Picture this, a festive feast where the spirit of giving meets the delicious heart of it all – food. Embark on a culinary adventure with Food For Mzansi as we chat with talented chefs from across Africa to hear how they are celebrating the holidays with food.
Africa has many countries, each a culinary gem waiting to be explored. With a mosaic of diverse cultures, this time of year becomes a gastronomic celebration as people across Africa go all out.
From the spicy aromas of North African tagines to the vibrant flavours of West African jollof rice, every country adds its unique touch to the festive table.
Let’s go to Nigeria
According to Nigerian chef Benjamin Agbesi, Nigerian holiday celebrations provide an opportunity for many family members, usually scattered all over Nigeria or abroad, to gather together in one location to give thanks, swap stories, and enjoy the company of one another while also enjoying special meals made for the holidays.
“Nigerian cuisine during the holidays is traditionally made with fresh ingredients packed with essential vitamins and minerals that are important for overall health for everyone present,” he shares.
“My favourite holiday Nigerian dish is ukwa (African bread fruit pottage), and it is special to me because it’s only served during holidays because that’s the only time Nigerians have to traditionally make it as fresh as possible.”
Agbesi adds that other Nigerian cuisine commonly prepared during the holidays includes stir-fried jollof rice, white rice and sauce or stew, Nigerian pepper soup, fisherman soup, pounded yam, and efo riro.
Celebrate with Zimbabwean staples
Chef Carren Compos from Zimbabwe explains that no matter where you find yourself in Zimbabwe during the holiday season, everyone comes together to enjoy a delightful array of mouthwatering dishes that truly embody the spirit of their culture.
A fan favourite is sadza, a staple maize meal porridge for Zimbabweans.
“Sadza is deeply rooted in our culture in Zimbabwe, and having it during the holidays is a way of honouring our traditions. It’s not just about the food, it’s about connecting with our roots, sharing memories, and passing down recipes through generations.
“It is an opportunity for families to come together. In the preparation of the sadza for a large group, the women come together to share stories and to catch up with the lives of one another around the pot,” she explains.
It is also a time for families to unite. When making sadza for a big group, the women gather around the pot to share stories and catch up on each other’s lives.
“We take pride in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. It is a time for people to head back home to the villages to spend time with relatives away from the city,” Compos says.
Her favourite Zimbabwean holiday dish is stewed roadrunner chicken with rice.
“There’s a unique magic in the way the flavours of the tender roadrunner chicken [go] with the spices, creating a dish that’s not just a meal but a celebration on a plate.”
“What makes it special for me goes beyond the delicious taste. It’s about the memories associated with it, the hours spent in the kitchen, the enticing aroma that fills the air, and the joy of sharing this.”
Take it all the way to Botswana
Chef Angellinah Moutlwaditse, owner of Cook With Angie from Botswana, details that their holiday culinary traditions include bogobe jwa lerotse (this is sorghum cooked with melon juice that has been fermented a bit and some sour cream).
This is served with oxtail and dumplings, seswaa-morogo wa dinawa (bean leaves cooked, pounded, and dried), and dikgobe (this can be samp mixed with black-eyed beans or wheat mixed with beans).
Moutlwaditse also explains that these dishes are significant as they define the culture of Batswana, bringing people together as others are from towns and cities.
“Batswana are peaceful people, and therefore they love coming together to celebrate life with families and friends,” she shares with Food For Mzansi.
Africa at its best
In the festive season, especially during Christmas, they plan celebrations like family reunions and special luncheons. It’s a time for people to come together, reconnect, share stories, and enjoy love and food.
“These traditional foods play a big role in cultivating love and culture among families. For them to know their roots and traditions,” she says.
Moutlwaditse shares that her favourite holiday cuisine dish is oxtail and madombi. “I love it because it’s just a rich delicacy seldom eaten. As a chef, I cook it so well, and it’s always enjoyed by everyone.”
Are you feeling adventurous? Spice up your holiday feast this year by trying out one of their recipes, adding a dash of Africa to your year-end celebrations.
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