Braai, a South African barbeque bar and grill in New York, was my only South African food experience until earlier this month. With its meat heavy menu, filled with skewers, ribs, and burgers, it didn’t largely appeal to my vegetarian sensibilities. However, my forays into home-style South African cooking have endeared me to the cuisine.
When I told my friend that I would make any dish he wanted for one of our weekly dinners, he immediately began searching for a dish he had eaten in South Africa. Stationed there on a work assignment for nearly a year, he was exposed both to the more opulent restaurant food and the understated, yet highly flavorful, home cuisine.
Though he enjoyed eating out, there were certain aspects of the experience that soured him. Shortly after his arrival, he began chatting with a server in a restaurant and was told by his colleagues that he was talking to “the wrong sort of people,” but it was precisely those people with whom he wished to chat with about food.
After much online research, he lit upon a recipe for bobotie, a sort of meat casserole. Looking to round out the menu, I found a wonderful collection of recipes on Epicurious drawn from Rainbow Cuisine: A Culinary Journey Through South Africa. I was hoping to find a copy of this book to buy, but it appears to be out of print without even any used copies available on Amazon!
It is always an adventure to embark upon a totally new style of food with no background on the methods, but I found these South African dishes simple to make and difficult to mess up. They are, by and large, simple recipes that require long, slow cooking, so this menu is best suited to the kind of dinner where guests arrive slowly and chat at length before sitting down to eat.
- Bobotie (lamb casserole)
- with Geel Rys (yellow rice)
- and Blatjang (apricot and raisin chutney)
- Vegetable Potjie
- with Komkomer Sambal (cucumber relish)
- Rum Raisin Brownies
- Soak the apricots and raisins for the chutney.
Two hours before serving:
- Peel and grate the cucumber. Cover with salt and let stand.
- Prepare the bobotie and pop in the oven.
- Chop the vegetables for the potjie.
One hour before serving:
- Set the potjie and blatjang to start cooking.
Twenty minutes before serving:
- Start cooking the rice and prepare the brownies.
- Finish the komkomer sambal.
- Remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest.