Umfino (maize meal cooked with cabbage and leafy greens)

Umfino (maize meal cooked with cabbage and leafy greens)

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  • 6
  • Easy
  • Meat-free
  • 20 minutes
  • 35–40 minutes

We didn't eat much maize growing up but I remember my neighbours making umfino and this is my ode to them. This is a common staple dish in the Eastern Cape, often eaten on its own as a hearty, complete meal on cold nights but also delicious with grilled meat.


  • salt, to taste 
  • 360 g maize meal
  • 4 T vegetable oil 
  • 1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced 
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced 
  • a handful celery leaves 
  • 1 large potato, peeled, cooked and cubed 
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • 1 cup spinach, thinly sliced 
  • 2 T vegetable seasoning 

Cooking Instructions

1. Bring 6 cups water to the boil in a large saucepan. Season with salt. While whisking, pour the maize meal into the water and stir until the pap is smooth and thick. Add a little extra water if necessary. Allow the pap to reach a stiff consistency and stir once more before reducing the heat. Cook the pap for 25 minutes, covered. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
2. Heat a pan and add the vegetable oil. Sauté the cabbage, onion, celery leaves, potato, garlic and spinach over a medium-high heat, adding the seasoning. Allow the vegetables to soften and caramelise a bit. Check the seasoning.
3. Combine the maize meal with the sautéed vegetables and serve immediately.

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Photograph: Toby Murphy 

Khanya Mzongwana Recipe by: Khanya Mzongwana
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If you're anything like our deputy food editor Khanya Mzongwana, you're obsessed with uniqueness and food with feeling. Cook her family-tested favourites, midweek winners and her mouth-wateringly fresh takes on plant-based eating.

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