Happy Father's Day from Mpumelelo Dhlamini

Ezokhetho fashion designer Mpumelelo Dhlamini carves a new journey into the culinary world, inspired by his late dad

Nombuso Kumalo Content Producer
Braised beef stew with seasonal roast vegetables, spicy-mayonnaise-marinated chicken bake with plain yoghurt and cherry tomatoes served with dombolo [steamed dumplings], spinach and mushroom wild rice.
Braised beef stew with seasonal roast vegetables, spicy-mayonnaise-marinated chicken bake with plain yoghurt and cherry tomatoes served with dombolo [steamed dumplings], spinach and mushroom wild rice.
Image: supplied

Mpumelelo Dhlamini is running an hour late when he calls me to help him unpack crockery, cooking utensils, and groceries from his car. Based in Naturena, in the south of Joburg, Dhlamini has driven all the way to Midrand for his debut food magazine feature on an early Sunday morning.

The Breadbox Bakery & Studio in the Carlswald Décor Centre is the perfect locale, with owner Matlhogonolo Ledwaba there for moral support — the magic’s all in the kitchen. Here, the hurried atmosphere of the morning melts away with the first sizzle of caramelised onions. Before long we find ourselves in a comfortable cooking rhythm.

I’m assigned chopping-board duties, dicing onions and spinach.

“My dad was a simple man,” says Dhlamini as he peers into the oven to check on the chicken bake. “You could do your ‘tra-la-la’ in cooking, but when it came down to it, he was a traditional man. He loved chicken stew and dumplings.”

The 32-year-old fashion designer began his food journey at the age of four under the guidance of his aunts and his mother, Ntombizonke. He recalls how he shared his passion for cooking with his late father, Chris.

“Around Christmas time I would make these beef pies with sourdough pastry, which he loved so much,” he remembers. “He also loved sweet treats, and his favourites were vanilla and blueberry muffins. He’d go buy the muffin premix and leave it on the kitchen counter and not say anything.

But my mom and I’d already know he was craving them,” he says, smiling.

In 2021, Dhlamini lost his father after a long-term illness. “The food I cook carries memories of him. Making home-cooked meals such as beef stew, dumplings, and traditional food reminds me of him,” he says.

For our Father’s Day-themed Sunday lunch, Dhlamini has lined up braised beef stew with seasonal roast vegetables and fragrant spices. Then there is a spicy-mayonnaise-marinated chicken bake with plain yoghurt and cherry tomatoes. Dombolo [steamed dumplings], spinach, and mushroom wild rice complete the menu.

“I always put my twist into everything I do. I believe in order to nail cooking you have to cook from the heart and make it your own,” he says.

Cooking has always been a creative outlet for Dhlamini, in addition to his contemporary African luxury fashion brand Ezokhetho.

In his time of grief, cooking became part of his healing journey.

“Cooking is my therapy. I am a fashion designer by trade, it’s my job. Food is my escape. When I’m done and I present the meal to you, you take it or leave it. It’s my own thing.”

Determined to soak in every moment of the experience, Dhlamini came armed with his tripod stand and phone set up, ready for any angle. “I’ll post the contents on Umpheko after the issue is published,” he says.

Umpheko is the social-media page that Dhlamini began after his father’s death. Three years on, the page has an impressive Instagram and TikTok following.

“I wanted a name that speaks to who I am as a proud Zulu person —something that was unique, playful, and easy.”

Easy-to-follow recipes come alive on the vibrantly curated page, stirring the tastebuds and awakening the foodie within us all. The page is a tribute to both his late father and his aunt Gqibe Radebe.

“What I enjoy is laying out the dish, taking pictures from exciting angles, and making it look natural and appetising,” he says as he begins plating, waving the exaggerated sleeve of his black-striped, toffee-brown coat. “Hawu, I need to look good for my close-up,” he quips.

“The more I settle into my thirties, [the more]I understand the kind of man my father was. He was a person driven by value — to value yourself and people’s time, which I am working on...”

 

BAKED CHICKEN

Ezokhetho fashion designer and cook Mpumelelo Dhlamini
Ezokhetho fashion designer and cook Mpumelelo Dhlamini
Image: supplied

INGREDIENTS

• 8 -10 chicken pieces

• 200g cherry tomatoes

• 2 tsp Texan spice

• 2 tsp chicken spice

• 1 tsp sugar

• 2 tsp onion powder

• 1 tsp mixed herbs

• 1 tsp black pepper

• 1 tsp paprika

• 1 tsp curry powder

• 1 tsp brown onion soup - powder mix

• 1 / 2tsp salt

• 1 / 2 cup mayonnaise

• 1 cup double cream plain yoghurt

METHOD

1. Place the chicken and tomatoes in a bowl.

2. Add all the spices, along with the yoghurt and the mayonnaise- mix.

3. Let it marinate for anything from half an hour to overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 200 deg C.

5. Bake chicken for 35-45 minutes.

6. Pour the remaining liquid over the chicken 30 minutes into the cooking time, turning the chicken from time to time until it’s golden brown on both sides.

7. Serve with savoury fried rice.

For the other recipes, see sowetanlive.co.za/s-mag/

Braised beef stew with seasonal roast vegetables, spicy-mayonnaise-marinated chicken bake with plain yoghurt and cherry tomatoes served with dombolo [steamed dumplings], spinach and mushroom wild rice.
Braised beef stew with seasonal roast vegetables, spicy-mayonnaise-marinated chicken bake with plain yoghurt and cherry tomatoes served with dombolo [steamed dumplings], spinach and mushroom wild rice.
Image: supplied
Father's Day inspiration meal
Father's Day inspiration meal
Image: supplied