Flavours of Cape Town

Flavours of Cape Town


The Colourful Bokaap Malay neighborhood in Cape Town {Photo: www.thejaxblog.com}


The flavour of a city is what one usually remembers the most, long after the vacation is over. Cape Town’s flavours are as diverse as its people. Being a cultural melting pot from the days of the Dutch settlers and Malay slaves to the Portuguese, French and many other Europeans, this ethnic diversity is strongly reflected in our food.

Growing up I was fortunate to taste many hearty dishes from the traditional Afrikaans “boere kos”* from my Father’s side of the family to the sweet spicy Malay curries from my Mom’s side. No, I am not from Malaysian nor of Muslim descent, but many mixed race people in Cape Town have inherited this style of cooking.


on the wall at Atlas Trading – Cape Town’s oldest spice shop in the Bokaap {Photo: www.thejaxblog.com}

Curries and stews are regularly infused with aromatic herbs such as “dhanya”*, “borrie”* and aniseed with a touch of sugar to make it sweet. Mind you the only way anyone on my dad’s side would eat any vegetables were if it were drowned in white sauce and baked with brown sugar. Think soet patat* a firm favourite often served as a dessert with custard.

South Africans are renowned for being a meat-eating nation,

across all the cultures this is the one thing I’d say we have in common, well except for our Hindu brothers and sisters. We could just about barbecue any time of the day or night.

I am going to share with you FIVE of my favourite flavours of Cape Town, my hometown, complete with the recipes so you can make this for yourself.

So enjoy!

Bobotie* – “This South African original is similar to meatloaf, but so much better. A slightly sweet curry flavors ground beef with a milk and egg custard on top. It’s delicious!”


Bobotie and yellow rice served with banana {photo: Allrecipes.com}


Recipe By:Trixie from AllRecipes.com

Prep time:  20 mins

Cook time: 1 hour 40 mins

Total time:  2 hours


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 slices Texas toast thick-sliced bread
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon hot chutney
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions in the hot oil until soft. Break the ground beef into the skillet and cook until brown.
  3. Place the milk in a shallow dish. Soak the bread in the milk. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread. Set the milk aside. Add the bread to the beef mixture. Stir in the raisins, apricot jam, chutney, curry powder, salt, and black pepper. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven 1 hour.
  5. While the bobotie bakes, whisk together the reserved milk, egg, and a pinch of salt. Pour over top of the dish. Lay the bay leaf onto the top of the milk mixture.
  6. Return the bobotie to the oven until the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Malva* Pudding – “A sweet pudding of Dutch origin, Malva Pudding is usually served hot with custard or ice-cream. Made with apricot jam, this typical South African dessert has a spongy, caramelised texture”


malva inspiringwomen.co.za
Malva Pudding {photo: www.inspiringwomen.co.za}


Malva Pudding Author: Just Easy Recipes


  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temp)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth apricot jam
  • 1 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
  • (5ml) pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • (30ml) 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • (15ml) 125ml milk

The Sauce

  • 250ml cream
  • 125ml butter
  • 125ml sugar 125ml water/Orange juice/Sherry/Brandy


  1. uppSet oven to 190°C
  2. Beat castor sugar and eggs until fluffy then beat in the jam until a creamy consistency
  3. Sift dry ingredients into separate bowl
  4. Melt butter in a small pot on a medium heat and add the vinegar and milk
  5. Now add the above mixture (butter, milk, eggs) to the sifted ingredients and mix well. Now add the eggs mixture and combine well.
  6. Pour into an ovenproof casserole dish that takes about 2 liters.
  7. Bake at 190°C for 45 mins until the top is nicely browned.
  8. Melt all the sauce ingredients together in a small pot over a medium heat and pour over the pudding before serving, preferably while it’s still hot.
  9. Serve it with ice­cream or custard or both.

Milk Tart* – “It is a traditional South African tart that is very easy to prepare.”

milktart storkcoza
Milk Tart {photo: www.stork.co.za}


Recipe By: TWAKMUIS  AllRecipes.com

Prep time:  30 mins

Cook time:  40 mins

Total time:  1 hour 10 mins


  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Coat a 9-inch deep dish pie plate with vegetable oil cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy. Sift in the cake flour, baking powder and salt and stir until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and milk. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks using an electric mixer. Fold into the batter. Pour into the prepared pie plate, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Continue to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center is set when you gently jiggle the pie.
  4. Serve Hot or Cold

Koesusters* vs Koeksisters*   


A tasty Malay Koesuster made and bought in the Bokaap {photo: www.thejaxblog.com}



