Today’s video demonstration is by Robert Mnyamana, the executive head chef at The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World in Port Elizabeth. Robert’s oxtail has been a long-time favourite at the casino’s popular Bayside Pantry restaurant. Scroll down for a printable version of the recipe, plus a ’10 Questions’ interview with Robert.
Oxtail with samp and beans – the recipe
Robert’s traditional oxtail recipe goes perfectly with the samp and bean round he serves on the side. Simply prepare the samp and beans as per Robert’s instructions below, then spread it out into a shallow dish and allow it to cool. Use a cutter to cut out a circular shape for serving. For the oxtail, the secret is to cook the meat really long – a good four hours should do it. I expect you could also use a pressure cooker but then will obviously need much less cooking time. Only add the butter beans virtually right at the end as you don’t want them to disintegrate. Oxtail, Robert advises, always tastes better when made the day before.
Ingredients for the oxtail
2kg oxtail, 300g celery, chopped; 300g carrots, chopped; 300g tinned butter beans; 200g onions, chopped; 120g tomato paste; 50g crushed garlic; 50g fresh mixed herbs; 200ml cooking oil; 250ml red wine; 20g good-quality beef stock powder (or use 1 litre of home-made liquid stock); salt and pepper to taste; 30g bay leaves; 150g leeks, chopped.
Method for the oxtail
Braise the oxtail in the cooking oil till brown. Add the herbs, onions and garlic and fry until brown. Add the tomato paste and red wine and stir through. Add one litre of water and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for several hours.
Add the celery, carrots, leeks and beef stock powder (unless you’ve used fresh liquid stock instead of the 800ml of water earlier). Allow it to simmer for another half hour or so. Lastly, add the butter beans and season the dish to your taste. Allow to simmer for a further five to 10 minutes.
Ingredients for the samp and beans
500g dried samp; 250g dried sugar beans; 200g beef bones for flavour; 60g onion, chopped (optional); 800ml water; salt and pepper to taste.
Method for the samp and beans
Soak the samp and beans overnight in water. Drain, then add 800g fresh water, the bones and onion (if using), and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for an hour and a half. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
10 Questions: The Boardwalk’s Robert Mnyamana
Robert, 46, was born in Peddie in the Eastern Cape, and his career in the hospitality industry has spanned more than two decades. He started out at the Rustenburg Safari Hotel in 1987 and in 1989 moved back to his home province, spending many years at the Fish River Sun, before moving on to Kariega Game Reserve as head chef in 2002, the Protea Hotel Wilderness as head chef in 2003, and the Caledon Casino, Spa and Hotel as executive chef in 2005. However, his love of the Eastern Cape prevailed and he started at The Boardwalk as head chef in October 2008. Robert is married and has two children, aged 11 and five.
1) How and why did you become a chef?
Back in 1987, when I was unemployed, I applied at a hotel in Rustenburg and was given a job as a cleaner. I watched the chef and was fascinated by what I saw. Thomas, the sous chef, asked if I was interested in learning to become a chef. I immediately said yes, and he began training me in the basics. That is where my love for cooking started, and it still continues today.
2) What is the best – and worst – part of your job?
Managing the kitchen is always a highlight for me, and I enjoy working in both the hot and cold sections. The latter is where the platters, garnishes, ice carvings and vegetable carvings are prepared. The worst part of the job is when you have to work with new people and teach them your methods and style of cooking from the beginning. All chefs have their own way of doing things.
3) How would you describe your style of cooking?
My style is basic South African cooking. South African cooking is still not as popular as many European styles, and I would like for our food to become as popular as the European dishes.
4) When you cook at home, for your own family, what dish do you as a family most enjoy?
Believe it or not, I love cooking oxtail for my family, and samp and beans is also one of their favourite traditional dishes. If I could choose one last meal on earth, oxtail would be it!
5) Name one of the people that you have learnt a lot from during your career as a chef.
John Szabo, who was the executive chef during my career at the Fish River Sun, taught me many different cooking skills and dishes.
6) Have you recently cooked for any famous people or celebrities?
Earlier this year I worked with Martin Kobald, who is the president of the South African Chefs Association. We did the Table of Peace and Unity fundraiser in the Bay, where we cooked for celebrities like singer PJ Powers and Miss South Africa Tatum Keshwar.
7) You recently conceptualised a One Time hot three-course dinner special at the Bayside Pantry, which is proving popular with patrons. What was the inspiration behind it and what does it include?
I saw an opportunity in the tight economy to treat guests to a substantial three-course meal, offering value and a good evening out. It costs R80 per person (over-18s only) and runs from Monday to Thursday, plus the price includes a cup of tea or coffee afterwards. Included in the first course are our soups – one of our specialities at the Bayside. We are known all over South Africa for our delicious soups, especially our beef and vegetable, and chicken and mushroom soups.
(8) Name the five ingredients that one will always find in your fridge, freezer or store cupboard.
Curry powder, bay leaves, ginger and garlic, beef fillet and seafood.
9) What is your most indispensable kitchen tool or gadget?
My carving knife and turning knife.
10) What advice would you give young chefs, or anybody considering a career as a chef?
They need be passionate about cooking, because it isn’t easy. Young chefs need to remember that it takes lots of hard work and dedication, but in the end you’ll enjoy it!