South African Recipes
TheABC to successful cooking
essential techniques, all you need to know to improve your skills in the
kitchen.A real learning experience!
AL DENTE: Meaning cooked until just
done, but not soft.
ASPIC: A clear, full flavoured jelly made with gelatine, which
you can make using beef, chicken, fish or vegetable stock. Use this to coat
pates, pressed tongue, whole poached salmon or the top of a colourful
GRATIN: A cooked dish which you top with bread crumbs, butter, or a cheese
mixture and place under the grill until golden brown.
To prevent browning, sprinkle apples with lemon juice immediately. When
preparing apples for tarts and poaching add a generous squeeze of lemon juice
to the water.
ALMOND ESSENCE: Very pungent but excellent when used effectively
but sparingly. Try a drop or two when poaching or baking plums, peaches and
apricots in summer; apples and pears in winter.
Do spoon over pan juices while cooking to keep your roast moist and
For a rare roast allow 10 minutes at 200 C, then 15-20 minutes at 170 C for
BIND: That means to add egg yolks, rice, mashed cooked potatoes,
cream or a white sauce to a dry mixture to hold it together.
To prevent burning, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to butter when
& REFRESH: Plunge into rapidly boiling water, uncovered. Refresh by
placing immediately in ice water. Mainly used for vegetables and fruits to
set colour, soften or loosen skins. e.g. Green beans; blanch for 5-8
minutes depending on size, drain and plunge into cold water. Mangetout;
blanch for a second and plunge into ice cold water.
BOUILLON: A strong extract prepared using vegetables, meat,
poultry or fish trimmings.
GARNI: A simple bouquet is composed of a few sprigs of parsley, bay leaves,
sprigs of thyme and tied with twine to remove easily.
Brown meat; lamb, beef, pork and chicken in hot vegetable oil (in a
heavy-based, flame-proof saucepan or casserole with a tightly fitting lid)
until golden. Place on a bed of vegetables add seasoning, a little water,
wine or vegetable stock and simmer gently for a couple of hours until
BRINJALS: Large, older brinjals should be 'sweated' before use
to prevent bitterness. Sprinkle with coarse salt and set aside until they
gather beads of moisture. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with absorbent
Fresh birds have a better flavour and texture. When using frozen chicken,
thaw refrigerated. Remove giblets (neck, heart, liver and gizzard, usually
sealed in a plastic bag) from the chicken cavity before starting. Be like a
thrifty French housewife do not discard, reserve liver to sauté for
an omelette and reserve remainder and collect 3-4 packets for use in
chicken stock. Rinse the chicken thoroughly, inside and out, with cold
water and pat dry with paper towels otherwise it will not brown.
To calculate roasting time; allow 20 minutes for every 500 g plus an
additional 15-20 minutes at the end. For stuffed chickens, allow 20-25
minutes extra cooking time (weigh the chicken with stuffing). To roast,
place on a rack breast side. Halfway through cooking time turn chicken over
and baste from time to time.
CHICKEN: To truss, tuck the neck flap underneath the chicken.
Position the chicken on it back, with the body cavity opening facing you.
Using about 50 cm string, wind it firmly over the base of the breast bone
to hold the wings in place. Lift the chicken and criss cross the string at
the back. Draw the string towards you, cross it over the parson's nose and
loop it around the feet. Pull ends of string firmly together and tie
Use a razor sharp cook's knife made from carbonated steel to carve chicken.
Secure the chicken with a carving fork and with the breast facing you,
remove the leg, wing and breast from one side, then from the other side.
Carve the breast in long thin slices and place chicken joints on a heated
platter and arrange sliced breasts in an overlapping row. Serve
LIVERS: Soaking well-trimmed chicken livers in milk for 25 minutes helps
prevent any bitterness. A fast foolproof way to cook livers is to spread
raw livers in a shallow roasting pan sprinkle generously with olive or
vegetable oil, season lightly. Roast at 200 C for about 10 minutes. Remove
and cool. They should be medium-rare.
CHILLIES: Discard the pungent seeds and handle chillies with
care as they burn the skin. Never touch your eyes and wash your hands
thoroughly after working with chillies.
