The following is some text from our website of the history of our restaurant.  I am pasting it here to offer an introduction to the three family members who own The Africa Cafe as they will soon be making some posts of their own and it’s always nice to know a little about the name behind the message:

“The Africa Café had the humble beginnings of a dream in a South Africa that had yet to transform into the democracy and icon of freedom that it is today.  Portia and Jason De Smidt had no formal training in food preparation, but armed with creative flair and abundant passion they were determined to open South Africa’s first African restaurant.  Their idea was not warmly received by the business community and without much needed financial backing the only option was to open the doors of their small home in the Bohemian suburb of Observatory.  They were determined to fill a gap in the market and create food that would celebrate Africa’s diversity and rich tapestry of tastes and aromas.  There was very much a sense that Africa, through years of oppression, had lost pride in its heritage, and this inspired the dynamic couple even more to challenge and change negative perceptions of what this vast and great continent had to offer.

Portia’s brother, Hector, came down from Johannesburg to complete the team and brought with him extensive marketing expertise to help boost the growth process. Needless to say the word spread and over a period of 17 years the fledgling restaurant grew from strength to strength in the face of much adversity into the much-loved and very popular destination it is today.”

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South African Vetkoek

One of the most popular items on our menus is often our bread.  We serve a variety of different breads which change per menu as do the other items we serve.  One of our all time favourite dishes has been Portia’s Cassava bread but the recipe for this is still a closely guarded secret!  Currently we are serving vetkoek and we call it South African but it is eaten all over the continent under many different names.  The recipe is very much a basic bread recipe but what makes them vetkoek is in the baking or rather the frying ;)

Quantity depends on the size of your vetkoek

450g cake flour

10g instant dry yeast

3 teaspoons white sugar

2 teaspoons salt

400ml warm water

vegetable oil for deep frying

Sift the flour, salt, sugar and dry yeast into a mixing bowl, making sure they are evenly distributed.  Make a hollow in the centre and pour in the warm water.  Using a wooden spoon, mix the liquid into the flour.  Finish off the mixing with your hands until you have a smooth dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.  Cover the dough with a tea towel and put into a warm place to rise and double in size.  Heat enough oil for deep frying in a heavy casserole pot.  Using a metal serving spoon for size, scoop lumps of dough, one spoonful at a time and transfer it into the hot oil.  As the vetkoek cooks it will swell up and resemble a puffy ball.  Remove when golden brown all over.  Can be enjoyed for breakfast with hot coffee, dipped into a saucy stew or even stuffed to make a ’sandwich’ with your favourite filling.  One of my unusual and personal bests is a filling of cheddar cheese and honey!


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Kenyan Irio Patties

Spinach is eaten in a wide variety of forms throughout Africa.  It is an inexpensive, nutritious dish, which is usually simple to prepare.  In the Northern part of South Africa it is called Morogo, here in Cape Town it is known as umfino and Mulukhiya in the southern part of Egypt.

300 g spinach                                                    4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped in half

1 teaspoon salt                                                   1 teaspoon black pepper

1 egg                                                                      1 cup corn flour

1 medium onion finely chopped                    1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

oil for shallow frying

Wash Spinach very well in lots of water, making sure that the sand and little bugs all wash away.  Chop roughly and put into a pot with a lid.  Steam the spinach over a slow flame, until it has reduced in the pot.  Make sure the spinach cooks dry.  Open the pot and let the spinach cool.  Meanwhile cook the potatoes until soft in a different pot.  Add salt and mash the potatoes.  Empty cooked spinach, mashed potatoes, egg, corn flour, chopped onion, defrosted peas and black pepper into a large mixing bowl.  Using a potato masher, mix all the ingredients together.  Form flat patty shapes and set aside.  Heat oil in a frying pan and fry irio until crispy on both sides.

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Mala Mala

The Africa Cafe is not only famous for serving the most delicious African food in Cape Town.  Our bar is also well know for making some of the best fresh fruit cocktails which we serve both with and without alcohol.  Jason shops at the fresh produce market to make sure that only the freshest ingredients are used and the proof really is in the taste.  Here is the recipe for our world famous Mala Mala:

Makes 6

800g fresh pineapple cut into chunks

1 tablespoon fresh granadilla pulp

120ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup white sugar

6 tots of white rum (optional)

1 litre plain soda water

Pulp pineapple pieces in a blender until smooth.  Add the lemon juice and sugar.  Mix until sugar has dissolved.  Lastly, add the granadilla pulp and blend briefly, taking care not to crush the pips.

To make one cocktail:  Put one tot of rum in a large cocktail glass or omit, fill the glass to 1/2 with the above mixture and top up slowly with soda water.  Watch out that the fizz does not overflow the glass.  Stir with a swizzle stick or spoon.  Sit back, relax, watch the sunset and enjoy :)


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The Africa Cafe Experience

The Africa Cafe Experience is the name of our recipe and lifestyle book published in 2004. It has to the dismay of many already sold out. Portia has been promising a new one sometime soon. However, I thought for those who have not had a chance to read it yet, it would be a nice idea to publish some recipes right here on the blog. Here is the recipe for our world famous Malawi Mbatata, Cheese and Sim Sim Balls.


Makes 40 balls

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled 1/2 cup water
5 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 teaspoons mixed spice
6 tablespoons corn flour 200 grams grated cheese
3/4 cup white sesame seeds vegetable oil for deep-frying

Roughly cut the sweet potato into chunks. Simmer the sweet potato and water in a covered pot over a low heat. When cooked, the sweet potato should be soft and dry. Remove from the heat, open the pot and leave to cool. Mash the sweet potato with the sugar, salt and spices. Add the corn flour if the mixture is too soft – some sweet potato varieties retain more water than others. Lastly add the grated cheese.

To shape the balls, roll the mbatata mixture into walnut-size balls and coat with sesame seeds. Continue rolling the sesame seeds onto the outside of the ball so that they stick. Repeat the rolling until all the mixture has been used. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Gently deep-fry the mbatata until golden brown all over. Drain on paper towel.

Happy Africa Cafe cooking!

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