For years, I have collected recipes for a cookbook I hope to write one day. It will be called Chakalaka, which is the name of a dish popular in South Africa. It is so popular, you can buy it ready-made in a can.

My cookbook, after  years of work, is actually pretty far along. I have all the recipes and lots of stories. I just can’t seem to pull it all together in a way that publishers like. (My book proposal has been rejected numerous times.) My general food concept follows from an observation that, wherever you find people of African descent, you will find that we eat pretty much the same things. I call it “pan-African cuisine” and think it needs to be elevated just as has been done with other world cuisines. It is “soulfood” to the nth degree.

My best friend’s daughter, Mando, taught me how to make chakalaka during one of my visits to the family home in Katlehong township. It is one of those creative dishes to make when you don’t have much in your cupboard.

Chakalaka can be served hot or cold. When it’s hot, it tastes great spooned over a generous heap of pap (white corn meal porridge). For summer meals, make an African “chili dog” by using it as a condiment, spread on a hot off the grill sausage. Cold, it makes an excellent side dish for almost anything.



½ cup hot water
4 tbs oil (vegetable or peanut)
1 large onion (chopped)
4 plum tomatoes (chopped fine)
6 carrots (grated)
2 cups cabbage (shredded)
1 can beans in tomato sauce


1 cube beef stock
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1 piece ginger root (crushed)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 chili (chopped fine)


DISSOLVE beef stock cube and baking soda in ½ cup hot water and set aside
USE medium sized pot
HEAT oil and sauté onion and seasonings until onion is soft
ADD carrots, cabbage and tomatoes
MIX well
ADD set aside beef stock and mix again
SIMMER until vegetables are cooked through (carrots will be soft)


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