This July would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday – the perfect time to celebrate his life and our heritage as Africans. Our country is such an incredible melting pot of people and beliefs not seen in many countries, and our food culture is no exception.

Unfortunately, we also live in an era where fast food is a buzzword. People are prone to stopping at fast food outlets after a long day. In many homes, the traditional plate of food has disappeared, and although this has become the trend, we still have a few favourites that form part of our heritage.
Food is surely at the core of memorable family gatherings. In South Africa, with the many cultures that form part of the tapestry of our landscape, heritage food is as varied as the flowers found in Namaqualand. For some, it would be juicy koeksisters, for others milk tart, bobotie, pickled fish or chakalaka. All these dishes, as well as many others, form part of this country’s rich cultural diversity. What’s more, our idea of heritage food is influenced by food across the cultural spectrum.
We have asked two Lowveld foodies to cook us mouth-watering dishes that focus on tradition and at the same time are good old-fashioned comfort foods.

If you have ever been to Kaapsehoop and haven’t stopped at Miss Gooz Berry, you surely have missed out on a royal treat. Berry Legg is the owner of this specialised confectionery and catering brand. In 2013 she and her husband, Peter, exchanged the busy city life for peace and quiet and moved to this quaint little town. The tea garden wasn’t part of the plan at first, but soon she realised that she would love to sell her decadent chocolate confections and provide a spot where you can drink out of elegant bone china teacups. Berry’s mission is always to make people feel special. At her guest house, all on the same property, this baker likes to serve a very traditional South African dessert known as Jan Ellis.
“This pudding is really comforting. It is the kind of thing you want to curl up in bed with – your Jan Ellis pudding and custard. I make my own French custard using eggs, and everybody loves it. I have always loved Annette Human’s recipes because she is a South African cooking for South Africans. What I really like about Jan Ellis Pudding is that the recipe is so simple it allows me to add my own twists, like chopped pecans or roasted hazelnuts.”
It is the simplest pudding around and yet is very popular, similar in nature to malva pudding which was one of Madiba’s favourites. It really is an old staatmaker. Jan Ellis pudding is named after the legendary Springbok loose forward Jan Ellis who died in 2013 at the age of 71. It is not known who decided to name the dish after him, but one thing is for sure, it was Jan’s absolute favourite.

Dorothy Jamal worked at Lowveld Media in Mbombela for over 25 years and after she retired she decided that sitting around wasn’t for her. Because of her love of cooking, she started her own business making food, which she delivers daily. This includes dishes like vetkoek and mince, biryani, pap, stew and tomato chutney, butter chicken and roti, fish and baked vegetables, and various soups. Dorothy’s husband is a Cape Malay whose grandfather came to the Lowveld, and her mother-in-law taught her exactly how to cook good Malay food, like the iconic biryani.
Dorothy is a firm believer in making food with love. “If you don’t cook it with love, nobody will enjoy it,” she says. “I really like to cook a proper biryani, cooking with all those spices is just wonderful. You can make it with chicken or lamb, but you need to use the correct spices. The real secret of a good biryani is using real butter. I use masala, cumin or jeera as we call it, turmeric and ginger garlic. Marog is also a favourite dish among locals. We buy the leaf at the market and you get a mix with fine peanut and baby marrow that makes a wonderful dish. It makes me incredibly happy to see people enjoying my food!”
Biryani has a history dating back as far as 2 AD, when the Tamil cooks in India would prepare the rice and meat combo to nourish military warriors before battle.
Since then, the traditional recipe made its way from the barracks of Persia to the royal palaces of India and all the way down to Cape Town where it has become the stuff of legend in Cape Malay households. There are a wide variety of recipes available apart from those featured, go wild and experiment!

Jan Ellis Pudding

3/4 cup self-raising flour
1 egg
1 tbs apricot jam
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbs softened butter
a pinch of salt
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp grated orange zest
For the syrup
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs grated orange zest.

• Dissolve the baking soda in the milk
• Mix the other ingredients together and add
the milk
• Mix well until smooth
• Pour into a baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes at 180C or until a skewer comes out clean
• Add all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat
• Serve with a generous dollop of syrup and drizzle of custard.

Chicken biryani

4 boneless chicken breasts
500g rice
2 large onions thinly sliced
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tbs aniseed
1 tbs dry coriander seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pods star anise
1 tsp all spice
2 bay leaves
3-4 cardamom pods, cracked
1 tbs garam masala
1 tbs Cape Malay curry powder
vegetable oil
about 1½ litres chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup lentils, boiled until just tender
4 boiled eggs
finely chopped tomato
fresh coriander, chopped
toasted almond slivers
½ cup chopped dried apricots.

• Heat the oil in a pot, and stir in the spices
• Add the onions and garlic, stirring until softened
• Stir in the chicken until starting to brown, and stir in half the stock
• Simmer for 40 minutes
• Add the rice and remaining stock, put the lid on and lower the heat, cooking until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid, around 35-40 minutes, adding water if needed
• Add the lentils and apricots and fold through
• Serve with almonds, chopped tomato, a boiled egg and a scattering of fresh coriander.

Contact Berry on 013-734-4427 and Dorothy on 064-651-4875

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