Last night I came back home starving. I had been fasting eating only mealie-meal based pap for 6 full meals and despite having eaten pap for dinner, I was again starving for a pre-midnight snack.

I thought I was having a treat. Thinking about adding amasi (a sour milk drink that to me resembles Bulgarian yogurt) to my pap – called umphokoqo in isiXhosa – made my mouth water. This is one of my favourite snacks when I’m really starving and need something to hold me over for an hour.

The Recipe

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It’s pretty simple (and cheap) to make the basic version of umphokoqo. Here are the ingredients:

  • approx. 1 litre water
  • approx. 500 grams maize meal
  • 10 ml salt
  • 1 carton amasi


  • Bring a pot of water to the boil, add maize meal and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Add salt and stir continuously to prevent lumps. Simmer for approximately 45 minutes.
  • Use a fork to stir until crumbly, cover with a lid and simmer for an hour on low heat or until water has evaporated.
  • Serve with amasi.

While Umphokoqo is pretty inexpensive, sometimes even milk and amasi are hard to come by. During tough times, even this staple food is sometimes hard to come by. Here’s what the finished product looks like:


Yet as I began eating, I immediately felt sick to my stomach. Something about the combination of mealie meal and amasi in those circumstances of hunger made it difficult to enjoy the meal at all. Despite my hunger, I couldn’t even finish my plate. I just felt awful, unsatisfied, and queezy…

…And got some bad heartburn too.

I wonder if I can ever enjoy umphokoqo again.

Speaking of which, I haven’t eaten in hours and I’m starved! When the diet is over, I’ll like to try this alternative version of umphokoqo with butternut (if I can stomach any more mealie meal).

Recipe: Umphokoqo with butternutblog4

  • Butternut, peeled and sliced
  • Samp or course maize meal (or risotto rice)
  • Chicken, or vegetable stock
  • Butter
  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Place the butternut in a heavy-based pot, dot with some chunks of butter and add about a cup’s worth of boiling water. Put the lid on, and braise over medium heat until just cooked.

In large pot over medium-high heat, cook the samp (or maize meal / rice) in the stock, following the same method as for risotto. Once cooked add the soft-braised butternut, a large glug of olive oil, a thick slice of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and mash as you go, adding more liquid if needed, and a little bit of parmesan cheese and sage if you’re feeling sophisticated.

There’s no real going wrong here, as long you as you aim for a hearty pot of carbohydrate goodness. And don’t be scared to add enough butternut, as the end result should be a lot more mashy than a proper risotto.