You want to eat a samp & bean bake

July 1st, 2021 § 0 comments

Samp & beans – umngqusho – is a staple of the Eastern Cape, heartland of the isiXhosa tribe and where I grew up. My mom used to make it in a pressure cooker, adding lamb fat or a stock cube for flavour. It’s wonderful on its own or as a carrier for gravy and stew. I’m petrified of pressure cookers and cook my samp & beans in a regular pot on the stove top, which takes a good three hours. Plus, there’s the overnight soaking that requires a bit of planning.

When lockdown loosened its grip in 2020 I took my son Ben on a road trip to the Great Karoo. I wanted him to see where his grandmother Nell Weyer-Henderson was born and also where I had the time of my life as a kid. I was thrilled to spot a bowl of cooked samp & beans in the kitchen on my cousin’s farm outside Somerset East.

I assumed it would be served in the traditional way, but no. Davy’s wife, Sunene, fried onions, garlic, herbs, chopped bacon, sliced mushrooms and mixed it through cooked samp & beans to make a samp and bean BAKE. A whaaaaaat? According to Sunene there isn’t a specific recipe, every housewife in the Noorsveld makes her own version of a samp & bean bake. Sunene stirs a well-seasoned cheese sauce through, tops with grated cheese and bakes at 180 degrees until the cheese is melted. It has the savoury moreishness of a souttert plus the comforting mouthfeel of samp.

It is what you want to eat on a cold and rainy day.

A Brick of Happiness

I made my own version recently. A cheese sauce is easy but soooo tedious and given half a chance, I use whipped eggs and cream or sour cream as a substitute. To a fried onion, garlic, herbs, one packet of bacon and a punnet of mushroom I added a mixture of one cup cream, one cup sour cream, two eggs and grated cheese before stirring through one packet of cooked samp & beans (seasoning all components as I go along). Top with grated cheese and bake.

Ben ate with gusto but admitted that Sunene’s was “more savourier”. Anton, a native of the Western Cape who didn’t grow up eating samp and beans, said it was very nice. “It’s definitely better than chicken!” he added. He really resents chicken.

I love that samp & beans are used in a new way. Is this a Noorsveld* thing? Or do you know of other ways that samp & beans are being used? Samp & bean arancini, anyone?

Please tell me your samp secrets.

*The Noorsveld is an area in the Great Karoo that runs from Somerset East to Jansenville, where the Noors plant thrives despite severe drought

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