5 proudly South African meals you won’t find anywhere else in the world

South African cuisine is much like its people – a melting pot of different cultures and unique flavours. Taste your way through these five South African favourites…

1. Bobotie

What you’re eating: minced meat flavoured with fruit, onion, sultanas and spices, baked with a golden egg-based topping.

The origin of Bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tee) goes back hundreds of years, to when the Dutch seafarers first arrived in the Cape. It’s believed the Dutch got the idea for their baked dish from the Indonesian bobotok, which consisted of meat with a custard topping that was cooked in a pan of water until the egg mixture set.

Regardless of who invented it first, the Cape Malay community adopted the recipe and perfected it, adding their own distinct flavour of fruit and spices to make the unique meal known today as Bobotie. Since then celebrity chefs like Nigella have claimed their undying love for Bobotie, but you’ll still find it best served in Cape Town.

2. Bunny Chow

What you’re eating: bean, mutton or chicken curry stuffed into a hollowed out quarter loaf of white bread.

A meal that would make even the most ardent banting devotee weak at the knees, bunny chows are famous for their no-frills deliciousness and unique Durban-curry flavour, best tackled with bare hands.

The name has nothing to do with cooking little rabbits though. Rather, the bunny was created in Durban during the early 1900s by the Banyas, a caste of Indian merchants. The idea was to provide a cheap, easy meal that could be eaten by Indian labourers on the go. “Banyas” became “bunnies” and the rest is culinary history.

3. Potjiekos

What you’re eating: A thick stew containing meat, venison or seafood, typically cooked with vegetables and spices.

A proper potjiekos (pronounced poy-kie-caw-ss) is as much about the pot you’re cooking it in as the stew you’re eating. These three-legged, round-bellied pots made of cast iron have been around since the 16th century and were designed for slow cooking on an open fire, making them the crockery of choice for early pioneers.

It’s no surprise then that Potjiekos (literally translated as “small pot food”) evolved with the Afrikaans Voortrekkers who migrated from the Cape 2 000 kilometres inland during the 1800s. They used the pots to make stew, adding the meat of game they shot day to day. The pot would be placed over a fire to simmer once their convoy of wagons stopped to make camp and any new meat was added, including a few bones, which helped thicken the stew. This slow cooking technique and a strict no-stirring rule infused the stew with mouth-watering flavour. The technique remains little changed today.

4. Shisa Nyama

What you’re eating: slabs of meat grilled over an open fire or “braai”, served with pap and chakalaka.

A vegetarian’s worst nightmare and a meat lover’s delight, Shisa Nyama was born in South Africa’s townships when enterprising butchers realised they could attract more business on the weekend if they provided a service where customers could get their freshly purchased meat grilled or “braaied” outside over an open fire. The idea quickly evolved into a social get-together, where friends and family would choose chunks of meat, get it grilled and then let the good times roll as they gathered round to share a meal.

The isiZulu phrase literally means “burn meat” but the tender and tasty fare is anything but burnt. Added to this are mounds of “pap”, a traditional maize porridge, and a spicy vegetable relish called chakalaka.

And for dessert…

5. Malva pudding

Another Cape/Dutch collaboration, Malva pudding is a spongy tart that originated in Holland but got its distinct flavour from the South African tradition of adding apricot jam to the egg mixture, as well as a dollop of brandy to the caramelised sauce. Serve it hot with ice-cream or cream and you’ll taste why it’s South Africa’s most ubiquitous dessert.

A taste of London’s gastro-pub fare in sunny Cape Town

One of the joys of travel is eating out with the locals. And if you’re looking for top-notch bistro fare on the fringes of the city’s nightlife district, head to the Black Sheep on trendy Kloof Street.

I love blackboard menus in restaurants. Scribbled up daily, and updated as the night wears on, it’s the mark of a restaurant that cares about each and every dish on the menu. Made fresh that day, using fresh ingredients; when it’s gone, it’s gone. Draw a line through it and move on.

That’s just the first reason to love Black Sheep, on the upper reaches of Cape Town’s trendy Kloof Street. The second is the wonderful food from chef Jonathan Japha.

