My nearest market in Melbourne has some fantastic butchers. You can find anything from chicken gizzards to pigs’ heads, but one thing I’ve never seen there is cows’ feet! In Zimbabwe the Shona word for cows’ trotters is ‘mazondo’. These are cooked slowly and simply, served with sadza. The texture is quite gelatinous and probably not for everyone. But, for some Zimbabweans, the value of the dish goes beyond culinary – it’s said to provide a powerful boost to the male libido!
A traditional way to cook mazondo would be over a fire with as few ingredients as possible. Some people use just water or tomatoes and onions at most. I’ve decided on a recipe with a few extra bits and pieces, but not too many. Cuts of meat like this should impart a lot of flavour and texture to the sauce on their own. They also need a long time to cook for the tendons and skin to become soft.
1½ kg mazondo (beef trotters)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
4 tomatoes, grated
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 l beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
Make sure the trotters are clean and dry.
Heat 1 tbsp oil on high in a large heavy-bottomed pot.
Lightly brown the trotters in batches and put aside.
Heat the remaining tbsp oil on medium.
Fry onions until soft.
Add garlic and fry for one minute.
Add paprika, tomatoes and tomato paste.
Stir and cook for two minutes.
Return trotters to the pot.
Pour in enough stock to cover the meat.
Bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for about four and a half hours, until the meat is soft and starts to come away from the bone.
Check at regular intervals, topping up with water if necessary.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Your mazondo stew should be thick and saucy.
Serve with sadza.
Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherer San people, followed by pastoralists that moved in from the north around 2000 years ago during the Bantu expansion.
A succession of kingdoms followed including the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, its growth buoyed by trade with Arab and Indian merchants; the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, at the heart of which stood the impressive stone city of Great Zimbabwe; and the Mutapa Empire, a Shona state ruling much of what is now Zimbabwe and parts of Mozambique and Zambia.
During the Mutapa reign, the region was at the centre of a gold rush! Portuguese traders had ventured inland looking to monopolising the gold trade. Some settled and had children with local people. Then, in 1568, Portugal launched an unsuccessful expedition to take over Mutapa’s gold mines. The King attempted to expel the Portuguese in 1629, but they overthrew him and installed their own ruler. They were later forced out, heralding the start of the Rozvi Empire, whose control included much of present-day Zimbabwe.
The Portuguese influence remains. There are ruins of forts; lemon trees at Pringani are said to descend from groves planted by friars; and the peanut, introduced by the Portuguese, is the hero of Zimbabwean dishes like dovi – a peanut butter sauce served either with vegetables or meat.
Huku nedovi (chicken and peanut butter stew)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
750 g boneless chicken thighs, cut into 5 cm pieces
1 cup chicken stock
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ cup peanut butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup spinach, finely chopped
Heat the oil on medium in a large pan.
Fry the onion until soft.
Add the garlic and cook for two minutes.
Add the chicken and stir to coat.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring gently to the boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Thin the peanut butter a little by whisking it in a small bowl with some of the cooking liquid.
Add the thinned peanut butter and the spinach to the pan.
Stir and cook for five minutes until the spinach is tender.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with sadza!
Zimbabwe’s Rozvi empire was eventually displaced by the Ndebele, a breakaway Zulu clan from South Africa. They’re still a significant ethnic group in Zimbabwe today.
The first Europeans to successfully colonise the area were The British South Africa Company, headed by Cecil Rhodes. They controlled what was then known as Rhodesia until the 1920s. This included Northern Rhodesia north of the Zambezi and Southern Rhodesia to its south.
Southern Rhodesia became a British colony and, by 1930, an Act was passed restricting indigenous people’s access to their own land. Britain went on to create the Central African Federation of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953. The other two voted for independence in 1963, but Southern Rhodesia remained a colony. Ian Smith became Prime Minister and declared independence under white minority rule, causing outrage around the world. A period of guerrilla warfare followed and Smith eventually agreed to transfer power to indigenous Africans.
Zimbabwe celebrated independence in 1980 and Robert Mugabe became its first indigenous prime minister and a war hero for some. But, as the country headed towards dictatorship, there were many who soon thought otherwise.
Zimbabwe has retained some British culinary influences, such as morning and afternoon tea and a partiality for bread and sugar.
Mabhanzi (‘ma buns’)
Mabhanzi are sweetened dinner rolls popular in Zimbabwe, often enjoyed with a cup of tea!
2 tsp instant yeast
4 tbsp sugar
225ml warm milk
50g butter, melted
450 g flour (keep back a little of this quantity for dusting the work surface)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
Combine the yeast, sugar and warm milk in a small bowl and let stand for five minutes or until the yeast has started to foam.
Meanwhile, in another bowl sift together the flour, salt and milk powder and make a well in the centre.
Add the egg and melted butter to the yeast, sugar and milk mixture and whisk briefly to combine.
Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until a dough is formed.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
Kneed until it is smooth and stretchy.
Place under a damp cloth and allow to rise until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour).
While the dough is rising, line a 20 x 30 cm rectangular tin or baking dish with baking paper.
Once the dough has risen, knock the air out and divide it into 12 portions.
Roll these into smooth balls.
Place the balls in your lined tin, spacing them evenly in three rows of four.
Cover and let the dough rise and expand again for about 40 minutes.
Bake in a 200°C oven (conventional) for 20–25 minutes.
To make the glaze mix the sugar and water together and heat briefly over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
When you have removed the buns from the oven, brush the tops with the sugar glaze.