11 Countertop-worthy Cookbooks & Kitchen Bibles

Words: Robyn Samuels

South Africa is truly a melting pot of cultures, and when it comes to our cuisine, the world is your oyster. Whether you love Cape Malay flavours, Potjiekos or Seven Colours, you’ll find all the cooking inspiration you need between these pages. We list culinary classics, nifty newcomers and gourmet gems in this local cookbook round-up. Feast your eyes!

40 Years of Iconic Food by Dorah Sitole

Image credit: Daily Maverick

Affectionately known as ‘Mam’ to industry insiders, Dorah Sitole was a beloved figure, mentor and matriarchal iconic. Previously Food Editor of TRUELOVE magazine and celebrated gourmand, her legacy changed South African food culture as we know it. In her final cookbook (released shortly before her passing), Sitole gives home cooks a peek into her upbringing in Soweto and her illustrious food journey, through heart-warming anecdotes.

With a career that spanned four decades, Sitole recreated and discovered countless dishes over the years. The Cordon Bleu-trained chef shares South African heritage dishes like Tripe Curry and pan-African staples like Mopane Stew, as well as globally-inspired recipes from her travels to Cape, Cairo and beyond. A must-have for any kitchen counter.

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Veggielicious by Mokgadi Itsweng

Image credit: NB Publishers

Veggielicious, Mokgadi Itsweng’s debut cookbook, presents ‘plant-forward recipes from the garden of her dreams’. The local chef and food activist features familiar favourites in innovative ways; recipes like Morogo Dumplings, Aubergine & Tamarind Curry, and Ting ya Mabele (fermented porridge) showcase the true versatility of plant-based cooking.

Itsweng champions indigenous African grains like pearl millet and sorghum, and encourages home cooks to look to wholesome greens for sustenance and their obvious ‘veggielicious’ factor. Enjoy satisfying salads, midweek marvels and more from this stellar local cookbook.

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Blackouts & Boerewors by Beer Country

Image credit: Penguin Random House South Africa

Ultimate Braai Master fans may know Beer Country’s Greg Gilowey and Karl Tessendorf as team ‘Rust n Dust’ from the popular food show. Since their debut appearance, the indomitable team has been trailblazing, and just recently released a third cookbook, Blackouts & Boerewors – “forty bright braai recipes for dark times” AKA loadshedding.

Greg and Karl do what any South African would in a blackout bind – build a braai, break out the beers and boerewors. In true Beer Country fashion, their cookbook offers craft beer pairing suggestions and signature flame-fueled feasts. Thankfully, the dishes aren’t limited to boerewors. Blackouts & Boerewors features mouthwatering mains, saucy sides and decadent desserts – yet again testing the limits of what can be made on the braai.

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Cape Malay Cooking: My story, my heritage by Fatima Sydow

Throughout the years, Fatima Sydow has blessed foodies with her charismatic personality and authentic Cape Malay cooking. The doyen recently released her third cookbook, Cape Malay Cooking: My story, my heritage – a collection of her fondest food memories.

Everything from fragrant curries to special Labarang treats, boeka bites and braai recipes are featured. My story, my heritage is the quintessential local cookbook for anyone who enjoys hosting family and friends on special occasions and holidays.

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Onwards by Karen Dudley

Image credit: The Reading List

When the world came to a standstill more than three years ago, navigating the ‘new normal’ amidst a pandemic was far from smooth sailing. Businesses shut down and our favourite restaurants closed – Woodstock institution, The Kitchen, included. For chef-owner and industry stalwart Karen Dudley, the only way forward was ‘Onwards’.

In her captivating cookbook, Dudley reveals how she made her way back to the heart of cooking and rediscovered the joys of food. Through playing with flavours and ingredients, the chef offers a fresh take on familiar flavours, making it perfect for those who enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, whether for family, friends or oneself.

