I grew up with a lot of people, and I mean in our house not the community. From being born to a 4 room house in the township with at least 15 people in it at any given time, to the rural areas ( the village) starting my schooling with around the same numbers.
I grew up in the township, with my grandmother the sole breadwinner for everyone in the family. When I say everyone, I mean her 5 sisters and brother, all of their children and grandchildren. And almost everyone lived either in the 4 room township house or in the village, but either way she was responsible for all of them and all their needs.
I was in the township under my grandmothers wing, literally, for the first 5 years of my life. Well, excluding the 3 months I was kidnapped, but that’s a story for another day. But it all changed when Nelson Mandela came out of jail, Apartheid was coming to an end, and democracy was near. A lot of people were being killed in our township for supporting ANC( African National Congress/ ‘ the Xhosa people’s party’ at the time) as the township was an IFP township( Inkatha Freedom Party/ the Zulu people party). They had been the same party for decades but due to power struggles, when the end was near, the IFP got separated from the ANC and stood alone as contenders for the leadership of South Africa into the new era.
A lot of people died fighting for democracy at the hands of the Afrikaner people in South Africa, and another whole lot died at the hands of their fellow comrades in KwaZulu Natal, specifically because of the ANC/IFP power struggle. And no one ever talks about this loss.
Almost every night you’d see smoky clouds over the township; people’s houses being burnt down to the ground, people killed with tyres around their necks and petrol thrown on them and set alight. I remember one of our neighbour’s house was burnt down in the middle of the night, one of his children didn’t manage to get out and died. All these people, neighbour’s, fellow Zulu people: South Africans:Africans, dying because they’re being accused of supporting the ANC. The first time I saw a dead person, I was 5. It was a burnt body outside our gate in the morning and we had to jump over it going to work( I worked with my grandmother, she: a clinic nurse, me: a clinic doctor. Yes, at age 5).
This was not exclusively my township, it was almost every township and village in KwaZulu Natal. You couldn’t live in an ANC village/township if you supported IFP and vice versa. All that was needed was suspicion and you’d be killed, your house would be burnt down, and your family chased out of the community for being traitors.
Anyway, this blog is about the memory the Samp( trimmed maize kernels) and Beans brings back for me. It all started when I had to leave the township because of all the violence at age 5. I was taken to the village to start school in a peaceful, safe environment, but not by any means easy. Being taken there taught me to survive from a very young age. The first 2 years were difficult but there were much more difficulties to come. Let’s just say it was survival of the fittest. Any meal in a day was not guaranteed.
My cousins and I had to do a lot of cooking. I was 7 then with youngest cousin 6 and oldest 16. We took turns to do chores and one of the chores was making dinner, on the fire. Once a week we’d have to make Samp & Beans, this was almost always my bad luck. It takes at least 4 hrs to make so you had to make sure there was enough fire wood, and that you started cooking as soon as you got home from school, so definitely no playing outside for you. And it’s not one of those dishes you can leave to cook for hours and do something else. You have to pay attention, make sure it doesn’t get burnt because if you do; the punishment is not pretty. It was always made with just salt and only on the good days of the month could we afford to add some beef stock.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure to taste my mom’s version and it is so much better. She has a secret technique of crushing the kernels after cooking the Samp & Beans and she uses ‘Holsum’- this is like lard, probably not the healthiest choice, but it makes it so rich and even smoother. The crushing is definitely a solution to Samp & Beans constipation. She gave Samp and Beans a happy memory for me.
So this is what I’m making tonight. And you can have it the whole week and it’s even more delicious the next day, cold.
What do you need? 8 portions
250g Samp kernels
250g Sugar beans
Lamb bones with some meat
2 large Carrots- chopped
1 large Onion- chopped
4 Garlic cloves- chopped
1 Spring onion sprig
1 tsp Chilli flakes, salt & pepper
60ml Olive oil
This takes time but is so simple.
To accelerate cooking time, place the beans in a bowl with boiling water and let it soak overnight. (the cooking time below is reduced by half an hour if you do this.)
Then boil in a pot with salty water up to the brim. Keep topping with water for an hour and a half, making sure it doesn’t get burnt.
Then add the Samp kernels into the beans and fill water to the brim. Remember to stir every 20 minutes and add more water to the brim. It tends to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn, regardless of the water content.
While the Samp and Beans mixture is cooking, start cooking the lamb bones with a few lamb pieces to make a little bit of stock and soften the lamb meat. Principle: low and slow, with onions, garlic, and seasoning( salt & pepper) with cinnamon stick, mixed seeds( mustard seeds, coriander, fennel) and water. Cook at low heat, level 2 on stove for 2 hrs.
After 2 hrs of the Samp and Beans cooking together, take off the stove and drain the excess liquid.
NB: this liquid is perfect to keep! You can use it to thicken stews, as soup and it’s so high in Iron, protein and fibre.
In a big pot, add in 60 ml of olive oil, chopped onion, chopped garlic and soften. When soft add chopped carrot and spring onion. Add the drained Samp & Beans and combine well. Then 1/2 cup of the lamb stock from our lamb bones, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This allows for flavours to integrate well. In 15 minutes, season with salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste.
Now for the bicep work!
Clean a bottle of wine, the outside, and use this to squash the Samp and Beans with the bottle against the sides of the pot. Using a lot of pressure, almost like when you’re cooking Uphuthu but even more pressure than that( check out prior blog). The aim is to crush it enough that it’s not coarse but not smooth either. It’s impossible to take it all the way to smooth using a bottle, this is why we’re not blitzing it or using a blender. We definitely don’t want mashy Samp & beans.
If you have a husband or boyfriend, you make them do this job and call it ‘ helping out with dinner’! This should take 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the biceps.
After this labored process is done, add in the meaty bits of the lamb and the lamb bones, season to taste and we are done! Wheeeuuu.
A lot of work, a bit of starch, lil’ bit of attention but worth every second. This is so delicious. I think it might even top my mother’s Samp & beans recipe. I have to cook this for her!
Traditionally you eat it as it is, with possibly a bit of meat, but I’m adding some salad to it for a bit of texture and colour contrast.
We are going to be eating this with different meats and salads the whole week. Dinner and lunch for work sorted for next 5 days! Deliciousness, this is what comfort food, heart warming food is about; perfect for winter.
Next night’s dinner was with Sauteed mushrooms, lamb chop and basil/ spinach salad.
And both my husband and son love it. Well, my husband until he realized how much work is involved and he had to ‘ help out’.