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There’s A Story In Food

Tshego Fontash Marumo shares a bit about her heritage and a recipe for the delicious tshotlo - a traditional Setswana meat dish.

Lomanyaneng, a village in Mahikeng, where I grew up.

There is a story in food. Every dish tells a story... a tale of culture and tradition. Food carries in and of itself a wistful desire to return, a sentimental yearning of what used to be, of a childhood filled with love. Food has the ability to take one back in time.

Ke Motswana, a child of a Morolong mother and a Mokgatla father. My mother’s traditional totem is the kudu, “tholo” in Setswana. I twist and turn, I am fierce and smart. I am a kudu (tholo).

My father’s tribal totem is a monkey/baboon. We are bakgatla, we are sleek, we are fast and we adapt.

I took a roadtrip to Mahikeng, to a village called Lomanyaneng, the place I grew up in. I owe my being and truth to that place. While there, I ate tshotlo, traditional Setswana meat. It was happiness on a plate. I felt my grandmother’s presence that day.


Tshotlo is Barolong’s traditional dish, and it is also Botswana’s national dish. Barolong is a tribe of the Batswana people with their roots in Mahikeng, spreading to Taung and Botswana.

My mom hails from the Barolong boora Tshidi clan/tribe from Botswana. In Botswana tshotlo is called seswaa or lerito.

Tshotlo is (or rather was) normally cooked in a three-legged cast iron pot on an open fire. It is served with bogobe jwa ting (sorghum fermented pap) and cabbage or spinach or amaranth (morogo wa thepe) and pumpkin.

Here is my recipe for traditional tshotlo.

Traditional Tshotlo


  • Setswana herbs, otherwise, basil, rosemary, coriander, etc. can be used

  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic

  • 3 tbsp oil

  • 2 kg brisket roast (or 2 kg brisket cut into 2 or 3 large pieces)

  • salt

  • black pepper

  • 3 litres water (or more)

  • 2 onions, chopped

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped


  1. Grind the herbs and garlic.

  2. Add oil to the herb mixture and continue grinding.

  3. Rub the meat with the garlic-and-herb mixture, salt, and black pepper.

  4. Place the meat in the three-legged cast iron pot with a cup of water.

  5. Allow the meat to fry/brown in its oil/juices. Turn and stir the meat continually. It must be a rich, dark brown colour and have absorbed the spices, but not burned. This step should take about 10 minutes.

  6. Once browned and fried, add the onion and green bell pepper, continue stirring for about 10 or more minutes. If it sticks to the pot, add a little bit of water, and continue stirring.

  7. Add 2 litres of water, cover with the lid and allow to boil/cook for 2 - 2½ hours, then remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes or so.

  8. Remove the meat and shred it. Set it aside.

  9. Allow the cooking liquid to simmer, uncovered, for 15–20 minutes to reduce and thicken. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

  10. Toss the beef in the reduced sauce.

  11. It is now ready to serve and enjoy.


You cooking time is dependant on the grade and quality of meat. Poor grades of meat might require more boiling/cooking time.

Ke Motswana, ke rata setso sa setwana. (I am a Motswana, I love the Setswana culture.)


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