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Harvest Table by Monché Muller

​​Monché Muller, executive chef of International Oddo Vins et Domaines wines, introduces readers to the people behind the label in her award-winning cookbook, Harvest Table. A true labour of love, you’ll find contemporary favourites and reimagined recipes like Sago Pudding with Burnt Chestnut Honey & Meringue in this cookbook.

Different sections are dedicated to specific wine regions, starting with France and then migrating to South Africa, Spain and Italy. Wine estates Le Chant and Pink Valley (owned by the Oddo family) are also featured, giving readers a taste of local farm-to-table fare. Harvest Table is for globetrotting foodies, wine connoisseurs, and anyone who loves eating with their eyes – a sumptuous collection of recipes.

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Simply Seven Colours by Zola Nene

Image credit: Penguin Random House South Africa

If the South African rainbow nation were a dish, it would be Seven Colours – a generous plating of chicken/beef (dealer’s choice), pickled beetroot, turmeric-stained rice, green beans and, of course, Zola Nene’s Isinkwa Sommbila with Chakalaka is non-negotiable.

The celebrity chef and award-winning author dishes inspired recipes for the quintessential Sunday feast in her latest cookbook. While Simply Seven Colours focuses on the conceptual dish, offering mouthwatering mains and all the fixings, it also celebrates the heart of African cuisine – communal dining. Colour-coded chapters make it approachable for home cooks to curate vibrant meals – the same ones Nene blesses our social media feeds with each week.

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There’s a Vegan on My Verandah by Louis Jansen van Vuuren & Isabella Niehaus

Image credit: Graffiti Boeke

Culinary duo, Louis Jansen van Vuuren and Isabella Niehaus, embrace plant-based eating and fabulous fare in There’s a Vegan on My Verandah. The stunning and creative cookbook proves that plant-based cooking can be fabulous.

Isabella’s iconic Langtafel lunches, previously hosted at her West Coast home, are a testament to her love for fresh flavours. Together, Isabella and Louis (the vegan of the pair) have created a marvellous collection of locally-influenced recipes, inspired by produce grown in their Le Rembucher garden in France, where they reside. A fantastic cookbook for anyone wanting to explore joie de vivre through plant-based food – vegan or not.

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The Klein JAN Cookbook by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen

Image credit: JAN Innovation Studio via Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, South Africa’s first Michelin-starred chef, presents a cookbook inspired by the Kalahari desert that captured his heart many years ago and eventually became home to his destination restaurant, Klein JAN.

An ode to childhood memories and chasing dreams, Jan’s culinary creativity is a feast for the senses. The cookbook features 150 recipes of fragrant, homegrown flavours – from stoep cocktails to sop and brood, and sugar-coated treats. More than a kitchen bible, The Klein JAN Cookbook is a visual masterpiece and spellbinding tale of Northern Cape hospitality.

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Sifo – The Cooking Husband by Sinoyolo Sifo

Image credit: Penguin Random House South Africa

Sinoyolo Sifo, AKA ‘The Cooking Husband’, dismantles cliché gender roles by taking charge in the kitchen, with his cookbook. Drawing inspiration from the nostalgia of home and family, Sifo brings together a droolworthy collection of utterly delectable recipes.

The self-taught chef and culinary influencer showcases all the delicious possibilities, making it simple for home cooks to recreate. From saucy pasta dishes to meaty mains and comforting cultural classics, the whole family will love these recipes.

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Cape Malay Cooking by Faldela Williams

The Cape Malay Cookbook is not just a compilation of dishes. For many, it’s a trove of sacred recipes, previously only shared by word of mouth. Through her cookbook, Faldela Williams ultimately preserved Cape Malay cuisine and influenced a younger generation of cooks.

The culinary icon and late legend gives a peek into the Cape Malay community and her upbringing in Bo Kaap. Insight into significant religious holidays, pantry staples and a helpful spice guide make this a fantastic introduction to Cape Malay cooking. Williams’ cookbook is a must-have reference for mastering dishes like breyani, koe’sisters and rotis; she also shares her best savoury and sweet treat recipes for family functions and all year round.

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Want more? Check out these binge-worthy food shows.

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