Kasi twins share food stories

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Feb 12, 2020

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Durban - Twins Tebo and Lebo Ndala are down-to-earth kasi girls from Mamelodi who have launched their first cookbook which recounts their love affair with food from grandmother Koko’s kitchen to working at a flatbread stand as culinary students and attending university in Los Angeles.

The Independent on Saturday caught up with the two trained chefs at the Durban launch of Food Stories last week.

“The book is a mini biography,” Lebo says. “It’s our love child. It’s about sharing our love of food. It’s two young South African girls chasing their dream.”

The recipes also reflect their style.

“Good food should never be intimidating,” says Lebo.

“I hate recipes that make me feel like I can’t cook,” says Tebo. “Ours are quick, easy, and use accessible ingredients. ”

Their love of food started in Koko’s kitchen. Their grandmother grew up in rural Pretoria and as the oldest sibling had to do the cooking. Her staples were humble, but always fresh, the twins write.

They could include wild spinach she had picked herself, or a fresh chicken she had cleaned, along with homemade dumplings and grilled corn on the cob.

“It’s where we learnt how to cook, and learnt our love of food,” Lebo says.

They were encouraged to make food a career by a high school teacher, and studied for a three-year degree in Stellenbosch.

“We’d bake cupcakes and biscuits and bring our food to school. We would make anything that made people happy,” Tebo recalls.

After college, Lebo did a stint at the Radisson Hotel on the Waterfront and Tebo at the V&A before they did a year’s trip to the States, enjoying two divergent culinary experiences.

Tebo, in Massachusetts, learnt the art of American street food, while Lebo stayed with a Nigerian family in New Jersey and discovered the joys of puff puff (a sweet banana doughnut) and jollof (a spicy rice), influences that appear in the book.

“My Nigerian friends are passionate about their food, and there’s a big debate as to who makes the original jollof and the best, Nigeria or Ghana,” Tebo says.

“Now we’ve included our own South African recipe and my Nigerian friends love that too.”

Lebo tells how, when travelling, they would blog about cooking and the foods they encountered.

“So when it came to writing the book, we’d already completed most of these recipes,” Tebo says.

“We try wherever to give the food a South African twist,” Lebo says. “We try to ease people into the cuisine, to make it feel familiar, so our corn dogs use boerewors rather than the fat Franks in the States.”

They also spent time in Thailand. “It’s where our flavour palate matured,” says Lebo.

As brand ambassadors for Rooibos, they naturally include a chapter on tea and note that growing up, tea and scones were a must when visitors came to the house. And there was always a Rooibos option.

A key chapter of the book is Sunday Feast: “Sundays are a feast day and we go all out to create food that gives the ‘seven colours’,” says Lebo.

“We still do the Sunday ritual. It’s a special thing. And growing up in Mamelodi we were all one family.

“Your home is my home.”

The Independent on Saturday

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