Mandela’s personal chef shares her favorite recipes

What do you feed a man who spent decades eating prison food in the name of freedom and reconciliation?

It was an intimidating question Xoliswa Ndoyiya wasn’t sure she knew how to answer. It was about 20 years ago and at the time she was just a young cook working at a Jewish retirement home in Johannesburg, South Africa. But a friend had urged her to apply for the job as Nelson Mandela’s personal chef.

So she did. And when he met her, he immediately put her at ease.

“I believe that you are a great cook, but can you cook our food?” Ndoyiya recalled being asked by Mandela, who had only recently been released from prison. It was a reference to the Xhosa foods Mandela had grown up eating, simple dishes rich with porridge-like maize, beans and vegetables.

Ndoyiya said she smiled. Yes, she knew ukutya kwasekhaya, the term South Africa’s Xhosa clan uses to describe comfort food.

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