She’s an advocate for championing South African food and cuisine (in all its forms and diversity) to the rest of the world. The author of two biographical cookbooks. And one of our most favourite personalities, who has created some of our most beloved recipes. Qualified chef and food stylist, Zola Nene, indulges us with some inside info on herself and her kitchen!
As a chef and all-round foodie, the kitchen is most probably the heart of your home? How would you describe it?
The kitchen is definitely the heart of my home, it’s actually where I spend most of my time, it’s where I work and play actually. I am currently in the process of finalising the plans to redesign my kitchen to make it a much more suited to my current lifestyle. Post COVID, I have had to do a lot of filming at home, so I need my kitchen updated for that reason. I do love my current kitchen, it’s a good amount of space, with a neutral colour palette. My favourite part about my kitchen is the amount of light it gets — perfect for shooting delicious food content.
Are there any kitchen gadgets you absolutely can’t live without?
My dishwasher is definitely my kitchen appliance MVP with the amount of cooking I do, you can just imagine the amount of dishes that pile up in my kitchen. If I didn’t have a dishwasher, I would definitely be spending half my day washing dishes, and let’s face it, who enjoys doing dishes (erm, definitely not me)!
What are some of your go-to shopping stores?
These days I do all my shopping online; for ingredients, the Checkers Sixty60 App has been a game-changer, I use it almost every day — it’s so efficient and just plain brilliant. For utensils, I shop online at Yuppiechef and @home.
Can you remember the first thing you ever bought for your kitchen?
Gosh! I need to think way back for this one. The first notable item I ever bought was probably one of my Le Creuset Pots, I was lucky that I got gifted a lot of things for my kitchen by my parents when I moved into my first apartment, but I definitely splurged on some Le Creuset for myself too. I was also fortunate to have received my first set of Wusthof knives when I enrolled in chef school.
Do you remember the first recipe you ever made?
Yes! I write about it in my first cookbook, Simply Delicious. I made croque madame from a cook-by-picture book that I took out of the library. It sounds fancy but it is just a toasted ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg, but I felt quite accomplished after making that dish for the first time.
What is your favourite memory in your kitchen?
My favourite memory in the kitchen was definitely a moment shared with my grandmother making ‘isinkwa sommbila’ (mealie bread). I was very young and remember sitting on the kitchen table helping her grind fresh mealies to make bread, it’s one of my fondest memories in general because my gogo passed on when I was still very young so it’s a great memory of her for me.
Are there any kitchen trends or DIYs that you just had to try, and any that you didn’t gel with?
I recently tried the TikTok wrap hack — it’s a brilliant hack, I just couldn’t resist! One that I didn’t catch onto — and which kind of annoyed me — was the ‘pancake cereal trend’. I found that one quite tedious and odd, who eats their pancakes soaked in milk anyway?
Do you have any of your own kitchen hacks that you can share with our readers?
I hate waste in the kitchen, so I always try to extend the shelf life of things so that they don’t go to waste. I always have lots of fresh herbs in my fridge, so I chop them up, place them in ice cube trays and cover with water or olive oil and freeze them. Then I have frozen herb flavour bombs to add to a stew or soup or curry or to stir through some steamed rice to add colour and freshness.
Lastly, for those who want to start their own cooking journey, which recipes would you suggest they attempt first?
I think everyone should have a couple of go-to recipes in their arsenal that you can recreate every time you need to impress. An omelette recipe is a good one to have (frittatas are a good beginner’s omelette to master), a pasta recipe (that could be a spaghetti Bolognese or a simple tomato pasta) and a curry (curry is a versatile recipe that you can change up in so many ways). I think these three are a good place to start because once you perfect the basic versions of them, you can put so many variations on them.
Words: Thuveshnie Govender | Images: Lisa Skinner