Food plays an important role in the
community life of the Cape Malay.
The Javanese have always believed
that it is not enough to simply
provide your guests with good food;
you must do more than that.
You must entertain them with
good conversation and make them
feel welcome and appreciated.

When a Moslem invites guests over for a meal,
he almost prepares a feast or niyyat.
The guests take the leftover food home in serviettes.
In contrast to western culture, this is not considered rude.
The Moslems believe that after the niyyat,
the food no longer belongs to the host, but to the guests.

Before every meal the Bismallah is recited, which means
"In the name of Allah." According to tradition, the host
helps himself first, followed by the older male guests.
With the exception of soup and certain desserts,
all food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand
only so that the palm of the hand never gets dirty.
Food may not be brought to the mouth in the left hand
because the left hand cleans the other body openings.

After a community festival, the leftover food is taken to
Old Age Homes and Children's Homes or dealt out to the poor.
In the most Cape Malay households the main meal is served
in the evening when the head of the household is present.
Fridays are the exception, for the men attend the Mosque
for the compulsory Ju'maab prayer meeting.

Sunday lunches are also
important family gatherings.
If friends should arrive during the meal,
they are invited to share in the meal.
The Moslems believe that anybody
outside of the immediate family who enjoys a
meal with the host is blessed (called barakat).
There should always be enough
food for unexpected guests
and it is very embarrassing
when there isn't enough.

The meals are not served
in their respected courses;
all the courses are laid out
simultaneously on the table.
Everyone decides for himself/herself
what he or she chooses to eat first.
The lady of the household
seldom sits at the table.
She sees to everyone's comfort.

A good Malay cook is known as a modji-cook.
She enjoys a high standing in the community and
is often asked to cater at weddings and funerals.
She alone receives all the credit.
The modji-cook is never paid for her effort,
but if she should ever need a favor from anyone who
has "employed her", she is always granted that favor.
This is known as kanala.

Malays have one typical dish
curry, even on hot days.
They believe that curry eaten on
a hot day, helps to cool the body.
In the days of District Six, many people from the
city and well-known visitors from overseas,
made the excursion into the area to sample the curry
at Mr. Kathrada's Crescent Caf in Hanover Street.

Bobotie, minced meat cooked with brown sugar,
apricots and raisins is also very popular.
Koeksisters luscious spiced doughnuts,
dipped in syrup and rolled in desiccated
coconut are still a Sunday morning
refreshment among the Malays.
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The Cape Malay Influence In South African Cooking

With their soft, caramel skins and wide smiles, the Cape Malay people are a prized and proud element of the South African culture.

The first group of Malaysian state prisoners landed on the shores of South Africa from Java and the neighboring Indonesian islands in the late 1600's. Many more followed in the years 1727 until 1749. Not only did this proud and attractive people bring with them the Moslem faith and fine architecture, they also brought with them a unique cookery style, introducing exciting mixtures of pungent spices that has had a heady influence on traditional South African cuisine. Indeed, the Malay-Portuguese words such as "Bobotie" (a curried ground beef and egg custard dish), "Sosatie" (kebabs marinated in a curry mixture) and "Bredie" (slowly cooked stews rich in meat, tomatoes and spices) are integral in South Afican cooking vocabulary.

It all began in 1652, when the Cape of Good Hope was born, a stop in South Africa for ships of the East India Company of Holland on their way east. Immigrants from Europe, convicts from China, slaves from Mozambique and the prisoners from Java soon increased the populace of the seaside village bringing with them their unique cookery skills. A multi-ethnic cuisine emerged, and one can only imagine the aromas emanating from kitchens producing highly spiced dishes from Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and especially oriental recipes handed down for generations.

The Malay influence comes through in the curries, chilies and extensive use of spices such as ginger, cinnamon and turmeric. More Malay magic comes through the use of fruit cooked with meat, marrying sweet and savoury flavours, with hints of spice, curry and other seasonings. The food has a nuance of seductive spiciness, true testament to the culinary capabilities of Malay women world wide. I cannot think of a dried apricot without the image of a caramel coloured woman, grinning widely, a wooden spoon in her hand, gently stirring a pot of simmering curry and fruit. Splendid!

It is said that to make a bobotie it is necessary to have clean hands, for you must knead the meat as you do a dough. Take then of tender mutton and the backstring (fillet) of pork of each a pound in weight, and that without fat or hard part; pound it vigourously in your mortar, with a handful of blanched almonds, 12 pepper corns, a slice of green ginger, a chili, a leaf of the herb marjoram, some coriander seeds, a very small piece of fresh garlic, or if you have none of it, half a leaf of an onion, and the grated rind of a lemon, and work into it half a cupful of wine in which you have soaked an ounce of tamarind. Let it stand overnight. Then, beat into it half a cupful of cream and two tablespoonsful of good butter, not too much salt, and knead it well. Shape it into a round loaf and put it into an earthenware pie-dish that you have well smeared inside with butter and sprinkled with a few cumin seeds. Put it in the oven and when it gets hot and expands, but not before, pour over it two cups of milk in which you have beaten up the yolks of three eggs and a tablespoonsful of curry powder such as you may get at the Malay store. Let it bake till it is well set, and then put upon it a few blanched almonds and a grating of nutmeg. Before you send it to table you may, if you are not pleased with its top colour,
pass a hot salamander over it."

