With September in full swing and filled with Heritage Day celebrations, I am super excited to share this chicken chakalaka experience with you. Paired with the gorgeous bottle of Leopard’s Leap Merlot 2017, it doesn’t get more proudly South African than this!
We all know how I feel about recipe boxes. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. More than that – they give me much needed time in The Little Kitchen to detangle myself from worries. Here I have the chance to combat the realities of the world by submerging myself into a creative space, where measuring, stirring, and tasting brings peace to my soul.
Having said that, I was particularly excited when I received a massive cooler bag filled to the brim with fresh ingredients to make a gorgeous chicken chakalaka – all topped off with a splendid bottle of Leopard’s Leap Merlot 2017.
Leopard’s Leap wines have become synonymous with proudly South African export products and are such a fitting wine to celebrate Heritage Day with this year.
Situated in the lush Franschhoek valley, Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards sources grapes from the best regions within our province to produce quality wines under this label. Their wines are aimed at consumers with a preference for affordable, easy-drinking wines, fit for any occasion.
Chakalaka lies very close to my heart. On a Sunday, my dad would fry up a massive round of farmstyle boerewors, carefully cook a pot of crumbly pap and warm a couple of tins of chakalaka, which would be liberally applied to the meal. Thinking back, I can still taste the warmth of the spices, hear his hearty laugh, and imagine how he used to measure out the mielie-meel, piling it in a perfect triangle on top of a pot of simmering water.
The smell of chakalaka always brings a smile to my face. It takes me back to a time when Sundays were spent with my dad, talking about life and drinking cups of strong instant coffee over lunch at the small table overlooking the bay.
I couldn’t wait to tuck into this recipe, which is a beautiful and fitting reflection of my heritage.
Although a fairly straight-forward recipe which you can serve in no time with fuss-less prep, it’s loaded with fresh vegetables and lashings of fragrant spices.
I started off by frying the chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs and wings) until they were golden brown and the skin started to crisp. I did this in batches to make sure all the sides were evenly cooked. After removing the chicken from the pan, I added a rainbow of veggies and spice to form the base of the chakalaka. These included onion, garlic, carrot, green peppers, tomato, button mushrooms and baked beans, but you can add pretty much anything you have in the fridge. The browned chicken pieces went back into the pot with some stock and got acquainted with the veggies over the next 40 minutes or so as they chatted away in my mom’s heavy cast iron pot.
As the chakalaka simmered away, I opened the Merlot 2017 to breathe in the meantime and measured out the mielie-meel for the pap. The Little Kitchen was quickly filling with the rich, warming aroma of fried carrot, onion and curry spices, with hints of garlic and tomato. In fact, the smell lured The Tall Hedonist from his comfy spot on the couch, only to come and open my pots to see what’s cooking.
Leopard’s Leap Merlot 2017
A medium to full-bodied, red fruit-driven wine made in a New-world style.
Tasting notes: Prominent red fruit aromas of strawberry and hints of blueberry. Subtle notes of toasted almonds and nutmeg aromas that follow through on the palate.
In the vineyard: The grapes originate from the Swartland and Agter-Paarl areas.
In the cellar: The grapes were picked at optimal fruit ripeness and were allowed to ferment with selected red wine yeast at between 26 °C and 28 °C, with regular pump-overs and punch-downs (www.wine.co.za).
Approximate retail price: approx. R70
Food and wine pairing
I was somewhat apprehensive about the pairing of a rich Merlot with a spicy chicken dish, but I knew that Leopard’s Leap always brings something exciting and different to the table. I fully embraced the experience, and I can truly say that it was a lovely, heart-warming pairing. Not only in terms of harmonious flavours, but also as a tribute to our colourful South African heritage, captured in this simple dish and a bottle of great red wine.
This Merlot is generously medium bodied, with layers of berries and earthy elements that take turns to introduce themselves to you as the wine opens up. Hints of spice, mocha and toasted nuts add a certain warmth to the nose, and the juiciness and velvety texture of the wine compliments the chakalaka beautifully.
Before we wrap the festivities up, I need to remind you of Leopard’s Leap‘s commitment to conservation. As the name suggests, Leopard’s Leap is a proud sponsor of the Cape Leopard Trust, an NGO that aims at optimally facilitating the conservation of the Cape region’s predators, in particular the endangered Cape Mountain Leopard. To read more about this project, you can click here.
That evening we sat down to a gorgeous home-cooked meal that tasted incredibly more-ish and was tinged with a bit of feel-good nostalgia. Leopard’s Leap wines will always be one of my main weapons of choice in my wine artillery, purely because it’s crafted with the consumer in mind. Honest, versatile, affordable and just plain exciting, their wines are the perfect glass to cheers in celebration of everything that is proudly South African this Heritage Day!
Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.