Green Fig Preserve

I’m always really excited when I find a fig tree – like something in me forgets that I live in England now, and I’ve yet to pick a ripe fig from a tree – even here in the very South of England.Fig on Cheese

Fortunately a South African friend of mine invited me round to her house last year, and out of her cupboard she brought a jar of green fig preserve, reminding me how, back home, we used to deal with the figs before the birds could get to them.

Fig PreserveThis is one of many recipes – in reading up on it, I realise that it’s also something the Turkish do, so who knows how it made it’s way into the South African diet – to me it’s definitely a South African staple, so here’s the recipe, should you too have access to a big fig tree that never bears fruit. You’ll never look back.

Fig Boiling

Two things: it’s a bit fiddly to get the figs to the point of ready, but well worth the effort. Also, I don’t tend to add the spices in the boil. I add them to jars when they’re ready to be bottled up – this means I might have a fig and cardamom, a fig and cinnamon or a fig and clove, slightly different flavours, which keeps it fun and exciting.

Sometimes the figs we find are really big – too big to fit into gifting or ‘single portion’ (aka, enough for one meal) jars. If that’s the case, halve or quarter the figs before adding them to the sugar syrup. It doesn’t look as pretty in the jar, but in reality, when you pull them out to eat on your crackers you would  rarely eat a whole one on a single cracker anyway.

Green Fig Preserve
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: South African
Cuisine: Preserves
Serves: 1kg
  • 1kg unripe figs
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1.250 ml (also 1.25kg!) water
  • Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil - just enough to cover the figs. Add the figs and boil for ten minutes. Empty out and refill the pot, bringing the figs to boil and boiling for another ten minutes. This is important, as it's what makes them lose the bitter/unripe taste.
  2. Drain and leave to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the figs - there may may be some white liquid that drains out. If there's still a lot of white juice, boil again for ten more minutes, then squeeze again. It seems fiddly, but is well worth it!
  4. In a clean pot, bring the 1.250ml water to boil and add sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the squeezed figs. They will resume their original shape during this process, unless of course, you've cut them.
  5. Add the spices of choice* and boil figs in the sugar syrup for about 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 5 minutes more.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars, making sure the syrup covers the figs. *I tend to leave out the spices in the previous step and add different spices into the jars at this point so that I have different spice varieties. Close while hot to create a vacuum seal.
  7. Keep in a cool dark place, and transfer to the fridge once opened as it's actually best cold, served with goats cheese and parma ham - or just goats cheese if you're veggie.


Portuguese Rolls Recipe

If you want to truly torture a South African expat* ask them about Prego Rolls.

For a moment you’ll see a memory pass across their eyes. And if you were so inclined you could measure their spit production, because for most of us, there’ll be an immediate saliva release – drooling – in anticipation of something good. It’s practically Pavlovian .

The memory will most likely include Saturday mornings heading down to Pick n Pay to buy groceries, and stopping outside to pick up a Prego Roll from someone making them (and possibly pancakes) for a school, church or youth group fund raiser. Or just a family side business. Or if you weren’t a Saturday shopper, you’d find someone at the local fete selling them. Even our local Tuis Neiwerheid (popular home industries shops) used to  specially make them on a Saturday.

Portuguese Rolls

I’ve tried to make my own Prego Rolls over the many, many years I’ve been in the UK, but it’s never quite the same. I think you need that dry sand smell, baking sun on your back and maybe a Savannah to wash it all down with to completely complete the experience. Well. You do the best you can with what you have.

A lot of people don’t know this, but South Africa has quite a strong Portuguese influence. In school we were taught that Jan van Riebeeck ‘founded’ South Africa in 1652 – which I always took to mean he discovered it. It was only later that I realised that actually the first ‘discoverer’ of South Africa was Bartolomeu Dias – a Portuguese explorer, all the way back in 1488.

Remember this: “In 1652, het die wind gewaai, toe kom ek met my skippie in by Tafelbaai. Die wind het so gewaai, ons was almal op ‘n klomp. En so kry hy die naam die Kaap van Storms.”