I think that the Cape Malay Bobotie recipe listed below may be a little simpler and just as good. However, for the hardy and brave,
try this method and enjoy a little bit of South Africa.

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Bobotie is a curried ground beef dish, baked in a rich egg custard. Some recipes call for you to combine the curry powder with the ground beef, whilst others advise you to fry the curry powder with the onions. The method is really unimportant. Once the custard covering the beef begins to bake, it keeps the meat moist and absorbs the fragrance of the curry and spices. What makes bobotie a popular traditional South African dish is that it is exceptional served hot with boiled rice, but just as good served cold with a peppery green salad with a tart vinaigrette dressing.

No self respecting South African housewife does not own (and treasure!) a favourite bobotie recipe. You'll be forgiven for not having heard of it, but not trying to make it? Unforgivable!

(Makes: 6 Servings)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 1/4 pounds good quality lean ground beef
1 thickish slice of white bread
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon medium curry powder
(or hot for the hale and brave)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
freshly grated pepper
(about a half teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 tablespoons malt vinegar
1/2 cup seedless raisins
2 tablespoons strong chutney
2 bay leaves
(or fresh lemon leaves if available)
2 medium eggs

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat oil in medium sauté pan. Stir in onions.
Cook over medium heat until transparent.
Add ground beef. Cook until lightly browned and crumbly.

Soak bread in half the milk, squeeze out excess milk and mash
Pour it straight back into remaining milk. Set milk aside.

Add curry, sugar, salt, pepper, turmeric, vinegar, raisins,
chutney to the beef mixture. Spoon the mixture into a
greased baking dish, and place bay leaves on top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes in preheated 350F oven.

Beat egg with remaining milk and pour over
mixture approximately 25 - 30 minutes
before end of baking time.

Serve with steamed rice
(traditionally yellow!) and extra chutney.

Pure South African comfort food!
Especially nice in winter,
or cold with a salad in summer.

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Bobotie is a very popular South African meal.
The combination of sweet and savoury
tastes is typical of Cape Malay dishes.
Follow this recipe and enjoy a lovely bobotie.

· 1 slice of white bread
· a half a cup of seedless raisins
· a half a cup of peeled almonds
· 250ml milk
· 1 kg minced beef
· 3 eggs
· 4 bay or lemon leaves
· 1 teaspoon turmeric
· 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped herbs
· 2 teaspoons medium strength curry powder
· 2 teaspoons salt
· 2 teaspoons oil
· 3 teaspoons apricot jam
· 3 teaspoons fruit chutney
· 2 tablespoons lemon juice (25 ml)

1.) Put the bread in 125ml of milk.
Squeeze the bread dry and
mix it with the minced beef.
2.) Mix in all the other ingredients
EXCEPT the remaining milk,
the oil, the eggs and the bay leaves.
3.) Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook
the meat mixture at a low
temperature until slightly brown.
4.) Transfer the brown mixture into
a casserole dish (an oven dish).
5.) Beat the eggs together with the
remaining milk and pour it
over the meat mixture.
6.) Place the bay leaves on top.
7.) Bake the mixture in the oven at
180'C until the egg becomes solid.
8.) Eat with plain or yellow rice
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In South African cooking, curry always
implies the Cape Malay cooking.

(Makes: 6 Servings)

1.5 kg (3 1/2 pounds) firm white fish
such as South African yellowtail
Butter for frying
2 medium sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, bruised
12 black peppercorns
tablespoon brown sugar
2 hot red chilies, seeded and sliced lengthwise
1 lemon leaf
1 bay leaf
2 heaped tablespoons good quality curry powder
2 cups good quality brown malt vinegar

Clean and cut fish into 6 x 6 inch pieces.
Lightly salt and fry gently in melted
butter until cooked through.
Never overcook fish of any kind.

Melt more butter in a
heavy based saucepan.
To make the pickle, lightly
brown onions with garlic.
Remove from heat.

Add peppercorns, sugar, chilies,
lemon leaf and bayleaf.
Mix together curry powder
and 1/2 cup of the vinegar.
Return onion mixture to heat.
Add curry/vinegar mixture.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Check consistency of the pickle,
adding more vinegar if it is too thick.
It should be a fairly thick liquid.

Pour a layer of onion
mix into serving dish.
Top with a layer of fried fish.
Continue until all fish is
well covered in the pickle,
keeping a little of the pickle aside.
Add vinegar to remains of pickle
and pour this thin liquid over fish.

Refrigerate for 2-3 days for
the fish to absorb the pickle.
Serve with buttered white bread.


Sosaties are kebabs or kabobs as they are also known, marinated for a few days in a thick, sweet curry sauce. The lengthy duration of marinating ensures that the meat is tender, and the aroma that wafts from an open barbecue is so divine that you will have the neighbours popping in to visit on the offchance of an invitation to dinner! Sosaties can be made using pork, mutton, lamb or chicken marinated in the same sauce and are a delicious and popular choice at barbecues or "braais" as they are called here in South Africa.

