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Pamugoti’s luscious road runner too good to miss

NOVEMBER, the sacred month of the goat in Shona tradition, is over.

Pamugoti home of Zimbabwean cuisine

The first rains have fallen, green shoots are appearing, and during November, while the ancestral spirits were resting, no cultural ceremonies will have taken place.
During this period of regeneration, traditionalists will have quietly taken stock of their situation and prepared for the farming season ahead.All thoughts of rituals such as biras, or paying lobola banished, you will have sharpened a badza and prepared your acre at Chigaramasimbe for the future harvest – two maize seeds per hole, and a spreading of ammonium nitrate.
Come December, it’s party time. Having paid the bride price for your beloved, start planning the wedding party. Find a venue, discuss the menu and select a caterer who can make the most delicious food. Practice ma-steps and choose a play list featuring Brenda Fassie, Andy Brown and Jah Prayzah, to get everyone on the dance floor.
Set time aside, also, for the many Christmas parties leading up to the big day, the nativity of Jesus, on 25 December. Cocktail parties are proliferating throughout the city, with movers and shakers making their way from one corporate function to another on the same evening. Depending on the prosperity of your host, snacks will vary from sushi to chicken wings, sausage rolls, mini quiches or sandwiches. A catering opportunity exists for the many talented young chefs in the country to come up with innovative snacks featuring seasonal local fare, such as mushrooms, smoked trout, kapenta, biltong and ground nuts, not forgetting crisp fried ishwas and mopane worms.
Christmas lunch is always a big deal, and often features a roast turkey surrounded by pigs in waistcoats (chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon), Brussel sprouts, roast potatoes and gravy. For many Zimbabweans, the celebratory dish will be stewed chicken and rice. Not just any stewed chicken, but a flavoursome pot roasted road runner, simmered over a wood fire and resplendent in a luscious gravy. With any luck, locally grown brown rice, once a staple food of the Mashona, will also be served.
If you don’t have time to prepare Christmas lunch at home, consider booking a table at one of the many hotels and restaurants in Harare. Executive chefs will have prepared their Christmas menus down to the last detail, and sourced all the festive fare they can lay their hands on. Last week one of Harare’s leading foodies invited me to lunch at Pamugoti Restaurant, ‘home of Zimbabwean cuisine’.

Knuckle bone combo with red hot chilli pepper sauce

Pamugoti will be open on Christmas Day, and the wide menu we sampled gave a foretaste of what will be available to those who book themselves in on time. Our waiter, Junior T Vambe, gave us the royal treatment, welcoming us to Pamugoti (House of the Wooden Cooking Spoons), pouring warm water to wash our hands, and describing in detail the mouthwatering menu.
Although goat meat has been unavailable in supermarkets for some time, giving does and bucks an opportunity, during the month of regeneration, to reproduce in peace, stewed goat happened to be on the menu. More specialities included beef knuckle bones, pork trotters, road runner chicken and oxtail. These were served with sugar beans, rape and rice with peanut butter, sadza or zviyo.
Served in a potje, the goat stew was steaming hot, tender (unusual for goat) and full of flavour. A side dish of road runner was too good to miss. A combo of pork trotters, knuckle bones and oxtail (all George’s favourite foods) was served with a flourish. Collagen-rich pork trotters, gelatinous knuckle bones and tender oxtail were all cooked to perfection, while home made red chilli salsa cut through the rich meat and steaming white sadza.
No coffees or teas are served at Pamugoti, so we strolled down the garden path to sister restaurant, The Mustard Seed, for a filter coffee.
The festive season was commencing, and it would soon be all go with the social activities forbidden in November. While December is a month for celebration, Shona traditionalists will remember that it’s also a time for reflection and thanksgiving to the ancestors.
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