Before the traditional folk jump down my throat, yes I know mageu traditionally has no flavouring and is simply fermented maize meal.
I don’t usually begin my posts with a disclaimer but when it comes to traditional South African cuisine people tend to get very anal about the process followed and everyone is an expert on how it should be done! Even when I cater at family gatherings I can feel the old mama’s eyes on the back of my head as I “play around with African food”. Hahahaha. It makes me laugh because food is a dynamic thing, with time techniques and recipes evolve and change hands. Take sushi for an example, originally Chinese and considered peasant food, passed onto the Japanese who edited the techniques over centuries and then handed it over to Americans who basically created what is what we consider “modern sushi” (California rolls etc) and now the Japanese are serving sushi the American way! Food is an awesome thing, as long as the basic origins are respected by us chefs and honoured people honestly shouldn’t stress about the small stuff, we do know the background to the dishes we play with! We just enjoy playing with your emotions.
Ok, onto the recipe at hand. This is a recipe for Mageu (amaXhosa spell it ‘Marhewu’ and further north in Limpopo and in Zimbabwe it’s spelt differently too but pronunciations all are similar). Mageu is a fermented drink, made from simple water and maize meal. I won’t get into the whole debate I started on Twitter about maize meal not being an African product. There are some awesome historians and researchers out there who have more details and information about its background, please Google and read up. It’s fascinating. You’ll see a lot of them link to how maize isn’t indigenous to Africa and it was brought over by merchants. Mageu iss best made in the hot months of the year as this allows the maize to ferment faster. Some people add milk to their recipe to make it creamier and you get a whole range of commercial mageu products. Having grown up in the township we were brought up on the easy to find kind, bought from the local spaza shop. I myself never liked it much but with time and age my taste buds have matured.
So how does one make mageu? With love and patience. Just like my gemmer (ginger beer) recipe you can follow my steps and measurements but at the end of the day it’s about your taste buds and what you enjoy. Some people do it another way to how I do, they cook the maize meal and water first before allowing the mixture to ferment. Its all subjective. This one is for a strawberry flavoured one. I’ve fused the French technique of making a berry coulis with the African technique of making a maize drink.
First, the strawberry coulis…
250g washed and hulled fresh strawberries
15ml lemon juice
15ml orange juice
50g white sugar
1. Make sure the strawberries are washed thoroughly beforehand
2. Combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil until the sugar has melted.
3. Blend with a hand blender. (I prefer not to strain mine but you can strain yours if your like it to be smooth).
4. Allow to cool
And now the other part of the recipe. The Mageu…
1kg fine maize meal
2,5litres warm water
1. Place the maize meal and water in a large pot and allow it to ferment over a day or two in a relatively warm place. This is the fermentation process. I like to stir my mixture every few hours. You can keep it longer if you’d like a more sour taste to your final drink.
2. Place the pot on the stove over a low heat and keep stirring with a heavy whisk or wooden spoon until the mixture becomes a soft porridge. This takes about 30 minutes.
3. Pour the porridge mixture into a large bowl and now stir in some of you strawberry coulis. You can add it all or just a little, its honestly up to you. If you’d like a sweeter drink add it all, if you’d like it less sweet add just a little bit. Once mixed in, allow the mixture to cool.
4. The final consistency of mageu should be like a drinking yoghurt, pourable but not too runny. If it’s too thick then add a bit more water to it u til it’s the consistency you like. It shouldn’t have any lumps! If your drink is lumpy beat it with a whisk vigorously.
5. Store in the fridge to stop the fermentation process.
It’s best served cold!