uMleqwa (hardbody chicken)

uMleqwa (hardbody chicken)

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  • 6 to 8
  • Easy
  • 2 hours

This recipe is inspired by my mother. When it was time for me to return to university after the semester break, she would slaughter and cook uMleqwa (hardbody chicken/free-range homegrown chicken) for me as uMphako (food for the journey). uMleqwa can be bought from township butcheries, street merchants or farm sellers. It takes longer to cook than normal supermarket chicken, as the bones are stronger and the meat is tougher. But when cooked, uMleqwa yields a really unique, tasty flavour. The simpler the ingredients the better – you don’t want to compromise the original flavour of the chicken.

The word “uMleqwa’’ comes from the fact that these chickens roam freely, and when you try to catch them, they run away so fast that you have to chase them (leqa). I just love the whole excitement that comes with cooking uMleqwa, from chasing it, slaughtering it and removing the feathers, to, finally, cutting it into pieces. uMleqwa is best served with samp, steamed bread, idombolo or pap.


  • 1 whole Cornish hen, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium brown onion, diced
  • 1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in 2 cups hot water
  • 2 T medium curry powder
  • salt, to taste

Cooking Instructions

1. Place the whole chicken in a large saucepan and add the water. Simmer over a medium heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

2. After an hour, add the onion, chicken stock, curry powder and salt. Add more water if necessary, but not too much.

3. Reduce the heat and cook for another hour, or until the chicken is tender and falls off the bone. Serve with creamy samp, pap or uJeqe.

Cook’s notes: Because the meat is fatty, the gravy from the liquids will reduce faster. Add a small amount of water at a time to ensure the liquid does not cook away completely. The cooking time will vary based on the size of the chicken, so adjust accordingly.

Recipes extracted with permission from Sifo the Cooking Husband by Sinoyolo Sifo, published by Penguin.

Find more South African recipes here. 

Photography: Toby Murphy
Production: Khanya Mzongwana
Food assistant: Ellah Maepa

Sinoyolo Sifo Recipe by: Sinoyolo Sifo
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A pharmacist by training, self-taught chef Sinoyolo Sifo took the leap into the food world in 2020 with the launch of his Instagram account @sifo_the_cooking_husband. He is the author of Sifo the Cooking Husband, a recipe book featuring recipes for everything from easy, delicious breakfasts, lunches, pastas and stews to traditional South African fare, like the food Sifo grew up eating in the Eastern Cape.

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