Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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We all know and love ‘pap en vleis’ as a traditional staple of South African food. This dish of maize porridge with meat is one of the country’s most treasured dishes. Founder of Cumin, chef Leigh-Ann Modise, shares her recipe for the staple with a touch of elegance: braised short rib, pap discs and salsa with chakalaka purée.

Chef Leigh-Ann Modise's culinary talent has been recognized early on in her career. She worked as assistant chef on Mogau Seshoene’s cookbook and also cooked for the Ambassador of France to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud.
Chef Leigh-Ann Modise’s culinary talent has been recognized early on in her career. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Modise is a wave maker in the South African culinary industry. Unlike many newly-qualified chefs who opt to work for a hotel or a restaurant, she decided to spice things up and open her own business, named Cumin, the seed of a warm-climate herb that is popular in Latin American, Middle Eastern, African and Indian cuisine.

The main goal of her business is to influence healthy eating across South African homes, including in rural areas.

Cumin offers a range of services, including cooking lessons, catering for intimate events, providing a chef to cook private meals and weekly meal preparations for individuals who either want to lose or gain weight.

“All of our food is prepared in the healthiest way possible. We wish to influence South Africa to eat healthier in their homes through our services. We only have six part-time employees at the moment. All our staff have other jobs and work with us on call.”

Destined for greatness

This young chef was born and raised in Tshwane and started exploring the kitchen when she was nine years old.

“My mother taught me how to bake butter biscuits. It was my first experience of baking and what better way to learn how to bake than by my mother. It’s a moment I treasure and hold near to my heart,” says Modise, who is motivated by living a fulfilling and purposeful life.”

Leigh-Ann Modise
Leigh-Ann Modise. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Modise has always known her way around the kitchen and experimenting with flavours made her happy. Without a doubt, she knew this is what she wanted to do and enrolled at the International Hotel School. Shortly after graduating with a diploma in culinary arts and professional cookery in 2018, she got her first job at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg.

Impressive CV

Modise has cooked for the ambassador of France to South Africa and has worked as an assistant chef on Mogau Seshoene’s cookbook, The Lazy Makoti’s Guide To The Kitchen. Modise has a fine touch when it comes to food.

Cumin The Herb, as she is widely known, didn’t wait long and opened her own private chef company in 2018. They cater for any occasion and outsource a chef to cook private meals, do one-on-one cooking lessons and prepare weekly healthy meals.

Modise’s best advice to her younger self is, “There’s no time like the present. Be prepared to receive an opportunity.”

ALSO READ: Feel the heat with Farzana’s Durban prawn curry

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  • 3 strips of beef short rib (fat trimmed)
  • Short rib marinade
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (if desired)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • FOR PAP: 3 cups of water
  • 2 cups maize meal
  • 2 tbsp salted margarine
  • Salt to taste
  • FOR PUREE: 1 can of chakalaka
  • FOR SALSA: 2 tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 white onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 green chilli (chopped)


  1. For the pap add water into a large saucepan and bring to boil. Gradually add maize meal, stir vigorously and mash again.
  2. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, place the lid on and let the pap steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid and stir.
  3. If the pap is a bit too dry, add more water and stir again. Once the pap is cooked, let it cool then roll it out. Use a cookie cutter to form discs of any preferred size.
  4. Preheat oven at 180°C, grease the oven tray and place the pap discs inside it. Bake for 5 minutes and remove.
  5. Marinate short ribs in mixture and keep a little bit to coat short ribs later. On high heat, braise short ribs for 10-15 minutes, then add the rest of the marinade.
  6. Combine salsa ingredients into mixing bowl, set aside.
  7. Blend the can of chakalaka until it has a smooth/fine puree texture. Put on the side with the salsa.
  8. Serve and enjoy!