Cooking with Reza Mahammad

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Reza Mahammad's new series starts on The Food Network next month. Picture: Candice Chaplin

Cape Town - A journey across southern African locations by British celebrity chef Reza Mahammad is explored in an upcoming Food Network series Reza’s African Kitchen – his second outing with the cooking channel.

Ahead of the March 25 premiere of the 10 episode series, Mahammad flew into the country for an alternative media launch – one where we got to cook some of the show’s featured recipes.

In May Mahammad visited Cape Town for the Good Food and Wine Show.

When we spoke about the series then, he was hoping to look at Indian cuisine in the region.

At the time he said, “My theory is that due to a lack of available ingredients, much has been lost in translation in South African Indian food. In Durban, the taste is very complex. Indian food should have subtle nuances.”

This will be explored in episode seven, which is dedicated to Durban.

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Reza Mahammad with Jenny Morris at The Giggling Gourmet's headquarters, where he launched his new series Reza's African Kitchen. Picture: Candice Chaplin

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He meets Masterchef SA winner Deena Naidoo, his guide for the trip. They begin at the beachfront during the sardine run, and a catch is cooked by Naidoo on the beach. They visit the spice market to see Durban spices and later tuck in to a bunny chow.

The episodes feature a segment where Reza revisits the food he has tasted with his own creations.

It includes a Brioche Duck Bunny Chow and Chilli-encrusted Sardines with Beetroot Salad.

In August last year, we interviewed Reza at a palatial, sea-facing home in Plettenberg Bay.

He said of Durban that he had seen no changes in the city’s cuisine.

“The dishes are traditionally based. This is not a criticism. I met Deena. He is a keen amateur,” he said.

At the Plett house, he prepared a calamari salad with mint and coriander (dhania), inspired by the show’s time in Zanzibar, the Spice Island; all featured in episode four, which looks at fish and the preparation of Zanzibarian sea food dishes.

He travelled on a dhow and snorkelled. He got a taste of urban cooking at a night market.

Mahammad was a busy, but easy-going character on set; determined and particular. But he clearly enjoyed what he was doing and would crack jokes between takes. Wearing a blue jersey and facing the sea, he said: “It’s the sea and me!”

Fast-forward to last week, to Jenny Morris’s Giggling Gourmet Cooks Playground in De Waterkant.

It is fitted with several gas stoves, and after watching Mahammad prepare two dishes from the show, we were challenged to make them ourselves – a rather daunting task. The choice was between a vegetarian dish of borlotti bean and chickpea casserole and spicy prawns in coconut sauce. They are both rich in coconut cream.

The prawn recipe is featured in the Zanzibar episode and it’s what I chose to make.

After a small mishap with a colleague over burnt onions, I completed the dish in the record longest time.

Spicy prawns in coconut sauce

prawns

one teaspoon of coriander seeds

half a teaspoon of cumin seeds

one teaspoon of chilli flakes

500g of peeled tiger prawns

one tablespoon of vegetable oil

one teaspoon of sea salt

Sauce

one tablespoon of vegetable oil

10 curry leaves

one onion sliced

2.5cm of minced ginger

one green chilli slit lengthways

half a teaspoon of turmeric

500ml of coconut cream

one teaspoon of salt

25g of brown sugar

Method

Place coriander, cumin and chilli flakes in a dry pan and toast until golden. Remove and crush in a mortar and pestle.

Rub over the prawns with some olive oil to create a spice crust.

For the sauce

Heat the oil in a frying pan; add onions with a pinch of salt to help moisture release. Then add the curry leaves and green chillies. Cook and stir until the onion is soft and add the turmeric, ginger and garlic. Pour in the coconut milk, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for three minutes.

Sear the prawns for about a minute each side, sprinkle with salt and then slip into the sauce.

The recipe suggests serving it with crusty bread.

For some reason, my sauce was much darker than everyone else’s. But my onions were soft and my colleague’s were crunchy. - Weekend Argus

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