Discover the Food and Cooking of South Africa with chef Fergal Connolly »
And take a cultural journey into this diverse and exciting country
By Cath Adams
This colourful cookbook will take you on a cultural journey, introducing you to the fascinating history and culinary diversity of South Africa.
This image-rich cookbook focuses on ingredients, techniques and traditional fusion recipes, which have evolved through historic influences from Java, Europe and India dating back to the 1600s.
The visually appealing photography by Nicki Dowey in Food and Cooking of South Africa sets the scene. Colourful and creatively styled, the photos draw you in – you can almost imagine you are sitting by a braai (traditional campfire using wood smoke) or looking over the sweeping cane fields of the Malabar Coast.
Chef Fergal Connolly – who trained at London's Savoy Hotel under the tutelage of Anton Edelman, and has a vast knowledge of world food – welcomes readers by providing a detailed history of South Africa including culinary influences: the first inhabitants prior to Dutch settlement, British rule and the arrival of the Dutch-speaking Afrikaans.
The book goes into great detail about the main influences on South African cooking, also including the Portuguese traders and Indian plantation workers with their unique version of sugar plantation takeaway called Bunny Chow, the South African equivalent of the ploughman’s lunch.
It’s a unique read and you get a real feel for the sort of traditional cooking you could expect if you were to visit South Africa: dishes like Bobotie, Koeksisters and Melktert, and preserved food like Biltong (air-dried game meat). However, sadly there are no maps to reference the region(s) from where the recipes originate. Considering this book is such a visual feast, location maps would be extremely helpful and would enrich the reader’s experience.
The majority of the recipes in this book can easily be made using ingredients available in Australia and other countries. However there are a few which may prove challenging to recreate, including the Kudu Pie and Springbok Carpaccio (kudu and springbok are types of antelope). It would have been helpful if suggestions had been made in the recipe for alternative ingredients in the absence of these proteins in the Australian (or other) markets, such as wallaby, kangaroo or venison, for example.
I enjoyed making several recipes in the book including the Tomato Bredie with Amasi Raita. Bredie is a rich lamb stew with a Malay influence, flavoured with tomatoes and garam masala. One of the important ingredients is ghee (clarified butter) so make sure you use this (not plain butter) as there is a significant flavour and texture difference (ghee is available at your local Asian grocer). It’s important to also buy a good quality garam masala (or even better make your own!) as this is the main spice blend used in the dish. The lamb was very tender and the flavours of the stew only intensify if you enjoy leftovers the next day.
The other dish I particularly enjoyed from Connolly’s book was the Pickled Achard, a crunchy coleslaw with a Malay twist flavoured with chillies, ginger and coriander. I don’t have a food processor so made the salad by hand, but it didn’t take long. I served the Achard with some local pan-fried blue eye (trevalla). I thought the flavours of the dish worked well with the white fish. You may like to adjust the amount of chilli added to the dish depending on your personal preference.
Food and Cooking of South Africa will appeal if you are passionate about learning more about South Africa’s history and cuisine, or just want to try something different. You will most certainly learn many fascinating things which have all contributed to making South Africa such a cultural melting pot.
As previously mentioned, some of the recipes featured quite unusual ingredients which may potentially discourage some readers from trying them. But be heartened, as there are plenty of others which can be easily made (or adapted if you are a more experienced cook), and you are sure to enjoy some new culinary experiences, even if you can’t visit South Africa yourself.
Food and Cooking of South Africa by Fergal Connolly with photography by Nicki Dower is published by Lorenz Books, an imprint of Anness Publishing (2016, HB, 160pp, RRP A$44.95). It can be purchased directly from Australian distributors John Reed Publishing here »
This book review is by Cath Adams. Cath is a passionate food and wine lover, a recent DIY convert and a lover of all things Tasmanian. Her constant shadow is a little Aussie terrier called Millie. Cath works full time in Marketing for the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation, which invests over A$600,000 per year in local medical research.
- South Africa - all (SAF)
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