BUTTER: Place butter in a large saucepan and melt it over gentle heat.
Turn up the heat and allow the butter to 'boil' (it will simmer and bubble)
for a few minutes. When bubbling has stopped (if the butter is overheated
it will discolour, so watch it carefully) remove the foam by skimming off
with a spoon.
Fresh or dried fruit, cooked in a flavoured sugar syrup. Use scraped seeds
of a vanilla bean, 1-2 cloves and a cinnamon stick and lemon or orange peel
for aromatic flavouring.
CROUTONS: Tiny cubes of bread fried until golden brown in
vegetable oil, drain on paper towels before adding to soup, or to a crisp
salad, just before serving.
Improve in flavour if made the day before and reheated when needed. However
potatoes are best added on the day as they don't improve with standing.
Use a little wine, beef, chicken stock or cream and add to defatted (when
necessary) pan juices stir briskly using a wooden spoon to make a good
DREDGE: To sprinkle food quite heavily with flour to protect or
thicken; cakes or desserts, using sieved icing sugar.
To remove fat efficiently, simply prick the skin all over using a fork with
sharp prongs and roast duck on a rack over a pan quarter filled with
boiling water (to steam roast) at 180 C for between 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Some
Swedish cooks pour a cup of boiling salt water (1 tsp) over the duck 20
minutes before the end of roasting time this is to remove any last vestiges
Dip ingredients lightly in sugar e.g. fritters, or seasoned flour e.g.
chicken pieces and shake off the excess.
EGGS: When cooking with eggs always check quality by breaking into a
second dish. Remove any little spots using one half of the egg shell.
Always store eggs large end up in their cartons, refrigerated. They loose
more quality in one day at room temperature than a week refrigerated.
Remember when making hard boiled eggs place them in cold water to start,
bring them to the boil, remove stand for 16 minutes. To prevent yolks discolouring
cool in cold water, crack all over before removing the shell.
CROUTE: Fillet of beef, boned leg of lamb or a whole fish are wrapped in a
pastry crust and baked until golden brown. e.g. beef Wellington.
Meat, chicken, veal or pork flattened and then quickly sautéed in
vegetable oil or butter with a teaspoon of olive oil add to prevent
FISH: Immediately on returning home wash fish under cold,
running water, salt lightly, cover with waxed paper and refrigerate. Cook
as soon as possible.To shallow fry: Heat oil slowly; it will bubble gently
showing that the water in the oil is evaporating. Increase the heat until
the frying temperature is reached. To find out whether the oil is ready,
drop a 1 cm cube of bread into the heated oil; it should take exactly 1
minute to turn golden brown.
To test a fish when baked, cook until the juices run clear when fish is
pierced with a thin metal skewer. The bone should always retain a pinkish
tinge. It is better to undercook slightly rather than overcook as fish
continues to firm as it cools.
Various ingredients e.g. fresh cherries, halved peaches or apricots,
chicken livers or mushrooms, tossed in a pan with flavoured alcohol e.g.
brandy, whiskey, liquors. Ignite alcohol, the spirit will burn away, but
the intense flavour will remain.
FOLD: Using a metal spoon, envelope one mixture or ingredients
into another e.g. stiffly beaten egg whites, gently folded into a creamed
To peel quickly give the fat cloves a quick thump with the base of a heavy
object. When chopping sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt until it forms
a paste. Always use fresh garlic when possible. The longer you cook garlic
the more gentle it becomes, you can use up to 16 cloves in a casserole! Try
baking a whole bulb very gently and then press out into the sauce of
whatever dish you are preparing. Steer clear of fried garlic especially
when it turns brown. Garlic is divine in a salad dressing you need one
small clove finely chopped, it's pungent.
To peel, use a potato peeler with a fine enough blade to produce delicate
shavings. Wonderful in salads, great in fish dishes, superb in vegetable
casseroles, marries best with pumpkin, butternut, carrots, sweet potatoes.
Desserts, such as ice-cream, baked fruits, pound cakes especially when
combined with orange peel.
