I asked a friend what cuisine he wanted for his belated birthday feast and he quickly replied South African. I’d been imagining Mexican, Thai, even Indian menus in my head. I thought maybe he’d even get crazy and ask for Vietnamese or Malaysian…but South African?? I was befuddled but totally up for the challenge. After a little research and a lot of excitement I ended up with the dishes in this post. They are all delicious alone, but exceptional and really special together. South African cuisine is influenced by many other regions, and you can certainly taste India in this dish. But elements of the curry make it uniquely South African, and when served with quick pickled vegetables and a sweet apricot chutney, this is a meal that will give you dreams of Cape Town. Invite some friends over, make the pickled veggies and chutney the day before, and have yourself an  amazing and interesting dinner party.
quick chutney
Prep time: 
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Serves: many
  • 2 cups dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 fresh apples (sweet, like Gala or Fuji)
  • 2 fresh pears
  • 10 Medjool dates (pitted)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • ¼ t chili powder
  • ¼ t tumeric
  • ¼ t cinnamon
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • pinch sea salt
  1. Dice all of the fresh and dried fruit.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed, lidded pot over medium-low heat, cook the dried apricots and cherries until very soft (about 30 minutes).
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add all of the other ingredients and continue to cook and stir until a delicious, thick, gooey chutney has formed (at least an hour, two is better).
  4. Once cooled, pulse six or eight times in a food processor to bring everything together and give it a spread-able consistency.
  5. This makes way more than you’d need for one meal (probably 5 cups worth), but you can easily jar and save the rest (eat it on toast, over ice cream, on rice).
I know it doesn’t sound quick! You’re thinking, “Two hours? Quick my butt!” But, for a chutney, you generally start by soaking the dried fruit overnight. Lightly boiling them for 30 minutes first cuts this step out and makes it come together pretty quickly. And the result is still sticky, sweet goodness.


cape malay curry
Cuisine: South African
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Serves: 6-8
for the spice blend
  • 3 T curry powder (To make this a true Cape Malay curry you need Cape Malay curry powder, however I used a blend of my two favorite curry powders, one spicy and one sweeter, that combined contained most of the ingredients in the distinct Cape Malay mix)
  • 2 t roasted cumin (or Geera)
  • 1 t tumeric
  • 1 t coriander
  • ½ t freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ t cinnamon
everything else
  • 3 T oil (seems like a lot, but you’re using mostly veggies and broth here so this fat helps the final flavor)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced thin
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into cubes or rounds
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste (I like the double concentration kind)
  • 2 cups very rich dark veggie broth (my very favorite product for broth-making is this)
  • 1 T of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup (or a 6 oz container) of plain coconut milk yogurt (can sub with soy yogurt or coconut milk or buttermilk made with almond milk and vinegar)
  • 3 small hot fresh peppers (optional, and amount can vary based on heat level you like)
  1. Heat all of the oil in a very large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid and fry onions for at least 15 minutes over medium to medium-high heath until very soft and starting to brown.
  2. Add garlic and ginger to onions and fry 2-3 minutes more.
  3. Add spice blend to onions and fry 2 minutes more, until fragrant.
  4. Add everything else EXCEPT for the coconut milk yogurt and stir to combine.
  5. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least an hour, the longer you leave it, the better the flavor, I cooked it for two hours and it was perfect.
  6. Just before you serve it add the yogurt and stir it in well until incorporated.
cinnamon-cardamom rice
Cuisine: South African
Cook time: 
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Serves: 8
  • 2 cups brown (or white) basmatic rice
  • 3½ cups veggie broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T oil (or Earth Balance)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1 t tumeric
  • 1 t dry sugar (like turbinado)
  1. Put everything in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Cover.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer.
  4. Cook for 40 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat, take the pot off the heat (but don’t open the lid!) and let steam for 10 additional minutes.
  6. Fluff, sniff (it’s amazing), take out the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods, and enjoy!
pickled vegetable salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: many
  • 1 large cucumber (sliced very thin, using a mandoline if possible)
  • 1 large zucchini (sliced very thin, using a mandoline if possible)
  • 1 large sweet onion (sliced very thin, using a mandoline if possible)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup dry sugar
  • red pepper flakes (to taste, I use about a teaspoon)
  • ½ t coarse black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water.
  2. Combine everything in a large container with a lid.
  3. Toss well and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving (over night is ideal).
  4. This will keep for about three days, refrigerated.

PS – The fruit chutney is delicious spread on toast and will keep in a jar in your fridge for weeks!