So why the history lesson? Well, most people have eaten or at least seen a Nando’s restaurant at some point. Did you know that it was a chain started in South Africa? By a Portuguese South African. It is to South African food what curry is to British food! People should know this! **

Prego Rolls are Portuguese Rolls – Carcaças Rápidas – dusted in flour, filled with red wine and garlic marinated flash fried steaks, topped with piri piri sauce – or not, and aragula (rocket) – or not. It all depends on who is making and who is eating.  Hmmm.. drooling, yep, drooling here.

A few years ago I was living temporarily in Australia, and trying to convince a friend that she needed a Thermomix®. Her husband, Jimmy, was very against it, and highly disbelieving when I told him he could even make Portuguese Rolls in it. (Jimmy is from Mozambique. His mother lives with them, and speaks only Portuguese). Jimmy didn’t believe I could make the rolls in the Thermomix®, so when we had a New Year’s picnic a few weeks later, I took along a basket of fresh Portuguese Rolls (those in the picture). Jimmy couldn’t believe I’d made them in the Thermomix®. I did see him have two! (Jenny and Jimmy now own a Thermomix®!) JimmySo, how do you make these delicious, soft, crusty, light and fluffy Portuguese Rolls?

Here’s the recipe I use!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Portuguese Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: European, Portuguese, Bread
Serves: 12
  • 200g warm water
  • 120g milk
  • 20g butter (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 (5ml) teaspoons dried yeast
  • 5g sugar
  • 500g baker's flour (strong white bread flour)
  • 1.5 tsp salt (5ml teaspoon)
  1. Add the water, milk, butter (or oil), yeast and sugar to the Thermomix® bowl
  2. Bloom for 2 mins/37C/Speed 2. (NO MC)
  3. Add the flour and the salt.
  4. Mix for 3 mins on the dough setting.
  5. In the meantime prepare a glass bowl or Thermoserver by sprinkling flour into it and swirling it around. Add the kneaded dough and set aside until it doubles in size - around 30 - 40 mins.
  6. Divide the dough into 12 parts and form a ball from each. Place on a flour dusted oven tray and flour each breadroll too.
  7. Cut a slash into each breadroll from one side to the other, and leave it for another 30 minutes or until it's looking nice and puffy again. Heat the oven to 180C
  8. Bake for 10 mins until it looks lightly browned, and allow to cool slightly.
  9. Save for later, or eat straight away with melted butter.
Regular Instructions
  1. Add the water, milk, butter (or oil) and yeast and sugar to a bowl and set aside for up to 10 mins.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix to combine.
  3. Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and pliable.
  4. Set aside for 30 minutes till doubled in size.
  5. Split the dough into 12, form balls and slice slashes into each ball. Place on a floured surface and sprinkle flour on top.
  6. Set aside for another 30 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and bake for 10 minutes
  8. Leave to cool slightly before serving


*most of us. obviously we’re not all exactly the same.

** I’m really touch on this point. I have no idea why.

South African Lamb Bunny Chow

Well, that’s a mouth full, isn’t it? And for those who don’t know, don’t worry – no bunnies are harmed in the making of this South African Lamb Bunny Chow curry. Why it’s called a bunnychow I couldn’t tell you, but since it’s #NationaCurryWeek, I wanted to share a delicious curry recipe with you, made with succulent, tender Welsh lamb.

When I decided I was going to make a bunny chow for my #NationalCurryWeek contribution, I Googled Bunny chow recipes, and one of the first that came to my attention was this one, from my countryman Jeanne from Cooksister, on whose blog you can also read all about the origins and intricacies of this street food dish, while Lavender & Lovage has a different origin story with her chicken bunny recipe here.

Lamb Bunny Chow

One thing I know for sure about curries is that everyone’s tastes differ, even within our own family, so I’ve made a few adaptations, and Thermified the recipe too.

I would definitely recommend that you start this dish off by making your own Garam Masala. I think a fresh batch makes all the difference.  Adjust the curry depending on how hot you like it – I feed two small children, so we don’t make it hot at all. You can even add chillies.

Traditionally you would use a square unsliced bread for the ‘bowl’, but we use whatever bread we have. In the photos we’ve used French bread sticks for smaller meals, and individual giant rolls for bigger meals. I don’t think the bread matters too much, in reality.

If memory serves, you can make a bunny with chicken, lamb, pork or rabbit, as well as beans or root vegetables.

