Phutu- is a dish made by the process of steaming maize meal on low heat to form a crumb like texture. Similar to South African Pap (a thick porridge like dish)- Phutu is also enjoyed with meat, vegetables or with sour milk. Though it is commonly associated with Indigenous African and Afrikaner Cuisines-it is not widely known that Phutu is one of the main dishes in the Rural South African Indian Kitchen. A Kitchen – often dictated by Economy more than it was by Gastronomy.
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Amma learnt how to make this dish from my paternal grandmother-who cooked Phutu and Kali (Pap) more often than she did rice- just like she spoke Zulu more eloquently than she did English. Although we did have Phutu on occasion it was not an everyday dish. Amma usually cooked Phutu only for Lunch- whenever she cooked herbs (baji),pumpkin tops (pumpkin leaves) and sometimes when she cooked Green Beans Curry or Pumpkin Curry. My sisters loved to eat Phutu with Sour Milk.
Although Amma had learnt to cook Phutu –she cooked it better than anyone else- always with a soft, fluffy texture (like Soji) . She also had a special Phutu Spoon and a Phutu Pot. Reason for this is the classic Phutu Pot Syndrome—i.e. when cooking phutu expect to find a thick layer sticking to the bottom of the pot. Though this is not very attractive -it is necessary for the slow cooking process. This can be removed quite easily by adding water-then allowing the pot to soak. For this reason Amma always used a separate pot dedicated for the sole use of cooking Phutu-it was a normal Aluminium pot. Amma’s Phutu spoon was a large enamel spoon with a broad handle. Reason for this is that Phutu requires vigorous mixing in order to create fine grains-like Amma used to make it. Reasonable substitutes for Amma’s Phutu spoon is a wooden spoon or a fork.
When making Phutu-the correct ratio of water: maize meal (mealie meal) of 1:2 is important to achieve the right texture. Any more water and you end up with a Pap like texture and more maize meal results in clumpy uncooked Phutu.
- 1 cup fine maize meal
- 2 cups water
1. Heat the water on medium heat. When air bubbles begin to appear – add salt then add the cup of maize meal. Don’t mix the maize with the water-just create a well in the center of the maize meal to allow water to seep through to enable cooking.
2. A Place the lid across the pot leaving a small gap. Allow to cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes.(depending on the type of maize you use i.e course or fine).
3. When the water as evaporated use a wooden spoon to mix (similar to Soji), breaking the clumps of maize meal into smaller grains.
4. Once you are satisfied with the texture of the Phutu-remove from the stove and serve as desired.