RECIPE: Umleqwa / Free-Range Chicken With Extra Gravy

Flavourful, finger licking and bone-crushing goodness….. Yup! It is all of those things and more….

There’s quite a number of English names given to this chicken i.e. traditional free-range chicken, homegrown chicken, indigenous chicken, chicken raised at home and my personal favourite…..the running chicken.

I grew up calling it Umleqwa which means it’s a running chicken and you chase it if you want to catch it.  I’m not sure whether the chasing takes place before or after the slaughter.  If you were lucky enough to grow up in a rural or farm setting you would remember the chickens roaming around and running if you try to catch it.  I’ve also witnessed people chasing after a headless chicken quite a number of times… really runs!

Umleqwa is not like your typical retail chicken that cooks in 20 minutes.  The meat is tough, the skin is thick and totally different as a result you boil it for 45 minutes to one hour.

One thing about indigenous food cooking is that less is more.  Umleqwa is a typical example of a dish, not just any dish but a tasty dish that only requires minimal seasoning such as salt. At least our parents and grandparents cook it that way and it is so good.

Most people at this time of the year are going home to be with their families and of course to feast.  Chances are umleqwa is going to be on the menu.

I’m presenting to you a recipe that won’t only have you and your family licking fingers and crushing bones but will also have your family asking for more and of course thinking you are Jamie Oliver!  Enjoy!


Umleqwa / Free-range Chicken


Umleqwa / Free-range Chicken Recipe

Serves: 6

1 whole chicken, plucked, cleaned and cut into 6 pieces

900ml boiling water

1 chicken stock cube

15ml olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 tomatoes, skin removed and chopped

30ml (2 tbsp) tomato paste

2.5ml (½ tsp) curry powder

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

5ml salt

5ml sugar


  1. Transfer the boiling water to a saucepan and add the chicken pieces.
  2. Add the stock cube to the chicken and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until its cooked.
  3. In another saucepan, sauté the onion, green pepper, garlic clove.
  4. Add tomatoes, curry powder, sugar and tomato paste.
  5. Season with salt.
  6. Add the cooked chicken and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Serve with samp, steam bread, phuthu pap / umqa or rice and veggies.


Thuli’s Tips:

If there’s remaining water from the cooked chicken, don’t throw it away just add it to the tomato mixture to make gravy.


Looking for a veggie salad to complement this dish?  Look no further than this Curried Three Bean Salad.  👇

RECIPE: Three Bean Curry / Salad


About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

Comments ( 3 )

  • Andie

    Chasing the chicken is the best part for me,even thou its hard work,but its worth it because its so delicious when you eat it.This chicken remains running even when the head is chopped off,its one tough cookie i tell you. No wonder it takes long to cook. But in the end it is all WORTH IT!

  • Londeka

    Thank you 😊

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