In Menu Inspiration

Jackie Cameron chooses proudly South African ingredients we should see more of on menus.

Naartjie: The unassuming nartjie has many names – mandarin, Christmas orange, tangerine – but our word naartjie has been used in South Africa since 1790, so in my book that qualifies it to be indigenous. The next time you decide to include a citrus tart on your menu use naartjies and see your guests’ expressions – I’m sure they’ll appreciate the sweet acidity.

Makowe mushrooms: Makowe mushrooms are well known on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. They grow wild; and seemingly pop up overnight in the sugar cane fields after lightning storms. So, should you find me foraging in the sugar cane, you’ll know what I’m doing.

Amazi: You need to have been raised on amazi to truly appreciate its flavour and texture. I like to  pour it into an oil filter which I place in a sieve and leave overnight to drain into a large bowl. To the curd or izaqheqhe I add herbs and use as a spread – almost like ricotta. The whey or umlaza I use to ferment cabbage and then serve as a side dish. The options are endless.

Biltong: It’s a mystery why we dig deep into our pockets for expensive Italian charcuterie when we produce one of the world’s best cured meats – biltong. It doesn’t have to be dried out as some connoisseurs prefer it; finely-sliced, wet biltong can be used for as many – and even more purposes – as its international cousin, the Italian salami.

Amadumbi: The humble amadumbi is an unpretentious, underutilised indigenous tuber vegetable. How many times have you been asked if you want your meal with mash, rice or a baked potato? Amadumbis are readily available in KwaZulu-Natal and I’m surprised that I have never seen them on a menu. International guests are enthusiastic about trying something uniquely South African – especially when we call it our African potato. We should follow their enquiring and inquisitive interest by placing local ingredients on our tables more often. Come on, be adventurous!

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