Once upon a time there was a beautiful ballet dancer called Rosemary who lived in England. She fell in love with a very handsome life saver who came from a land far away! He came from a place called Durban in South Africa where the sun shone every single day. Rosemary and Shorty got married and left the cold and gloomy shores of England and moved back to the warm waters and golden beaches of KwaZulu Natal. And thank heavens they did because Rosemary’s sister, Anne, moved her whole family to this warm and sunny land too! This is how I got here!
I have said this before and I shall say it again; I thank my lucky stars that I live in South Africa daily. Yes, we face some rather extraordinary challenges; but the rewards for this sacrifice are humbling they are so great. I am an avid ‘bush baby’ and like NOTHING more than to sit out in the Nambiti Plains in Ladysmith, KZN and drink it all in. The view, the animals, the plant life and the people of this landscape bring tears of joy to my eyes and quicken the beat of my heart.
I am an enthusiastic fan of Kwa Cheetah, a breeding programme nestled in the Nambiti Reserve in KwaZulu Natal. Des and Elizke work tirelessly as part of the global effort to coax the Cheetah away from the devastating clutches of extinction. These magnificent cats once roamed the savannah of Africa and Asia by the hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately they can only be found in Iran and south-western, eastern and central Africa in much depleted numbers these days. There are currently as few as 9 – 12 000 living in Africa and it is estimated that this number drops by 2000 every four years. This situation is critical. Mankind is their greatest threat; we are encroaching on the land available for them to roam together with a critically diminished gene pool resulting in interbreeding, physical deformities and high levels of sterility are just some of the challenges the Cheetah face.
Shadow is one of the female Cheetahs in the Kwa Cheetah breeding programme. It is with great joy I can announce that last Friday she gave birth to four beautiful healthy cubs. Each new cub represents hope and renewal for the Cheetah population. So in honour of Shadow and her beautiful cubs and the vital work that Kwa Cheetah do I give you ……. drum roll please ….. Kwa Cheetah Mfino Gnudi.
My inspiration for the dish was Shadows beautiful Cheetah fur! The sauce is red and rich and the colour of an African sunset; dotted in the sauce you will find sweet orange Rosa tomatoes and black baby brinjals – the colours of Shadow; and her little babies are the fluffy white Gnudi flavoured with the African herb Mfino because it’s bursting with vitamins and goodness and it is my wish that these four cubs grown up fit, healthy and bursting with goodness!
Gnudi (pronounced new-dee) are a firm ‘favorito’ in la casa Tripepi. The word Gnudi means ‘naked’ and basically they get this cheeky little name because they are made from the filling that is used in ravioli; so basically its naked ravioli! The filling is given body with addition of flour and they can be used in so many ways. I make tiny little Gnudi and add them to soup to give it a little something extra. I make small Gnudi on cocktail sticks as Antipasto or snacks or serve them as I did tonight baked with a sauce and served with a simple green salad.
I recently read a beautiful quotation by Chief Seattle, a Native American Indian whose wise words read, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. “ I urge you most emphatically to be mindful of our earth and all of the creatures who live in it. We owe it to our children to cherish each and every species and to see to it that they get to experience the privilege and honour of seeing them living free and wild in their natural habitats.
Support your local conservation groups and if you are ever in Ladysmith you should take the opportunity to visit Kwa Cheetah. Go and see Shadow and her beautiful fur ball cubs. Des gives a very interesting talk that tracks the development of Cheetah, their very habitat and lifestyle specific physiology and incredible instinctive behaviours. You get to meet the animals up close and very personal; and can you imagine seeing those four little cubs bouncing around!
Kwa Cheetah Mfino Gnudi
Makes 4 delicious portions
The Tomato & Brinjal Sauce
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 chillies chopped
400g baby brinjals, washed and quartered
1 cup of dry white wine
400g orange Rosa tomatoes halved – or red, or cherry tomatoes
1 tin of peeled cherry tomatoes liquidised
1Tbs of brown sugar
2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
Black pepper to taste
In a large heavy based pot brown the garlic and chili in a little olive oil.
Wash and cut the brinjals into quarters, add them to the pot and brown. The brinjals are quite a bit bigger than the tomatoes which is why I added them first to give them a little time to start softening before adding the tomatoes. If you can find the cocktail brinjals, the very little ones then by all means use them whole!
Add the wine and put the lid on to soften the brinjals in the wine
After 5 minutes remove the lid and allow all of the alcohol to cook out
Add the fresh tomatoes and stir
Add the liquidised tin of tomatoes, 1Tbs of brown sugar and the stock cube.
Season with pepper to taste and bring the pot to the boil
Reduce after 4 minutes and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
The Mfino Gnudi
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
4 spring onions sliced thinly
2 red or green chillies finely chopped
½tsp salt or a vegetable stock cube
2 bunches of Mfino or 400g spinach
400g ricotta cheese
5Tbs of SASKO flour
2Tbs Parmesan Cheese or any strong hard cheese such as Pecorino or Mature Cheddar
1/2tsp grated nutmeg
Salt & Pepper
Wash the Mfino or Spinach well making sure to get rid of any grit
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy based pot. Add the onion,spring onion, garlic and chilli and brown.
Add the washed Mfino or Spinach and give the pot a good stir, place the lid on the pot and allow to steam at a medium to high heat for approximately 5 minutes.
Once the Mfino has wilted right down, leave the lid off, reduce the heat slightly and cook until all the water has evaporated.
Turn out onto a board and chop it up to cut the stalks small, then put it into a shallow dish and set aside to cool.
Place the ricotta, cooled Mfino, 5Tbs of soft and fluffy SASKO flour, 2Tbs Parmesan cheese,
grated nutmeg, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl.
This is where I like to get my hands involved! Remove any rings you may be wearing and use your hands to mix everything well.
Top Tip: Wash your hands but don’t dry them. Using your wet hands roll the mixture into dumplings a little larger than a golf ball. Whenever you are rolling any kind of ball, be it dumplings or meat balls always do so with wet hand. Your wet hands will prevent the mixture from sticking to them.
Arrange them in an oven-proof bowl leaving space between each one to add sauce.
Spoon the sauce in between and over the Gnudi
Top with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan or your favourite cheese.
Dot the top with sprigs of fresh basil and thyme
Bake in a pre-heated oven 180d for 20 minutes.
And there you have it, the colours of Shadow, an African sunset and four very special little Cheetah cubs on a plate!
My sincere thanks to ALL at Kwa Cheetah for their tireless efforts in saving this national treasure!
We are truly blessed to live in South Africa!
And here are Shadows beautiful Cubs – they were born last Friday 19th April.
More about Nambiti and Membry’s Bush Biscuit Recipe
click on the picture to get her Walnut & Choc Chip Biscuit Recipe
Here is another recipe that features the wonder herb Mfino
Mfino & Ricotta Quiche
click on the picture to go to the recipe