Chit Chat – Azania Mosaka

2012-04-13 12:14

Have you always been a cook?
My mother was a single parent with three children to raise on a nurse’s salary, so we spent a lot of time taking care of ourselves. We were teens in the kitchen and independent. I developed a deeper love for cooking when I had my own family to look after. Keeping meal time exciting and interesting became a daily challenge and something I really enjoyed.

Do you have any special cooking memories from your childhood?
Getting ready for Christmas lunch. The preparations started the night before and the cooking early in morning. Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Bassey, Pat Boon and Boney M on the radio and all of us chipping in. This was the one day when everything was plentiful. Dumpling, savoury rice, beef stew, deep-fried chicken drumsticks, beetroot salad, jelly and custard, and sponge cake and cream trifle. Mmmh! Even though I was relegated to doing all the tasks that nobody else wanted, like chopping cabbage or doing the dishes, my mother always used to say, ‘It’s because you do it so well.’ I use this line today with my daughter.

What do you regard as your speciality?

Lamb is my favourite. It’s flavour filled and so versatile. You can’t go wrong with rosemary-and-garlic marinated leg of lamb, with roast potatoes and vegetables. Or a lamb shank that has simmered in red wine, tomatoes, stock and bay leaves, carrots and onions.

What did you make over Easter period?
I’m still trying to refine pickled fish. Nobody does it as well as my aunt. Every Easter I call her to replicate what she does. But even with exact ingredients and guidelines, it’s impossible to copy someone else’s hand.

Which area in the world do you admire food from?
Mozambican food always excites me. I love the strong flavours and seafood. The Portuguese influence and the natural resources come together, always fresh, in a ­makeshift restaurant shack or mainstream establishment. I love communal eating and I also make sure I have a good dose of chilli every time I go to Mozambique.

How much time do you spend in your kitchen?
Midweek from 30 minutes to an hour. On weekends, I take my time because that is when I make desserts as well.

What is the deal with Cooking with Azania?
We invite a public personality to the set and give them free rein. However, with others we contribute to their dish and give ideas so that they have a great experience when they leave. My role in that segment is to be an assistant.

What do you look forward to making on the show?
The quick-meal ideas because we live such busy lives and still have to eat right. So this is the segment of the show where viewers will get ideas on what to prepare with limited time. I love variety because it’s easy to end up in a rut of eating rice with meat and gravy, and maybe vegetables. I also look forward to sharing a fresh take on a few indigenous foods.

Do you watch cooking shows on TV, and which are your favourites?
I’ve enjoyed cooking shows for a long time. Since the days of Keith Floyd... Floyd on Food. I guess that’s why I like a glass of wine in the kitchen close by too. I enjoy Nigella and Jamie Oliver. I enjoy the simplicity of English cuisine, but I love more flavour-filled food so I become selective.

MasterChef or Come Dine With Me?
I’m pretty bad at following serial shows and often lose track of what is going on because of my schedule, so perhaps Come Dine With Me, the omnibus nogal! However, I also love the nail-biting aspects of MasterChef and learning from other cooks.

Why do you think people are so much into food shows?

Food shows have begun to offer so much entertainment value and education at the same time. We’re much more conscious of where our food comes from, and this is part of a move for people to eat healthier and responsibly. The popularity of veggie gardens, markets and the reading of food packaging definitely shows a more conscious consumer who cares about what goes into their bodies. There is also our history and background with food that is unique to each of us, the pleasure of eating great food. For many, food is a matter of survival, so our relationship is so vast and complicated.

What’s next for Azania since you have conquered TV, radio and print, and now the kitchen?

There is more to me Lesley. I enjoy photography too and I’ve been letting my imagination run wild on paper. I might decide to publish my books.

» Cooking with Azania is on SABC3, Saturdays at midday

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