Here’s a place that certainly sings to a different tune than its neighbouring countries. South Africa is a land conquered long ago by Europeans that decided to make such beautiful place their second home. The process, as with most colonization stories, unquestionably involved horrific acts of violence, racism and slavery. Nevertheless, they’ve been willing and able to deal with their ethical problems to become a proud and fairer nation day by bay.
All the same, as with any colonization, there comes a time when you look back and notice that not everything is negative. The results can be quite colorful and interesting. Colorful indeed, South Africa’s cooking is called by many Rainbow Cuisine, precisely because of the complicated and rich fusion of a varied influence of cultures mixed beautifully into a single pot. India, Dutch, German, French, Greek, Italian and Portuguese, all take part in contributing dashes and splashes of flavor into the already delicious indigenous food of the first inhabitants of South Africa.
Mealie, pronounced mih-lih, is their word for maize or corn, an english take of the Afrikaans name for it, mielie. Adding to the colour array is the fact that even though corn meal is the staple food of the indigenous people of South Africa and the surrounding countries, it’s origin actually lies on America, as main cultivar of its own indigenous peoples there.
I had hesitations at first when deciding upon South African menu, even more with Namibia’s menu. It’s the first time on this AFW trip that I skipped a country on the list. Their food looks interesting but rather difficult (if not impossible) to replicate unless you don’t live anywhere near there and have access to their main ingredients. One thing in common though was the use of corn and more specifically, Pap. A kind of polenta preparation made on a daily basis all across the southern part of the African continent.
South Africa, on the other hand, has a recipe repertoire that facilitates its replication by people leaving in most parts of the Western Civilization. And yes, Pap is quite common there, but my choice of main dish did not go well with it and still I wanted to include some maize in the equation. I found this traditional soup and I have to say it was the star of the four dishes picked for South African cuisine.
Mealie soup is super simple to make even if you choose to take the longer path to making by using fresh corn from the cob instead of canned kernels, just like I did with this recipe. It really makes a difference in terms of texture, and really doesn’t take that much longer to make. The sweetness of the corn combined with the bright acidity of tomatoes, the silkiness of cream and mild spiciness of cayenne, makes this soup a perfect starter for a nice meal or even a good stand-alone meal to be eaten with bread for a light lunch or dinner. A exquisite and colorful start for this Rainbow Cooking week.
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp corn flour
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 4 cups corn kernels, freshly cut from the cob (frozen or canned if you must)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Using a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook stirring ocassionally for 10 - 15 minutes until they get nice and golden in color.
- Add the corn flour and cook while stirring for 2 - 3 minutes for the flour to cook thoroughly. Add about a 1/2 cup of broth, stir well until the flour dissolves completely. Add the tomatoes, corn kernels, salt, black pepper, cayenne and the rest of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the heavy cream and cook for 5 more minutes for it to heat thoroughly.
- Serve while still hot. Enjoy!