• This legendary lady needs little introduction, of course… From the heyday in Sophiatown when kwela, marabi and African jazz filled the streets, rose a diva. Miriam Makeba – or Mama Africa, as she was known – toured across the globe with various bands and appeared in numerous films. Her “big break” came after leading roles in films like Come Back, Africa (1957) and Todd Matshikiza’s King Kong (1959) – a jazz opera. After her performance in Come Back, Africa, the South African Apartheid government revoked her passport for “putting them in a bad light” and she was the first black musician to be forced to leave South Africa for abroad – many great talents were to follow. Her records were banned locally, but she continued to flourish in the USA, Europe and South America. She was the first black woman to hit international charts with Pata Pata in 1967 and was the first African recording artist to win a Grammy. It is said that Madiba himself persuaded her to return home after his release in 1990.

    Traditional curried chicken stew with samp and beans

    Born to a Swazi mother and Xhosa father, few people know that Miriam was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1999. In an interview with Peter Ndoro on his talk show, Conversations, in 2005, Miriam tells him how she loves traditional cooking, even while she was living in exile in New York City: “I love to cook and I think I cook very well. I used to go and find… what we call umngqusho – it’s stampmielies [samp]. I looked and looked until I found that they had it in cans. I would buy it and all the South Africans would come to my place and I cooked umngqusho and then I would look for mealie meal to cook ipapa and the greens and spinach [marog/amaranth]… I like cooking.”

    Traditional curried chicken stew with samp and beans



    • 6 free-range chicken portions, skin on
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • olive oil, to fry
    • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
    • 1 green/red bell pepper, chopped
    • 30ml (2 tbsp) tomato paste
    • 5ml (1 tsp) medium curry powder
    • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
    • 1L (4 cups) chicken stock
    • 5ml (1 tsp) sugar

    • 500g samp-and-bean mix, soaked overnight and rinsed
    • 2L (8 cups) water
    • 125g brown/white onion soup powder
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • chopped fresh parsley, to serve



    For the chicken stew, season the chicken pieces to taste. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken pieces until golden (they don’t need to be cooked through). Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.


    In the same pot, add a little more olive oil, and sauté the onion, garlic and the chopped green/red bell pepper until soft. Add the tomato paste and curry powder, and cook until fragrant, 2 – 3 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, chicken stock and browned chicken pieces, then cover and allow to simmer, 20 – 25 minutes. Add the sugar and season to taste.


    To make the samp and beans, place the soaked and rinsed samp-and-bean mixture in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil and cook, 45 minutes – 1 hour or until almost soft. It shouldn’t dry out – the water inside the pot should be just visible between the samp and beans. Gently stir in the onion soup powder until well combined. Continue to simmer uncovered, another 5 – 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a thick, hearty mixture.


    Remove from heat and set aside to rest, 5 minutes, then season to taste and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve alongside the chicken stew.

    Imka Webb

    Imka Webb is a freelance digital marketing expert and the digital editor of Food & Home Entertaining magazine.  www.imkawebb.com