GRAVY: Pan juices make the best gravy. Add a little white wine
wine if you wish, and stir over moderate heat with a wooden spoon, scraping
in all the tasty little brown bits. Reduce a little and strain before
serving. For special occasions when roasting a chicken or preparing a steak
add a few tablespoons of cream to thicken and mellow. If you need to
thicken a larger quantity of gravy use a teaspoon of cornflour (lighter
than flour) blended with a little cold water add to gravy and cook until it
bubbles, stirring with a wooden spoon.
When dried, do store refrigerated, use lavishly they will not last forever!
Add them to the dish towards the end of the cooking time for the fullest
flavour. While fresh herbs are always a boon, dried with their concentrated
flavour are indispensable. Those that are particularly good are Tarragon,
Dill, Parsley, Thyme and Marjoram. However, Basil is always a pleasure when
fresh, grow it in a pot and place it in a sunny spot in your kitchen ready
When serving a home-made ice-cream, remove 10-15 minutes before serving.
Use a metal scoop dipped in boiling water, to make simple oval shapes or
prepare the ice-cream shapes in advance and place in a glass bowl and
freeze, remove 10 minutes before serving. Scrumptious with fresh, baked or
poached fruits, otherwise serve a superb chocolate coffee sauce separately
(see Beginner's Basics).
JULIENNE: It is vital when preparing julienne vegetables that
you use a razor sharp knife. To make matchsticks out of apple, cucumber,
potato or courgettes, slice, stack and cut into fine strips, these are fun
to do once you have mastered the knack.
If you use wooden skewers, first soak them in water for two to three hours
to prevent burning. When you have an abundant supply of rosemary, use
rosemary sticks as skewers for lamb cubes, these provide a great aroma and
a wonderful flavour.
When choosing lamb, ask if it has been aged. A too-fresh leg of lamb will
shrink, be rubbery and tough. Buy lamb a day or two in advance and age for
best results, place the meat on a rack over a plate or on a plate and leave
it, loosely covered with wax wrap in the fridge, turning it once day. For
best results, remove an hour or so before cooking, allowing the lamb to
come to room temperature. Wipe with a vinegar moistened cloth to remove any
LAMB: To calculate roasting time for rare lamb, weigh and
allow 20 minutes for every 500 g meat, plus 15 minutes extra at the end for
medium-rare lamb. To roast place on a rack over a roasting pan filled to
quarter way with water. Cover lamb with foil for the first 20 minutes of
roasting to prevent excessive shrinking.
Don't forget about the more economical cuts like lamb knuckles, thick rib,
shoulder, shank or neck for casseroles and braised dishes. A more expensive
alternative is boned leg of lamb cut into chunks. The bonus of lamb
knuckles, with their centre of marrow, is their rich flavour
When carving, slice across the grain and not with it. Just one cut with the
knife will show if it is going in the right direction. If you're slicing
the wrong way (with the grain), you will clearly see long fibres of meat,
instead of the fine surface which you will have when you cut across the
fibres. When carving lamb as they do in France, anchor the meat firmly and slice straight down towards
the bone in medium thick slices. This style of slicing presents very well
for more formal occasions.
LEEKS: To clean leeks, make a lengthways slit from the green
part halfway down the stem. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 5-10 minutes,
drain and rinse once again to make sure no grit remains.
Rinse and pick over to remove any little stones or grit. Soak in cold water
to cover for about 1 hour, or until softened (saves cooking time), and
drain or cook in a little water until softened but not mushy.
A simple marinade for beef casseroles; 250 ml (1 cup) red wine, 5 ml (1
tsp) sugar, 60 ml (4 tsp) olive oil and 4 crushed cloves garlic and 5 ml (1
tsp) powdered mustard, 2 bay leaves, zest of 1 orange. Allow to stand
MAYONNAISE: When making mayonnaise, the trick is to first add
the vinegar to your seasoning. When using a food processor slowly add oil
in a steady stream. Rancid oil will spoil the delicate flavour so check the
oil. If mayonnaise curdles, break another egg yolk into a clean warm bowl
and add curdled mixture drop by drop, beating constantly with clean
Don't prick meat with a fork while cooking as too much of the juices will
be lost. Never overcrowd the pan when pan grilling cutlets otherwise they
will steam, not brown.
