A celeb chef-worthy Christmas: Zola Nene and Dorah Sitole's festive recipes

These talented cookbook authors give us a taste of what they're planning these holidays

Dorah Sitole's crisp roast duck and creamy Brussels sprouts and Zola Nene's gluten-free Black Forest trifle.
Dorah Sitole's crisp roast duck and creamy Brussels sprouts and Zola Nene's gluten-free Black Forest trifle.
Image: Rolene Prinsloo and supplied

Stumped on what to serve for Christmas this year? We asked Zola Nene and Dorah Sitole, two of the country’s favourite food personalities, to dish up some inspiration from their cookbooks and tell us how they’ll be spending the holidays.


The name of your new cookbook?

40 Years of Iconic Food (NB Publishers, R380).

Dorah Sitole has inspired generations of cooks with her brilliant recipes.
Dorah Sitole has inspired generations of cooks with her brilliant recipes.
Image: Roelene Prinsloo

Which dishes from this book would you recommend for the festive table?

The crisp roast duck and Phumi’s creamy Brussels sprouts.

My family prefers duck to turkey, I also do, even though it means cooking four ducks to feed the tribe.

Duck is a lean meat, comparable in fat and kilojoules to skinless chicken or turkey breast. It is also the source of delectable duck fat, a healthier and more flavourful substitute for oil in recipes such as roast potatoes. As it’s low in saturated fat, it’s the perfect choice for the health-conscious.

The Brussels sprouts are really about staying with some traditional Christmas side dishes.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this underrated vegetable, but on one of my visits to New York, my daughter Phumi bought a whole bunch of them and made the most delicious side dish. Since then I’ve been hooked and these pretty little cabbages are now a regular on my plate.

Where will you be celebrating Christmas Day and with who? 

We alternate between my house and my son, Sibusiso's, house. This year is his turn. We always spend the day with his wife Nhlanhla's family.

Are you doing the cooking?

I hope I will get a break from cooking this year as cooking for my new cookbook was like running the marathon!

What’s on the menu?

The menu always includes duck, gammon, fish and a leg of lamb. I always sneak in a turkey because I love the idea of a huge bird on the table!

We also bring in some traditional carbs and sides like idombolo, samp and beans, and morogo, and of course lots of desserts and cakes.

And your Christmas wish?

That 2021 be kind to us, and life and businesses go back to normality. Also that we see an eradication of GBV and atrocities towards women and children. That we all have a blessed Christmas and happy and prosperous New Year!

Crisp roast duck.
Crisp roast duck.
Image: Roelene Prinsloo


Serves: 6


1 x 3kg whole duck

500ml (2 cups) hot water

15ml (1 tbsp) salt

5ml (1 tsp) freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Remove and discard the excess fat from the duck’s body cavity and neck. Rinse the duck inside and out.
  3. Prick the skin all over with a fork. Fold the neck skin under the body, place the duck, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan, and pour the boiling hot water over the duck (this will tighten the skin) for about 15 minutes.
  4. Cool the duck and pour out any water from the cavity. Pat the duck dry inside and out.
  5. Rub the duck inside and out with salt and pepper.
  6. Roast, breast side up, for 45 minutes.
  7. Turn the duck over and roast for 45 minutes more.
  8. Turn the duck over again (breast side up), tilting the duck to drain any liquid from the cavity into the pan. Continue to roast until the skin is brown and crisp, about 30 minutes more.
  9. Tilt the duck to drain any more liquid from the cavity into the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to stand for 15 minutes before carving.
  10. Serve with gravy made with drippings from the roasting pan, accompanied by roast potatoes.
Phumi’s creamy Brussels sprouts.
Phumi’s creamy Brussels sprouts.
Image: Roelene Prinsloo


Serves: 4


90g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter

1kg Brussels sprouts, halved

250ml (1 cup) chicken stock

125ml (½ cup) roasted sunflower seeds

1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped (white and pale green parts only)

1 red chilli, seeded and very thinly sliced

125ml (½ cup) heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Melt 4 tbsp of the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir for 1 minute to coat with the butter.
  2. Add the chicken stock, cover and simmer for 7 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
  3. Uncover and continue to simmer for 4 minutes or until all the stock evaporates. Set aside.
  4. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in the same pan. Add the sunflower seeds, spring onions and chilli, and sauté for 2 minutes or until the sunflower seeds are toasted.
  5. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and return the Brussels sprouts to the pan. Toss to coat with the cream and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with finely chopped spring onion and chillies, if desired.