Japha made his name at the small-plate restaurant Fork, in Long Street, but here offers dishes inspired by his time in the “gastro-pubs” of London.

While the menu changes daily, starters could include delicious bacon and calves’ liver pâté or classic steak tartare with crisp Melba toast. Hearty mains embrace the bistro approach, with the likes of roast rabbit loin wrapped in bacon, and stuffed lamb neck. Then there are the favourites locals simply won’t let him take off the menu: chicken breast rubbed with mustard and tarragon, and pork belly with hoisin and Chinese five-spice. Both are delicious.

Unusually for a bistro, vegetarians will also be happy here. Japha applies his considerable skills to concoct a wonderful range of meat-free meals that range from seasonal salad of heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil pesto to a signature lentil coconut curry with roasted butternut and grilled halloumi.

The menu is matched by a great selection of local wine estates, alongside a handful of good craft beers. As bistro food goes, Black Sheep ticks all the right boxes. Just be sure to book a table in advance; this restaurant is a very popular black sheep.

Bootlegger: Sea Point’s answer to great coffee, day or night

Cape Town’s Atlantic seaside suburb of Sea Point isn’t exactly overflowing with great coffee joints, which makes Bootlegger Coffee Company all the more worth a visit.

Whether you need a great cup of coffee at dawn or midnight, Bootlegger Coffee Company in the seaside suburb of Sea Point has you covered. Thankfully, it’s a coffee shop that blends superb coffee – with décor that’s easy on the eye.

Interior designer Olga Barrow, who works in both Cape Town and London, conceptualised the striking store that blends vintage industrial elements with a touch of quirkiness and dash of glamour. And it works, in a flash of binary-coloured tiles and cosy banquettes.

Of course the décor means nothing without good coffee, and here owner Pieter Bloem pulls no punches. Only pure Arabica beans are used, roasted in a high-end Giesen roaster. The house blend is delicious, typically a mix of beans from Guatemala, Burundi and Costa Rica. If you’re travelling on a budget you can soak up the special “red eye” deal each morning from 06h30 to 08h30, when coffee is just R14 a pop.

Happily, Bootlegger is about more than just coffee; if you’re hungry, you’re in the right place. Alongside tempting pastries they offer an extensive menu for both breakfast and lunch. Only free-range eggs, grass-fed beef and fresh artisan breads are used.

Combining stylish décor with great food and seriously good coffee, Bootlegger Coffee Company is well worth seeking out. You’ll find branches in the coastal suburb of Bantry Bay and further south, in Kenilworth, too.

Don’t panic, it’s organic! Stock up on your GMO-free foods at these markets

Tired of trawling your local Woolies for items marked ‘organic’? Stock up on fresh organic fruit and veg at these Cape Town markets. At some, you’ll even be able to purchase seeds and seedling to grow your own!

Oranjezicht City Farm Market

The Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF) Market is held at Granger Bay at the V&A Waterfront every Saturday from09h00 to 14h00. In addition to fresh fruit and veg, you can also buy organic dairy products, free-range eggs, honey and freshly baked bread. While not all of the produce is certified organic (because certification is expensive), it does all come from small, local farmers, many of whom form part of the organic Participatory Guarantee System. You’ll also be able to get your hands on heirloom and organic seeds, seedlings, compost, and other gardening products. If all that shopping whips up an appetite, there are a bunch of foodie stalls catering to vegans, vegetarians, raw foodies, and those who shun wheat, gluten, sugar and dairy.

Erf 81 Food Market

As the name suggests, this market is held on Erf 81, which you’ll find on the corner of Military and Leeuwenvoet roads in Tamboerskloof. The market, which takes place on Sundays, is hosted by Tyisa Nabanye, a non-profit urban agriculture organisation situated on the slopes of Signal Hill. Located in the barn just behind the vegetable garden, the market offers up organic vegetables, seeds, seedlings, freshly pressed juice, nut butters, Cape Malay food and home-baked treats.

Good Company Farmers Market

The Company Gardens were once the only source of fresh produce in the Cape, so it seems fitting that the Good Company Farmers Market – which is held in the Paddocks Area every Saturday from 09h00 to 15h00 – offers up a variety of local organic farm produce. In such a beautiful setting, you’ll be inclined to linger, particularly when you sample the delicious eats and craft beer on offer. An added bonus of this child-friendly market is that you can also bring along your dogs if they are well behaved.

