South African

coastal alloes

After our two nights in Addo we headed west on the N2 in the direction of Knysna where we were to spend our the third night of our trip. The N2 runs through some beautiful country with the ocean to one side for much of the road and spectacular mountains on the other.

We made a stop along the way at this bridge crossing the Storms River. Looking down the lush canyon it was almost disappointing to see this small river at the bottom called Storms River, but the clouds overhead and the steep cliffs overgrown with greenery added to an eerily stormy atmosphere.

storms river bridge

storms river

We also pulled into the Tsitisikama National Park, set along the coast. We wandered around, gazing at the the incredible waves crashing onto the rocks…

3 waves crashing

…and taking in a stroll through some dense foliage to a rickety suspension bridge over the mouth of the Storms River into the ocean.

storms river mouth

It was an incredibly beautiful stretch of coastline and I hope to revisit it for longer some other time, spending a couple of nights in the wooden bungalows with views of forest and ocean.

waves and rocks


A while ago I promised that I was going to venture more into the kind of cooking I grew up with. After years of living abroad, and through Alexander’s encouragement and curiosity, I felt it was time I started enjoying and rediscovering my culinary heritage. In planning meals for our trip to Addo Elephant Park with Alexander’s family we thought that we should prepare some traditional food for our two nights in the park.

Now, before I continue on with the food, a word about Addo. The park was established in 1931, when the elephant population of the region was virtually exterminated. An overzealous major of the time succeeded in killing 120 elephants in 11 months! The park started out small, with only about 15 elephants, but over the years more land was added to the park and animals that have been exterminated in the area were re-introduced- lions, hyenas, eland, buffalo, black rhino and more elephants. During our stay we were lucky enough to see most of these, except for the rhino and eland, on several occasions. The park’s existence and continual growth (it is being expanded to include some coastline soon) is an encouraging sign that the environmental damage past generations inflicted on this planet can and should be rectified.


Back to our meals now. For our first evening we were to have barbecued chicken and braai broodjies (barbecue sandwiches) on the menu, and for the second evening grilled snoek (South African barracuda) and aartappel koekies (potato cakes). Sadly, things did not work out quite as planned. The barbeque fire I made was way too hot and everything ended up slightly charred. I do not barbecue often and when I do I suppose I generally mess it up.

The second evening’s dinner also did not work out as planned because I could not find any fresh snoek in Port Elizabeth (city nearest to Addo) on a Sunday. Which did not make sense to me as it is a coastal city. But we could make the aartappel koekies and at least they came out perfect with a slightly fluffy and crisp potato texture and flavoured with onion and dried herbs.

To make enough potato cakes for 5 you will need:

1 onion, grated

4 potatoes, peeled and grated

100ml all-purpose flour

salt, pepper and other dry herbs to taste

oil for cooking

To make: Squeeze out as much of the potato and onion juices as possible and mix together. Add the flour, salt, pepper and herbs and mix well. Heat a little oil in a pan over medium high heat and spoon tablespoons full of the potato mixture in and flatten them into little cakes. Cook until they are golden brown on both sides. Drain them on paper towels and serve warm, either with some sour cream or jus as is.

aartappel koekies

We served ours with some hake (frozen was all I could get) wrapped in aluminium foil together with some lemon juice, apricot jam, salt and pepper and grilled in the oven. The cheese gets added before serving. It was not snoek exactly, but it worked well enough.

resepte boek

We were browsing through a bookstore a while ago when I noticed a small recipe book with the title in Afrikaans on the spine 50 van die Beste Tradisionele Suid-Afrikaanse Resepte or 50 of the Best Traditional South African Recipes. With an air of scepticism I picked it up and looked at the cover, not because I have a poor impression of South African food, the little book just seemed a tad bland due to a dull cover design. And I judge a book by its cover.

But this one proved me very wrong. As I flipped through it I was taken back to my youth through 50 recipes that were staples at dining room tables several years ago. Gortsop (gord soup), waterblommetjie bredie (water lilly stew), melkkos (milk-soup), kerrie perskeslaai (curried peach slaw), and of course desserts like asynpoeding (vinegar pudding) and souskluitjies (sauce dumplings). And it was all beautifully illustrated in full-color pictures of the food in seriously retro serving dishes.

I had to admit that I was very wrong for being so sceptical at first. It is really a neat little recipe book that pays homage to the rich cultural traditions of South African cuisine which the dishes themselves highlights. Our food is, after all, a unique blend of African, European, Malay, and Indian culinary traditions.


