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When asked what sound most describes South Africa, a number of answers are possible. Some say it’s the chilling roar of the lion in the early evening in the bush. Others say it’s the haunting call of the fish eagle that hovers above our many rivers and dams. Still others feel it’s the soft cooing of the laughing dove or the cackling of the guinea fowl coming in to roost at night. And yet, the sound that unifies South Africans all around the world is the sound of a crackling fire. It is the call to come together and enjoy hospitality that is so unique to our people. It is an invitation to eat together, laugh together ... an invitation to share. South Africa, flavours and traditions invites you on a journey through our richly diverse country with its colourful people and fascinating food. Please stay a while and enjoy the tales of adventure, determination and courage at our table as we serve up this, our South Africa.
We’re often faced with the dilemma of what to do with that glut of marrows and asparagus in the spring, the hundreds of apricots and tomatoes in the summer, the butternut and mushrooms in the autumn. Inspired by her Lebanese and Afrikaans grandmothers, Sophia Lindop gives us a thoroughly modern twist on cooking with seasonal produce available in ample quantities at different times of the year.
Whether you grow your own veggies or just want to buy the cheap, seasonal produce from your local grocer no one wants to eat the same thing all week – Sophia gives you 4 different recipes for each of the seasonal veggies or fruit.
Economy doesn’t need to be boring!
South Africa’s climate is so good that outdoor cooking, ingrained into our psyche by the early indigenous people and the Voortrekkers, who learnt the art from them, is almost a national sport! Men congregate around fires, debating about whether to use wood or charcoal, each with their own way of doing things. In the early to mid-1800s the Dutch, French and German immigrants formed a new nation – the Afrikaners. And those who ventured north were known as the Voortrekkers (meaning pioneers). There was a unique cooking culture that developed with the Voortrekkers. The ox and wagon and horse were their only means of transport and provisioning was limited. So, in order to survive they had to hunt and roast the meat on open fires, thus giving birth to the braai, a tradition that is now so established in South Africans’ culture. Some ate their meat with griddle cakes or roosterkoek while others, who had come into contact with black tribes and had been introduced to the staple food of Africa, mealie meal porridge or pap, began enjoying that with their braaivleis. As there was little space for pots and pans on the ox wagons, the settlers developed a one-pot meal called potjiekos. A three-legged cast-iron pot was used and filled with meat, vegetables and starch, like potatoes, seasoned and covered with a lid. Braai and potjie, flavours and traditions invites you on a journey into our great outdoors where we light a fire and encourage you to stay a while and enjoy this unique South African tradition.
Sophia Lindop has produced a book telling the tale of the two main influences, namely the Indian population and the Malay population, and how these eating habits influenced the rest of our country in such a way that these recipes are now part of our national heritage. In medieval times spices were a commodity reserved solely for the wealthy. And as it goes, these individuals created such a demand for its production and trade that wars ensued where many brave men risked and lost their lives. This is hard to imagine when “Please pass me the pepper” is a simple request in today’s world. The tale of spices begins before the creation of the world when, according to Assyrian myth, the gods sipped on a spiced wine before they commenced the mammoth task of creating the earth. And in Egypt, in the Great Pyramid of Giza, hieroglyphics tell of the consumption of spices, garlic and onion to build up the strength of the people. Ancient Sumerians began to use spices medicinally as long as five thousand years ago. The Chinese claim that they had been using more than 300 kinds of herbs and spices in medicines around that time too. Some three thousand years ago ancient Egyptians were embalming their dead using spices, among other things, while, in Biblical times, Joseph was sold into slavery to passing spice merchants by his envious brothers. And, while all this was going on, the Romans used spices to perform sorcery and magic. Today pumpkin without cinnamon, potatoes without nutmeg and a curry without ginger is unimaginable, so, even now, all around the world, spices are still making magic.
Today, a rich tapestry of local recipes graces our tables at the Cape. Like a fine blended wine, Cape cuisine offers complexity, richness and a host of subtle and exotic nuances to delight the most discerning and adventurous of palates. For more than three centuries, the Cape has continued to provide for the needs of visitors from all parts of the world, making it truly worthy of its title of old, ‘Tavern of the Seas’.
The flavours of the Cape were initially influenced by the first settlers, the Dutch who arrived in 1652. Within two weeks of arriving in South Africa, they laid out a vegetable garden and cultivated seeds that they brought with them from abroad. The Strandlopers, French Huguenots, Malay slaves, Germans and the English all contributed to the melting pot of flavours that are still in evidence today.
Cape Town: Flavours and Traditions is a little book of gastronomic delight. It brims with history, unique South African recipes, and will hopefully inspire you to cook flamboyantly.
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