SOUTH AFRICA: When History is Food
Marty Martindale

South Africa’s history is one of much hunger caused by fractured populations and human causes. Human-caused mass starvation come about  as a result of population displacement, interruption of transportation systems, absent populations due to wars, and the sudden influxes of people to a land where food was short to begin with.

Geographically, the country of South Africa has a terrain which is divided into thirds: plateau country to the north, a great basin south of it, then this is rimmed by a narrow coastal plain bounded by the Indian Ocean on the east and the south Atlantic Ocean on the west. The population of South Africa, is over 43 million people.

Her history is very mingled with her cuisine today. At the southern end of South Africa, the African continent is the Cape of Good Hope where sailors from all countries had to sail through to gain access to Asia. Early Dutch settles arrived at the Cape 1652 chiefly to grow fresh vegetables for fellow sailors passing by in the future, that they might fight off scurvy when enroute to and from the Dutch East Indies. By 1688 the French Huguenots arrived bringing grape cuttings for wine, plus fresh herbs.

In the 1700’s the Dutch imported slaves from Indonesia and with them their tropical spices. Later, the British came who transported indentured workers from southern India and with them came their chutneys, sambals, and atjars and other fiery and savory cuisine. The British and Germans contributed their meat pies and sweet pastries.

Now, with the Boer War, then the rigors of apartheid behind them, South Africans, with first president Nelson Mandella and now his hand-picked successor, Thabo Mbeki look toward to postive growth and new freedoms in a promising future.

South African cuisine is a  splendid one. It’s the result of a mix of vastly different cultures and the foods of “drop-by” sailors navigating their ways between new quests and return trips home. This blend became the South African cuisine.


·        Atjar – Pickled fruits and vegetables

·        Biltong – Long pieces of meat salted and dried, similar to

·        Bobotie – Chopped or minced beef baked in a curry sauce with raisins

·        Chippolata – Tangerine and ginger custard

·        Dried Fruit Chutney:  apricots, peaches, dates, raisins, onions, vinegar, garlic, mustard seeds, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and water simmered 1 hour.

·        Gesmoorde Snoek:  Onions, cooked potatoes, boned white fish or salmon sauted in butter seasoned with Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg.

·        I’Agullas Yellowtail:  Marinate raw fish in vinegar, oil and chopped onions. Make a paste of grated cheese and seasoned bread crumbs. Pack paste on both sides of fish and roast until golden brown and fish flakes.

·        Kaltschale – cold buttermilk soup sweetened with cinnamon and nutmeg

·        Mealie Bread – Com bread

·        Sambal – Condiments served with curries to “cool” them, such as chopped Vegetables, chutneys, pickles, and coconut

·        Monkey Gland Steak:  Saute onions and garlic until soft. Add canned tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestire sauce, water, chutney, brown sugar, vinegar and Tabasco. Simmer short time. Serve over grilled club steaks

·        Mulligatawny soup: Chopped vegetables and chile peppers sauted in oil, chicken stock, lentils, curry powder, coconut milk cooked basmati rice, small pieces of cooked meat and a finely chopped apple.

·        Peri-Peri Chicken Livers:  Saute onion in oil and add cayenne papper. Add chicken livers and stir-fry over high heat until just cooked. Deglaze pan with brandy.

·        Soetkoekies:  A cake made from flour, leavening, spices, brown sugar, chopped almonds, butter, eggs and port or sherry.

·        Sosates:  Sauted lamb and pork pieces seasoned with garlic, onion, curry power, sugar, tamarind paste, vinegar, apricot jam, red wine, dried apricots and dry sherry.

·        Yellow Rice with Raisins:  White rice cooked in water, sugar, tumeric, salt, butter, cinnimon stick, raisins and lemon rind.

RECIPE:  Jessica B. Harris, culinary historian and cookbook author tells us that Africa, to this day, maintains a respect for those who cook and have the love of spicing. Three of her books are: Sky Juice and Flying Fish, Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons and The African Cookbook, in which you’ll find the following south recipe:


In the head notes, she writes:  “Pumpkin and gourds were eaten on the African continent long before the Europeans arrived. This recipe using the West Indian cooking pumpkin, or calabaza, is similar in composition to our candied sweet potatoes, but with the South African twist of minced dried apricots. If calabaza cannot be found, you can substitute butternut squash or acorn squash for a similar taste.”

1  lb.                        Calabaza, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes

¼ lb.                       Dried apricots, minced

½ cup                     Freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tsp                        Brown sugar

½ tsp                     Ground cinnamon

1   tbsp                   Butter

·        Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat casserole dish with cooking spray.

·        Add pumpkin, apricots and orange juice.

·        Sprinkle with grown sugar and cinnamon, dot with butter.

·        Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes until tender. Serve hot.

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.


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