I probably spent half of my six-month stint in South Africa in the grocery store. Well, maybe not just the grocery store. Outdoor markets, farmstands, and roadside cafes too. But you get the idea. And when I left Cape Town, my suitcase was jam-packed with rusks and biltong and rooibos.
Six years later, my friend Patrick continues to feed my South African food obsession with bi-annual care packages filled with everything from sachets of spices to cans of ostrich pate. My own dear Patrick is Patrick Ashworth, of Ashworth Africa Tours and Safaris. Patrick develops tailor-made tours and safaris in Southern Africa and is passionate about sharing all that is South African. As such, my care packages usually include not only a heap of food, but a healthy dose of cultural education too. From CDs to history books to recipes, I never know what I’ll find.
What my months in Cape Town and my friendship with Patrick have taught me is that thing about South African cuisine is that there is no ‘thing’. In Cape Town in particular, the food is a varied woven amalgamation of cultures and peoples and history. It’s fusion cuisine unlike anything you’ll find on even the trendiest New York restaurant menu.
Which makes it wonderfully fun food to stretch, create and reinvent. You know, of course, that I can never leave well enough alone, that strict recipes make me feel hemmed in. So I adore South African influenced dishes for their adaptability.
When Patrick visited last weekend, we celebrated his first trip to Connecticut, and the lovely warm weather, with some friends and some cocktails in the back yard. Quick and easy snacks, like these two African-inspired (but certainly not authentic) dips, along with a big pitcher of Jeff’s mango-rooibos rum punch, and we had ourselves a party!
I love chips and dips for parties. Easy to grab, fun to munch on, and perfect for making in advance. This peppadew hummus couldn’t be easier to make. The hardest part may be finding peppadew peppers. Peppadews are a native South African pepper, bright red, and both sweet and hot at the same time. My local Whole Foods carries them (next to the olives), but in a pinch you might substitute pickled jalapenos. Peppadew hummus may not be traditional, but it always seemed to me that Cape Town’s cooks threw peppadews in just about everything, so why not hummus?
As for the Cape Malay curry dip, it’s even easier than the hummus. The curry dip, though, is really best made in advance, so let the flavors develop overnight in the fridge. Just as I never saw peppadew hummus in South Africa, I never had a yogurt curry dip in Cape Town either. But Cape Malay curry is one of my all-time favorite South African dishes. The Cape Malay community in Cape Town dates back to the 17th Century and has its roots in Southeast Asia. Centuries of fusion have resulted in mild, sweet, and flavorful curries that smell like heaven.
2 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought hummus (I like this basic recipe from Ina Garten)
1/4 cup chopped peppadew peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine the hummus and the peppers. Drizzle with the oil and serve with chips, crackers or cut vegetables.
Mild Cape Malay Curry Dip
3 cups fat free plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a medium-sized bowl stir together all ingredients until very well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Serve garnished with some fresh herbs, if desired.