Making Mince

Growing up, I never liked cheese. In hindsight, I think my body’s intolerance to it contributed to my dislike of it.

As I grow and my palate develops I find that I am more interested in trying out foods that I was not able to.

Nearly three months ago when I was in the labour ward (story for another day) at the Netcare Parklane Hospital my husband left to go get us some lunch. I asked him to get me a mince sandwich with cheese. His response? “Since when do you take cheese?” I told him to rather  buy me something else partly because I was worried I would not have been able to eat it but also partly because I was upset — I mean how dare he try dictate what I feel like eating at the time (my pregnant brain thought).

I’m yet to meet a person who does not like quick meals. Unless you’re me (or any other chef or cook out there), the you probably like spending as little time as possible in the kitchen.


How Retrenchment Made Me Better

Huffington Post South Africa, the publication I worked for, recently closed its doors which meant myself and other colleagues had to be retrenched.

Those who know me will know how, for the longest time, I have toyed with the idea of pursuing cooking on a full-time basis. I mean, I although I knew I wanted to go professional (and train as a chef), I was too scared to leave my job as journalist and become a student, grow my food business — pop up restaurants, private cooking and blogging and catering at some point.

Writing this today, after my departure, I can’t shake off the feeling of relief — knowing that come February I’ll be donning my chef whites and walking into a classroom to train as a professional chef — a dream that has been so long in the making that at some point seemed like it was not going to come true.

All the tears and anxiety that follow after losing a job, I had them. The sleepless nights filled with worry, that too was my portion.

But not for too long…

Trust me, it took tears, panic attacks and a lot of talking to from my husband, my parents and friends for me to get to the space I’m in.

I have also recently had a baby girl. A highlight that changed a lot of things and put even more things to perspective.

Come June 2019 I’ll be turning 30 (years old) that for me means am getting older (obvs). On a more serious note though, 30 means I can no longer settle for just any job — it means going and grabbing exactly what I want, the kind of stuff my dreams are made of. I mean I now have two mini humans looking up to me.

You often get told; “reset, readjust, restart, refocus as many times as you need to, but trust me, it ain’t all so easy to do which is why am ever so grateful to the people in my life who’ve anchored and held my hand through this time.

A special shout out to the man of my dreams, my husband and father to my children, for holding me down no matter what. You’re the real MVP.

With that said kids, losing my job taught me that nothing is forever. As cheesy as it may sound, I’ve also learnt to not give up on my dreams.

(Almost) Chef Duenna 🙂

Tilapia With Pap

My husband comes from a big family — seven sons and one daughter.

He loves his pap and I had no issues with this because we come from the same areas back home in rural Bushbuckridge where pap is very common.

As a new makoti, one goes through a period of learning how her new family does things, what they like, as well as how to fit it in all of that.

So when one of my husband’s brothers brought home tilapia fish from a guy who fishes ka N’waMkhelemba, a dam at Edinburgh (a nearby village), little did I know there was a lesson for me there too.

You see, the foodie in me was ready to rub the babies with some spice, stuff with a fresh lemon what what…until I realised there’s a way they like the fish to be cooked.

In came my mother in law with this recipe…

I did not hold back because my new husband had already told me (a few moments before) that they (the fam) love their tilapia in a very specific manner.

Fast forward to six years later, am (kinda) a pro at making this dish and I take pride in some of the twists and (very minimal) changes I’ve made over the years. Like they say, experience is the best teacher.

Here’s how I made it:

You’ll need:

4× Fresh Tlapia (cleaned)

1× Onion (chopped)

4× Tomatoes (ripe & chopped)

2× Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot

1× Teaspoon of Medium Curry Powder (Optional)

1/2 Teaspoon of Original Aromat (Optional)



A bit of water

Here’s how to:

First make the base — the sheba sauce or relish as some would call it.

Your tomato base must be good enough to eat on its own before you can add the fish. Also, the fish only takes 10 minutes to cook so don’t panic if you spend too much time getting the base right.

Panfry the onion adding the tomatoes halfway through.

Add the stock, curry powder and Aromat.

Keep stirring until the tomatoes are cooked through — it should look like a really nice sheba sauce when it’s ready.

Add a bit of water, a coupla tablespoons (sometimes I add a lot more) so it doesn’t burn when you add your fish.

Now add the fish and cover. Turn with a tong every 5 minutes until fully cooked.

Add salt and pepper before serving with pap.

Is that romance on a plate?

Compliments of the new season family and welcome to 2017.

They say rather late than never, right?

Valentine’s Day is almost just around the corner.

I know a lot of people refuse to acknowledge or celebrate the day. Arguing that everyday should be Valentine’s Day.

Well, am a sucker for celebrations. I’ll take any excuse to dress up, eat a good meal and receive gifts.

If you’re like me and are looking forward to February 14, keep reading.

I have some ideas on how to treat your special significant other without breaking the bank.

As much as I love and enjoy eating out, I still appreciate a home cooked meal. Even better when it’s made by someone special.

Personally I have not decided what I will serve on the day. Or where I will be. But I have put together a list of meals to hopefully, give you an idea on what to make.
Valentines Day meal ideas:

1. Chicken Schnitzel

This is very quick and also budget friendly main. I love it because it’s also light and allows for that extra special dessert, you know, to end the night on a high note.

2. Creamy Beef Stroganoff
This beautiful one pot wonder also follows in the footsteps of the Schnitzel, but other than being light and all, it will make you look like Gordon Ramsay. It looks so complicated, yet so easy to make.

3. Steak and Veggies

Am sure by now you know am all for easy, practical and budget friendly cooking. It’s amazing how salt and pepper can transform a piece of steak to restaurant quality. But don’t kill the poor meat. Best steak is that cooked medium.

