Food makes Easter one of the most enjoyable times of the year. Think of pickled fish and hot cross buns, malva puddings and Easter eggs, and for me it’s always my mom’s fish stew, which we mop up with her delicious warm and fluffy dombolo.
For those not familiar with it, dombolo (ujeqe in isiZulu) is a traditional steamed bread usually made with yeast, then proved and steamed to perfection. It’s a staple in many South African homes almost all year round. The versatility of this bread is one of my favourite things about it – you can easily have it for breakfast with butter and jam or dinner with a hearty bowl of soup. Either way, it’s all the comfort you need.
Around Easter, many of us travel home to our parents or grandparents to celebrate the holiday, with all the accompanying religious traditions. This includes the church service that lasts for hours – and has you vowing to do Easter on your own in the city next year, but that’s what you said last year, and yet here you are, your stomach growling, competing with the moruti’s (preacher’s) never-ending sermon. The only thing that saves the day is the promise of the lunch spread afterwards.
We are always up early to knead the dombolo and steam it before the service, and to prepare the rest of the menu, including the fish stew, so that all we have to do when we get home from church is heat everything up, sit down and enjoy.
There are different variations of dombolo but, for extra texture, colour and taste, I often add chopped herbs, whole corn kernels or finely chopped mixed veg to the dough and steam it as usual. Or, instead of making one large dombolo,I divide the dough into smaller portions and steam it in ramekins for individual servings. It’s the ideal partner for this coconut-infused fish stew, which is the highlight of my meal. It’s deliciously creamy, slightly spicy, and so satisfying on this meat-free Sunday.
This is definitely a day when you can comfortably go back for seconds without anyone’s judging looks – everyone’s far too focused on their own plate. Not even the nagging aunties, who wait all year to remind you that you owe your parents a grandchild, will have anything to say about extra helpings. (I’ll take the moruti’s extra-long sermon over them, any day!)