Monday, 22 April 2013

South African Cooking

South African Cuisine

THE POT pictured on the new South African flag

The pot (die potjie) and the barbecue (die braai) are more or less what the original South African kitchen is all about. Generations of all populations loved, and still do, preparing and eating  their foods outside. Modern grills (braiis) are built in under roofs, so the ritual can take place under all weather circumstances. Braais can be found on balconies, in back gardens, atttached to grand hotels and -of course- at camping sites and outside tradtitonal houses of all ethniticities. The main ingredient of the dishes is meat, meat, meat. But also fish, chicken, maize on the cob and vegetables (today mostly wrapped in foil). Sometimes bread with cheese and onion rings is toasted alongside and delicious salads and atchars (pickled veggies and fruit) are prepared by the womenfolk. The braai cooking is in 99% of all cases done by the men. They swing large tools, large glasses of beer and large words. A braai is a matter of strict apartheid, ladies one side, gentlemen apart. The ceremony begins with the lighting of the fire, either wood or charcoal, which has to burn until there are no more flames, but only the smouldering coals. First the slow cooking meat is put on one side of the braai grill, then the sausage rounds (boerewors) the chops and the chicken, until it all comes together sizzling:

The happy mood, the lively chatter, the billowing smoke and enticing smells hanging in the air of the entire neighbourhoods on week ends cannot be pictured, but believe me that a braaing South African is a deeply content South African. A decent braai is the number one missing item for people who have emigrated, an American barbecue is just not the same. Other main ingredients of a successful braai are the almost permanent sunshine, the serious discussions of rugby plays and players, the South African beer, which are mostly held in a language which the children should be barred from....
(Some folks got a bit miffed at the photo I placed on the previous post on how some people put the pot to use. However, cannibalism is a very definate fact in the African history and there are whispers, that the custom to eat each other is not quite eliminated yet. I'll make it subject of one of the next posts.
The modern culinary recipes, which of course do not consist only of pots and grills are a conglomerate of foods brought into the country from almost all parts of the world. Some have proven so popular, that they are favourites of all communities these days. Some "lekker" samples are: 
Baked Chicken in a Peanut Sauce (Sierra Leone)
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3 Pound Chicken – in large pieces
  • 1 Medium Onion – Chopped
  • 2 Cans Tomatoes – Chopped
  • 1 Medium Bell Pepper – Chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 Medium Bay Leaf
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1 Cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 16 Oz. French-Style Green Beans
Sauté chicken in oil until browned. Remove and set aside. Add onions to pan, sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add the thyme, bay leaf, salt, and cayenne. Mix peanut butter with chicken stock until smooth. Place chicken in baking dish, pour over tomato mixture, stock mixture and green beans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve over rice.
(source for this recipe
Pink Lemonade from South Africa
Homemade pink lemonade is wonderfully refreshing. This thirst quenching drink is also a southern favorite, running close second to homemade lemonade.
This recipe calls for grenadine syrup which is made from pomegranate juice and sugar. This ingredient is used in a variety of products including cocktails, carbonated drinks, desserts, liquors and marinades.

  • 6 Lemons
  • 2 Teaspoons Grenadine Syrup
  • 1/2 to 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 4 Cups of Water
  • 1 Cup of Crushed Ice
This is a very easy recipe to make. Rinse lemons thoroughly. Prepare lemons for squeezing by rolling them between the palm of your hand and the kitchen counter top, to break up the pulp and produce more juice.
Next cut lemons in half and squeezed out the juice. If you have a juicer use it, if not just squeeze your juice into a bowl. Remove the seed from the squeezed lemon juice.
Pour lemon juice into a pitcher and add grenadine syrup, sugar and water. Stir vigorously until sugar is completely dissolved. Next add crushed ice and serve immediately.

The Afrikaners also loved their 3-paw pots and until today lovingly call them “little pots” (potjies). It just lends itself ideally for any type of outdoors kitchen situations. In modern days there are still regular “potjiekos” competitions among young and old South Africans. The pot, however, comes a clear second to the “BRAAI” (meat, fish, vegetables grilled on a roast over an open fire. Every male South African is a self -appointed braai master., while the womenfolk cluster together in the kitchen and prepare salads and puddings.

It was the mass migrations of Afrikaners to escape British rule that was known as the Great Trek (image of women cooking at a rest stop during the Groot Trek) – not that they all moved in the same direction – the Afrikaners seldom agreed with one another on anything and a united front is something they still haven’t managed to achieve. Many new independent states were formed in various parts of the country as far away from the British and their rule as they could manage.  These migrations were instrumental in creating a unique regional cuisine that, to this day, is the backbone of the Afrikaans culinary tradition. It stands to reason that the food in the various republics of the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and Natal as well as the Karoo, the Small Karoo and the Cape Colony (some Afrikaners refused to move and some lived on the outskirts of the Cape Colony, so far out of reach of the hated British that they remained where they were) would be different, given that the country is huge and the climates and vegetation differ completely from region to region. Life was hard and during the migrations, food was often very scarce which is why they had to learn to find edible shrubs, hunt and (when they did slaughter livestock on the rare occasion), use every part of the animal, preserving more than 75% of the meat. The trek did come to an end and the Afrikaners did find land and they built their farms with town springing up around them – in time traders arrived from the Cape and spices, salt, seeds and flour became accessible so that their predominantly meat and shrub diet could be supplemented. What is curious is that the various cultures that made up the Afrikaners simply blended into one another and cuisine that was created was merely a fusion of all of them. In some regions one would find strong German influenced food and in others it would have a stronger French flavour – but all had become Afrikaners and all had the same basics to work with. The culinary traditions sprung from the land and it’s orchards, it’s gardens and it’s fields were planted with what would grow in a particular region.


