A Sowetan Pie that made it big in London England.
Soweto born and raised Lesego Semenya, grew up in Ko Kasi and inspired the global food industry when he clinched the world cup pie-designing competition in 2010 in London. Even though his Kota Pie recipe helped him to secure a spot in a Michelin starred restaurant in London, catering for the British High Commission and Liverpool Football Club, he is still holding steadfast to his motto which is to take snobbery out of cooking – one of the main reasons that Bosch Home Appliances got Lesego onboard to create magic with their kitchen equipment.
Lesego shares his inspirational story with us.
What is your favourite thing about Soweto?
The people. It’s always vibrant and busy and even though it’s so big, people from Soweto have a certain sense of community that can’t be replicated in the leafy suburbs. I always feel at home every time I’m there.
Who taught you how to cook?
My mom. I come from a family of boys and even though its often considered a chore for girls my mom made sure we helped her cook and on weekends we had to make the breakfast for the family. I also grew up seeing my dad cooking as well, so it was never an odd thing to see men in the kitchen for me. We had a lot of family gatherings as well and this created warm memories associated with food and cooking.
How did winning the Pie contest change your life?
I wouldn’t say winning the competition changed my life, but it definitely had an influence on the direction I decided to take in my career in. It showed me that township cuisine has a place in the global culinary scene. It showed that internationally people are really open to trying new tastes and flavours that they aren’t used to. It also guided me into focusing my energies on showcasing African and particularly Southern African cuisine.
Do you have any other secret recipes up your sleeve to impress the Royal Family in England?
Well, my cookbook, Dijo, will be coming out in October and it is full of South African recipes and my unique twists on dishes we associate with the township that I’m looking to share with the world. Someone should sneak it into Buckingham Palace!
You took a chance and became famous, what advice would you give to an inspiring young entrepreneur from Soweto?
Be proud of your roots. Don’t always try to assimilate into environments that are uncommon to you. People love authenticity and believability, and this comes through in your business as an entrepreneur. Africa is the last frontier, we are the source of a lot of culture and history, find a way to tap into that whilst making your business a world class one that will make it anywhere in the world.
Kota Pie recipe
The name “kota” is literally taken from the word “quarter”, the reason being that it’s made using a quarter of a loaf of bread. In Soweto you can choose from a myriad of ingredients to fill your kota.
INGREDIENTS (for five pies)
- 550g puff pastry
- 500g potatoes
- 500g Russian sausages
- 100g mango achaar
- 300g sundried tomatoes
- 250ml red wine
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsps sugar
- 50g cheddar cheese
- 50ml olive oil
- 50g butter
- 1 egg for brushing
- Cut 400g potatoes into 1cm x 1cm cubes. Cook in simmering water until tender.
- Drain and dry potatoes. Melt butter in a sauté pan. Add a spoon of oil and 2 rosemary sprigs.
- Add potatoes and increase heat. Fry potatoes until golden brown. Drain and set aside to cool.
- Drain achaar in a sieve. Brunoise (finely chop) the pieces of mango.
- Finely chop sundried tomatoes. Place in a pan with 2 tsps of olive oil on medium heat. Cook until paste consistency. Add red wine and chopped rosemary. Reduce to a chunky sauce. Add sugar, salt and pepper. Stir and set aside.
- Finely grate Cheddar.
- Skin and cut Russian sausages into large brunoise. Fry in oil.
- Roll out puff pastry. Spray and cook mini-loaf moulds. Line with puff pastry.
- Layer bottom of pie with potatoes (NOT the chips).
- Add cheddar to Russian sausages and layer on top of potatoes.
- Layer with finely grated mature Cheddar cheese.
- Place tomato sauce on top and seal pie with a layer of puff pastry. Brush the pie with egg wash.
- With remaining puff pastry cut out the letters “KOTA” and egg wash one side of each letter. Stick lettering on the pie lid and egg-wash the surface of the pie. Bake at 180°C until golden brown.