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Siba Mtongwana and other experts share their cooking tips for the holidays

Image: Supplied

To help you cook Christmas lunch like a pro, we’ve called in the experts to offer their top tips for the holidays

Mix masala

If you are willing to be creative and adventurous, the way you style and shape your dishes can bring a fun element to your Christmas lunch. I love to use a small, beautiful bowls as a base for a cake stand. Simply turn it upside done, place a slate or plate on top of it, and there you go — you have an impromptu cake stand. Another example would be, instead of serving a trifle in a flat dish, it is a better idea to use a glass bowl so that you can see the beautiful layers.

Mash-ups are quite trendy at the moment, and are a lovely way to modernise traditional family favourites. Mash-ups are the combination of two recipes to form a completely new offering. I just love the idea of surprising my family and friends with an unexpected twist. My pappiza is a great example. I use pap as a base, and we then top it with the traditional pizza toppings: it is so simple, yet delicious. You get the traditional flavours that you are used to, but with a stunning new twist in the taste and form.

Siba Mtongana, author and celebrity chef

Rise to the top

To minimise the amount of work that you do on Christmas Day, choose a dessert that can be made in advance. Malva pudding is a great go-to recipe: it’s simple to make, and has very few ingredients. For Christmas, I’d jazz it up a little by including some minced fruit, just to add that festive touch. 

If you find yourself out of self-raising flour, adding one teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour will do the trick; should you run out of buttermilk or yoghurt you can mix two tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar into 500ml of milk, leave to stand at room temperature for five minutes, and use it as a substitute.  Unsalted butter is best to use when baking because this allows you to control the amount of salt in the recipe. Salted butter is fine to use if it is all you have.”

Zola Nene, chef, author, and judge on the Great South African Bake Off

Gravy training

You don’t have to do it all, menu-wise or physically. Delegate to survive, and preparation is crucial. Gravy can be prepared the night before and popped into the freezer. When defrosting it the next day, you can add the juices from your roast before serving.

Also remember that curries tend to taste better the following day, so these can also be prepared the night before.” 

Mogau Seshoene of The Lazy Makoti

Wine and dine

Don’t make the mistake of leaving red wine at room temperature. This works wonderfully for European countries, but the temperature is just too high in South Africa.  Putting the wine in an ice bucket or fridge 30 minutes before serving is ideal. 

When it comes to serving, always pour less than half a glass to give the wine space to breathe. An hour of decanting makes a difference for full-bodied red wines, this also applies to some white varietals, such as chenin blancs, some chardonnays, and some blends.  If you want to play it safe, get a red blend, either a cabernet, merlot blend, or shiraz blend. That way you can accommodate different tastes.

Nkululeko Mkhwanazi, founder of Shamase Wine Club

Meat the standards

The rule of thumb is to let meat rest for one minute per 100g. I wouldn’t leave it to rest for longer than 20 minutes though, as you will be left with a cold dish. When checking if meat is ready, remember that poultry should never be pink — there is no such thing as medium-rare chicken. If you’re using a thermometer, chicken should have an internal temperature of 73°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, and you’re roasting a whole bird, check between the thigh and body of the bird — if the meat is white and the juice comes out clear when you tug at the joint, it’s cooked through. Spoilt food can become dangerous, it is important to keep raw meat sealed and refrigerated. Look out for any mould, greenish-grey colouring on the meat, and foul smells, as these are indicators of spoiled meats.” Sharon Mbonambi, Woolworths product developer

 Actress Linda Mtoba shares her roast chicken Christmas recipe

Newly-wed Mzansi actress Linda Mtoba, who’ll be spending the holidays with her in-laws, shares her Christmas meal recipe with us  

Roast chicken

1 whole chicken 

2 sprigs rosemary

2 sprigs thyme

1 onion, cut in half 

5 garlic cloves 

1 tablespoon butter, cut up to small pieces 

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ lemon

Salt to taste 

Pepper to taste

Pat the chicken dry with a napkin, then rub olive oil and salt over it. I love to insert butter into the chicken skin, but this optional. Stuff chicken with garlic gloves, thyme, rosemary and onion. Add half a lemon if desired. Roast at 180°C 25 to 30 minutes per 500g until golden brown on the outside. Use a toothpick to test if the chicken is cooked and ready to eat!

Singer Thabsie shares her Christmas dessert recipe with us

Bathabise Biyela who is better known as Thabsie will be spending Christmas with her family.  Thabsie, who was featured in Kwesta’s hit song Ngiyazifela Ngawe currently has a debut album out titled Songs About You.  Of her holiday memories, she says: “Spending Christmas with my sisters and cousins at my grans house in KZN, it was always a party when we all came together.” Thabsie admits admits that while she may not be the best cook, she does know how to whip up a delicious dessert.  “I’m not the greatest cook but I love making a caramel and peppermint crisp tart for Christmas, my favourite!”

Here is the recipe she shared with us:

•           150 g peppermint crisp chocolate, roughly chopped

•           360 g Caramel Treat

•           250 ml cream, whipped to soft peaks

•           335 g butter

•           200 g Tennis biscuits



  1. Crush the Tennis biscuits and place in a blender with the melted butter. Blend together until the biscuits are fine and coated in the melted butter.
  2. Press the biscuit crumbs into a 17 cm springform cake tin and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Stir 2 T whipped cream into the Caramel Treat, then spread over the biscuit crust. Spread the remaining cream over the tart.
  4. Remove from the tin and scatter over the chocolate before serving.


 Simple, tasty potato salad 

Stuck on what to make as a salad this Christmas?  The Ndalo twins, Lebo and Tebo of With Love from the Twins shared this simple but tasty recipe with us!

Potato salad with bacon

8 baby potatoes

1/2 cups gherkins, chopped

1/2 cup bacon, chopped

Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped


1/2 cup mayonnaise,

4 Tbsp honey

4 Tbsp whole-grain mustard,

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar


Boil the baby potatoes. Allow to cool, and then cut into wedges. Fry or grill the bacon until it is crispy. Add the potatoes, gherkins, and crispy bacon together in a bowl. Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl. Mix the dressing together with the potato mixture and serve.

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