South African (Welsh) Lamb Bunny Chow
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The amount of curry you use in this will depend on how hot you like it. I feed two small children so we only add just about a teaspoon, but you can add more or less. My dad also adds chillies from his garden.
Recipe type: Curry
Cuisine: South African, Street Food
Serves: 4 servings
  • 10g ginger
  • 10g garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 15g vegetable oil
  • 5 - 20g curry powder, depending on how hot you like it
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamom pods, seeded
  • 5g ground turmeric
  • 200g water
  • 1x400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3-4 potatoes (1 per person, basically)
  • 1kg lamb, cubed
  • 15g Garam Masala
  • Salt
  • a small loaf of bread per 2 people
  • Fresh coriander
  1. Lightly brown lamb on the hob if you like
  2. Dice the lamb and the potatoes
  3. Add garlic and ginger to the Thermomix® bowl 10 seconds/ speed 5
  4. Add onion 5 seconds/speed 4
  5. Add 15g vegetable oil and sauté 3 mins/90C/speed 2
  6. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, cardamom pods, and turmeric and saute for a further 1 min/90C/speed 2
  7. Add tomato, water and potatoes and cook for 20 mins/Varoma/REVERSE speed 2
  8. Add lamb and garam masala and cook for a further 10 mins/100C/ REVERSE speed 2
  9. While the curry is cooking, cut the bread in half, and scoop out the soft centre
  10. Butter it if you want to - this is contestable, some of our family swear by it, some say it's sacrilege
  11. When the curry is cooked, taste and season if required
  12. Scoop the curry into the hollowed out bread, scatter fresh coriander, and replace the bread on top
  13. Serve while still warm

The Welsh Lamb in this Lamb Bunny Chow was provided to me as part of a promotion to promote Welsh Lamb

Five South African Freedom Day Celebration Foods

freedom day foods

On the 27th of April, it’s Freedom Day in South Africa, marking the years since our country’s first democratic elections in 1994. One of the many things that make South Africa stand out from other countries, is our rich and exciting, somewhat exotic – monkey gland sauce, anyone? – cuisine.

freedom day foods

Below are five recipes perfect for this time of the year, since they’re about as comfort food as you can get!



Vetkoek is about as Afrikaans South African as food gets. There’s no end to options for fillings, but our favourites include jam, mince or cheese. 

Fried bread, essentially, these can be made ahead of time, then fried before eating,  but they’re delicious cold the next day too. 


South African Bobotie

This Bobotie recipe is quite popular among readers, and even non-South Africans will often ask for the recipe. This one is quite mild as I feed two little girls, but you can add spices to it if you like.

It’s another great make ahead recipe as you can freeze it at a point, then defrost, add the topping and bake when you’re ready.

It’s good stuff, filling and oh so comforting. It was also recently featured in The 4 Blades Magazine, where it received rave reviews.

Peppermint Crisp Tart

Peppermint Crisp Pie

Peppermint Crisp Tart is a uniquely South African dish since the only place you can buy Peppermint Crisp is in South Africa, or a South African shop or on Amazon. Since Peppermint Crisp is a Nestle product, however, we don’t buy it anymore, but there are perfectly suitable substitutions, and anyone who tastes our Peppermint Crisp tart comes back for more.

This recipe caused a bit of a fuss recently, and it turns out there are as many opinions on how it’s ‘supposed’ to be made as there are people making it. I think that’s a sign of a truly adaptable, traditional family recipe.

Anyway, take a dish of this to a Freedom Day braai (bbq) and no one’s going to be arguing semantics – they’ll be too busy licking their fingers, I promise.

Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Whether this recipe is traditionally South African, or traditionally my mothers, I can’t say. It was scribbled in her recipe book, and was always used as the base for her Vranameer Chicken (recipe below), and as such forms a part of my South African food history.

This Onion Soup  is actually called a Brown Onion Soup, but she had it written down as French Onion Soup. It’s not really a French Onion Soup though, as there’s no bread or cheese involved.

It’s just a cheap, tasty, budget soup.

Vranameer ChickenVranameer Chicken

And finally, a recipe that tweaks my heart a little, as it’s the one my mother is most known for – Vranameer Chicken. That translates to ‘ask for more’ chicken, because everyone comes back for seconds.

The recipe is still on my original blog, I haven’t put it on here yet. It’s still good though.