The Curious Cook

On the shelf: my top 10 South African products

Sometimes you just need some tried and tested standbys you can rely on. I always have these non-perishable items on my shelf- some of them are staples and some of them hover in the background but all are essential.

10: Simple Truth crunchy peanut butter

(Available at Checkers only)

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Let’s kick off the list with a newcomer! This scrumptious peanut butter is the star of a new range of healthy foods available at Checkers. The timing couldn’t have been better as I had just become aware of the insidious use of palm oil is in so much of what we eat, especially in the form of “stabiliser” in peanut butter. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we don’t need any salt or sugar in peanut butter if it’s been roasted and tastes this good. A game changer.

2: All Gold tomato sauce

(All supermarkets)

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A true heritage brand, still going strong for over 100 years. We remember the jingle “All Gold, All Gold tastes so good… Honest to goodness like good food should…” with such fondness, not to mention the 1990s advert where all those tomatoes are being crammed into a giant bottle. Based in Paarl, All Gold was named the number 1 Iconic Food Brand in South Africa in 2004. Iconic it certainly is, made with just tomatoes, vinegar, spices and sugar, it’s all about the recipe. Although a little sweeter than other brands, I rely on it all the time, adding a generous dollop to tomato-based dishes to give it that special lift.

8: Nature’s Choice vegetable stock powder

(Selected supermarkets, DisChem and health shops)

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Once you have tried this vegetable stock you will never use those nasty MSG cubes ever again. Light and full of flavour, this stock powder transforms any dish within minutes. And it is gluten and dairy free, containing only natural ingredients. I add it to most of my sauces as well as each and every soup I make. Try this quick minestrone by simmering pasta and green beans in water with two tablespoons of this magic powder, as well as diced tomatoes, sliced garlic and red kidney beans. I really love it.

7: Snaxels pretzel sticks

(Available everywhere)

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These moreish dipped pretzel sticks have been my favourite snack since I was 11 years old. Back in the late 1980s, you could only get them at Clicks so I would make a Saturday morning ritual of walking to town to the library, followed by my pocket money “outing”. I can never choose which is my favourite, yoghurt or chocolate. Just the name rolls off the tongue – these snaxels are simplicity itself and surprisingly satisfying.

6. Chaloner olive marmalade

 (Delicatessens and selected supermarkets)

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This is probably the most perfect accompaniment to soft cheeses or mature cheddar I could possibly imagine. Made from dried olives and rosemary, it is like eating the Mediterranean but with a South African twist. Perfect for those who fancy something sophisticated with their cheese and toast instead of boring old jam.

5. Messaris Greek Lamb crisps

(Available at selected Checkers and Spar)

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Messaris nuts and crisps have been around since 1948 so they are one of South Africa’s heritage companies. Yet that are extremely overlooked and underappreciated – I hadn’t really taken much notice of them until about a year ago. I think part of the problem is their packaging is horribly out of date. But go out and get yourself some today because Messaris makes the best gourmet crisps in South Africa! I love the Greek Lamb flavour with hints of black pepper and oregano but the sea salt and black pepper is also great. The scrumptious V cut cheese flavour is so hard to find I fear it may even be discontinued. I suggest Messaris changes its boring packaging and steps up to the plate to claim the honour of being the tastiest crisps in South Africa.

4: Hillcrest Berry Orchard jams

(Available at Checkers only, or at the farm shop)

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It’s almost impossible to choose my favourite as they are all so good! Standouts are the raspberry jam with extra fruit and the traditional apricot jam made with whole kernels (which gives the jam an almond-like flavour) the only jam in South Africa that uses this traditional recipe. Their incredible raspberry coulis is perfect drizzled over fluffy American style pancakes and whipped cream. I also recommend visiting the farm shop and tea garden with a gorgeous view of the Banhoek valley between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

3: Gayleen’s Decadence chocolate

(Available at most health shops including Wellness Warehouse and online at Faithful to Nature)

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I love dark chocolate but struggle to find a brand that is tasty and doesn’t leave a waxy residue. And that’s not even mentioning the palm oil issue or that most Swiss chocolates contain such strange vegetable oils. Gayleen’s is made in South Africa and is dairy- and sucrose-free with no nasty additives or soya lecithin. Only pure cocoa beans, cocoa butter, raw honey and natural flavourings. My favourite is the vanilla flavoured slab and the soft centre Turkish Rose made with rose essential oil. And every time you buy some, you are supporting a small business.

2: Willow Creek Persian Lime olive oil

(Most supermarkets)

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This marvellous scented oil adds a pep to dressings and a special flourish to creamy pasta, rice and fish. I love it on slices of fresh avocado sprinkled with celery salt and lemon juice. Or make a salad dressing with pink salt, mustard powder, honey, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and this lovely scented oil. We should all be encouraged to use more locally produced oils. It is a fallacy that the best olive oils are imported. The quality and freshness of South African oils can’t be beaten – and your carbon footprint will be much lighter too.

NUMBER 1: Cape Herb and Spice

(Woolworths and selected supermarkets in the Western Cape)

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I used to hunt down these special spice blends and seasonings when they were only available in the Western Cape. Now that Cape Herb and Spice has a deal with Woolworths and Yuppiechef as their suppliers, my anxiety has melted away. I cannot live without their whole spice curry powder, Chinese 5 spice blend and Moroccan rub. The freshest, best spices to be found in South Africa. And they are non-irradiated and free of colourants! And because I can’t live without spices, this is in my number 1 spot.

Happy cooking and healthy living!

3 thoughts on “On the shelf: my top 10 South African products

  1. The last one: spices; this is something I would love to have over here. There are plenty of spices, but no convenient exotic combinations. In some ways, SA is so much more awake than Europe.

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  2. Great post! I love the Simple Truth peanut butter too, it’s like peanut butter used to be without the stabiliser. And I can’t wait to try the Willow Creek olive oil and the spices. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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