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Heritage Food

South African cooking developed over a period of about 100 years. It drew its origins from the people who settled here from many foreign lands, after the year 1652 when the first Dutch settlers started a new colony at the southernmost point of Africa. From both the West and the East small groups of people brought with them a wide spectrum of eating traditions.

The cosmopolitan influences came from the Dutch, British, French, Portuguese as well as the Indonesians, Malays and Indians. Still later the Germans and the Italians appeared on the scene. The Cape became a vital port for the spice traders of old who introduced many exotic flavours to the cuisine of the early settlers. Intermingled ideas combined with the availability of ingredients brought about a most exciting and new style of cooking – a unique pattern which settled so firmly, it would never disappear again!

A new language, Afrikaans also originated spontaneously and was spoken by the colonist farmers and labourers alike. As much as this new language developed and became an acknowledged language the cooking of South Africa also developed a distinct character. The recipes and traditions were passed down from generation to generation with minor changes or improvements made as time went by. Although the origin of certain recipes and cooking methods can still sometimes be traced, many are true South African creations which have never been made anywhere else in the world before.

South Africa has become “A World in One Country”, which also applies to the style of eating, including a kaleidoscope of dishes which over the years have become tradition and is cooked and enjoyed by all. South Africans in general are very hospitable and enjoy sharing meals with family and friends. It is common practice to invite visitors for dinner, lunch or even breakfast. Due to the wonderful climate which prevails almost throughout the year a lot of entertaining is done outdoors with the typical “braai” or barbeque still as popular as ever. The chosen meat is seasoned to taste, grilled over an open fire and served with fresh salads, breads, potatoes or “pap” (cooked maize porridge) with a tomato and onion gravy as accompaniment.

Many traditional recipes of which Bobotie is an excellent example, are still actively cooked and enjoyed in South Africa. Preparing and serving this dish will allow you to taste and delight in the spice of South African life!

Compiled by Carolie de Koster, Foodlink Cookery School, Nieu-Zealand