Constantia Waldorf Organic & Biodynamic Market

Every Friday from 11h00 to 15h00 (during the school term) the Constantia Waldorf School in Spaanschemat River Road in Constantia hosts an organic and biodynamic market. In addition to fresh veggies, dairy products, honey and preserves, you’ll also be able to get your hands on organic products from Camphill Village.

Earth Fair Food Market

Situated in a warehouse near the Builders Warehouse in Tokai, the Earth Fair Food Market takes place twice a week – on Wednesdays from 15h00 to 20h30 and on Saturdays from 09h00 to 14h00. You’ll find over 40 traders selling a range of fresh produce and delicious food, including organic veggies, organic hummus, organic chocolate, organic dried fruit and raw nuts, and cheeses from Constantia Cheesery that have been produced as organically as possible.

Rondebosch Village Market

The Rondebosch Village Market, which takes place opposite the Rondebosch Library every Saturday morning from 08h00 – 12h00, isn’t the biggest of markets, so it is a good idea to arrive early. That way, you’ll get first pick of the organic fruit and veggies on offer. The market also stocks nuts, jams, honey and pickles.

Earth Fair Market: the place to go for farm fresh goods in the inner city

Food markets may conjure up images of country farms and chickens clucking underfoot, but on Thursday afternoons the country comes to the city centre at Cape Town’s delightful Earth Fair Market on St George’s Mall.

At most hours of the day St George’s Mall – the pedestrian boulevard that runs almost the length of the centre of Cape Town – is abuzz with commuters and office workers. Pigeons flap underfoot and hawkers sell T-shirts and African artworks to tourists.

But come Thursday midday, the end of the mall closest to the St. George’s Cathedral and Company’s Garden is transformed into a vibrant food and produce market that draws locals and tourists alike.

Perhaps the closest thing to a European-style street market you’ll find in the city, stalls line the mall offering up wonderful baked goods, fresh vegetables, charcuterie, cheese and meats.

Along with plenty of great produce to take home, there are also stalls selling delicious street food: either enjoy it in the mall, or grab a take-away and wander into the scenic Company’s Garden.

The market runs from 11h00 -15h00 every Thursday in St George’s Mall.

Eat, drink and be spoiled at the Cape’s Delaire Graff wine estate

You know you’re in for a treat from the very moment you drive up a luscious green lane lined with magnificent statues and trees…

The Delaire Graff Estate offers an experience in which all your senses will be stimulated. Nothing makes a better pairing with wine than food, art and beauty – and you will be able to enjoy the complete experience at this estate outside Stellenbosch.

Visually, the estate is an explosion of colour, nature and art. A must-see is the art collection, which recently acquired a fantastic new addition – Vladimir Tretchikoff’s iconic painting the ‘Chinese Girl’. Chairman of Graff Diamonds Laurence Graff acquired the piece, one of the most reproduced and recognisable paintings in the world, in March 2013.

Dotted around the estate and lining the walls are examples of some of the most fascinating art that South Africa has produced. South Africa’s diverse heritage is reflected in the art that can be viewed here: Lionel Smit’s African Woman in the Tasting Lounge echoes the subtle palette of the natural hues used in the sophisticated setting, while signature Dylan Lewis cheetahs grace the landscape. Works by Deborah Bell, Sidney Kumalo, Fred Schimmel, Durant Sihlali and Cecil Skotnes adorn the walls, while guests at the Lodge will particularly enjoy Stephane Graff and the intensity of Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi’s work.

The estate gardens are another visual wonder, landscaped by celebrity horticulturalist and multi gold-medal finalist at the Chelsea Flower Show, Keith Kirsten. Here you can walk amongst mostly indigenous plants, shrubs and trees, including milkwoods, yellowwoods and sneezewoods.

The luxury lodges on the estate – for those who want to spend more time in this fantasy world of art, wine and nature, are surrounded by scented hedges of camellia and swathes of coffee jasmine.

