Mzansi on the menu

[caption id="attachment_232592" align="aligncenter" width="630"] The recipe for this berry and cream pavlova is included in ‘Boerekos met ‘n Twist’, by Annelien Pienaar.[/caption]

Stuck for Christmas present ideas?

Louise Liebenberg shares her pick of five ‘lekker’ titles celebrating local cuisine and gift-giving Shisanyama: Braai Recipes From South Africa by Jan Braai, published by Bookstorm, recommended price R343, also available in Afrikaans.

South Africans do love lighting their fires, so it’s no wonder there’s been a proliferation of braai books in recent years. For Shisanyama Jan Braai asked the public to send him their best fireside recipes. He added in some of his own, made sure everything was fool-proof, then put them together in this book. It’s not all boerie and chops, mind you: The instigator of National Braai Day, like my other favourite braai guru, Justin Bonello, always has solid ideas for something a little different or special to stick on the coals! This summer I will be trying the pork neck souvlaki on P182 and the cornbread on P156. Boerekos Met ‘n Twist by Annelien Pienaar, published by Human & Rousseau, recommended price R330.

Food scientist Pienaar and her husband are pecan nut farmers and owners of a guest farm at Skeerpoort (near Hartbeespoort) from which she also operates a cooking school and the hit blog, BoereKosTwist. In this book she has taken 140 South African family favourites and given them a refreshing update. The recipes are mostly very easy and she promises you won’t get stuck having to hunt for weird ingredients. It’s described as a compact, 21st century “Kook en Geniet/Cook & Enjoy” for busy folks – there’s nothing pretentious or intimidating here, just deliciously doable dishes that taste of home. Katrien's Gifts From The Kitchen by Katrien van Zyl, published by Metz Press, recommended price R265.

With just more than a week to go before Christmas, and presuming you do now have a bit of time on your hands, there is still time to rustle up some impressive-looking home-made gifts from the comfort of your own kitchen. This accessible book not only has mouth-watering recipes for edible presents. Van Zyl also provides loads of inspiration for attractive presentation. For baking newbies she also includes advice on how to line baking tins and the like to achieve best results. There are recipes for every level of skill and/or industriousness. I am not quite ready to attempt petit fours or macaroons (despite promising myself every year that I’ll give macaroons a crack), but the brownie cookies and lemon curd look very doable. There are 49 recipes in total, including a good few at the back for people on special diets. Curry: Stories & Recipes Across South Africa by Ishay Govender-Ypma, published by Human & Rousseau, recommended price R395.

Food and culture journalist Ishay Govender-Ypma criss-crossed South Africa for one year to round up treasured curry recipes from all communities and walks of life. Curries for the purists find their place alongside good old kerkbasaarkerrie en rys in a poignant celebration of South African cuisine. Just as Mzansi folks like to bond over a braai so, too, we are united by our love of spices often going back generations. There’s a chapter for each province and, in the Eastern Cape section, residents from Qunu, Port Elizabeth, East London, Queenstown, Mthatha, Grahamstown and Alice also get to share their most special recipes. I’m eager to try the one for chicken and banana kebab curry shared by retired Bay speech therapist Raj Balkaran, who remembered a time when North End, where she grew up, was still a mixed area. She learnt to cook at the knee of her mother, a vegetable vendor, who raised five children alone after the death of Raj’s dad. Nostalgia-heavy and with wonderful family anecdotes like Raj’s, this book could well go on to become a classic in this country. It certainly made me want to roar off to Lalla’s or The Spice Shop to stock up on fragrant pastes and spices! The South African Milk Tart Collection by Callie Maritz and Mari-Louis Guy, published by Human & Rousseau, recommended price R280, also available in Afrikaans. The fabulous foodie siblings’ newest book first appeared in February, but will surely still find its way into many Christmas stockings. Who can resist a well-made milk tart, after all? It’s the ultimate comfort food on the sweet side of the South African culinary spectrum. Everyone has a family recipe and every culture in South Africa has embraced the once humble milk tart in some or other form. Here you’ll find a milk tart for every occasion and in every guise. This Christmas I’ll be trying the “liquid milk tart” on P133 for an ingenious local version of eggnog.