Sirloin, ribeye, rump or fillet are particularly suited to
pan-grilling. For excellent, full-flavoured steaks, use them on the
day you buy them. If you have to buy in advance, store them for no more
than 2 days in the refrigerator. Place, unwrapped, on a wire rack with a
drip tray underneath and cover loosely with waxed paper. Store in the coldest
part of the refrigerator. To prevent curling during cooking, slice directly
into fat layer to the meat (at short intervals), using a sharp knife or
kitchen scissors. Wipe steaks with a vinegar-soaked cloth to eliminate
any bacteria, then pat steaks dry with a paper towel, as damp steaks will
MEAT: To test for doneness: rare steaks are barely springy to
the touch, medium rare steaks will just resist when pressed with the back
of a fork: steaks will become firmer as they cook. Approximately grilling
times: 5-7 minutes in total for rare, 7-10 minutes for medium.
For medium rare lamb cutlets, wipe with damp paper towels to remove any
bone dust, season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper, brush a
grilling pan with olive or vegetable oil and grill over high heat for 2
minutes on each side. Quick cooking seals and caramelises the surface,
giving a crusty finish.
Use either medium-lean or lean beef mince, or mix half-and-half with pork
mince. Beef mince can be dry, especially if it's lean. To counteract this,
use soft white breadcrumbs soaked in milk add two tablespoons of yoghurt or
sour cream, which also makes the mince less dense. Most butchers will mince
meat while you wait; ask for topside, bolo and pork neck. Moisten your palms
and shape mince lightly into patties.
MUSHROOMS: When preparing mushrooms, salt towards the end of
cooking time. When making soup salt while cooking to draw out mushroom
juices. Do remember when preparing mushrooms for a vegetable dish the less
cooking the better, a few minutes is all they need. Larger mushrooms such
as black field mushrooms need a few minutes longer, they turn colour
and soften slightly, but like pasta, they should still retain a bite.
Like onions they enhance many dishes, particularly casseroles. However,
they do need thorough cleaning; snip off the hard green leaves then slit
each leek lengthways about a quarter way and soak in cold water for a
few minutes, rinse, soak once again for a minute or two and rinse thoroughly.
Leeks look exquisite in salads; cut into short lengths (8 cm) using a razor
sharp knife, place fine shreds in a bowl of ice water and they will curl
tightly and can be used to scatter over a salad. Chefs tend to deep fry
them and pile onto grilled linefish.
To make peeling onions a quick, easy and tearless task, soak onions in a
bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before you start peeling. Cut off roots
with sharp knife and slip off skins. Another tip halve the onion and remove
the little green centre before slicing. Dice onions neatly and quickly by
halving them, placing them cut side down on a wooden chopping board,
slicing then lengthways and then across.
PARBOIL: To boil vegetables until partially cooked and then
complete using another food process, e.g. roast potatoes.
should be served 'al dente'. To test whether pasta is done, take a bite,
the texture should retain a slight firmness. South Africans often prefer
their pasta less 'al dente' to Italians.
All ingredients must be kept as cold as possible. Work lightly, roll
lightly and evenly, don't press dough with rolling pin. Use a minimum of
flour to dust rolling pin and working surface. If dough becomes too sticky
to handle, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Puff pastry
should be thoroughly chilled for hours before use. Never pull or stretch
when rolling out. Use bread flour instead of cake flour as it contains more
gluten. There is a new stone ground flour available which has both
substance and texture ask for it at your local supermarket.
PARSLEY: Snip off parsley stems, soak and wash parsley
thoroughly, dry in a salad spinner. Chop parsley, using a broad bladed
knife or process in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Store in
airtight container, refrigerated.
To immerse food in a liquid usually stock, or for fruit; a sugar syrup.
Barely simmer until cooked.
