Read of the Week

My Cape Malay Kitchen

Cariema Isaacs


Review: Brian Joss

Just in time for Ramadaan, which started last week, is My Cape Malay Kitchen by Cariema Isaacs who learnt her skills from her grandmother when the Schotschekloof-born cook was knee-high to a tickey.

The book is a tribute to her late father, Moegamad Isaac Rashad, who insisted that all cooking is a labour of love.

Apart from the recipes, which include boeber, denningvleis, fish cakes, curries, koesisters and daltjies, an ideal snack for Ramadaan, Isaacs, who now lives in Dubai with her family, also writes about Islam and its traditions.

There are also useful notes for cooks and a comprehensive index. The dishes will appeal to all tastes and you don’t have to be a Muslim to enjoy them.

The recipe for the daltjies is from her book:

Daltjies are the Cape Malay version of an Indian bajiya or pakora, which is a spicy snack similar to a savoury fritter. It’s the ideal Ramadaan snack and often made as soon as Ramadaan starts. It’s important to fry these chilli bite fritters until they are crispy and crunchy, otherwise they will retain too much oil and can be unpleasant when serving. The addition of baking powder makes these lighter and spongier.

The recipe is straightforward with no complicated techniques required. Simply place all the ingredients in a bowl, mix and fry – as simple as that. You can make the flour mixture from scratch but I find the Pakco Chilli Bite Mix, which is used in most Cape Malay homes, the easiest alternative, especially when you’re stretched for time during Ramadaan. Makes 12 to 14 bite-sized daltjies:

Six spinach leaves; 1 medium onion, coarsely grated; 1 medium potato, peeled and coarsely grated; 2 cup (500 ml) Pakco Chilli Bite Mix; 1 tsp (5ml) baking powder; 1 cup (250ml) water, 3 cup (750ml) oil for deep frying.

To prepare the spinach, rinse the leaves under running water until it runs free of any sand. Pat dry with a kitchen or paper towel, then fold each leaf in half lengthways and remove the hard, white stem with a sharp paring knife. Stack a few trimmed leaves on top of each other and roll up tightly like a cigar. Slice across to form ribbons and then chop roughly.

Peel the onion and potato and use the coarsest setting on your grater to grate both ingredients.

Preparing the batter

1 Place the prepared vegetables into a large bowl and mix well.

2 Add the remaining ingredients, except the oil, and mix to form a fritter batter.

3 Heat the oil for about 5 minutes over high heat and then reduce to a medium setting.

4 Drop spoonsful of the batter into the warm oil.

5 The fritters will sink to the bottom, then slowly rise to the surface as they start cooking. When this happens, gently turn over the fritters to fry the other side until golden and light.

6 Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to rest, just before serving. The fritters should be crispy and crunchy with a soft and sponge-like centre.