I was recently invited to a BET Africa event for the launch of their new show “Africa On A Plate” Africa on a plate is a cooking and lifestyle show that focuses on African cuisine and food culture. “The point of this show is to bring Africa to your living room for those who’ll never get a chance to travel this beautiful continent. I got tired of seeing everyone else tell our food story as Africans” – Chef Lentswe Bhengu.
Chef Bhengu and his co host Zama Mamela travel around Africa experiencing cusine from different countries. They go from exploring the street food culture of Nigeria to discovering and unpacking the robust spices and flavours of Zanzibar and back to Indulging at a Chesa Nyama in South Africa.
The launch of the event included a cooking challenge. Individuals from the food and media industry would attempt replicating two of Chef Bhengu’s dishes that showcased African flavours and ingredients in teams of two.
The first dish was what is known as Moi Moi. A Nigerian pudding made from pureed black eyed beans and steamed with spinach leaves. This was accompanied by a South African favourite, spicy chakalaka.
The second dish was a pan fried beef steak, plantain puree and mushroom sauce. Translating African ingredients into fine dining. Now, I like my plantains fried (and only fried) but I found the choice to make them into a puree very interesting. The consistency left a lot to be desired but that could have been from bad preparation on my behalf. I’ll definitely be experimenting with this further in future.
Dessert was a crowd favourite, Malva Pudding & Amarula Crème Anglaise. There’s not much that can be said about Malava Pudding, it’s always a winner.
In the midst of meeting new people, free drinks and food, the session also proved very inspiring for me. I found myself wanting to dig deeper on how to translate African flavours into my cooking and more so into what is considered fine dining. This is something I’ve been putting a lot of thought of into lately and this experience further pushed me into the right direction.
In addition to that, Chef Bhengu’s story hits a little close to home. He left a career in finance to pursue Culinary School and his advice to me when I asked how he felt he was ready to take the leap;
“You’ll never feel ready or prepared. In this moment right now, ask yourself if you’re happy with your life, whether its your job or your partner. If the answer is no, make plans to change it”
Don’t forget to catch back to back episodes of Africa on a Plate every Saturday on BET (DStv Channel 129) at 17:15 CAT and 17:40 CAT.