South African

Cape Malay Pickled Fish

Down here in the Cape you always know Easter is just around the corner when a seasonal preoccupation takes hold of our beloved city; yes, I’m talking about our pickled fish obsession.

It comes out of nowhere. Overnight supermarkets load tables with tubs of this sweet & sour delight, whole yellowtail is suddenly on the Specials board of your local fishmonger and, most tellingly, internet and food blog searches for pickled Pickled Fishfish recipes sky rocket. All pickled portents that tell us one thing – Easter is upon us.

Before its association with Easter, pickled fish was simply a tasty way for the Cape Malay community to make the most of an abundance of fish during the summer months by preserving the fish – allowing them to keep the fish for an extended period of time. This classic Cape Malay dish is the perfect example of the heavy influence of Malaysian and Indonesian culture on Cape cuisine as the pickling liquid is more akin to a sweet and sour curry than any other methods of pickling fish.  Traditionally snoek and yellowtail were the favoured catch as their dense flesh withstands the pickling process especially well, but flaker fish such as cob and hake can also be used although I prefer using yellowtail.

Of course there is also the small matter of what you should serve your pickled fish with.

The most common way is to simply have it with buttered white bread, but for those of you with a sense of adventure you can always try it with another Easter treat – hot cross buns. I know this might sound like a crazy and unappealing combination, but there really is method in this Easter mash-up madness. Call it an Easter miracle, but for some reason it really does taste amazingly good!

Pickled fish and hot cross buns; yep, welcome to the true taste of the Cape.

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Peppermint Crisp Tart

Peppermint Crisp TartEverybody knows the best way to a South African man’s heart is through a braai. However, to get him in touch with his inner soul, you need to feed him some Peppermint Crisp Tart! I don’t know what it is about this simple dessert, but seems to have a profound affect on most South Africans, inducing bouts of childhood nostalgia with every bite and even the odd misty eye (they aren’t crying of course, its just that pesky braai-smoke).

Sometimes referred to as a Fridge Tart and occasionally as a Transkei Mud Pie, Peppermint Crisp Tart was arguably the South African dessert of choice in the 80’s and early 90’s. The very definition of a store-cupboard dessert, it was originally made with Orly Whip (a long-life non-diary cream substitute) instead of cream, meaning you literally did not have to buy anything fresh to make the tart – you could whip it up in 15 minutes, pop it into the fridge to set and voilà: dessert bliss!

Today Peppermint Crisp Tart jostles with the mighty Malva Pudding for the title of South Africa’s favourite traditional dessert and whilst Malva Pudding may have a greater claim to that crown, Peppermint Crisp Tart must come a very close second. The key to Peppermint Crisp Tart’s enduring appeal is its convenience. All you need to make it are: 4 ingredients, a bowl, a whisk, a dish and a fridge – you can’t get easier than that!

Now I won’t lie to you, South African’s love their desserts jaw-achingly sweet and Peppermint Crisp Tart is no different – this stuff is not for the faint of heart! I’m not the biggest fan of desserts, but even I can’t resist indulging in a small portion of this decadent dessert. Why? Because, to put it mildly, Peppermint Crisp Tart is AMAZING! Something rather magical happens to the ingredients as the tart sets in the fridge, creating a masterpiece of dessert decadence that needs to be tasted to be believed.

Is it refined? No.

Is it subtle? Most definitely not.

Is it the greatest 4 ingredient, non-cook dessert ever conceived? Quite frickin’ possibly.

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Barbecue Spatchcock Chicken with Charred Lime

Barbecue Spatchcock Chicken with Charred LimeAlso known colloquially as flatties, spatchcock chickens have long been a feature of the traditional South African braai. Of course, strictly speaking spatchcock chickens are not exclusively South African, but they have nevertheless earned their place on the grill along side other local favourites like braaiwors and skilpadjies. Delicious and, most importantly, practical, flatties remain a true braai stalwart!

Whether it be marinated in spicy peri-peri, chutney and ginger beer or simply with some lemon and herbs, you can usually find a flattie to meet your family’s tastes. Personally, my favourite flattie is marinated in a simple braai sauce and then doused in the juice of a couple of charred limes.

Now I must confess that I’m not a natural braaier. Generally speaking, I have an annoying propensity for cremating everything I place on a braai and my Weber has been collecting dust in the garage for years. This particular recipe is, however, just so damn tasty I just can’t resist the urge to wheel out my long forgotten braai! I can’t get enough of the combination of the lime and braai sauce, so much so, I could happily eat the whole chicken on my own – burnt or not! This simple recipe is my very own barbecue-bliss. Enjoy.

