Jackie's High Five: Indigenous Ingredients

Jackie Cameron chooses proudly South African ingredients we should see more of on menus.
— Chef! Magazine

 Amadumbi

Amadumbi

Amadumbi

The humble amadumbi is an unpretentious, under-utilised indigenous tuber vegetable. How many times have you been asked if you want your meal with mash, rice or a baked potato? Amadumbis are readily available in KwaZulu-Natal and I’m surprised that I have never seen them on a menu. International guests are enthusiastic about trying something uniquely South African - especially when we call it our African potato. We should follow their enquiring and inquisitive interest by placing local ingredients on our tables more often. Come on, be adventurous!

 Amazi

Amazi

Amazi

You need to have been raised on amazi to truly appreciate its flavour and texture. I like to pour it into an oil filter which I place in a sieve and leave overnight to drain into a large bowl. To the curd or izaqheqhe I add herbs and use as a spread - almost like ricotta. The whey or umlaza I use to ferment cabbage and then serve as a side dish. The options are endless.

 Biltong

Biltong

Biltong

It’s a mystery why we dig deep into our pockets for expensive Italian charcuterie when we produce one of the world’s best cured meats – biltong. It doesn’t have to be dried out as some connoisseurs prefer it; finely-sliced, wet biltong can be used for as many - and even more purposes - as its international cousin, the Italian salami.

 Makowe Mushrooms

Makowe Mushrooms

Makowe mushrooms

Makowe mushrooms are well known on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. They grow wild; and seemingly pop up overnight in the sugar cane fields after lightning storms. So, should you find me foraging in the sugar cane, you’ll know what I’m doing.

 Naartjies

Naartjies

Naartjie

The unassuming naartjie has many names - mandarin, Christmas orange, tangerine - but our word naartjie has been used in South Africa since 1790, so in my book that qualifies it to be indigenous. The next time you decide to include a citrus tart on your menu use naartjies and see your guests’ expressions - I’m sure they’ll appreciate the sweet acidity.

Jackie Cameron is the owner of the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal which is opening in January 2015. Jackie has often featured on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list and is a judge in the annual Eat Out Produce Awards which recognises small South African producers.