically the most famous wine name of South Africa is Constantia, a legendary dessert wine as famous as the Hungarian Tokaji and French Sauternes, which Napolean Bonaparte ordered from exile on St Helena. Chenin Blanc is the largest planted grape in the country followed by CabernetSauvignon,Colombard, Shiraz,Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage (a signature red wine grape created in South Africa by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsaut) and Merlot.
The talking point at the event, other than the wines and an excellent South African beer, a Hansa Pilsner with an eye catching name Dream Big Hustle Hard, was of course, some traditional South African fare which many of us got to taste for the first time. These were cooked under the instructions of the personal chef of Nelson Mandela, Xoliswa Ndoyiya, who was hired by the late leader, only because she could cook home food and dishes which Madiba ate as a young boy. Cooking for him, was her way of giving back to a man who did so much for South Africa.
It goes to the credit of Chef Sabyasachi Gorai and his Fabrica team comprising of young talent like Megha Kohli,Subhayan Das, Stephen Modoli and the two chefs from The Wine Company, Abhinav Sharma and Manoj who could replicate the flavours of South African staples like Hoender Potjiekos, pot braised chicken stew served with mango rice: Gem Pamoen, roasted butternut squash stuffed with goat cheese and pine nut and served with Ugali which is a dish of maize flour cooked with water.
They recreated a classic South African dessert, the Malva Pudding of Cape Dutch origin, a caramel sponge cake with apricot jam served with custard, which was a personal favourite of Nelson Mandela, who was known to have a sweet tooth. The service at the event was seamless despite the presence of a large number of guests. Chef Megha Kohli personally went to each table to explain the history and little anecdotes behind each dish which helped us connect with the legendary leader. The wines paired with the dishes were a robust Ayama Pinotage 2012, a Nelson Cabernet Merlot 2003 which was a blend between the old and new world style of wine making, and a fruit forward spicy Ayama Shiraz 2012. The only factor which hindered in their enjoyment was that they were served a little warm.
Overall it was a very successful event which was enjoyed by everyone present. Another feather in the cap of The Wine Company one can say.
– Lavina Kharkwal