Ingredients (pastry can be replaced with shop bought)

250 g cake flour

250 g butter, chilled and grated

1 egg yolk*

15 ml lard (yes, lard!)

125 ml ICE cold water


Sift the flour and the salt twice and then rub in the lard with the tips of your fingers to get the consistency of bread crumbs.

Combine the egg yolk with the water and mix well (I whisk the egg yolk first and then add it to the water).

Add the water and egg yolk into the flour mixture with a knife and “cut” it in.

When combined knead lightly on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic and it looks as if there are little bubbles that are coming to the surface.

If you have very hot hands, dip them in ice water and dry occasionally so that the dough remains cool – and work lightly.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about 5 mm thick and then sprinkle about a third of the grated butter over the dough.

Fold the dough across from the corners, like an envelope and roll out again.

Repeat this process twice, using up all the butter.

Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate until you are ready for use.

*You could substitute brandy for the egg yolk.

The filling


750 ml boiling milk

125 ml white sugar

4 jumbo eggs

7 ml butter

1 ml salt

1 piece of fresh cinnamon

15 ml cake flour

10 ml custard powder

15 ml cornflour, known locally as Maizena

25 ml cold milk

2 ml pure almond exctract

Cinnamon sugar (optional)


Line two standard tart dishes with the dough and finish them with a double edging, crimping the sides.

Boil the milk with the cinnamon stick and remove from the heat, adding the butter and the salt and stirring well.

Mix the custard powder, the corn flour and the cake flour in the cold milk to form a smooth paste.

Add a little of the hot milk mixture to this and make sure that you have a smooth, liquid mixture.

Take this mixture and add it to the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly and add about 50 ml of the sugar whilst reheating it to boiling point.

Stir constantly – don’t stop for anything.

As soon as the mixture becomes thick, remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and whisk in the rest of the sugar gradually.

Whisk the egg yolks until they are smooth, add a little of the milk mixture first so that the eggs don’t set and then stir this into the rest of the milk mixture.

Now add the almond extract.

Finally fold in the egg whites and pour into the prepared tart dishes.

Bake for 10 minutes at 200 C, reduce the heat to 180 C and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes until the filling has set.

Set aside to cool.

Optional: Sprinkle on cinnamon sugar.





750 g leg of lamb, deboned and with fat trimmed off, cut into bite sized cubes

2 small red onions, coarsely chopped

1 large red onion, finely chopped

6 large cloves garlic

3 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp grape seed or flavourless oil of your choice

2 fresh green Thai chillies (or Serrano), stems removed and cut in half lengthways – and don’t remove the seeds.

1 medium unripe mango, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

1 tbsp Kolhapuri masala*

Salt to taste

250 ml fresh coconut grated or 125 ml dried coconut, grated

125 ml coriander leaves, chopped


Put the onion, the garlic and the coriander seeds in a food process and process constantly (don’t pulse) to create a pulpy, slightly watery marinade – put this in a bowl and add the lamb to this, stir the meat around to make sure it’s covered with the marinade and then cover and refrigerate overnight (I usually put everything in a huge Ziploc bag, remove all the air and seal; in this way the meat is in constant contact with the marinade).

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and add the finely chopped onion and the chillies and cook, covered, stirring every now and then, until the onion is a caramel colour – it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

Add the lamb with the marinade and stir once or twice; raise the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the marinade is absorbed and the meat begins to brown.

Stir in one cup of water and then add the mango, the masala and the salt; cover the saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mango pieces have softened but still look firm and the lamb is tender (around half an hour); stir in the coconut and the corianders leaves and serve immediately.

Tip: if you’re using dried coconut, cover with 125 ml of boiling water & soak for 15 minutes to reconstitute it, then drain and use.



2 fresh chillies

Salt to taste

1 tsp.  ground black pepper

Vegetable oil

6oz crunchy peanut butter

150ml water

1 large onion peeled and chopped

2 tsp. tomato paste

1 kg skinned chopped chicken

Blend the tomato paste, black pepper, chilli and half the onion in a blender. Marinate the chicken and stand for 30 minutes. Heat oil in a large pot and fry the remaining onion until golden brown. Remove onion from pot and add the chicken and fry until golden brown. Add the marinade and cook for 10 minutes. Thin the peanut butter with some water add to the chicken. If the sauce is too thick add a little more water to your liking. Serve with Maize porridge or boiled rice.

Common Ingredients for Traditional African Food
Black-eyed Peas
Maize - corn
Sweet Potatoes
Fish of local varieties
Melegueta pepper - West African (substitute use cardamon)
black peppercorns
pilau mix
curry powder
Images of all kinds of South African cooks and kitchens:

Two other South African specialities that -among many other culinary African delights - did not get a mention today are "biltong" (air dried  salted strips of meat) and "droewors" (air dried spiced sausages). I am a vegetarian and coulden't bring myself to describe the making of these two essential staples in South African munching.

I wish everybody a fantastic beginning of spring, while we are sorting our cupboards to find the warm boots and jerseys to greet winter.

Lots of greetings from beneath the equator,