Celebrity chef Siba Mtongana. File photo.
Celebrity chef Siba Mtongana. File photo.
Image: Supplied

As lockdown begins, and we have to fend for ourselves food-wise, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite local blogs to inspire your kitchen adventures over the next few weeks. From award-winning chefs to accomplished home cooks, we’ve got something to inspire you whether your amateur chef status ranks at MasterChef winner or boiled-egg burner.

1. CHEF SIBA MTONGANA 

Charismatic chef Siba Mtongana has captured South Africa’s hearts through their bellies with her no-nonsense approach to cooking. Her website has a comprehensive selection of her popular recipes, broken down into traditional sections of breakfasts, mains, salads, sides and desserts — with a few extras like Valentines, Kiddies, Christmas and Easy meals thrown in. I’ve already added her cheat meringue cheesecake to my Easter lunch menu (since it’ll just be two adults and two kids – and I’ll probably end up eating most of it myself!) and will try her creamy spinach and butternut pie on a meat-free Monday. Keep an eye on her Instagram page @sibamtongana where she plans to share some ideas and inspiration for home cooking over the next few weeks.

2. ALEX POLTERA

Chef Alex Poltera of Fern Hill Hotel in the KZN Midlands is renowned for all his cooking but recognised as a luminary in the vegan food world. His website has three sections of recipes: sweet, savoury and vegetarian/vegan, and there are many delicious ideas in each. For those of us who are trying meat-free Monday (and what better time to experiment a bit with plant-based eating than now), Alex shares several delectable ideas. The vegan beetroot and lentil burger with coriander aioli caught my eye.

3. CHEF TJAART WALRAVEN 

Chef Tjaart Walraven, who you might recognise as a judge from the Great South African Bake Off, shares several recipes for things baked which are not on his website. With gorgeous pictures that will leave you struggling to decide whether to make a chocolate or raspberry and almond tart and have the family debating over hearty beef pie or lamb ragu, it’s a treasure trove of easy-to-follow recipes. The section dedicated to pestos, preserves and relishes feels particularly timeous. Who wouldn’t want a pantry stocked with jars full of tasty things to drizzle over your dishes when you can’t order out?

4. JAN HENDRIK VAN DER WESTHUIZEN

You don’t get much more celebrated than local chef extraordinaire Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. South Africa’s first Michelin-starred chef, he is prolific even outside of his restaurant kitchen in Nice, particularly as a photographer, and his website has a wealth of sumptuous imagery, inspiring stories and mouth-watering recipes.

Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.
Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.
Image: Daniela Zondagh

Make sure to look at the Inspire and Travel sections of Van der Westhuizen’s blog for fascinating insight into his diverse experiences and, of course, dip into the recipes which are divided into sections, such as salads and baking, but include more intriguing morsels in the mignardise and sugar and spice sections, plus areas dedicated to bread and butter, healthy snacks and the braai. They range from simple meals, like chutney chicken with roasted potatoes and apples, to ones which leave you under no illusion that he has a Michelin star, such as mushroom macarons.

5. SARAH GRAHAM 

Sarah Graham’s career began as a talented home cook with a popular blog A Foodie Lives Here. Fast forward a decade and she’s a well-known celeb chef with several cookbooks and a television show under her belt. Despite that, her recipes remain true to her original mission: inspiring home cooks to try new things and cook with healthy, fresh ingredients that are simple and local.

Graham is almost as well known for the stories she shares about cooking and food as she is for the recipes themselves and it’s a delight to read her blog and watch her talk about her love affair with food on the many videos she shares. There are hundreds of recipes to choose from, from speedy weeknight suppers to a variety of healthy options and cooking with unusual ingredients, such as venison and duck, for those who would like to experiment a bit now that they have more time on their hands. There is also a great section of kids’ favourites to encourage your little ones to try something new over the coming weeks. Creamy green pasta bows, anyone?

6. THE FOOD FOX 

Ilse van der Merwe’s blog is a feast for the eyes, with gorgeous images of the creative food she produces. She updates it regularly and this week has promised recipes suitable for lockdown using simple pantry ingredients and common kitchen staples to inspire home cooks during this strange time. The first is a yummy-looking flat bread, which she’s teamed with shallots, which could form the base for divine open sandwiches. I’ve also bookmarked Van der Merwe’s beef and gruyère lasagne; fresh salmon-trout burger with dill mayo and soft-scoop white fudge ice cream, which she promises is easy and no-churn.

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