Thursday, February 18, 2021

More food from Africa

Thursday - Stanley

Kwei made me very hungry yesterday as I read his blog about West African food. Maybe I can whet his appetite and yours with morsels from Southern Africa.

Southern Africa, from a gastronomic perspective, has benefitted from being on the major trade route from Europe to the Far East and back. Over the years, citizens of many European countries decided to make the area their home. During the colonial era, Southern Africa had colonies controlled by Portugal (Angola and Mozambique); Germany (Southwest Africa, now Namibia); The Netherlands (now parts of South Africa); and Great Britain (parts of South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini (used to be Swaziland), Zimbabwe, and Zambia). 

There was also a large-scale influx of people from India, Malay, and China, usually as cheap labour or slaves.

The Black population of Southern Africa originally came from the rest of the continent, mainly West Africa. These peoples have their own cuisines, although not as diverse as the other influences. 

When I grew up under apartheid, my family's meals were mainly British in origin: roast chicken, beef, and lamb, fish on Fridays, savoury mince meat, bubble and squeak, over-cooked vegetables, lots of potatoes. The only nod to other cuisines was an occasional curry, usually chicken. 

Today, there is a truly Southern African cuisine that reflects the diversity of all the people who live there. I think the country has the best value for money of anywhere when it comes to eating and drinking. It's worth a visit just for that. (Excellent wines can be bought at restaurants for less than $20 a bottle; and most restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle, sometimes charging an exorbitant $3-$5 corkage.)

Our Detective Kubu loves to eat, and we put together a KUkBUk with some of his favourite recipes. I'll share some of them here, as well as some others that he doesn't know about. I've appended some of the recipes at the end of the blog.


In addition to the full range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks found in most places, there are three I haven't seen elsewhere.

Brown cow: half/half Coca-Cola and milk. It is very refreshing.

Steelworks: shot of kola tonic, shot of lime juice, topped off with ginger beer and a dash of bitters. Kubu's favourite drink (non-alcoholic).

Catemba: half/half red wine and Coca-Cola - from the Portuguese. No thank you!

Main courses:

PAP (pronounced PUP) is made from ground maize (corn). When part of a main course, it is usually cooked so that it is stiff (called stywe pap) and should be eaten with your fingers. It is eaten with meat from a braaivleis (barbeque), dipped into a nyama (meat) stew, chakalaka, or a tomato and onion ratatouille. 

Pap with chakalaka and boerewors (farmer's sausage)

CHAKALAKA is is another very common dish in Southern Africa, which may have originated in the Black townships. It is very much a whatever-you-have-available recipe. One version is at the end.


BOBOTIE is probably South Africa’s best-known dish. It is a slightly sweet, mildly curried meat casserole. It has its origins in the East and was brought to South Africa in some form by slaves from Malaya three hundred years ago. Even if you do not normally like curries, you will enjoy this delicious dish. It is so easy to make that even Michael can make a delicious meal from it. It also is a versatile dish and one recipe is at the end.


RUMP STEAK WITH MONKEY GLAND SAUCE. Kubu loves steak of all kinds, but his particular favourite is rump. He thinks it is the most tasty and must be cooked medium-rare. He often douses it with monkey gland sauce. 

Steak with monkey gland sauce

Do not be alarmed! It is not made from monkeys. 

There are several stories about how monkey gland sauce got its name. The one that holds the greatest credibility is that it started in the Savoy Hotel in London and was named in honour of a Russian-born French scientist, Dr. Abrahamovitch Serge Voronoff. Voronoff became famous for his treatment to reverse the ageing process in humans – by grafting monkey testicle tissue onto human testicles. He became so successful that he became famous worldwide. Songs recognized his achievement (Monkey Doodle-Do by Irving Berlin); it featured in the Marx Brothers film The Coconut; and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a professor in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories inject himself with monkey-gland extract. 

One of the staff at the Savoy Hotel, Cavaliere Fiorino Luigi Bagatta, went to do further training at the Old Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg and introduced it there. It became a hit and has remained popular in South Africa ever since. Of course, I'v included the recipe.

BUNNY CHOW is South Africa's contribution to the fast-food world. The country has a large Indian population, mainly centred around Durban, whose ancestors were brought there by the British to work on the sugar-cane fields. Of course, they brought their taste of curries with them. Originally sold by sidewalk vendors, it is now available in many restaurants as well. Take half a loaf of white bread and hollow out the middle. Fill with curry. That's it. Eat with your fingers. Originally the bread served as the plate so there were no left-overs, no waste. Today it has become more upscale in many places. If you are in Durban, just order a bunny. It's only outsiders that use the full name.

Bunny chow


And to end the meal, try a MALVA PUDDING, a dessert that has its origins on South African farms. 

Malva pudding with ice cream

Actually, after dessert, I like to really end the meal with cheese and crackers and something to settle my tummy.



