A beef stew like no other

Self-taught cook Mpho Masango of Plump Kitchen fuses the familiarity of homecooked food with tricks. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Self-taught cook Mpho Masango of Plump Kitchen fuses the familiarity of homecooked food with tricks. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

I cook from the heart, so when the Mail & Guardian asked me to send them a recipe, it was a bit of a freeze moment. Kind of … well, am I a phony if I can’t give you measurements in a way a recipe does or because I swap and change at will? And because that approach to making food – so measured and exact – is the very opposite of how I work.

So while I have a full appreciation for the formalities and technicalities – because I do understand that there’s a science to it – that’s more the thing of chefs, not cooks, and I’m the latter. I say that with complete respect and regard for the former.

When it comes to flavours, I find that spicy, lemony and full of onions are the best types of combos, be it in a stew, a Bolognese or a quick fry-up.
Rich and full is what I’m generally always after.

Dig into one of my winter favourites below, seeing as I gave the whole recipe thing a shot. Make sure you have time: that’s the secret to this meal.

Smoked paprika and lemon zest beef stew with smashed potatoes, cinnamon butternut cubes and garlicky flat beans


For beef stew
500g free-range beef cubes
2½ shallots
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons of smoked Spanish paprika
Pinch of cumin seeds
Finely chopped ginger
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 large carrot, chopped into thick diagonal pieces

For butternut
3 handfuls of small butternut cubes
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of nutmeg
A little bit of honey

For flat beans
400g flat beans
2 teaspoons of garlic flakes
Pinch of black pepper
For smashed potatoes
500g baby potatoes
Too much thyme
Pinch of smoked salt

Cook! Okay, but really: when you have all your ducks in a row, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a cocotte or casserole-type pot and fry the meat over medium heat for four minutes. Add your two chopped shallots, cumin seeds, ground coriander and a meat spice mix (home-made is the best) and fry for another four minutes.

Pour in 500ml of beef stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pot and reduce to a simmer for one-and-a-half hours.

At this stage, add your carrots, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and another teaspoon of smoked paprika. Sprinkle some brown sugar over it and continue cooking for another one-and-a-half hours.

Throw your baby potatoes in a pot of boiling water and cook until soft. Fork one of them right through to test that it’s soft all the way through. Drain the water, close the pot with the potatoes still in there and shake the pot to smash the potatoes –make sure you don’t shake them into mashed; you still want chunks of just about whole potatoes here and there. Place them in an oven dish, including all the little bits (those make for fantastic crispy bites), drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, add thyme and bake until soft with crispy corners.

Place your last half of roughly chopped shallot into a small oven dish, add brown sugar and caramelise in a preheated oven at 180°C, until it’s cooked and floppy and the sugar has turned into thick liquid. In the last few minutes, check to make sure that the stew isn’t dry and if so, add small splashes of water. Sprinkle a handful of lemon zest and the caramelised shallot.

Mpho Masango’s beef stew, with smashed potatoes, simply cooked but delicious vegetables. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Your beef should now be cooked until it easily slides apart. Add salt to taste, stir and allow it to sit for two to three minutes.

When preheating the oven for the onions (around the last 30 minutes of your stew cooking time), place your cubes of butternut in a medium-sized oven dish, add your knob of butter and sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon over it. Drizzle a little honey and bake until cooked through.

In the last five to 10 minutes of your stew cooking time, sprinkle garlic flakes into a hot pan and allow it to sit until toasty. Make sure to flip them around while in the pan and that they toast until just golden brown, and place on the side.

Pour olive oil into another pan and heat until piping hot. Throw in the flat beans and flash fry for five minutes, tossing them around in the pan. Add black pepper and, once ready, place them in your serving dish and sprinkle the toasty garlic flakes.

Preparing your veggies in time to meet the end of your stew cooking ensures that you can serve everything fresh from the stove and while still warm.

Dig in!

Plump with culinary pleasure

Joining the recent trend of talented cooks leaving formal employment and starting their own, freestyle cooking service companies, Mpho Masango is slowly making a name around Jo’burg for her catering package that has an easy and open approach to the culture of eating, fusing the familiarity of home-made food with special tricks when the mood calls for it.

Masango is a self-taught cook and a believer in fresh food and vegetables wherever they can be squeezed in, as well as flavour with purpose. She owns a bespoke company called Plump Kitchen, catering for events ranging from meetings to conferences. She provides a private cook for dinner parties or other events – be it buffet-style canapés or sit-down meals with plating. Starting this autumn, Plump Kitchen will host pop-up dining sessions where guests will be invited to a special location. In the meantime, visit [email protected] for more information. – Milisuthando Bongela

Client Media Releases

Fedgroup drives industry reform in unclaimed benefits sector
Hardworking students win big at architecture awards
VUT presents 2019 registration introduction
Vocational training: good start to great career