There are many different type of rice available. Each rice has a different
use; Basmati, distinctive aroma, excellent with curries; Italian Arborio
short grain, absorbent and suitable for creamy risotto's. Par-boiled rice
is most suitable for every day use. Wild rice, black and long grained can
be used to serve with more exotic dishes. Jasmine, a fragrant Thai rice,
can either be served as separate grains or prepared as a sticky rice.
Natural brown rice is perfect to add to stir-fries, while the Japanese use
a more glutinous rice excellent for sushi.
SALAD: Rinse leaves (often pre-washed ones) under cold running
water and spin dry in a salad spinner to remove any water that could dilute
the dressing. Barely sprinkle the leaves with sugar. Chill, covered with
wax paper while you are preparing the remaining ingredients.
There are different varieties of salt available; Table, Iodised, Kosher,
Sea, Rock, and Pickling salt. Sea salt, less harsh with it's soft crystals,
is excellent for everyday use and particularly on salads.
Using a small amount of vegetable oil, butter or olive oil, fry ingredients
rapidly until barely or completely cooked, depending on recipe.
SEAR: This seals in juices immediately by browning the surface
of the beef, lamb, chicken or fish quickly over high heat. e.g. fresh tuna
steaks, well-seasoned seared fast in a heavy based pan with a scant
tablespoon of olive oil for a minute or two.
Is a vital part of food preparation, used to intensify flavour The basic
ingredients are the simplest; Sea salt and a little freshly milled pepper,
added to these are fresh and dried herbs and a dash of spice depending on
the dish being prepared (Western, Eastern or Oriental). Generally, a good
all round seasoning is powdered mustard, use it on roasts, fish, vegetable
medleys, and in casseroles. Bay leaves are another staple.
Always buy spices that are fresh and aromatic, preferably from specialist
shops, which generally offer a wide variety. Spices should be stored in
airtight containers in the refrigerator. For many Indian dishes the spices
are sometimes crushed and sautéed to release the flavour, use them
sparingly and judiciously as they can be overpowering. Some of the most
simple and useful are, cumin, caraway seeds, fennel, mustard, celery seeds,
sesame, chilli and cinnamon.
STOCK: When preparing stock, always use freshly run cold water
to draw out the flavour from the vegetables and the bones. Boiling water
will seal in the flavour. To freeze stock, line a rigid freezer
container with plastic bags. Pour in stock in serving quantities; 1 litre
(4 cups) for example. (Remember to use containers large enough for the
stock to come no more than three-quarters of the way up.) Fast-freeze until
frozen, then remove the plastic bags, wrap and overwrap. Label with the
name and date of freezing and freeze until needed.
Are straight sided clay, porcelain or cast iron as well as earthen-ware
dishes with lids. Use for pates or terrines of minced or pureed chicken,
pork mixtures, venison or vegetable. Traditionally pate is served directly
from the terrine, however vegetable terrines can be served unmoulded
TURKEY FACTS: Thaw a frozen bird completely in the refrigerator
before roasting. Allow 40 g stuffing for every 500 g turkey. Any leftover
stuffing can be rolled into small balls and baked next to the turkey. To
truss: insert small metal skewers through the legs and wings. Cut a long
piece of string and place it under the parson's nose, loop it around the
leg, draw up the string (leaving a fairly long tail end and loop it around
the leg skewers. Cross the string over the breast and loop it around the
wing skewers. Tie the ends together firmly under the parson's nose.
UNMOULDING: If it is a gelatine dessert slip a knife between the
pudding and the container to create a vacuum, invert over a plate and cover
with a hot cloth for a minute or so.
DOWN CAKES: The most delicious of these is famous French 'tarte Tatin'
where the fruit juices are caramelised with butter and sugar during the
baking process. The tarte is served upside down with the glazed fruit uppermost.
This can be done using pineapple or apricots in season.
When using vanilla pods, slit the pod lengthways using the back of a spoon
scrape out the centre and use the diminutive seeds for flavouring. Store
pods in a jar of sugar and use the fragrant sugar when baking or poaching
fruits. These last for months in an airtight jar, replace sugar as it is
VINAIGRETTE: Is one of the most widely used of all salad
dressings, often called French dressing as it originated in France. Basically it is a good quality extra-virgin olive oil
and wine vinegar (3:1) sea salt, pepper and a dash of powdered mustard. You
can add a crushed garlic clove. Whisk until the dressing thickens.
