Smoked cauliflower with impepho from Mokgadi – Food For Mzansi

This Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Red Pepper Sauce is a true delight with a true Mzansi twist, impephus. Former food editor and cookbook author Mokgadi Itsweng modernizes this traditional herb often used by African healers, creating a delicious plant-based dish.

Still stuck on the idea that healthy is expensive? Not in Itsweng’s books. This award-winning chef with roots in Durban believes that our belief that healthy food is expensive is what prevents us from enjoying plant-based cuisine.

In her new book, Veggielicious, chef and food activist Mokgadi Itsweng reworks South African recipes with a passion for plants.  Photo: Facebook/Mokgadi Itsweng
In his book, VeggieLicious, chef and food activist Mokgadi Itsweng reworks South African recipes with a passion for plants. Photo: Facebook/Mokgadi Itsweng

“I try to debunk that myth by showing recipes that are accessible and affordable in the South African context. I also include indigenous ingredients like sorghum, wild foods like the PE [amaranth]to showcase the versatility of our South African ingredients and foods.”

His passion and expertise lie in reintroducing indigenous foods that are good for the earth and good for our health, with a modern infusion.

“In South Africa people are moving from rural areas to cities and our indigenous food culture is being destroyed as people eat more and more cheap fast food. Many people in our cities now also suffer from malnutrition and diabetes.”

Cooking from the garden of your dreams

You’ve probably seen Itsweng in iconic local publications like True love, where she took the reigns as food editor. She also has over 15 years of experience in the South African culinary industry as an award-winning chef, food activist, food entrepreneur and food writer.

In 2021, Itsweng released her first cookbook. vegetarian, an ode to the food garden of your dreams and a manual dedicated to eating plants. “Eating plants ahead of time refers to eating more plants on your plate,” she explains the inspiration behind her cookbook.

Mokgadi Itsweng’s Cookbook celebrates the garden and its seasonal bounty with simple, affordable and delicious recipes. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

She attributes her food inspiration to her childhood food garden and local foodies like the late Mam’ Dorah Sitole, Zola Nene, Khanya Mzongwana and many more.

“The taste of fresh vegetables straight from the land is unforgettable. This helped me develop a deep love for vegetables.

“My paternal grandmother was a subsistence farmer who grew her own food and my maternal grandmother was a cook in a hotel in Durban. These two women played a major role in my food journey. I remember harvest time with my grandmother, where she harvested the most beautiful pumpkins, say it and peanuts,” she says.

Whole Smoked Mokgadi Cauliflower and Red Pepper Sauce

impephus o Wild sage is an indigenous African herb widely used by traditional healers in spiritual prayer rituals. The herb is also used as an antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-anxiety medication. It adds a lot of flavor to any food it is smoked with.

“I use a braai kettle for smoking, but you can follow the quick smoking trick I’ve included in the recipe,” she says.

READ ALSO: From selling sweets to owning a kasi restaurant

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  • 1 whole head of cauliflower
  • A handful of dried impepho herb, to smoke the cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dip
  • 2 red bell peppers, left whole
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) brown sugar Salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley or thyme


1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C.

2. Bring a saucepan of water with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt to a boil, then add the head of cauliflower. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and reserve.

3. Smoke the cauliflower by placing a disc of hot charcoal in a small

aluminum container, then add a handful of dried impepho herb. When the impepho begins to steam, place it into a braai pot with the cauliflower. Close the lid of the braai kettle and let smoke for at least 10-15 minutes. Remove from braai kettle and set aside.

Quick tip: use your oven as a smoker. Place the impho on a baking tray, turn it on and when it starts to smoke place the tray on the lower rack of the oven. Then place the cauliflower on the rack directly above the impho. Close the oven and let smoke for 5-10 minutes.

4. Mix the garlic with the olive oil and brush all over the cauliflower. Spice with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until crisp on the outside.

5. While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the sauce by first roasting the peppers in the oven until the skin turns black.

6. Remove the peppers from the oven and place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool for 10 minutes.

7. Once cooled, remove skin and toss peppers, then set aside.

8. Heat the oil, then add the garlic and paprika, and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the blended peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously to make sure the sauce doesn’t stick and burn.

9. Add lemon juice and brown sugar, cook 2 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

10.To serve, fillet or leave cauliflower whole, then place on a plate. Pour sauce over cauliflower and top with chopped herbs.

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