The indigenous South African ingredients you really need to know about

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The indigenous South African ingredients you really need to know about

Not only is she a medical doctor, but she’s a fount of knowledge about indigenous ingredients. We chat to Dr. Tracy Nelwamondo about life in lockdown and the ingredients we really should all learn more about.

Dr. Tracy Nelwamondo is the owner of Modern Traditions and Malie’s Ice Cream. Through her expertise in medicine, Dr. Tracy uses her knowledge in indigenous ingredients as a way of combating common lifestyle diseases in South Africa. Modern Traditions sells these indigenous foods and products, while Malie’s Ice Cream is a dairy-free ice cream made from marula nuts and other local produce. She chatted to us about her experience with lockdown and how she’s making the most for the best of her businesses.

1. How has lockdown affected your businesses, Modern Traditions and Malie’s Ice Cream? Did you change or pivot your business model at all to keep things running?

We have been affected quite significantly, like most small businesses in South Africa and the world as a whole. I remember not understanding what lockdown would mean for our business and how it would affect us. But having the objective to always keep our team safe whilst producing the best products for our customers has been an honour.

2. There’s no denying that you are the expert when it comes to understanding indigenous foods and ingredients, but is there one ingredient or item that you’re particularly proud of?

Expert, I love that! I am constantly needing to learn more from people around me and the communities we engage with, so to enable me to completely immerse myself in the indigenous experience. My favourite ingredient would be the marula nut. It comes from such a humble giant of a tree and the harvesting process is so labour intense but always done as an expression of love, when we finally get the product I’m so proud. Then there’s the ice cream it makes – oh my! The creamiest, smoothest of all my creations, and of course the fact that its inspired by my forever muse, Malibongwe (aka Malie’s). It’s a combination of a mother’s love for her first born, and at the same time, connecting a little man to his indigenous roots in the sweetest way possible.


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3. What’s one indigenous ingredient you’d like to see more of and why?

Mbambara nuts! They are so versatile, they’re great in stews, soups, salads and even on their own as a sweet or savoury snack. Just soak and boil, I love having them cooked within reach .

4. What’s your current favourite ingredient to cook with? How do you use it?

I’m enjoying experimenting with cassava and marula nut flour combinations. My family is enjoying flapjacks/pancakes for breakfast, dombolo, and chocolate fudge brownies with their Malies ice cream for dessert (sometimes even breakfast!).


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5. As a doctor, as well as a food business owner, you’ve examined Covid and lockdown from both sides of the coin. Is there a conflict you’ve experienced somewhere along the line? What is your take on managing the fine line between exercising caution, while trying to run a business?

Keeping our team safe has and will always be the first  priority. I guess having a smaller team also comes in as a blessing in disguise during these times as we are able to keep to the recommended physical distancing while still operating a business. Being a medical doctor means my team gets the latest in guidelines, and medical advice, which they love, and I enjoy being able to keep them informed too.
Follow Dr. Tracy and Modern Traditions on Instagram

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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