Alexander decided to pick it up immediately so I can start cooking Suid-Afrikaans for him. I have tried my hands at a few of the recipes and they came out with varying degrees of success. I will try to blog about my successes and so be able to not only rediscover for myself but also share with you my gastronomic past with you.


South Africa is not known as a country with a wealth of culinary delights like, say, Thailand. In fact, I’ve heard travelers complain about the food being bland. Even some guidebooks suggest that you certainly don’t visit SA for the food.

But I disagree, considering South Africa’s incredibly rich cultural heritage it only makes sense that there is a curious and exciting mix of food to be discovered by anyone looking for a good meal.

And to back-up that statement I bring you… Bobotie!


Bobotie, (the tie pronounced like Bet-tie) is a delicious Cape Malay dish filled with flavors, fragrances and textures and anybody calling bobotie dull has no taste buds. This dish brings together the fruity sweetness and vinegary tart of fruit chutney, the sexiness of cinnamon, and the spiced-goodness of curry and turmeric. Biting into bobotie you go through a layer of crisp glaze, followed by egg custard before finally getting to the richly flavored meat. Mmm.

There are quite a number of bobotie recipes out there, but they all combine basically the same ingredients; meat, bread, milk, eggs, onions, curry, turmeric, and fruit chutney. My version of bobotie actually does not make use of fruit chutney, I use apricot jam instead and add just a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice for the tart flavor.

The best thing to do when making this most certainly non-bland South African dish is to experiment until you find the right balance of flavors for your tastes. This is what I usually do when I make bobotie. So I’m leaving you with more of a guideline than a recipe, the rest will be up to you.


500g ground beef

1 chopped onion

1 slice bread- white or brown

1 cup milk

2 eggs


curry powder

bay leave




chutney or apricot jam

vinegar or lemon juice

olive oil


Preheat your oven to about 180C and prepare a deep oven dish. Soak the slice of bread in the cup of milk. Heat the oil and add the curry powder and turmeric and then the onion. Add the beef and brown. When the beef is browned, mix in the chutney or jam, a little vinegar, and sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Take the slice of white bread and squeeze out all the milk, keep the milk as you will use it for the glaze and custard. Crumble the bread into the meat mixture and pour all of this into your oven dish, push a bay leave into the top. Bake for about an hour, until everything has set.

For the glazy-custardy part you mix the eggs with the milk and pour this on over the meat about thirty minutes before it’s done.

Suggestions for bobotie:

– bobotie is best served with some fragrant yellow rice, but I ‘ve used dahl and brown rice and it works just as well

– you can let your imagination run wild with adding some extras, some people add raisins, dried apricots. Almond slivers adds a lovely texture to the meat.

– make it and say to yourself “Mmm, South African know a thing or two about making a great meal!”


I grew up with this baked and dried-out delicacy always being present in our home. As a child, my mother would bake new batches almost every week to keep up with my constant demand for beskuit in the morning. We took them on trips to the coast, Kruger Park, Namibia and even on our first trip to Europe. Whenever I was visiting South Africa, while still living in Taiwan, my mom would become frantic with worry during the final days of my visit that she would not be able to have enough time to bake me some beskuit to take back with me.

Beskuit is the Afrikaans word for rusks. A traditional South African baked item I believe has its roots in the Italian biscotti. Besides the similarities in name and texture, it also needs to be baked twice and you can play around with different kinds of beskuit.

My favorite is still my mother’s tried and trusted recipe I grew up on. I got it from her while I was living abroad to attempt my own version. This, my first time baking it in Bangkok, has possibly been my most successful. Whether it was using plain yogurt instead of buttermilk or whether maybe I just finally got the other ingredients and temperature right I do not know. But I think it came out great.

To make beskuit you need to get:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cups whole weat flour

1 and 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

250ml plain yoghurt

250 grams butter

1 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a baking dish. Sift the dry ingredients together and put aside. Melt the butter and mix in the yogurt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients well and pour into the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack and then cut it into squares. Place the squares onto the wire rack and dry in the oven until dried through, about two hours, at 100C. The oven should be open just a little while it is drying out.

Beskuit, in my opinion, is best enjoyed with a cup of fresh coffee for breakfast, or afternoon coffee or any other time actually. I love it.

Suggestions for beskuit:

– use bran instead of wholewheat flour

– my mother uses buttermilk, but I could not find it in stores here so I used yogurt instead- worked like a charm

– margarine also works if for some reason you do not want to use butter

beskuit is great with sunflower seeds or dried fruit added to the mixture. Yum!