Autumn flavours of South Africa

South Africa is known for a wonderfully rich and varied food which reflects the country’s diverse heritage.

Visit Cape Town, for example, and you will find menus laden with cuisine that show a Malay influence dating back to the early days when the Dutch East India Company set up rest stops on the coastline for the supply ships en route to Malaysia. Dishes like smoorsnoek (snoek cooked over a fire or simmered with tomatoes and onion), bobotie (meatloaf with onion, sultanas, almonds, bay leaves and spices, topped with egg custard) and denningvleis (slow-cooked leg of lamb with vinegar, spices and chilli).

Bobootie_1

Visit Durban and you’ll discover the cuisine is a unique blend of South African and Indian flavours directly linked to another time in the country’s colourful history: the 1860s when many labourers from South India worked on the sugar plantations.

For a quintessentially South African Indian dish, try a bunny chow! Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

For a quintessentially South African Indian dish, try a bunny chow! Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

The freshest way to eat yourself around South Africa however, is to eat seasonally.

Autumn is fruit season. Visit anytime from now until June and, not only will you be able to take advantage of the fading sunshine and warmth (often the best weather of the entire year!), but you’ll get to taste some exceptional seasonal fare.

Elgin_Valley_De_Rust__960_472_80auto_s_c1_center_bottom

Visit the Elgin Valley near Grabouw (about an hour outside of Cape Town) to taste some of the freshest apples available in the country. Around 60% of South Africa’s crop is harvested here. Other Autumn picks are avocados, dates, gooseberries, figs, granadillas (passion fruit), grapes, pears, plums and prickly pears, and as we head into Winter: grapefruit, lemons, Satsuma oranges, bananas, pomegranates, clementines, cranberries, kiwifruit and tangerines.

IMG_0988_620_400_80auto_s_c1__

Speaking of “picks”, despite the turn in temperature, there are still lots of exciting foodie things to do, including berry picking. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are ripe for it this time of year. You may even be in luck and find some juicy nectarines, peaches and grapes to harvest too. We recommend calling ahead of time however to make sure the farms are open and there is still fruit to be picked.

You can find some of the world's best cheeses a the Annual Cheese Festival. Photo credit: www.thesouthafrican.com

You can find some of the world’s best cheeses a the Annual Cheese Festival. Photo credit: www.thesouthafrican.com

Other fun activities during Autumn are the popular food festivals (check out the Cheese Festival, the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival and the Cape Town Good Food & Wine Show), or literally picking up some of that choice produce and heading out for a picnic. If you’re in the Cape, locals will tell you how lovely it is to have a break from the boisterous ‘Sou’easter’, and you can soak up the rays while being mesmerised by the colourful leaves that are starting to turn from green to fiery reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

Visit one of South Africa's many organic markets and meet the producers. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Visit one of South Africa’s many organic markets and meet the producers. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Or, if you’re a provenance fundi, why not go to one of the local organic farmers markets and chat to the producers first-hand? You could even load up on produce to try your hand at a typical seasonal recipe like Siba Mtongana’s Ginger and Rooibos Infused Berry Sorbet.

If simply enjoying the finished product is more your style, take your pick of one (or all) of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants as awarded at last year’s Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards:

  1. The Test Kitchen (Woodstock, Cape Town)
  2. Five Hundred (Sandton, Johannesburg)
  3. The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français (Franschhoek, Western Cape)
  4. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient (Elandsfontein, Pretoria)
  5. Jordan Restaurant (Stellenbosch)
  6. Overture (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
  7. Rust en Vrede (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
  8. DW Eleven-13 (Dunkeld West, Johannesburg)
  9. The Restaurant at Newton Johnson (Hemel en Aarde Valley)
  10. Terroir (Stellenbosch)

No doubt they’ll make you feel all warm and toasty as winter approaches.

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.