The spice trade left an indelible mark on the food of South Africa, as is evident in the abundant use of spices such as fennel, cumin, coriander, garam masala, Madras curry powder, turmeric, allspice and ginger. The use of tamarind paste and curry leaves also point to the influence of the large Indian population.
Mielie meal is dried and finely ground white corn, to which water is added to form a thick porridge known as mieliepap (“mielie” meaning corn and “pap” meaning porridge in Afrikaans) or sometimes just pap. Eaten for breakfast, as an accompaniment to soups and stews and also customarily served at a braai.
These dried and cracked white corn kernels feature in umngqusho, a dhal-like traditional Xhosa dish of corn and beans, said to be one of Nelson Mandela’s favourite meals. Samp must be soaked overnight before cooking.
Chutney and pickles
No South African pantry would be complete without a jar of Mrs H S Ball’s Chutney. This piquant, fruity condiment is the much-loved invention of Amelia, wife of Herbert Sandleton Ball, who early last century turned a treasured family recipe into a thriving Cape Town business. Available from larger supermarkets.
The Indian population is to be thanked for the spicy condiment atchar (from the Hindu achar, for pickle), usually made with green mangoes and chillies. Atchar is served as an accompaniment to curries or eaten with bread.