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Cape Malay Chicken Curry

I’ve always thought of Cape Malay food as being the ultimate manifestation of ‘cuisine by circumstance’.

Finding themselves at the tip of Africa, and a world away from their native produce, the Malaysians and Indonesians of the time must have felt they were faced with a bleak culinary future. Devoid of South East Asian staples like coconuts and pandan leaves, the bountiful (but unfamiliar) fruits of the Cape must have been an ironic bitter pill to shallow.

Thankfully, the Cape’s prominence along the spice route meant there was an abundance of spices and combined with a mingling of cultures and a reliance on local produce, resulted in the creation of something quintessentially South African – Cape Malay cuisine. With dishes like koe’sisters, pickled fish and denningvleis, Cape Malay food is as unique as the culture it feeds.

Bobotie aside, arguably one of its most famous dishes has to be Cape Malay Chicken Curry. A dish that never seems to fade in its popularity, this simple curry is a perfect example of great Asian food made without staple Asian ingredients. In the absence of coconut milk or candlenuts, this curry is enriched with tomatoes, but is still royally flavoured with exotic spices. As with almost all Cape Malay dishes, chicken curry is always served with an array of sambals or condiments.

Simply delicious, no matter where you are in the world.

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Cape Malay Mince Curry

Cape Malay Mince CurryA quick and easy to make, Cape Malay Mince Curry is one of the most commonly eaten curries in South Africa.

Typically eaten with rice, mince curry is also often used as a filling in rotis and vetkoeks or eaten on toast with eggs for breakfast; making this curry as versatile as it is tasty! Mince curry is also a popular choice when feeding large groups of people as it is relatively cheap to make and a little goes a long way. The addition of peas and boiled eggs is common, although far from essential. Personally, I prefer to make mine with peas as it makes for a more nutritionally-rounded meal.

As humble as it may be, mince curry deserves to be called a Cape classic!

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Gav’s Glorious Biltong

Other than a good braai, there are few things that unite South Africans quite as much their love of biltong!

BiltongSynonymous with sports, game-hunting, two-toned khaki shirts, the Voortrekkers and all things manly, biltong is arguably South Africa’s most cherished snack. Whether it be wet or dry, pimped with peri-peri or traditionally flavoured, biltong has been adapted to appeal to virtually all tastes…provided they’re of a purely carnivorous nature, of course!

And whilst biltong shops are virtually omnipresent throughout the country, there is nothing more satisfying than making your own! To many a South African man, the ability to make your own biltong and brew your own beer is, perhaps, the very definition of self-sufficiency. I must confess that I’d never really considered making my own until I sampled a family friend’s homemade biltong. And while his biltong was incredibly delicious, for me the real appeal lay in the scarcity of the basic ingredients needed for curing. Like so many things these days, even the most simple food comes with a terrifingly epic list of preservatives and chemicals and sadly biltong is no different. At its heart, biltong is the very definition of basic food preservation and its ingredients should be a reflection of this. To my mind, homemade ultimately to speak to the true spirit of biltong and once you’ve tasted the difference, there is no turning back.

After some badgering for Gav’s amazing recipe and a flurry of online shopping for a biltong maker, I suddenly found myself meandering along the path of South African self-sufficiency…I just need to establish the microbrewery in the laundry and I’ll be set for life!

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Cape Malay Green Bean Bredie

As I have said in previous posts, bredies are an inescapable part of traditional South African cuisine and are, to many, the quintessential definition of South African huiskos (home cooking). And whilst tomato bredie may rule supreme in most kitchens, there are a number of different types of bredies that remain popluar, green bean bredie being chief among these.

Although less stew-like than it’s tomatoey cousin, the green bean version retains the key element that separates a bredie from a regular stew, that being that no liquid is added during the main cooking process. Instead of simmering in a liquid like a conventional stew, a bredie is self-saucing. Other than an initial splash of water when cooking the onions, absolutely no water is added to a bredie and its flavour is purely formed from the rendered juices from the lamb and the steam from the cooking vegetables, resulting in a dish that transcends its humble basic ingredients.

That said, I personally believe that green bean bredies can be a tad dry and can actually benefit from a bit of water after (and only after) the cooking process is complete. Controversial I know, but adding a dash of water when reheating the bredie will not only aid in warming the dish through, it will also ensure that the bredie’s wonderful flavours are given a chance to truly come to the fore.