(Makes: 4-6 Servings)

2 pound loin mutton
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons crushed chilli
30 dried apricots
2 tablespoons seedless raisins
1 teaspoon green ginger, finely grated
4 tablespoons good quality curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
350ml (1 1/3 cups) good quality dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Cube the mutton into 2 inch squares.
Sprinkle with ginger and season.
Lay in the bottom of a
glass dish with a fitting lid.

Braise one onion and
spread over the mutton.
Add a layer of apricots and raisins.

Braise the second onion
with the coriander seeds, chilli,
green ginger and curry powder.
Remove from the heat and add
the sugar, butter and wine.
Bring to the boil and
remove from the heat.
Pour over the meat and other
layers of ingredients in the dish.
Cover with a lid and keep
refrigerated for 3-4 days.

To cook, thread the meat and
apricots alternately on skewers.

Reserve the marinade
and boil until thickened.

Grill the sosaties, turning
constantly to prevent burning.

Traditionally served with yellow rice
and raisins and the boiled marinade.
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This is a festive dish, served at braaivleis,
or outdoor cookouts, in the south of Africa.
I normally cook the dish with lamb,
as specified in the recipe, but I suspect
that the dish is very old and might
well have been used with monkey
or some other good meat.
In any case, try it with lamb,
mutton, or kid goat.

The recipe called for sticking the meat on skewers
(sometimes with lamb fat between the pieces)
but I usually cook it with pieces larger
than are normally used on kabobs.
If you use chunks, you can always put
them into a hinged basket, as I do.

3 pounds lamb
4 medium onions, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves or fresh lemon leaves
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup water

Split the garlic clove, then rub it over the lamb.
Cut the lamb into pieces and sprinkle
with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the meat in a glass or nonmetallic bowl.

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté
the onions until they are golden.
Stir in the coriander, cumin, and hot curry powder.
(To make hot curry powder, add 1/8 teaspoon
of cayenne pepper to ordinary curry powder.)

Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the
brown sugar, lemon juice, and apricot jam.
Turn up the heat, stir in 1/2 cup water,
and bring to a quick boil, stirring
constantly with a wooden spoon.

After it boils, remove the sauce
from the heat and let stand.
When it is cool, pour the sauce over the
meat, sticking in the bay or lemon leaves.
Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or longer.

When you are ready to cook,
build a good fire and let it burn
down until you have hot coals.

Put the meat into a hinged basket
or thread it onto skewers,
then cook it for 15 minutes or longer,
depending on how thick the chunks are.

While the meat is cooking,
remove the leaves from the sauce.
Put the sauce into a cast-iron
skillet and bring to a bubble.
Slowly stir in the flour, using a
wooden spoon, until the sauce is thick.
Remove from the heat and
pour it into a serving dish.
Keep it warm until the meat is ready.

The measures in this recipe will
serve 6 hungry people, maybe 8,
depending on what else you've got to eat.

Traditionally, this dish is served with
rice that has been colored yellow
with turmeric or saffron.


Bredie is a slowly cooked stew rich in meat that marries with the taste of tomatoes, a popular ingredient in a bredie, and other vegetables. The secret to this traditional winter time meal is the use of good quality, fatty mutton rib. In South Africa we get an edible lily called a "waterblommetjie" or little water flower which is often used in bredie cookery. Fruit too is sometimes used to make these stews the gravy of which should always be thick and never watery. Soul food from South Africa for cold evenings.

TAMATIE BREDIE (Tomato & Mutton Stew)

(Makes: 4-6 Servings)

750g (1 1/2 pounds) fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 large onions, chopped
1.5kg (3 1/4 - 3 1/2 pounds)
fatty mutton, chopped into 1 inch pieces
300ml (1 1/4 cups) hot water
3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
10 peppercorns
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon flour

Skin tomatoes by blanching in boiling water.
Chop peeled tomatoes and set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan.
Sweat the onions.
When translucent, add add mutton.
Brown on all sides.

Add hot water and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
Add reserved tomatoes and potatoes
and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Add sugar and peppercorns.
Thicken with a mixture of melted butter
and flour and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve with boiled rice and a caramel smile.
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(Geelrys Met Rosyne)

"This Cape Malay rice dish is always attractive
and usually served with curries or bobotie.
The amount of turmeric you use is up to you,
but I prefer a slightly lighter yellow rice.
Children adore rice made this way as it
presents itself as an exciting nibble rather
than the stodgy white stuff smothered in gravy."

(Makes: 4 - 6 Servings)

200g (1 cup) white rice
75g (1/2 cup) pitted raisins
5ml (1 teaspoon) salt
4ml (3/4 teaspoon) turmeric
10ml ( 2 teaspoons) butter
1 piece of whole cinnamon
500ml (2 1/2 cups) boiling water

Clean the rice, picking out any grains that are not pure white.
Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Bring the rice to a boil, then lower heat and simmer
very slowly until the water has entirely evaporated.
Remove the cinnamon stick and
fluff the rice gently before serving.
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