A Cape Malay Cooking Lesson in Bo Kaap, Cape Town

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A Cape Malay Cooking Lesson in Bo Kaap, Cape Town

SPICING UP MY LIFE | Darrin Henry

Cape Malay cooking safari in the colourful Cape Town district of Bo Kaap has truly inspired me to cook. More. Back home I’m the ‘Breakfast King’ but I’m also a kitchen-o-phobe, or something like that.

I made Cape Malay curry today, sprinkling exotic spices like I was on Masterchef, homemade samosas and learned how to make roti bread, kneading and rolling like a pro! I’ve only made curry but I feel like I made fire!

Bo Kaap Cooking Tour

In truth, it was a rather scary moment to begin with. The plan for Sharon to cook on the Cape Malay Cooking Safari, and me to photograph was flipped on its head by our Andulela Tour guide, the incredibly knowledgeable Shireen Narkedien. After interrogating Sharon and establishing I don’t pull my weight in the kitchen at home, Shireen reversed our roles, much to my wife’s amusement.

My fear was short-lived, once we met our host and cooking instructor, Faeeza. She welcomed us into her home and we instantly clicked, I knew everything was going to be fine.  Her culinary classes are informal and fun.

 

Cape Malay koeksisters ends the perfect meal. Check our video.

Cape Malay Cooking and Bo Kaap Safari tour began with a visit to Atlas Trading Company, a local spice shop with tour guide, Shireen Narkedien.

Cape Malay Cooking and Bo Kaap Safari tour began with a visit to Atlas Trading Company, a local spice shop with tour guide, Shireen Narkedien.

Traditional Cape Malay cooking is all about the spices.

Traditional Cape Malay cooking is all about the spices.

Cape Malay curry underway. Tasty and functional activities in Cape Town are cooking lessons – and you get to meet great people!

Cape Malay curry underway. Tasty and functional activities in Cape Town are cooking lessons – and you get to meet great people!

 

Cape Malay chicken curry first. My initial thought was the pot was so small! At home our ‘small’ pot of curry is twice this size. Onion and potatoes were already on the heat. My tuition began with spices – turmeric, chilli, roast, cumin, coriander… a teaspoon of this, half a teaspoon of that. Not a packet of Rajah (curry powder) in sight.

Following the Cape Malay curry recipe to a tee, small cuts of chicken breast were added next, but nothing stirred in, just placed in the pot and then covered for ten minutes. No time to waste, on to something else; making the rotis.

Best Roti Maker With The Dance Moves

Three cups of flour, four teaspoons of oil, salt, baking powder… Faeeza would demonstrate the techniques first with smooth movements followed by my stop start efforts with dough sticking to my fingers and not rolling at all like I’d just seen.

Sharon was roped in to help with tending the chicken curry; I think I was taking too long kneading the roti, even though Faeeza kept reassuring me I was doing great.

I was good at the rolling pin bit, flattening the dough into a circle. “It’s like a dance,” chuckled my instructor, “out, then back, then that way, then this way, then start again!” Yeah, I was good at the dance!

Local cooking classes when traveling is great for learning different cultures.

Local cooking classes when traveling is great for learning different cultures.

How to make the roti bread, from scratch. This was good fun.

How to make the roti bread, from scratch. This was good fun.

Learning to cook Cape Malay food in Faeeza’s kitchen.

Learning to cook Cape Malay food in Faeeza’s kitchen.

Roti bread cooking techniques. Rolling and stretching the dough the into a long "sausage" only it's not supposed to break in the middle.

Roti bread cooking techniques. Rolling and stretching the dough the into a long “sausage” only it’s not supposed to break in the middle.

 

Considering my trepidation beforehand, cooking Cape Malay cuisine was a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable experience. In between the master to student instructions we yarned away the time, exchanging stories of our cultures and backgrounds. Faeeza enlightened us about her Muslim faith which I found fascinating. Our stories of St Helena and five days travel by ship entertained her. Despite quite different backgrounds we seemed to have far more in common than not, something we’re finding everywhere we go. Sharon and I could have been in either of our parents’ kitchens back home, we felt that comfortable.

How To Make Samosas Triangle Pouches

As the roti dough spirals were chilled in the freezer for half an hour we started making samosas. Turns out I’m not too bad at the precise folding sequence and felt quite proud of my little triangular pouches stuffed with corn and cheese, placed alongside Faeeza’s. Sharon had a go as well, but she struggled to get them as neat as mine. I resisted gloating as I wasn’t sure what else was to come. Check our video above to see how it’s done.

Chilli bites were next. Chopping up onion and tomatoes I was comfortable with. Faeeza did most of the chilli bite mixing and preparation.

Deep frying the samosas and chilli bites was effortless. Frying the rotis though was great fun. It’s a bit like frying pancakes but there’s a technique of folding the fried roti in half then throwing it up in the air and clapping your hands together squashing the roti to give it… texture? I never actually asked that to be sure. It’s a rather dramatic move that puts puffiness and a crinkle in the roti. (My non-technical description).