Prep time:  2 hours

Cook time:  30 mins

Total time:  2 hours 30 mins


  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2.5ml salt
  • 10g (1 pkt) instant yeast
  • 10 ml fine cardamom
  • 10ml fine ginger
  • 10ml fine cinnamon
  • 10ml aniseed
  • 1 large egg
  • 15ml oil
  • 30ml butter
  • 375ml (1½ cup) hot water
  • 375ml (1½ cup) milk
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Desiccated coconut for sprinkling


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamon pods


  1. Mix flour with spices, sugar, yeast and salt.
  2. Melt butter in hot water and mix milk.
  3. To dry ingredients add egg, oil and milk-water mixture.
  4. Mix thoroughly to form a soft smooth dough.
  5. Leave to rise for about 1- 2 hours in a warm place.
  6. Once risen, moisten hands with oil and roll dough into a sausage shape and cut into 2cm slices.
  7. Set aside to rise again.
  8. Lightly stretch slices to form an oval shape and deep fry in medium hot oil until golden brown.
  9. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.


  1. Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a slow boil, stirring to ensure sugar does not burn.
  2. Stir until the sugar syrup becomes slightly sticky.
  3. Boil the koeksisters in it for1- 2 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Sprinkle with a little of the desiccated coconut and serve hot.



Traditional Dutch/Afrikaans Koeksisters {photo:www.eatout.co.za}

Here’s the ultimate koeksister recipe, from the official MasterChef South Africa cookbook.

Serves: 12 – 14


For the syrup:

  • 800 ml water
  • 1,5 kg sugar
  • 12,5 ml cream of tartar
  • 40 ml lemon juice
  • for frying, sunflower oil

For the dough:

  • 4 x 250ml (500g) cake flour
  • 25ml baking powder
  • 20ml margarine
  • 1/2 large beaten egg
  • 245ml water


For the syrup:

Place the water, sugar and cream of tartar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once the syrup starts to boil, add the lemon juice and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Cool the syrup to room temperature. Pour half of the syrup into a bowl and keep over ice to cool rapidly. Place the remaining syrup in the fridge to cool.

For the dough:

Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl and then rub in the margarine with your fingertips.

Add the beaten ½ egg to the water and whisk to incorporate.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Pour the water mixture into the flour and then start to mix until a smooth dough has formed. Knead thoroughly.

Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes or  up to 5 hours. Heat the oil to 160 °C.

Using an oiled rolling pin, roll out the dough on an oiled surface to a thickness of 5 mm. Cut the dough into rectangles of 6 x 15 cm. Cut each rectangle lengthways into 3 strips, leaving one side uncut. Plait the 3 strips and press the cut ends together firmly.

Fry in batches of 6 in the hot oil for 6–7 minutes, or until dark golden brown. Drain them for a few seconds on paper towels. Keep the rest of the koeksisters covered to prevent them from drying out.

Dip the koeksisters into the ice-cold syrup while they are still hot. Remove from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack. The syrup will gradually become hot with use, so when you have done about half of the koeksisters take the remaining syrup from the fridge and use this for the balance.

Top tip: For a yummy flavour, add a piece of dried ginger and a stick of cinnamon to the syrup when the lemon juice is added. The colder the syrup the better! Make it the day before and place in the fridge to ensure it is ice cold.

Extracted from MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook. Human & Rousseau.

Biryani – Food24.com


Chicken Biryani with yellow rice, parsley and aniseed {photo: Food24.com}


Recipe from: My Easy Cooking – 

Preparation time: 10 min
Cooking time: 30 min

Total Time: 40 mins


  • 4 chicken breasts – cut into small pieces
  • 250g rice
  • 1 onion – sliced thinly
  • 1Tbs curry powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1l chicken stock
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Can lentils – optional
  • 1sachet spice mecca biryani spice mix

Serving suggestions

  • 1boiled egg
  • 1 tomato – de-seeded and finely chopped
  • Chopped coriander
  • Toasted almond slivers
  • ½ cup sultanas or chopped dried apricots

Servings: 6


Heat the oil in a pot and add onion and all the spices. Stir and  brown slightly and allow to soften.

Add the chicken or lentils and just stir through. Add the rice and stock and simmer for about 30 minutes until the rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Dish up and dress with the almonds, chopped tomato, a boiled egg and chopped coriander.

Reprinted with permission of My Easy Cooking.

Glossary of Terms:

Boere Kos – Farmers Food

Dhanya – Coriander

Borrie – Tumeric

Soet Patat – Sweet potato

Bobotie – Egg Meat pie

Malva pudding – Traditional dutch sponge pudding

Koeksister – deep fried donut plunged into cold syrup whilst still hot. Best eaten cold

Koesuster – Malay version of deep fried donut made with aniseed, cinnamon, dipped in syrup and rolled in coconut. Best served warm

Biryani – a Malay curry mixed with rice, usually contains lentils and meat or poultry

Go ahead try these for yourself and enjoy some of my favourite flavours of Cape Town!

Taste South Africa!

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