4. Baked hake with fresh lemon

This dish is just what it says. Hake, sliced lemons on top and you’re done. The taste, however, will have taste buds dancing.

5. Stewed Beef Shin cooked in Red Wine

If you’re like me and love soul food, then this dish is for you. It works well with dumplings and rice.

Click here for recipes to these and more meals.
I know we all have a creative Gordon Ramsay or a Siba in us. Hence these are only guidelines. I hope to inspire you to pick up your apron and get those knives out. Happily cooking.

Christmas For A Makoti In Bushbuckridge  

The silly season is upon us and so is the season for giving and sharing.

It is during this time that women also get together to share stokvel savings as well as celebrate another successful year.

Men get together to catch up around the braai or over a soccer match.

I am a makoti and just like many other makotis, holiday time means chores, chores and some more chores. Oh and maybe a nap here and there.

See, my husband is from a large family. That means lots and lots of cooking for yours truly (myself) and my two sessies (hubby’s brothers’ wives).

A small rant…
So like, Bushbuckridge is unbelievably hot, I mean 42 degrees kind of hot — now imagine cooking a breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 16 people while juggling two small kids. You guessed it, it becomes a helluva lot and trust me, 6 years in I still have not figured a better way to do this Christmas thing. I could (rightfully and selfishly) make this time of the year more about my immediate family but that would be taking this moment away from my husband who gets to reunite and catch up with his brothers.
As you were.

I remember my first Christmas at my in-laws after getting married…

Myself and my sessie woke up at 5am to start cooking.


Come 2pm, we were still on our feet.

We vowed from that day that we’d never do that to ourselves.

We were so tired we even felt sad for ourselves.

So the following year we made a change. We planned ahead and it worked.

I have since become huge fan of meal planning simply because it saves me from over working and cooking too little or too much food.

I’ve listed a few survival tips that can come in handy for any makoti out there who’s looking to impress her in-laws and their neighbours (lol, I know the neighbours are just much of family).


Regardless of the size of your family, the following should be able to assist you (It worked for me):

  1. Prepare yourself mentally. Know what’s in store for you and plan ahead as to what is you’re going to do and cook on each of those days.
  2. Save money. Yes it’s the silly season, but January is around the corner. Spoil the family, but shop wisely.
  3. Give your best. You don’t need to be a world-renowned chef to be able to deliver healthy, yummy meals. That said, please don’t just throw that 7-colours meal on a plate for them, make it memorable. If it’s from the heart, they will appreciate it.
  4. Surprise them. Whether it’s a homemade ice cream on Christmas eve or a trip to the Kruger Park on New Year’s Day, make your stay exciting and memorable.
  5. Enjoy yourself. Be genuine. Life is short. We only have one shot at this. Give your family the best YOU. After all, Khisimusi Rita kanwe lembeni. (Loosley translated; Christmas comes once in a year).


What’s for dinner?

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said music is a universal language.

While I don’t dispute that in anyway, I believe that food is just as much of a universal language as music is. Maybe even more.


Everybody has to eat. Our varying cultures and backgrounds may influence what we eat from time to time, but food is a language we all “speak”.

I always like to try out new dishes and put a twist to old favourites.

Meal planning is key.

For many women or anyone who cooks, whether for a family of friends, the question, “What’s for dinner?” might not be the easiest to answer.
Some days you know exactly what is you are going to make and others you are clueless.
In some cases you just don’t even feel like cooking at all.

I can relate. I know the feeling all too well.


But perhaps meal planning can be just the thing you need…

You do not need a refrigerator  packed with fancy goodies to be able to serve up what I call love on a plate.
I find that I get more creative with my dishes closer to month end. When the groceries cupboard is almost empty I find that’s when I come up with more surprising dishes.

If you have, for example, only cabbage left in your veggie rack, get creative with it.
Explore other ways to prepare it.
Make coleslaw today. Tomorrow fry (sauté) it. The day after that add a little minestrone soup. And if you have to make coleslaw again, use yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
Get creative.

Am no expert as far as kiddies nutrition is concerned, but I do know that moms struggle with this task.


It usually seems easier to give them a R20 pocket money and trust that they will grab something to eat at the tuck shop.
Well, no.

You need to plan ahead for those lunch tins. Planning makes a world of difference

From the day you buy groceries, you must factor your child’s lunch.
These little ones spend most of their time at school and you need to make sure they are well taken care of as far as nutrition is concerned.

The next post will have more on Lunchbox ideas and recipes for kiddies sandwiches.

In the meantime, follow me on social media.
Instagram – @Duenna_mm
Facebook – Duenna’s Kitchen

xoxo, MrsM


Dinner for three…

There is no doubt in my mind that my two-year-old son is not the only child in the world that hates eating veggies.


As his mommy I have the lovely job of making sure he eats healthily.

Although I hardly have time to plate up veggies to look like a ship or an animal, I make time to ensure that veggies taste and look interesting enough to eat.

I cook for three people being the husband, our son and myself.

Just like my son, the baby daddy, my husband, is not big on veggies either. Who can blame them?

Roasted leg of lamb crusted with black pepper.

Take broccoli for example, after steaming it in garlic and stock infused water I serve with meat dishes like stew.

This way the bold flavours from the stew will overpower  the veggies.

Apart from fighting with my toddler about his veggies, I offer him a little peanut butter with his carrot and celery sticks. It has worked for me thus far.


Instead of serving him slap chips (fries), which he loves so much, I make him julienne cut apples.

Am no expert in baby feeding, but with advice from my favourite baby nurse,I have managed to find what works for me.


My son eats what we eat. He sits around the table with us. I find that it is a lot easier for him to try new flavours because his parents are also eating the same thing.

Like Duenna’s Kitchen on Facebook and share how veggies are received in your home and how you serve them..

God Bless.