How to make samosas. Check out the video above to see how it's done.

How to make samosas. Check out the video above to see how it’s done.

Frying the roti bread.

Frying the roti bread.

Cape Malay Cooking Class

And then it was time to eat. Samosas first and the chilli bites. Talk about mouth wateringly good, they were amazing. Not those dried up, chewy samosas you get served sometimes at cocktail parties, no! These were just wonderful.

Next the curry in a roti bread wrap. Curry is such a tradition on St Helena but I never knew you could have it in a wrap like we did in Bo Kaap! Simply amazing. The most delicious meal I can remember in a long, long time. I was aware I kept making ‘food pleasure’ noises but it couldn’t be helped. Talk about ‘hit the spot!’

South African Koeksisters (pronounced ‘cook sisters’) was for desert topped with desiccated coconut. It has a texture not unlike a doughnut. Again, another absolute treat for the taste buds.

I’m gushing about this experience but it really was something special. The cooking was a key element of course, but really, what made it stand out was the wonderful cultural and social aspect of the day. We began with a walking tour of the district with Shireen. This included a visit to the Atlas Trading Co spice shop “where the local residents shop” and an introduction to hundreds of spices and the range of ways they are used for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Check their website for Cape Malay recipes.

Cool Things To Do In Cape Town

Bo Kaap itself actually feels a lot like St Helena; very friendly and close-knit. Shireen seemed to know every person we passed on the street. Faeeza gave us more than just a cooking lesson and a wonderful lunch; the cultural history of the Cape Malay people was gently revealed to give us a little better appreciation of this amazing city. Although it was essentially a tour, we left feeling as though we had made new friends.

If you visit Cape Town, I would thoroughly recommend this Bo Kaap cooking safari with Andulela Tours. If you have a choice, ask for Shireen and Faeeza. And please say “hi” from Darrin and Sharon.

Me, hopefully I’ll be on St Helena throwing roti bread in the air and clapping my hands, becoming more than just the breakfast king.

#lovecapetown #learntocook #capemalaycooking

We must add a big thank you to the team at Cape Town Tourism who arranged this tour for our blog. Even so, all opinions expressed are entirely our own without bias.

Chilli bites fresh from the pot.

Chilli bites fresh from the pot.

Cape Malay chicken curry and roti wraps ready for lunch.

Cape Malay chicken curry and roti wraps ready for lunch.

Our starters - chilli bites and samosas.

Our starters – chilli bites and samosas.

Sharon tucking into the meal with a chicken curry roti. Smiles says it all.

Sharon tucking into the meal with a chicken curry roti. Smiles says it all.

Cape Malay Koeksisters, a traditional desert.

Cape Malay Koeksisters, a traditional desert.

What The Saints Did Next with Faeeza, the Cape Malay cooking instructor.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Ivan Gough July 18, 2017 at 1:13 am - Reply

    Congratulations! Seemingly a job well done and perhaps the answer to Rosie Bargo’s advert for a chef in her new restaurant.!!!!

    • WTSDN July 18, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply

      Haha, I don’t know about that Ivan 🙂 It would be great if this kind of food was available to buy on St Helena though. Very tasty. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Alison July 17, 2017 at 9:01 am - Reply

    GREAT To HEAR That you were taken out of your comfort zone and had to cook Darrin! Very enjoyable blog.

    • WTSDN July 17, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

      The initial stress was a bit like that ball being thrown to me in our first French class!
      But as in that case, the teacher was amazing and made the lesson a real pleasure. Looking forward to trying these out in Alarm Forest soon.
      Thanks for the comment Alison, take care, Cheers 🙂

  3. Patrick G Henry July 17, 2017 at 7:37 am - Reply

    This is so cool can see who is the chief in your house, I’m looking for your skills of prove when you return home, I may get some tips to add to the Jamestown Rifle Club BBQ meal nights. Love this excellent blogging well done.

    • WTSDN July 17, 2017 at 7:44 am - Reply

      Haha, thanks Borbs. No pressure then!
      Will need to do a little practice I reckon when we get back before ‘showing off’ but I will be bringing the spices so look out!!
      Thanks for the comment, cheers 🙂

  4. Nigel E Henry July 17, 2017 at 7:10 am - Reply

    Hi Darrin and Sharon….
    This sounds sooo much fun. I’m hoping to return to Cape Town in December and you have sold this to me… I was practically drooling lol I love these random topics. You peeps are amazing and my number one ambassadors for St Helena and Saints and me the sinner!
    Keep on blogging and see you in August

    xx

    • WTSDN July 17, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Hey Nigel, thanks so much for this lovely comment.
      Cape Town is amazing (as you know) but blogging seems to be peeling back new layers for us on each visit and we love it.
      Wherever we go we are talking about St Helena every single day to people we meet, it’s a real privilege.
      Look forward to seeing you again soon. Cheers
      🙂

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