As I write this post, I’m sipping on a glass of red, biting into an open sandwich, and longing for the days where I can actively plan for a vacation again that involves trying out the local cuisine.
I admit, that this lockdown period has given me ample time to think about food in general – how much I’ve eaten it, how comforting its been during the cold winter months, and how I need to get back to indulging in this small passion of mine.
But, whether you found yourself baking banana bread or trying out new recipes, I’m willing to bet that food found its way into our lives in a meaningful way during the pandemic, and provided this silent method of allowing us to cope through the chaos. In the same breath, I wanted to share one amazing young woman’s inspiration on creating her own Instagram food page during this time.
Allow me to introduce to you Nomtha Gocina, a 23 year old from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, who now resides in Belgium as an au pair. With a Media & Communications degree under her belt, Nomtha is also a cooking, travel and beauty enthusiast, and launched her food page on Instagram called Tah Cooks in June 2020. Her food page is a place where she shares recipes and shows off her love for cooking, and quite honestly leaves me inspired and encouraged to keep experimenting in the kitchen.
So in this article, Nomtha is sharing her very own food for thought – the inspiration behind Tah Cooks, her experience with Dutch cuisine, and tidbits on how South African flavours make their way into her cooking. Grab some jenever and enjoy the read!
Khalipha Ntloko: Since moving to the Netherlands, how has this change influenced your love for food?
Nomtha Gocina: Me moving to the Netherlands has broadened my view of food and has definitely deepened my love for food. I have learnt new ways of preparing food, I have been exposed to different types of foods and vegetables that I have come to enjoy. One thing people should know about the Netherlands is that there is almost no cuisine you can’t find; there is so much versatility!
KN: What are some of your favourite Dutch delicacies that you have come across?
NG: Honestly, I don’t like a lot of traditional Dutch food because most of it, I call it baby food. Their traditional foods are different vegetables mashed together, served with meat or not, and that’s it. But what I do love is erwtensoep met vlees (chickpea soup with meat pieces), courgette soep met spek (courgette/zucchini soup with bacon), en snert (pea soup).
KN: What inspired you to start your new Instagram food page, Tah Cooks?
NG: I have always shared my cooking on my Instagram stories, and I would get requests for recipes and people seemed to be really interested in my cooking. I’d write out recipes on my notes on my phone personally for people, until I decided to take a leap of faith and just start a cooking page. Purely just to post what I enjoy to do, in the hopes that I can one day go further with it.
KN: How do you incorporate South African cuisine or flavours into some of the meals that you create?
NG: One thing about South African food, in my opinion, is that it is known for being rich in aroma, taste and colour. It’s truly food made with love, even if it’s a simple meal. That’s what I try to incorporate into my recipes. I enjoy making simple and easy-to-make meals, but also meals made with TLC. I received a compliment from someone and they said “You can taste the love in your food” and that was probably the best compliment I have ever received about my food.
KN: Which would you rather choose: starting your own restaurant or releasing your own cookbook?
NG: Honestly that’s a hard one! But having worked in the restaurant business as a waitress, it’s a difficult industry to navigate through, Id need many years of experience. But what I would love to do is release my own cookbook, Id love to collaborate with other cooks to do so too.
KN: Which restaurant do you miss in South Africa, and why?
NG: Wow, another hard one! Very hard but I find myself thinking about the platter for one from Ocean Basket often! I also miss itshisanyama, with some steamed bread and chakalaka. Last time I had this from a restaurant was at Black Impala in Port Elizabeth.
KN: What are some of your favourite European restaurants that you would recommend?
NG: You’re killing me here! But here is my Top 5 (because I really can’t remember the others): Burger Bar, Koi, Sumo, Brodway and Thaicoon.
KN: You’re having dinner in your home next weekend – what would you put on the menu?
NG: This is something I made recently, I wanted to have an Italian themed evening and it turned out amazing! I would have Carpaccio as starters, served with rocket, cherry tomatoes, green seedless grapes, pine nuts, shaved parmaggiano, and a drizzle of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. Paired with some ciabatta bread with tomato, pesto and mozzarella. Mains, I would make my delicious Melanzane and as dessert (for guests usually because I can do without dessert) I would make Tiramisu.
KN: Is there anything unusual that you have come across in Dutch cuisine?
NG: I find it very unusual that they eat raw fish with onion and say its delicious! But hey, I am not judging. I also think Dutch people are very practical about their food and meals; their meals are simple and use simple ingredients and its as if they treat food as substance to fill the body and that’s it haha. A typical Dutch meal is meat, one or two vegetables and potatoes. The simple the better.
KN: Since launching Tah Cooks, what are some of the cuisines or ingredients that you are interested in trying more often?
NG: I would love to try and cook Indonesian food. It has become my favorite since I moved to the Netherlands because you will find so many Indonesians who live there and so many amazing restaurants to eat from. Id love to learn Thai and Korean cuisines too.
If you’re hungry for more and want to keep up with Nomtha’s flair for food and cooking, give her a follow on her social channels below:
YouTube: Nomtha Gocina