Green Bean BredieAs with my version of tomato bredie, I have drawn inspiration from Cass Abrahams‘s recipe, albeit with some unorthodox cooking methods of my own. Cass Abrahams is widely regarded as the reigning queen of Cape Malay cooking and her recipes are often the launching point for many of my own.

When I initially attempted to make bredies my efforts were a tad watery and the meat would often come out a little tough. My first few efforts were so bad, they were given an unequivocal thumbs-down by my bredie-loving partner! Devastated, my early failures were enough to put me off making bredies for many years! When I eventually built up enough courage to attempt a bredie again, I decided that I needed to reinvent the cooking process to deal with my bredie-deficiencies.

I started by addressing my “watery” sauce. This was solved by first dredging the meat in seasoned flour before browning it thoroughly, resulting in a “fuller” finish to the sauce. To deal with my tough meat disasters, I decided to cook the bredie in the oven and not on the stove as it is typically done. Whilst I cook my tomato bredie in the oven for the entire cooking time, I only do so for the first half of the recipe when making green bean bredie, as I find the vegetables render superior flavour from being cooked on the stove-top. Either way, bredie traditionalists would be mortified by my preferred cooking method, but I find that cooking it in the oven helps creates an intensity in the gravy that you wouldn’t otherwise get when cooking it in the conventional way. I have been making all my bredies in this way for many years now and they have always been a success, the meat is invariably melt-in-your-mouth tender and the sauce is thick and bursting with flavour.

If you would like to read more about South African food please follow this link or for more South African recipes, please click here

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Pumpkin Fritters (Pampoenkoekies)

Pumpkin Fritters (Pampoenkoekies)I know they may sound a little weird to the uninitiated, but pumpkin fritters are absolutely delicious!

Enjoyed either as a light snack or side dish to a traditional boerekos spread, these little South African delights are very easy to make, are surprisingly healthy and always go down a treat.

Naturally sweet, they are a great way to dupe vegetable-phobic youngsters into eating one of their “5-a-day”. When lightly sprinkled with cinnamon sugar however, they make a great sweet treat that are impossible to resist!

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Gerry’s Homemade Rusks

Gerry's Homemade RusksWhen I first arrived in South Africa I was completely unprepared for the local obsession with rusks. To my mind, and to most non-South Africans, a rusk is a dry, hard baby biscuit, designed to aid teething – not very appealing. Confused as to why everyone was eating baby biscuits, I soon discovered that rusks here are something altogether different. They are still slightly dry and hard, but they are all about comfort-snacking and dunking. Rusks are South Africa’s biscotti and to my mind nobody makes them better than my dear friend Gerry.

Always made with love, Gerry’s recipe strikes the right balance between comfort and decadence: this recipe is rusk perfection. Although traditionally served with hot coffee, these rusk are so good I can happily forgo the dunking altogether and eat them straight out of the tin!

As for South Africa’s obsession with rusks? Thanks to Gerry’s I get it now, I totally do.

For more Sweet Treats from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

If you would like to read more about South African food please follow this link or for more South African recipes, please click here

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Cape Malay Tomato Bredie

A tomato bredie is the ultimate manifestation of South African home cooking.

Ostensibly a stew, bredies form an integral part of South African huiskos (home cooking), and whilst there are a number of different types of bredies, tomato bredie seems to be the most cherished of them all. At a glance, a bredie looks like a very basic stew, but there is a key element that differentiates it from being a regular stew. Instead of simmering in a liquid like a conventional stew, a bredie is self-saucing. Absolutely no water is added to a bredie and the sauce is formed from the rendered juices and fat from the lamb, which when combined with the reduced tomato, results in an intensely flavoured gravy which transcends its humble basic ingredients.

Tomato Bredie There are quite a few tomato bredie recipes out there but I’ve always stuck with Cass Abrahams‘s recipe, albeit with some unorthodox additions of my own. Cass Abrahams is widely regarded as the incumbent mother of Cape Malay cooking and her recipes are often the starting point for many of my own.

When I initially attempted to make a tomato bredie I found the results were a bit watery and that the meat would sometimes be a little tough. I got around this by first dredging the meat in flour before browning it thoroughly and then by cooking the entire thing in the oven and not on the stove as it is usually done. Bredie traditionalists would be mortified by my preferred cooking method, but I find that cooking it in the oven helps the tomatoes break-down and creates an intensity in the gravy that you wouldn’t otherwise get when cooking it in the conventional way. I have been making my tomato bredie in this way for a number of years and they have always been a success, the meat is invariably melt-in-your-mouth tender and the sauce is thick and bursting with flavour.

If you would like to read more about South African food please follow this link or for more South African recipes, please click here

Click here for the recipe