Can be far too harsh, used too liberally and without knowledge of its
strength. Lately, Balsamic which should be well-aged and exquisite, is too
often overpowering in dressings and because it is not the best quality,
pungent. Look for a good quality wine vinegar, red, white or sherry failing
this choose a gentle apple cider, excellent for most salads and for certain
dishes fruit vinegar's made with raspberry or fresh herbs.
Use wire whisks when possible to beat cream or eggs, this increases the
volume as the air is incorporated. However, for convenience electric beaters
WINE: Choose a simple but good-quality wine; using an inferior
quality wine will detract from the flavour of the dish. Before adding wine,
simmer (it should barely bubble) in a small saucepan to release the
alcohol. Particularly good when preparing casseroles; use a medium dry
white wine for chicken, red wine for beef or in marinades for beef, lamb
and venison dishes.
The one time of the year when turkeys, ducks and the occasional goose comes
into its own, no matter how hot the climate! Do your preparation well in
advance you will be far less stressed on the day. Important; check
out your recipes, linen, Christmas decorations and prepare cakes and
puddings ahead and store in airtight containers. For a basic roast turkey
recipe check Beginner's Basics.
Baking your own bread is not nearly as difficult as you imagine, using
whole-wheat flour which requires stirring rather than kneading is the
simplest form of bread making. What you do need to understand is how to
work with yeast and which yeast to use. There are two main styles of active
dry yeast available; one which is slow acting and one fast. For real bread
with an excellent texture and body use the slow acting. To prepare mix 250
ml warm water (too hot and it will kill the yeast, to cold and it will
retard the yeast) with 1 teaspoon sugar, sprinkle yeast over the top, mix
for a second and leave until it forms a head of foam. Add to the flour. For
both brown and white bread recipes see Beginner's Basics.
ZEST: Use a citrus zester or a fine vegetable peeler to remove
the perfumed outermost peel of oranges, lemons or grapefruit all of these
add fragrance and flavour to many dishes including most soups, casseroles,
vegetable dishes and almost all fruit based desserts. As with vanilla pods
you can mix with sugar for use in baking or sprinkling for tarts. Avoid the
pith which is the white surround of the fruit as it can be bitter.
Drop whole avocados into boiling water for 2 mins. Remove from water & peel.
Use in salad or mashed - they will last for ages without discolouring.
Coffee (for flavour)
Use cold black coffee instead of milk in gingerbread, dark fruitcake or
chocolate cake to improve the taste.
Cottage Cheese (storing)
To keep fresh longer, store container upside down in fridge.
Pumpkin Fritters (sticking)
When frying in oil, dip spoon in the hot oil before scooping up the dough
mixture. This prevents the dough sticking to the spoon.
Sticky (bun coating)
Before removing buns from paper bag, first wet outside of bag with warm
water. The coating/icing will separate from paper & stay on the bun or
Tomato (when frying)
Coat tomato slices in flour before frying, this will prevent them falling
apart in the pan.
Bananas (going brown)
To stop bananas turning brown in fruit salad, soak for 10 minutes in cold
water before peeling.
Biltong (to soften)
Place too-hard biltong in bread bin. The bread will soften it within days.
Need a lot of fried eggs at once? Oil a muffin pan, break an egg into each
compartment and bake in the oven.
Egg (raw, cracked)
A cracked egg can be boiled in aluminium foil.
Add a dash of sherry to scrambled eggs or omelette when preparing mixture
for a great taste sensation.
Fish (when frying)
1 Coat fish with crushed potato chips instead of breadcrumbs for a
flavourful difference; or
2 Add a tablespoon of vinegar when mixing batter. It will turn out
crispy & tastes great; or
3 Roll fish in oat bran for a lovely nutty flavour.
Make your own. Mix butter with garlic flakes, parsley & Aromat.
Spread on a fresh loaf,
wrap in tinfoil & heat in oven.
Don't add salt to liver before frying - it will become tough and