When all the senses are spoken to, hunger will still prevail – but even here the estate offers food and wine that will introduce you to a world of new taste experiences in one of their restaurants.

At the Delaire Graff Restaurant the style is “bistro chic” cuisine, which is organic, feel-good food infused with vibrant flavours. The dishes here are pure Africa on a plate, such as the beef tongue, served with pickled white asparagus, beef jam, brown butter and horseradish. There are also lamb neck, line fish and beef served with chargrilled vegetables, sweetbread ravioli and asparagus. The dishes here are pure Africa on a plate, such as the beef tongue, served with pickled white asparagus, beef jam, brown butter and horseradish.

Indochine serves Asian-inspired food, which can only be described as art on a plate. Here you can enjoy seared miso yellowtail, or sip a mussel and whelk laksa soup. Some main courses to delight in are Thai barbeque, cured salmon trout or curries made with line fish, lamb, beef and duck.

On the wine front, you won’t be disappointed. The estate has won several awards and there is a wine lounge where you can taste the Delaire Graff wine range while you enjoy beautiful views and a roaring fireplace in winter.

For longer stays and pampering treats, the estate has a luxury lodge and spa where you can unwind and relax.

Fine food, wine and a trip in time at historic Vergelegen estate

While its name translates from Afrikaans as situated far away, Vergelegen wine estate – one of the Cape’s oldest wine farms – is a, easy 40 minutes drive from Cape Town, making for a fabulous day trip.

Tucked away at the foot of the dramatic Hottentots Holland Mountains in Somerset West, the sprawling Vergelegen estate is a perfect example of a traditional Cape farm that has moved with the times.

The original manor house and surrounding buildings  – most of which are open to the public – date back over three hundred years to the very earliest days of the Cape Colony, when it took three days to reach the farm from Cape Town via ox-wagons. Remarkably, the Camphor trees that shade the traditional Cape Dutch buildings are just as old and have been declared National Monuments.

The grounds are a highlight of Vergelegen, with 17 formal gardens laid out around the estate. Don’t miss the remarkable Camellia Garden of Excellence, as well as the historic Octagonal Garden. The story goes that the walls were built to their current height so that they would be too high for a lion to jump over!

Felines aside, there’s good food and wine to be had here too. The estate’s two restaurants cover both ends of the spectrum nicely. Camphors offers modern fine dining, while bistro-style Stables restaurant offers casual food. Stables also overlooks the child-friendly East Garden where you’ll find a sizeable playground to keep young ones entertained.

Cellar master André van Rensburg has a deft touch when it comes to classic winemaking, and his Flagship Range of wines is simply superb. The reserve range, of which the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are particularly good, are excellent affordable options, too.

For a real taste of Cape Town’s amazing nature, go food foraging!

Roushanna Grey is the founder of Veld and Sea, an organisation that runs courses to teach people how to forage for foods from the natural environment. Cape Town, with its abundance of edible plants and two coastlines dishing up plenty of sea-salted treats, is the perfect place to forage for food, she says.

Traditional foraging

Our Paleolithic ancestors lived in caves some two to five kilometres from the sea on a little strip of the southern coast of South Africa east of Cape Town. They were sustained by a unique, stable diet of nutrient-rich shellfish full of Omega-3 fatty acids foraged from the intertidal rock pools, as well as plant food from the abundant vegetation around them.

Protein came from the land animals they could catch, but more importantly they had a steady supply of shellfish, including brown mussels, periwinkles, alikreukel, abalone and the occasional beached whale.

Carbohydrates came in the form of various underground tubers, roots, corms and bulbs foraged in the plains.

In our South African history we have had many hunter-gatherer tribes who relied on foraging for a large part of their existence, carrying them through the dry seasons. Roots, potherbs, cereals, leaves, seeds, flowers, buds and berries were eaten. Most of these plants are also medicinal. This edible plant knowledge is in danger of being lost if not passed down from one generation to the next.

Indigenous edibles

We have a wealth of edible and medicinal plants within our biodiverse plant kingdom here in the Cape. Some are edible only in certain seasons, or after certain preparations.

