5 South African cookbooks to inspire and delight

Kitchen Queen Lucia Mthiyane believes beautiful meals can be made from simple, colourful ingredients.

Kitchen Queen Lucia Mthiyane believes beautiful meals can be made from simple, colourful ingredients.

Published Oct 20, 2020


Our #UltimateSA series celebrates the very best of what makes South Africa great, and this of course includes food and books. These 5 cookbooks combine the two with fabulous results.

1. All Sorts of One-Dish Wonders by Chantal Lascaris

Published by Penguin Random House SA, this book proves that cooking in one pot or pan can be exciting, dinner party-worthy and delicious. At the same time, it provides inspiration for memorable meals to serve to family and friends while leaving you time to do the right things you want to do.

With a focus on seasonal, fresh and healthy options, All Sorts of One-Dish Wonders will become a favourite if you’re looking for the best meals that are low maintenance and simple to prepare, but with a dash flair, form breakfast, main courses and side dishes, right through to yummy desserts.

In this book, Lascaris has always been interested in health and nutrition and is a less mess, less fuss, and more flavour.

2. Kitchen Queen by Lucia Mthiyane

Of course, fans have become most au fait with former “Rhythm City” actress Lucia Mthiyane’s prowess in the kitchen as she is constantly posting cooking videos. She says: “‘Kitchen Queen’ was inspired by my surroundings, my family, how I grew up, the role that food played in the family when I grew up, our Sunday get-togethers with extended family and our memorable Christmas lunches.”

In the book, she revisits cherished childhood memories with food, a list of pantry staples, along with recipes for the traditional seven colours meal, desserts, picnic food and salads. Having grown up in Durban, Mthiyane is partial to curries, too. In fact, she has several Indian dishes in her book. And her palate gravitates towards more piquant flavours. She admitted: “To be honest, when a dish does not have a kick for me it's a bit of a bore. Whenever I went to town with my mother when I was a kid, I would always ask her to buy me those hot oily nuggets (bhajiya); actually, that's how I started loving heat in my food. Coming from KZN you grow up rating hot food like bunny chows, roti with curry, curry and rice and the likes.”On what she wanted fans to take away from “Kitchen Queen”, Mthiyane said: “I wanted people to know me and my journey; where I come from, through my food. I have hundreds of recipes but I chose recipes that told a story no matter how delicious the dish is, if it did not have a story it would not make it to the book.

3. The Africa Cookbook - Portia Mbau

"The Africa Cookbook", like everything in Mbau’s life, is a labour of love and a wonderful introduction to the culinary knowledge she acquired on her travels.

The book, which bagged a Gourmand Award for Charity Cookbook - Africa, left the chef and founder of The Africa Café beaming with pride.

She shared: “To start, I have been travelling Africa and gathering inspiration and creating recipes for my restaurant for many years. For the longest time diners would ask for the recipe of their favourite dish. Finally, at the beginning of 2019, I sat down with Lumai (Mira de Smidt, her daughter) and started putting together a collection of my most popular recipes. The timing was right and it coincided with Lumai graduating from media, design and photography school. Lumai was eager to flex her photography muscles and I was ready to put my dishes and stories together.”

Having accumulated recipes that could fill several cookbooks, it wasn’t easy whittling down her selection for the cookbook.

“However, I made the selection based on a few factors. Firstly, recipes that could represent different regions of Africa: north, south, east and west. Then I wanted to put in recipes that would be easy for a beginner to an experienced cook, with ingredients you can find across the world. A lot of my customers are foreign and I want to promote African cooking across the globe. Finally, I chose the most popular recipes, dishes that customers have asked for time and time again.”

4. Food Stories - Tebo and Lebo Ndala

Twins Tebo and Lebo Ndala are down-to-earth kasi girls from Mamelodi who have launched their first cookbook which recounts their love affair with food from grandmother Koko’s kitchen to working at a flatbread stand as culinary students and attending university in Los Angeles.

“It’s our very first cookbook, which took bit over two years to create. We are beside ourselves, we are so happy and we are very proud of ourselves. We worked so hard on this book. The people we’ve met, the experiences we’ve had and the places we’ve had the pleasure to travel to inspire this book,” they said.

The book is a mini biography,” Lebo says. “It’s our love child. It’s about sharing our love of food. It’s two young South African girls chasing their dream.”

The recipes also reflect their style.

“Good food should never be intimidating,” says Lebo.

“I hate recipes that make me feel like I can’t cook,” says Tebo. “Ours are quick, easy, and use accessible ingredients.

Fatima Sydow and her sister Gadija Sydow Noordien have a range of mouthwatering Eid dishes in their book Cape, Curry and Koesisters.

5. Cape, Curry & Koesisters by Fatima Sydow, Gadija Sydow Noordien

If you're searching for a taste of Cape Malay food then look no further than "Cape, Curry & Koesisters" (Afrikaans version is Kaap, Kerrie & Koesisters).

The Sydow sisters’ popular TV series of the same name was the catalyst for publishing the book to share recipes and cooking hacks with the world.

Cape Malay flavours are spicy, savoury and unique to the Mother City which is why the Sydow sisters have started at their childhood home on the Cape Flats to take us on an educational cooking journey.

NB Publishers have described the book as "a Cape Malay food trip, which is also a journey of life, as the recipes are linked with memories of their childhood on the Cape Flats.

They believe in home cooking and recipes that are quick, easy and affordable. Easy, yet never boring, there's something for every taste and every occasion. Try your hand at their curries with sambals on the side and dhaltjies for a bit of bite."

* Lutho Pasiya, Nathan Adams, Nelandri Narianan and Debashine Thangevelo and Frank Chemaly contributed to this article.

** This article is part of our #UltimateSA series, celebrating the very best of what makes South Africa great. Read more here.

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