The name of your latest cookbook?

Simply Zola: The Journey Continues (Penguin Random House, R320)

Zola Nene is the author of the cookbooks 'Simply Zola' and 'Simply Delicious'.
Zola Nene is the author of the cookbooks 'Simply Zola' and 'Simply Delicious'.
Image: Supplied

Which dishes from this book would you recommend for the festive table?

My gluten-free Black Forest trifle.

Trifle is one of those dishes that people either love or hate. I’m definitely on team trifle, it’s a favourite in my family. Yes, I love the traditional trifle with Swiss roll, jelly and the works, but I also love to reimagine classics and put a new spin on them, that’s how this recipe came about — it’s a mash-up of two desserts: Black Forest cake and trifle.

I like to think that even people who usually say that they don’t enjoy trifle might try my Black Forest trifle and be converted.

Where will you be having Christmas and who will you sharing it with?

I will be spending Christmas in George with my family, just like we do every year. It’s tradition for us all to go home to my parent’s house and spend the festive season there. I’ll be spending Christmas with my mom, dad, brother, sister, brother-in-law and nephew.

Are you doing the cooking?

Christmas is possibly the only major holiday or occasion in the year where I don’t do any cooking, my mom makes the entire Christmas lunch feast, my only contribution is setting the table and opening the champagne.

What’s on the menu?

On the menu? Everything! My mom literally goes all out for Christmas lunch: roast lamb, roast turkey, roast chicken, gammon, roast beef, lamb curry, roast potatoes, savoury rice, butternut, coleslaw, potato salad and beetroot ... I might have missed some things, but you get the idea — everything!

We also eat leftovers for at least a week afterwards, so Christmas lunch is definitely the gift that keeps on giving.

And your Christmas wish?

My wish for Christmas is always the same every year, for my family’s safety for the upcoming year and for an abundance of blessings for my loved ones. This year I’m going to add one more wish: for us to see the end of the Covid pandemic because corona has definitely overstayed its welcome! (LOL)

Gluten-free Black Forest trifle.
Gluten-free Black Forest trifle.
Image: Supplied


Serves: 6-8

Gluten-free brownie-like cake:

125ml (½ cup) rice flour

125ml (½ cup) ground almonds

5ml (1 tsp) baking powder

80ml (⅓ cup) cocoa powder

310ml castor sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

150g unsalted butter, melted

250ml (1 cup) dark chocolate chips

Chocolate custard:

250ml (1 cup) cream

2 large egg yolks

60ml (1/4 cup) caster sugar

90g dark chocolate, finely chopped

To assemble:

1 x 425g can preserved cherries, drained and liquid reserved

250ml (1 cup) cream, whipped

90g dark chocolate shavings


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 4cm-deep, 20x30cm baking tin, and line it with baking paper.
  2. To make the cake, combine the rice flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder, castor sugar, beaten eggs, butter and chocolate chips in a bowl mixing with a wooden spoon.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin and smooth the top. Bake for 15 minutes (the centre should still be gooey), then leave to cool completely.
  4. To make the custard, heat the cream to just before boiling.
  5. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar then slowly pour in the hot cream and stir.
  6. Return to the saucepan and cook over a low heat until the mixture begins to thicken; be careful not to boil the custard as it will curdle.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Leave to cool completely, covered in plastic wrap.
  8. To assemble the trifle, break up the brownie-type cake and arrange in the bottom of a clear glass bowl (or individual serving bowls if you prefer). Top with the cherries (reserving a few for garnish) and spoon over some of their liquid. Spoon over the chocolate custard.
  9. Top with the whipped cream and garnish with the reserved cherries and chocolate shavings.

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