South African cuisine is coming into its own with specialities such as sauces, jams and chutneys gaining a footing overseas

A growing awareness of South African cuisine and a booming tourism industry are helping to grow speciality products such as barbecue sauces and chutneys in the overseas market, according to one of the country’s leading food writers.
Peter Veldsman, a pioneer of SA produce and cuisine, updated for modern palates, believes the country is on the cusp of a culinary revival.
From his restaurant, Emily’s in Cape Town, he serves dishes such as gravad of crocodile with carrot chutney and smoked wild boar carparccio.
Veldsman says the colonial history of the country has produced an interesting blend of the best local fresh produce with international influences, which is proving increasingly popular in overseas markets.
“South African cuisine is busy exporting itself and is starting to be seen on UK programmes such as BBC Food and being used by chefs such as Delia Smith and Ainsley Harriott. I think the cuisine will export itself, and with it the products,” he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of recipricocity between the two countries.”
Local black chefs are coming into their own after years of being confined to lowly positions in the kitchen under apartheid. Restaurants in the Cape wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek such as La Couronne and 96 Winery Road are gaining an international reputation and this is helping some of the smaller speciality producers of sauces, pickles and chutneys to gain a footing overseas.
One such producer is Ukuva Africa, which recently won an award at the International Food Event in London for its new barbecue marinade sprays. Braai Spray comes in Sweet & Sticky, Peri-Peri, Hickory Smoke and Lemon & Garlic flavours and is going into Waitrose.
The product is the brainchild of company founder Nigel Wood, a gruff Yorkshireman who had the idea of using quality fresh African ingredients for sauces while backpacking around South Africa.
Wood, a trained chef, says: “I started to put recipes in a bottle and sell them at craft markets, and then met Andrew Burns (the current managing director) in 1996 and we set up the factory.” He believes there is a strong market in the UK for quality South African products, particularly barbecue sauces.
Old Cape is another specialist brand of handmade jams and mustards that has seen success in the UK in outlets such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols. It is another example of premium-end produce that has managed to maintain its price in the export market. That has been because of a refusal to get into the “discounting game”, according to owner Rob Tapper, a former Unilever UK employee.Tapper believes the potential in the UK is enormous.
Nando’s is one of the most successful South African brands in UK supermarkets, helped by the growing chain of restaurants. The brand performs particularly well in the barbecue season. The Grocery Company MD Phil Lynas says the South African company is taking more control over the brand’s direction in global markets, including more emphasis on the provenance of the product and its principal ingredient of peri-peri.