The story and recipe behind ‘Casbah Masala’

From left: Ishaan Blunden, Leila Ally and Buddy Govender. Picture: Supplied

From left: Ishaan Blunden, Leila Ally and Buddy Govender. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 3, 2022


Born and raised in the heart of the Casbah – a historically Indian community in Durban – Leila Ally’s affinity for community and food stemmed from her youth.

Ally, the author of the Casbah cookbooks, said she was raised at home on the corner of Lancers and Acorn Roads.

“When I was eight years old we moved to the Stamford Hill area. However, my links with the Casbah continued as I commuted to and from school at Epsom Road. I also frequently visit my friends who still live in the area.

“I was exposed to many different cuisines which proved to be a catalyst in my passion for cooking. My mum taught me the finer details of cooking and – through trial and tribulations and a few flops – I became quite adept in preparing food that catered for many a palate and taste,” she said.

Ally moved to Johannesburg in the early ’80s and started her own business, La’Fays Tasty Eats.

“I started out in my food truck. I provided ‘street food’. Later I introduced the much-sought-after Durban curries and breyanis. This was an instant success which encouraged me to open La’Fays Events and Caterers.”

About nine years ago, Ally was invited to join childhood friends and known ambassadors for the Casbah community, Buddy Govender and Ishaan Blunden, on their Grey Street Casbah brand.

The new book in the Casbah recipes series. Picture: Supplied

Govender and Blunden are known for promoting stories from the Casbah community through social media and their books. Their platforms include the “Grey Street Casbah and surrounding”, a closed Facebook group.

“With our combination and passion, the Grey Street Recipes Facebook Group was then formed. Four years ago our first recipe book,Casbah Family Recipes’, was published. This book celebrated the different religious festivals that are commemorated in South Africa. This book, ‘Casbah Masala’, is about the blending of different spices, marinades and dry rubs,” said Ally.

The “Grey Street Casbah” recipe books are available through or call Anivesh Singh at 083 778 1991.

Ally shared one of her new recipes featured in the new book:

Casbah Mixed Masala

3 tsp cumin powder

2 tsp cardamom powder

4 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp fine black pepper

1 tsp fennel powder

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 tsp clove powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp orange food colour powder

3 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp ginger powder

4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

3 bay leaves

1 sprig of curry leaves


Mix all of the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. This masala can also be frozen for a longer shelf life.