Our favourite Dorah Sitole recipes that celebrate African cuisine
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The death of culinary icon Dorah Sitole has left many of us heartbroken. The celebrated chef and editor died on Sunday.
Looking at the outpouring of grief from her colleagues, industry peers and fans, has reminded us that she was a legend of the food world and will forever be one of the people who made us appreciate our indigenous cuisine.
Her remarkable career in food has led to her becoming a celebrated figure in culinary circles and a beloved household name.
She will forever be known for her contribution towards, for lack of a better word, “normalising" African cuisine, and not only consuming it on special occasions.
"I believe we are on the cusp of an African food revolution,“ she said on the eve of the release of what is now her final book, 40 Years of Iconic Food. ”With this book, I seek to strike a balance between paying homage to traditional cooking methods and putting my own, modern, interpretation on authentic dishes.“
40 Years of Iconic Food was published in October 2020 and is a celebration of Sitole’s culinary journey, which took her from a hungry childhood in the townships to kitchens and cuisines across Africa and beyond.
During her time as a judge on e.tv’s cooking show, Flava Queens, she told IOL how she wanted more people to embrace African cuisine.
“I worry about people not wanting to try our food. And yet we are so keen to try different cuisines. Everyone’s eating sushi. Even black kids. Why are we so keen to try out other food, and yet kids make faces about tripe. But they are very quick to eat oysters.
“It’s quite sad that people think we eat our food because of survival. I don’t think they realise it’s food we grew up on and that we aren’t eating it because of a lack of food. That’s the food that was cooked and eaten by our ancestors.”
For many of us, Sitole was the first person we thought of when someone mentioned a food editor. She was the authority when it came to our local cuisine and was unapologetic about it.
In 1994, Sitole edited Recipes with a Touch of Africa, which dedicated a special section to traditional African cooking. This was followed by Cooking from Cape to Cairo, in 1999, which was translated into German.
With that, here are some of our favourite recipes that Sitole shared with IOL Lifestyle over the years.
East African Style Fish Curry (Serves 4)
500g hake or Cape whiting steaks
2 red onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
15ml grated ginger
2 chillies, chopped
15ml curry powder
45ml curry paste
65g can of tomato paste
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6 curry leaves, optional
salt and pepper to taste
250ml coconut cream
coriander for garnishing
Heat oil and brown the fish steaks on each side for about 5 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
Add onions, garlic, ginger and chillies to pan and sauté until onions are soft.
Add curry powder, curry paste and turmeric and cook for 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, except coriander, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Return fish steaks to sauce, bring to boil and then turn down heat and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the fish is cooked.
Gently fold through coriander leaves.
Serve with Basmati rice.
Ulusu namazambane (Tripe and potato stew) (Serves 4)
1kg tripe, washed and cut into pieces
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 onion, chopped
10ml (2 tsp) curry powder
5ml (1 tsp) ground cumin
5ml (1 tsp) ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
Cover tripe with water. Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer gently for 3 hours. Replenish water if it goes dry.
Add potatoes, onions, spices, salt and pepper to tripe. Cook for a further 30 minutes until potatoes are done.
Serve hot over Isijabane (Spinach Pap).
Chicken in Peanut Sauce (Serves 6)
1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg)
45ml (3 tbs) seasoned flour
60ml (4 tbs) oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
15ml (1 tbs) crushed ginger
1 green pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 chicken stock cubes, dissolved in 500ml (2 cups) water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10ml (2 tsp) dry rosemary
125ml (½ cup) peanut butter
Cut chicken into portions and toss in seasoned flour.
Heat oil in a large saucepan and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove from saucepan and keep warm.
Sauté onion, garlic and ginger in saucepan until transparent. Add green pepper and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan.
Add stock, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add peanut butter. Continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes. Add a little water if the stew is too thick. Serve over jeqe (steamed dumpling) or rice.
Morogo with turnips and potatoes (Serves 4-6)
2 bunches of morogo (wild spinach), well rinsed and finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
1 bunch turnips, peeled and diced
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper, to taste
Place morogo, spring onions, turnips, potatoes and a little water in a saucepan.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Let it boil and then simmer gently for about 30 minutes until cooked.
Add the butter and serve on hot pap.