Like most South Africans, you probably grew up with a set of “standard” dinner recipes that got rotated each week. The food was traditional, and the recipes had been passed down from generation to generation because it was the same food your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents ate throughout their childhoods too. There’s nothing wrong with that, and everyone has a soft spot for their favourite traditional meals that they ate growing up. Sometimes though, these traditional, simple recipes can be improved upon with a few extra additions.
Experiment with herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are cheap and easily available, and they store well. Try picking up a few spices or herbs that you don’t usually use and experiment with them in your traditional dishes. Take your tried and tested quick recipes like this spicy chicken and vegetable sishebo, and add in a bit of a flavor punch. Paprika, thyme, ground coriander, cumin and a good amount of crushed black pepper would go very well.
If you’re unsure what to buy, pick up a few core ingredients that work well with lots of different flavours and dishes. Some herbs and spices you can keep as staples in your pantry include garlic powder, chilli powder, paprika, mixed Italian herbs and rosemary.
Here’s a quick guide to what herbs and spices work well with what meats.
Sauces and wines
A lot of stews, sishebos and curries can benefit from the addition of some sauce or wine. Why? They’re very flavourful, don’t dilute the meal or change the thickness too much, and add a real extra dimension to your food. For beef, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, mustard and red wine all go very well. Chicken is versatile and can be paired with lots of different flavours including white wine, red wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, soy sauce or tinned tomatoes.
Next time you’re making a traditional dish, try adding a splash of wine or sauce that you wouldn’t usually – you might be surprised by how good the results are!
Change up the side dishes
Sure, rice and potatoes and spinach were the staples of your childhood dinners. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but using a different side dish can make your main meal taste like something completely new. Who says that spicy curry or sishebo can’t be served with roasted pumpkin and a tomato and onion salad, instead of rice or bread? Why not serve it alongside chutney or yoghurt as a contrast to the spiciness?
Even something as simple as changing the type of bread you buy can make a difference. Instead of a white loaf, use a baguette or Portuguese rolls. The crispy outside is delicious for mopping up leftover sauce from your meat and vegetables.