It is very important to know which part of the plant to pick, how to prepare it and how to harvest sustainably, responsibly and legally. Veld and Sea run seasonal foraging courses at the Good Hope Gardens Nursery and, in the cooler months of the year, we have our Forage Harvest Feast courses where you learn how to identify, pick and prepare a range of delicious new wild flavours. People leave saying “Wow, I have that growing in my garden and I never even knew I could eat it!” Then they show their neighbours and friends and so the knowledge is passed on. It’s great!

Seasonal super foods

Eating seasonally and locally is nutritionally perfect for your body’s immune system. For example, the berries that ripen in autumn make a great tonic to see you through winter, and new spring greens are good for your digestive system after a long cold winter of eating heavy foods. Just like eating local honey is good for you, so is eating edible plants from our surrounding environment. Local phytonutrients are a win!

Seaweeds

Seaweed is a highly nutritious sea algae. Seaweeds are an amazing source of iodine, which helps keep your thyroid healthy and helps your hormones work well. They contain vitamins, minerals and trace elements in a natural form that our bodies can easily absorb. I have seen a few imported seaweed products in our health shops, but the fresh goodness is growing right here on our seaside doorstep.

Great food, wine and more at Cape Town’s tower of Babel

In the shadow of the Simonsberg lies one of the most remarkable destinations in the winelands. If you’re going to visit just one wine farm on a day out from Cape Town, make it Babylonstoren in Paarl.

At Babylonstoren the first pleasure comes in confusion, because once you’ve parked your car beside the whitewashed farm wall you’ll hardly know where to start.

Admire the rejuvenated historic farm buildings? Stock up in the deli and farm bakery? Burn through your credit card in the stylish décor boutique?

But leave all of those for later and start with the garden: this remarkable food garden draws inspiration from French monastic gardens, as well as the Company’s Garden in the centre of Cape Town, and is a remarkable example of the edible made art. Fruit trees line scenic pathways while carpets of chrysanthemum throw their heady scent into the summer air. Your best bet is to book a spot on the daily walks guided by the garden horticulturist.

With the gardens visited it’s time for wine. A brand-new wine tasting experience has transformed the offering here, with well-informed guides taking guests through the olive press and wine cellar before finishing in the striking new wine-tasting facility. Cellar master Charl Coetzee crafts particularly good Shiraz, Viognier and Chardonnay. If you’re after a bottle to take home for the cellar, make it the flagship Nebukadnesar red, a striking Bordeaux-style blend.

The estate also boasts two wonderful restaurants, with laid-back lunches at the Conservatory and upmarket farm-to-fork cuisine at the modern bistro, Babel.

If you can’t bring yourself to leave after all that, book a room at the stylish farm hotel in one of the gorgeous suites that overlook the garden.

Here’s where to get a taste of Peru in Cape Town

Bree Street has established itself as the hippest, hottest destination for great food in the city – and savvy locals and travellers are heading to Charango for a taste of Nikkei cuisine in Cape Town.

Nikkei cuisine is all the rage across the world, as this fusion of Peruvian and Japanese influences makes its presence felt from London to Miami.

“The future of gastronomy is being cooked up in Peru,” said über-chef Ferran Adrià when opening his own Nikkei restaurant, Pakta, in Barcelona in 2013.

That trend came to Cape Town with the opening of Charango, a trendy restaurant on the edge of Heritage Square.

The menu is compact, with just a handful of choices for each course, and the focus is largely on small plate dining and communal feasting, with everyone sharing a number of different dishes.

The tuna tacos are the standout on the menu, while the signature Peruvian dish of ceviche comes in both traditional and “New style” offerings. The seared tuna tataki is also superb.

As you’d expect with a Japanese influence, the menu focuses on seafood, but there are a handful of excellent meaty options on offer too: Peruvian beef skewers play nicely with a delicious dip of spicy aji rocoto peppers, and more traditional main courses include sirloin, pork belly and lamb loin.

And don’t forget dessert: although unusual for most diners, the toasted quinoa crème with caramelised bananas is a surprise highlight of the menu.

The menu is well matched by a compact wine list of mostly boutique estates, but don’t forget to kick things off with a traditional Peruvian Pisco Sour; the chefs at Charango have even had their own brandy distilled for the occasion.