Secret Recipes from Nelson Mandela’s Chef

Xoliswa Ndoyiya and Nelson Mandela (photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation, Debbie Yazbek).

Today, July 18, marks Nelson Mandela Day (annually celebrated worldwide), but this year, it is also the 100th anniversary of his birthday, July 18, 1918. But what does a president eat? Especially one who came from humble beginnings, overcame such intense strife and still managed to bring a country together in the spirit of humanity. Food, it seems was also a tool that Mandela used to bring people together – traditional South African recipes from the country’s kitchens – and the experts at Red Carnation hotels are doing it, too.

(bbar, courtesy TTC))

Where to try it: London, England, at bbar and restaurant, Hotel 41’s South African restaurant (above) located opposite the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, will be offering a dedicated menu of his favourite dishes throughout July that have been created in collaboration with Xoliswa Ndoyiya, his personal chef for over two decades.

Can’t make it to London? Fortunately for us, we can all try Xoliswa’s recipes at home. She has shared a few recipes of the former president’s favourite dishes, her experience cooking for him for two decades and her cooking methods and philosophy.

The menu has been selected to reflect not only his personal tastes but also some occasions that were significant in his life. They are either Xoliswa’s personal recipes or were prepared by her for Mandela and his family in the Presidential kitchen.

Recipes include a butternut squash soup, which Xoliswa prepared for his wedding to Graça Machel on his 80th birthday;  and koeksisters (a dessert made of fried dough and infused with syrup or honey) which he used as a tool of reconciliation shortly after his release, travelling to the whites-only settlement Orania to share them with Betsie Verwoed, the widow of Apartheid Prime Minister HF Verwoerd.

Another interesting Mandela fact about how he recognized the power of food: lamb bredie was one of a number of home-cooked dishes that were smuggled in to prison for him and his comrades by their lawyer.

Happy birthday, Madiba! The world misses you.;


(Courtesy South African Tourism)

 Butternut Soup

PORTION SIZE: 20 servings

125ml per person

100 people at 2 x 45ml soup sip (cocktail soup sip)


60ml olive oil

4 onions, chopped
30ml crushed garlic and ginger mixture

2.5kg butternut, skinned, seeded and cubed

10ml mild curry powder (more or less to taste)
3 litres chicken stock
17 5/8 cups cream
Salt and white pepper to taste


  • In a large pot sauté the oil, onion, garlic and ginger.
  • Add the butternut, curry powder. Mix well and allow to gently fry for two minutes then add the stock.
  • Cover and simmer gently for about 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  • Purée the soup. Season to taste. Blend in the cream and gently reheat.


(Courtesy South African Tourism)



Makes 40 medium sized koeksisters, double it to get around 80 pieces



10 cups white granulated sugar

5 cups water

15 ml (1 T) lemon juice

15 ml (1 T) golden syrup



3 cups cake flour

½ t salt

4 t baking powder

1 T margarine

1 cup milk

1 t vinegar

cooking oil for frying




  • Place all the ingredients into a large saucepan.
  • Heat while stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring to boil and boil for 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.



  • Sift the dry ingredients together. Rub in margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk and vinegar and mix to a soft dough.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow to stand for 15-30 minutes.
  • Brush work surface with a little cooking oil. Roll out dough to a thickness of 5 mm and cut into strips, about 2 cm wide and 5 cm long.
  • Cut strips into two or three smaller strips without cutting all the way through. Twist or plait the koeksisters starting from the uncut side, pinching the cut ends securely together to ensure that the koeksisters won’t open when cooked.
  • Deep-fry in hot oil (170⁰C) until golden brown on both sides.
  • Remove from oil and immediately dip into syrup, making sure that the koeksister is soaked through.
  • Remove, allow excess syrup to drip off, and leave to dry on a wire rack.


(Courtesy, South-African-Tourism)

Gemmer Ginger Beer 

50ml x 20 people = 1 litre for 20 servings and 5 litres for 100


6 cups cold water

2 cups caster sugar

2 lemons thickly sliced

15cm piece of ginger peeled and chopped

10 ml ground ginger

5ml cream of tartar

2 litres cold water

1 tsp instant yeast



  • In large pot with lid combine the 6 cups water, sugar, lemon, ginger and cream of tartar.
  • Slowly bring to boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once dissolved reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Take off the heat. Cover and leave overnight in a cool place.
  • Sterilize bottles.
  • Strain through a sieve and pour into bottles. Leave at least 5cm at top of bottle for the gasses to build up. Screw on lids and leave in a cool place .
  • Ginger beer is ready to drink when fizzy which will be within 24 hours depending on weather.
  • Serve chilled within 3 days.