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Top chefs share three easy dishes every South African should know how to cook

Celeb chef Reuben Riffel is the man behind Reuben's Restaurant & Bar in Franschhoek, Western Cape, and in Sandton, Gauteng.
Celeb chef Reuben Riffel is the man behind Reuben's Restaurant & Bar in Franschhoek, Western Cape, and in Sandton, Gauteng.
Image: Supplied

Fancy yourself a bit of a kitchen whiz? But how good are your skills if you don't know how to prepare some of Mzansi's favourites?

To help you along, we asked a trio of local cookbook authors to share a recipe they think every South African cook worth their salt should have in their repertoire.


“The king of the braai, chicken wings are a go-to dish that you need to know how to cook to perfection with minimum fuss and stress, whether you are camping in the pondoks or chilling on your balcony in the middle of a city,” says celebrity chef and restaurateur Reuben Riffel, author of Braai: Reuben on Fire (Quivertree).

“I love our own southern African peri-peri influences,” he adds.

Reuben Riffel's peri-peri chicken wings.
Reuben Riffel's peri-peri chicken wings.
Image: 'Braai: Reuben on Fire'

Serves: 4


8 chicken wings

2 pinches of salt

2 pinches black pepper

1 tsp (5ml) thyme

15ml (1tbsp) olive oil

8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water

Peri-peri sauce:

1 onion, sliced

15 chillies, chopped and deseeded, or to taste

4 red peppers

100ml red wine vinegar

30g smoked paprika


  1. To make the peri-peri sauce, sweat the onion, chilli and red peppers over a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the red wine vinegar. Add the smoked paprika. Simmer for 20 minutes, then blend until smooth.
  2. Marinate the chicken wings in salt, pepper, thyme and olive oil for at least two hours or overnight.
  3. To skewer the chicken wings, insert the skewer from the thigh side and skewer until straight.
  4. Cook the chicken wings on a grid over coals that are a medium-high heat. Baste with peri-peri sauce every minute or two. Cook for about 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and leave to rest.  
  6. Spread the chicken wings on a platter. Serve with the lime wedges.


“This tomato bredie recipe is one of the five most popular dishes on my social media platforms,” says Cape Malay food expert Fatima Sydow who, together with her twin sister, Gadija Sydow Noordien, is the author of Cape, Curry & Koesisters (Human & Rousseau).

“I feel it’s important to have our children grow up with the taste of Cape Malay traditional dishes. In turn we keep the recipes alive and accumulate fond memories of food, family and togetherness.”

Cape Malay food expert Fatima Sydow’s tomato bredie.
Cape Malay food expert Fatima Sydow’s tomato bredie.
Image: 'Cape, Curry & Koesisters'
'Cape, Curry & Koesisters'.
'Cape, Curry & Koesisters'.
Image: Supplied

Serves: 6


60ml (¼ cup) oil

3 onions, finely chopped

½ green pepper, finely chopped

3 cinnamon sticks

3 whole allspice (pimento)

2 chillies, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely grated

1kg lamb, mutton or beef, cubed

10ml (2 tsp) salt

7,5 ml (1 ½ tsp) ground black pepper

200g tomato paste

45ml (3 tbsp) sugar

7 potatoes, peeled and quartered

15ml (1 tbsp) butter


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot on a medium to high heat, then add the onions, green pepper, cinnamon sticks, allspice, chillies and garlic and fry until the onions are golden brown.
  2. Add the meat and braise for three minutes.
  3. Add the salt and black pepper and braise for another five minutes.
  4. Add 250ml (1 cup) warm water and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Repeat this process by adding water until the meat is tender.
  5. Add the tomato paste and sugar and allow to cook through for two minutes.
  6. Add the potatoes and 250ml (1 cup) warm water and cook on a medium to high heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Allow to simmer on low heat until the potatoes are soft.
  7. Add salt to taste, and then stir in the butter.
  8. Serve with rice or buttered bread.

Cook's tip: “Whenever I cook a dish to which I have added tomato paste, I add 15ml (1 tbsp) butter at the end. This helps to reduce the acidity level,” says Sydow.


“Chakalaka is such a typical colourful South African side dish that reflects our country's beautiful cuisine,” says chef and actress Lucia Mthiyane, author of Kitchen Queen (Human & Rousseau).

Celebrity chef Lucia Mthiyane's chakalaka.
Celebrity chef Lucia Mthiyane's chakalaka.
Image: Kitchen Queen/Henk Hattingh
'Kitchen Queen' (Human & Rousseau).
'Kitchen Queen' (Human & Rousseau).
Image: Supplied


100g butter

1 red onion, chopped

2.5ml (½ tsp) crushed garlic

2.5ml (½ tsp) grated ginger

4 red tomatoes, chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped

3 large carrots, grated or julienned

1 whole cob of corn, kernels cut off

1—2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (if you like the heat, keep the seeds)

5ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika

5ml  (1 tsp) masala powder


  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté́ the onion in it for five minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry for one minute.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients, and stir through.
  4. Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

This article is adapted from on that originally appeared in the Sunday Times Lifestyle section.