Cooking Favorite Recipes with South African Ingredients

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travelFirst, let’s get one thing clear: I love South Africa. I’ve been told this is still the “honeymoon phase,” having only lived here now for 3 months of our two year contract, but I honestly don’t see it changing.

Because that’s not who I am or how I view the world. It’s not a lack of experience, but a stubborn refusal to see negative where I might make a positive.

I wanted to qualify today’s post, because there is an understandable amount of sensitivity when an expat arrives and pines for familiar items of their home country. But the pining (in moderation) is also understandable.

Let’s look at food.

We all grow up with different things we consider comfort food. We have a preference for tastes that we developed in childhood, and many of our favorite memories are tied strongly to the senses of taste and smell.

Other food items may take some getting used to.

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel

Travel, or in our case, living abroad, can challenge anyone with homesickness, and it’s the little things, like an occasional familiar meal, that make us feel the connection again to what we know, and who we are.

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel
Oh those stock photos. So sweet and cheesy.

Last night we were invited to the home of other Pittsburgh expats living here in Pretoria. They had DVR’d  the Monday night Steelers’ game. She made pierogis. Another Steelers’ fan made chicken wings with an amazing American-tasting sauce, and yet another made chocolate chip cookies. For our part, we took a box of Girl Scout cookies, several cans of Pringles, beer and Coca-cola.

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel
Pittsburgh style pierogis were a real treat! (Photo by Danielle Babilon).

You don’t realize all the things you’ll miss until you are away from them. It was a nice evening, and good to get those tastes again. And although the Steelers lost, it was nice to have that camaraderie that comes with sports-bonding.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with blending some of my favorite recipes with South African meat as I become more used to the variety of flavors here. Last week I made stuffed peppers similar to how they’re done at home, but with ostrich meat and wild rice. Delicious!

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel
Ostrich meat for stuffed peppers = delicious!

And since a few friends shared their game meat with us, I made my traditional lasagne over the weekend, but with mince (ground meat) from either hemsbok or kudu (not exactly sure). It’s different than game meat in the states. Our venison has a different smell and flavor than beef, but you get used to it. Same with the game meat here. I used a blend of Italian seasoning, and it was a delicious lasagne. The only spice I haven’t found for it yet is fennel, but I’ve heard it’s here. Just have to keep looking.

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel
Lasagne made with game meat in South Africa.

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel

So what about the South African fare? Well, I have a lot to try yet. My favorite biltong texture is soft, while my husband likes the snapsticks. We have many flavors yet to try. (For American readers, biltong is similar to jerky, but the taste is quite different in what we’ve tried so far.)

I love the chicken and mushroom pasty items, the variety of quiche available, and Appletiser. Kurt is a big fan of the boerewors (a type of South African sausage – a different taste from sausage we’ve had in the states). The variety of food to braai (grill) is incredible, and though we have only braai’d chicken so far, we’re planning on experimenting with everything we can.

expat life Pretoria South Africa cooking food travel
Our first braai dinner. Kurt did a great job seasoning and cooking!

And let’s not forget the international contingent at Kurt’s work. Recently we were at a party where one of the Scotsmen on the job brought haggis for everyone to try (yes I did, and yes, it was good!)

Do I appreciate American food more now that I’m away from it? Of course. Our roots are what define us, and food is a huge part of that.

But I can adapt, have and will continue to explore and experiment with the tastes and textures here in South Africa, and can’t wait to find out what new fusions might result.

Love, Marla

4 thoughts on “Cooking Favorite Recipes with South African Ingredients

  1. I always love trying new foods when I travel, like you though I always miss some of the foods I grew up with. When in Singapore I ended up creating a Thanksgiving dinner for a group of US expats one year. Some of the ingrediants were challenging.

  2. Susan missed peanut butter the most when she was in Mexico for six weeks as a college student. Like Jeff, I envy you trying new foods, not just meats.

  3. I know what you mean about the “comfort foods”…but I so frickkin’ envy you getting to sample all those different meats!!’ Carnivore till it kills me!

  4. As you know your posts bring back so many memories when I lived there and was the ‘Mary Hart’ of their version of our Entertainment Tonight. Their show was called Prime Time. That’s another story. They didn’t have chocolate chip cookies then and I introduced them there. My mother sent me the chips in a box from the US and then I figured out I could cut up Cadburys choc bars. I used to do Thanksgiving parties and everyone Loved it. Also on my blog there is a great African Cookbook that I reviewed. It is excellent. Lori from

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