Chef Benny's choice for Summer | Rooibos-infused Panna Cotta Recipe

Posted on Tue December 6, 2022.

Chef Bennic Mokgakane, fondly known as chef ‘Benny’, joined the Shumbalala Game Lodge family at the beginning of October this year. In just a few short months, he has already established himself as a valued member of our team. He is enthusiastically continuing our legacy of tantalizing our guests’ taste buds on safari by recreating our most cherished, tried-and-tested recipes, but also eagerly bringing his own creative flair and delicious traditional South African recipes to our kitchen.

Benny was named ‘Bennic’, a combination of Ben, his dad’s name, and Nic, his grandfather’s name. Benny was raised in a large family, and is the 4th youngest of ten children. Sharing a passion for hospitality and tourism, most of his siblings also pursued careers within the travel industry. 

In his Grade 12 year, he started working in the scullery at a lodge near Kruger Gate on a part-time basis. From there, he gained many valuable years of experience in the kitchen, working his way up to become a well-seasoned chef. Amongst others, he has worked at AM Lodge, Lion Sands, Kapama Karula, Skukuza restaurant, and was a private chef for a family in Polokwane for a few years.

When asked which food product he cannot do without in the kitchen, Benny immediately answers, “Excellent quality homemade stock! Duck, chicken or vegetable.”. When it comes to equipment, his favourite is his set of Chef’s knives. Venison is Benny’s best-loved meal to serve, specifically Springbok. The trick, he explains, is to make sure it is cooked ‘just right’ - not under- or overcooked. He also enjoys preparing traditional dishes such as morogo (also known as African spinach) with chicken or bobotie, served with yellow rice and sambals. 

When Benny is not working, he eagerly watches the cooking channel, which inspires him to try out new recipes and build on his skills in the kitchen. He loves a good game of soccer and enjoys spending time with his daughter. One day he would love to meet Chef Jamie Oliver in person and to learn from his idol, Liam Thomlin.  

We asked Chef Benny to share with us one of his favourite summer recipes, and he has chosen a light and creamy Panna Cotta recipe that we regularly serve to guests at the lodge. Below, you will find the recipe for this beautifully light dessert. We hope you enjoy bringing the South African flavours of Shumbalala Game Lodge into your kitchen this festive season.



  • 125 ml freshly brewed strong Rooibos espresso tea
  • 50 g light brown sugar
  • 375 ml fresh cream
  • 2 tsp gelatin powder

Rooibos Syrup

  • 5 Tbsp strong brewed rooibos tea
  • 110 g sugar
  • 50 ml honey


  • Pour the rooibos and sugar into a saucepan on medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  • Stir in the cream and bring the temperature down to a low heat.
  • While the cream mixture is gently heating up, pour 2 tsp water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top, so that it’s completely covered in water. Let this rest for about 5 minutes or until gelatin has completely softened.
  • When the cream mixture is about to boil (when it starts to bubble around the edges) take the saucepan off the heat.
  • Take 1/2 cup of cream mixture and mix into the softened gelatin and stir to dissolve completely.
  • Add this 1/2 cup cream back into the remaining cream in the saucepan and whisk to mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the mixture into a set of ramekins or glasses and let them rest in the fridge overnight, until set.
  • Rooibos syrup - In a small pot add 5 Tbsp of brewed rooibos, sugar & honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup in a jar and set aside to pour over the panna cottas when you serve them :) Enjoy!

We look forward to welcoming you to Shumbalala Game Lodge in the near future. During your next visit, be sure to let Chef Benny know what you think of his and his team’s delicious creations from our kitchen.