3 tablespoons (45 mls) cooking oil 
2 tablespoons (30 gms) chopped fresh ginger 
2 tablespoons (30 gms) chopped fresh garlic 
4 teaspoons (20 gms) chopped chili peppers 
1 cup (225 gms) chopped onions 
2 cups (450 gms) tomatoes, roughly chopped 
½ cup (125 gms) green peppers, roughly chopped 
½ cup (125 gms) red peppers, roughly chopped 
2 tablespoons (30 gms) garam masala (or curry powder) 
14 ounces (400 gms) baked beans 
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh coriander 

1. Fry the ginger, chilis, onions, and garlic in the oil. 
2. Add the garam masala or curry powder. 
3. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. 
4. Add peppers and cook for 10 minutes. 
5. Add baked beans and cook for 5 minutes. 
6. Remove from heat and add coriander. Stir. 

Serve with whatever you want, hot or cold. Goes well with pap, stews, or curries.


2 pounds (900 gms) ground lamb or beef 
1 slice bread 
3 cups (700 mls) milk 
4 eggs 
1 medium yellow or white onion chopped 
1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 gms) curry powder 
1 tablespoon (15 gms) brown sugar 
1 teaspoon (5 mls) salt 
½ teaspoon (2.5 mls) ground pepper 
¼ cup (60 mls) lemon juice 
1 tart apple grated 
1 cup (225 gms) seedless raisins 
½ cup (120 gms) slivered almonds 
Several bay leaves 

1. Put the bread into a bowl containing all the milk. Let stand. 
2. Lightly brown the meat in a skillet, breaking up any chunks. Transfer to a large container with a slotted spoon. 
3. Cook the onion in the remaining fat in the skillet until translucent. Don’t burn! 
4. Add the curry powder, salt, sugar, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour the mixture over the meat. 
5. Take the bread out of the milk and squeeze out the milk back into the bowl. Put the bread with the meat. 
6. Add raisins, almonds, apple, and 2 eggs to the meat. Combine. (If you use your hands to do this, it feels great and you can lick your fingers afterwards!) 
7. Pack the mixture into a casserole dish. 
8. Combine the remaining two eggs with the milk and pour over meat. 
9. Push a few bay leaves into the meat. 10. Cook for 45 minutes at 300 F (150 C). 

Serve hot over yellow rice, with sweet mango chutney on the side. A side dish of thinly sliced cucumbers in yoghurt (a cucumber raita) works well. 

Leftovers are great hot or cold. Kubu likes to put them in pita bread with sour cream or have them as a filling in an omelet. Yummy.


2 tablespoons (30 mls) cooking oil 
½ cup (120 mls) water 
1 cup (240 mls) tomato sauce (ketchup) 
½ cup (120 mls) Worcestershire sauce 
1 cup (225 gms) sweet mango chutney 
4 cloves garlic 
½ cup (120 mls) brown sugar 
3 tablespoons (45 mls) vinegar 
1 teaspoon (5 mls) Tabasco sauce 

1. In a heavy skillet, heat oil. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. 
2. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, and simmer for a few minutes. 

Smother the steak with the sauce. Serve with rice or chips (pommes frites). Kubu prefers chips.


For the pudding: 

1 cup (225 gms) caster sugar 
2 eggs 
1 tablespoon (15 mls) apricot jam 
1¼ cups (285 gms) cake flour 
1 teaspoon (5 mls) bicarbonate of soda 
2 tablespoons (30 gms) butter 
1 tablespoon (15 mls) vinegar 
½ cup (120 mls) milk 

For the sauce: 

1 cup (240 mls) cream 
4 ounces (120 gms) butter 
¼ to ½ cup (30 - 60 mls) sugar 
½ cup (60 mls) brandy, water, or orange juice (brandy is best!) 

To make the pudding: 

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). 
2. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. 
3. Beat the caster sugar and eggs until fluffy, then beat in the jam until creamy. 
4. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the vinegar and milk. 
5. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Mix thoroughly. 
6. Pour into an ovenproof dish and bake for 30 minutes. 

To make the sauce: 

1. Melt all the sauce ingredients together and pour over the pudding when it comes out of the oven.

I like to add a dollop of whipped cream on top. 


  1. I was relieved to see the recipe for 'monkey gland sauce' was vegetarian and resembles a nice sauce for samosa dipping in India! Also I believe we have Malva pudding in India. The links between countries from sea trade days are still apparent in food. I love this column!

  2. I never knew malva pudding was found elsewhere. Although my family rarely ate curries at home, my brothers and I would always befriend the chefs at the hotel we often stayed at on the Natal coast so we could share the food they prepared for themselves.

  3. I wouldn't starve, Stan. I would skip everything else and go for the pudding. If I sound testy, that's my inner envy showing.

  4. I'm going to try half Coke and half milk. I don't promise to like it though!

  5. So much history behind these dishes. It's notable how foods can tell a story. One treat I should have included in my column was palm wine, which, when fresh, is delightfully fruity. I'm not a wine/alcohol drinker, though, and wine aficionados like Stan might find it too sweet. Does RSA have palm wine? When I was there in 2005 I went to the Carnivore restaurant--something I still feel guilty about all these years later now that I'm vegan. I could not bring myself to eat giraffe meat. How can you eat an animal with such adorable, long, luxuriant eyelashes?!

  6. Well, Stan, a few years back you shifted my drinking habits to the Steelworks, so I guess it's time to move on to the main course(s). Just the thought of it makes me want to cheer, CHAKALAKA BOBOTIE BUNNY!