Durban Curry - So Much Flavour - People, Places & Secret Recipes

Jackie Cameron
I was recently given Durban Curry (PawPaw Publishers). It is the most fantastic recipe book - just one look at it had me rushing to the kitchen to whip up a real Durban dish. The book oozes KwaZulu-Natal on every page. After all this is our country’s home of curries and Durban, as far as I’m aware, is the only city in South Africa with its own signature dish. Many visitors come here for the sea and sunshine while others are here for our curries. Note here I use the plural - there is not one standard Durban curry. There is a variety from which to choose.
— Jackie Cameron

A clue to knowing this book is going to be something really special is that, with Devi Sankaree Govender, it’s written by the incredibly energetic editor/writer Erica Platter; and the talented photographer/designer Clinton Friedman took the pictures. Their East Coast Tables as well as East Coast Tables: The Inland Edition were highly successful. Every good cook - and even the not-so good - should have these books. They celebrate local recipes that have a simple family status as well as those on a more sophisticated restaurant level. All the recipes tell a story and get to the heart of the dish. Clinton’s eye for perfection and Erica’s determination to get the answer will certainly move you - as they did me.

First up is “a timeless classic” says banking-executive Deena Naidoo, winner of South Africa’s first MasterChef TV competition. It is a superb example of the type of dish that distinguishes Durban Indian cooking; elevating the humblest ingredients with meticulous but adventurous spicy flavours. Nose-to-tail eating (a contemporary cheffy trend) is old hat to Chatsworth-born-and-bred Deena.  His sheep’s trotters and sugar-bean curry is as close as anyone can get to Indian-South African on one plate. Deena and I were in constant contact before he won MasterChef and I have so enjoyed watching him bring his personality to the table - never shifting from who he is. When it comes to food he is Mr Integrity. - Deena's Sheeps' Trotters and Sugar Bean Curry Recipe

I met Fatima Stanley when I joined the South African Chef’s Association committee many years back.  It is clearly evident that she is part of a large family (first born of seven) because, for her, nothing is ever too much trouble. Her friendliness and will to help out are inspiring. She has run top hotel kitchens, her own catering company, and was principal of Zen Africa Chefs’ School. Her latest venture, which I find exciting, is the MasterChef Culinary Academy. This is a skills kitchen where she trains disadvantaged youngsters from the Wentworth area, which is close to her home on the Bluff in Durban. Fatima is all about giving back. Perhaps she’s paying it forwards? If she says this beef curry is fabulous, then rest assured it is. I look forward to Fatima lending that helping hand at Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine. - Fatima's Fabulous Beef Curry Recipe

Next up is from the queen of preserves, Cindy Valayadam, whose pickles and preserves fly off the shelves at her buzzing Umhlali Fresh Produce shop to tables around the country and abroad. Most of the items are made with ingredients grown on the nearby family farm. I’m reluctant to admit I have never visited Cindy’s shop but recently George and Louise Jardine, of Jardine Restaurant on Jordan’s Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, came to KwaZulu-Natal and the Midlands. Their desire to explore led them to Umhlali Fresh Produce and at dinner one evening they shared Cindy’s pickle garlic in roasted broccoli with me.  The recipe I have included - baby brinjal pickle - is as delicious. - Cindy's Super Simple Baby Brinjal Pickle Recipe

The ‘sides’ section of this recipe book is driving my taste buds into food frenzy! It came as a surprise to find Shamen Reddi's braised raita in the book. It highlights braising carrots and that this practice transforms them from ordinary to special. Shamen’s Impulse by the Sea, at Tinley Manor Beach, is renowned for its crab curries as well as its warm, family ambience. Her curry is featured on the cover of Durban Curry. - Shamen Reddi's Braised Raita Recipe

I met Linda Govender a few years back when I won my first Top 10 fine dining award and she won Top 10 casual dining. She and her husband, Russell Burger, own Spice and it was always a treat to visit there and experience their clever use of spices - never overpowering but always evident. Spice on the beach at Westbrook was a dream that became reality and Linda is cooking in her signature style - updating classics, re-inventing local flavours and, I believe, going far beyond the curries to mapping a modern spice route of her own. Her cauliflower and potato curry with peas is my kind of dinner. Give me vegetables any day of the week. - Linda's Cauliflower & Potato Curry with Peas Recipe

Asha Maharaj is a name and face we all recognise. She is a nationally renowned Indian cookery authority who travels the country as a home economist for Tastic Rice; hosts a magazine programme on Radio Lotus; demonstrates on TV; has written five books, including a bestseller on eggless baking; and, since 2000, she has written the hugely-popular cookery pages in the Extra section of the Sunday Times, South Africa’s top-selling weekly newspaper. She maintains the secret of a good Durban curry is “paying attention to spicing; there is a different masala for each curry”. I’m happy that Asha cooks with ghee because it reminds me to do this again - something I haven’t done for years. I suggest you try Ashna’s banana kebabs in curried gravy. - Asha's Banana Kebabs in Curried Gravy Recipe

This story book about food documents Erica and Clinton’s quest to identify the DNA of innovative Durban dishes. I applaud the team at PawPaw Publishers for a truly, special gem. Close family and friends can expect it to be in their Christmas stockings. Meanwhile I look forward to spending time with my copy and learning more about the Durban’s spicy heroes and heroines.

Here is to celebrating local because it is truly ‘lekker’! 

Find out more about my women’s chef range here - men’s to come shortly; remember JACKIE CAMERON COOKS AT HOME; and all my foodie adventures. I  always look forward to hearing from you:

The Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine situated in Hilton, KZN will open in January 2015 - please email for enquires. For the latest on local foodie news add me as a friend on FACEBOOK. Find me on Twitter - @jackie_cameron and INSTAGRAM: jackiecameronincolour

All Recipe and Photos supplied by Durban Curry Recipe Book