Sweet and spicy Cape Malay cuisine

South Africans really love to add spice to their lives! Following the success of our July newsletter "Stay winter-warm with curry", I decided to dedicate this newsletter to more spicy foods - but this time from the delicious Cape Malay kitchen, a personal favourite of mine.

The Cape Malay cuisine is unique in that it combines savoury with sweet flavours - their curries also tend to be milder than the Indian version. Cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, aniseed, fennel, cardamom, ginger and bay leaves are just some of the favourite spices used in their dishes. Popular Cape Malay dishes include breyani (a rice-based dish with spicy meat/chicken or vegetables), sosaties (vegetable and meat cooked on skewers), denningvleis (a spicy slow-cooked leg of lamb dish with chillies, spices and vinegar), smoorsnoek (a stew of flaked fish with potato and tomato), bredies (flavoursome stews), and, the king of all Cape dishes, bobotie (curried mince topped with an egg-based topping).

Many of the spices added to Cape Malay foods have great health benefits. Did you know, for example, that many spices have antimicrobial properties that kill dangerous bacteria in foods? It's no coincidence that spicy meat-based recipes have their origin in countries with hot or tropical climates - the spices were originally added to keep food fresh and to kill or inhibit bacteria.

Cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and cumin are also rich sources of antioxidants which protect the body and fight off free radicals. For example, one teaspoon of cloves has more antioxidants than half a cup of blueberries and one teaspoon of cinnamon has more antioxidants than 240ml pomegranate juice.

 Research also has shown that cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and turmeric are especially beneficial to people as they raise the action of insulin in the body, thus improving blood sugar control.

For this newsletter I have chosen three recipes from the
Eating for Sustained Energy recipe book series by Liesbet Delport and Gabi Steenkamp: Lamb Breyani, Fish in a lightly curried tomato sauce and the classic Bobotie.

Remember to use lean cuts of meat and chicken and to remove all visible fat and skin. Up your fruit and veg intake by serving your prepared dishes with an assortment of sambals such as sliced banana in lemon juice, chopped tomato and onion, cucumber and low-fat yoghurt, roasted coconut flakes (only a little, as coconut is high in saturated fats) and light chutney or low-GI apricot jam.

(For more information on the Glycemic Index and other health tools visit

View recipes:

- Bobotie
- Lamb breyani
- Fish in a lightly curried tomato sauce

Bobotie: nutritional information per serving (with rice)

One serving is equivalent to 1 starch, 3 protein and 1 fruit/vegetable.

GI low (39)

Kilojoules 1 708

Carbohydrates 26g

GL 10

Protein 28g

Fat 11g

Fibre 5g



(Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Diabetes Newsletter, August 2010)

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