African Culinary Library connects Africa through delicious food

'Our main goal is driving the narrative around African cuisine'

25 May 2021 - 09:42
By Londiwe Dlomo
Llewy Mateza (Procurement Director), Vusi Nldovu (Culinary Director), Absie Pantshwa (Business Development Director), Bodibe Sobolai (Commercial Director), Mandlakazi Pantshwa (Operations Director).
Image: Elsa Young Llewy Mateza (Procurement Director), Vusi Nldovu (Culinary Director), Absie Pantshwa (Business Development Director), Bodibe Sobolai (Commercial Director), Mandlakazi Pantshwa (Operations Director).

A dream of a shared table, filled with African food made by African chefs and shared with African beverages is what inspired Bodibe Sebolai and his business partners to start up the African Culinary Library (ACL).

ACL is an online portal that seeks to connect the continent via food and all the components adjacent and directly related to food.

"Our main goal is driving the narrative around African cuisine, both from the bottom entry to a higher-end cuisine. The way we explain it is that you can have Italian food at a Michelin star restaurant or at a deli around the corner from you, and we're trying to elevate African cuisine to operate on the same spectrum."

Sebolai says he and his partners aim to do this by driving content to the market, by hosting events and through their consultancy, which brings together suppliers and culinary professionals on the continent.

"For instance, we do things like bring a meat farmer together with chefs, then they start experimenting with that product and then they put it out on their plate or into their menus. It's basically driving a whole narrative and culture around the whole spectrum of African cuisine, its quality, ingredients, styles and approaches."

The 39-year-old says that he and his business partners arrived at the decision to start ACL very naturally as they were already advocating for the advancements of black-owned businesses such as their own.

Springbok made for a tasting by the chefs at ACL.
Image: SUPPLIED Springbok made for a tasting by the chefs at ACL.

"As partners in ACL, our individual outlook in our own businesses has always been promoting African products, for instance I come from Passion du Vin and Bodibe Wine Collections and in that it was always driving black wine makers in the country, driving the quality, driving the narrative and also speaking to black producers and retailers in the industry, promoting black sommeliers and the likes. My business partners have been doing the same thing on their end."

ACL celebrated Africa Day in 2020 by creating a menu with foods from across the continent, it sold out, reassuring the business partners that they are on the right track. For Youth Day (June 16), they created dishes like lamb kota with Nigerian spiced tomato relish and plantain and amagwinya with hibiscus jam. People were able to buy these and enjoy them.

"Every time we tell people about this project, they get so excited and it's created a lot of demand from people wanting to work with the team, wanting to expand their own projects around the same thing.

"So, that's been a really great highlight to realise how many people have been hungry for this kind of work and are also thinking about doing the same thing in their own little corner, so it's almost like we are building a connected community that is willing to drive this thing, that's been exciting for us."

Sebolai says a challenge has been getting funding for some of the projects they have wanted to do. The business partners have put up a lot of money from their individual businesses to ensure that the ACL succeeds.

They are about to open a restaurant in Franschhoek, Western Cape, this year. "We're almost done with the build of the restaurant, it's literally just getting the tables and chairs in and final touches of the decor."

Roast pumpkin dessert made by the chefs from ACL.
Image: SUPPLIED Roast pumpkin dessert made by the chefs from ACL.

Hospitality professionals can register themselves on the ACL website, upload their CVs and become a member. The public can access information on events, menus, restaurants, wine classes and also buy wines, food, etc. with a focus on African products and ingredients.

Today is Africa Day and here is a recipe to try out for a simple Africa Day dinner. This is a recipe that won Daveyton-born 19-year-old Eugenea Seroka a one-year bursary at Capsicum Culinary Studio’s Boksburg campus.

Chicken curry stew with mini-dumpling and grape juice

Eugenea Seroka carrying a plate of her winning chicken stew with mini dumplings and salad.
Image: SUPPLIED Eugenea Seroka carrying a plate of her winning chicken stew with mini dumplings and salad.

For the dumpling

Sift 6 cups of flour, 1 tbsp yeast, 125ml sugar, 1ml salt. Mix.  Add 65ml butter and rub in to make it a crumbly mixture. Add 250ml of lukewarm water and combine until it sticks together. Turn over onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Cover the dough and allow to proof for 30 mins.

For the chicken stew

Chop 2 onions, 1 capsicum, 2 potatoes, 3 chopped tomatoes, a handful of coriander, 80ml cashew nuts, 2 garlic cloves and 3 red chilli peppers. Marinate 8 pieces of mixed chicken portions in 60ml crushed garlic

In a bowl, mix together the 2 chopped garlic cloves, 80 ml cashew nuts, 3 red chopped chilli peppers, chopped coriander, 1 tbsp garam masala, 2 tbsp dedicated coconut, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 5ml ground ginger, 2ml turmeric, 5 ml paprika and 1 tbsp tomato paste.

Heat 3 tbsp oil on the stove and toast 5 cardamom pods and bay leaves for a minute. Add chopped onions and capsicum fry till transparent. Add mixed spices fry for a minute then add chicken. Cook for 10 mins then add chopped tomatoes.

Allow to simmer for 15 mins. Add vegetable stock and potatoes and allow to reduce. Meanwhile, knock down and knead proofed bread dough on a floured surface and roll into mini dumplings. Steam each dumpling for 10-15 mins over boiling water.

For the salad

Mix quartered cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced onions and carrot. Add dress salad. Once the stew has reduced, serve with the dumplings.

For the juice

Into a tall glass, add ice, 125ml grape juice, 80ml Indian tonic water and a handful of blueberries.

Cheers!