Capsicum’s chef and students recall favourite dishes made by their mothers
The official Mother’s Day holiday – which takes place in South Africa on Sunday, May 14 – arose as a result of the efforts of an American woman, Anna Jarvis who, following her mother’s death in 1905, conceived of the day as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, Jarvis organised the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a church in West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.
As a result of the success of these events, Jarvis, who remained unmarried and childless her whole life, resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. By 1912 many US states, cities and towns had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated worldwide and in most countries is marked by presenting mothers with gifts and flowers and giving them a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores.
In honour of their mothers, we asked some of the chefs at Capsicum Culinary Studio, SA’s largest culinary school with six campuses nationwide, to share the recipes of those dishes they most remember their moms whipping up for them.
Durban campus head Ann Nagan says it was her mother Sandra who passed down the love of authentic Indian cooking to her and if she had to pick a favourite dish she made for the family, it would be her South Indian Fish Curry.
Sandra Nagan’s South Indian Fish Curry
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 green chillies, sliced down the middle
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp Kashmiri masala
- 1½ tbsp fish masala
- 8-10 ripe tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced in half
- 2 stem curry leaves
- 4 tbsp black tamarind, soaked in hot water
- 2kgs fresh fish (salmon is especially good)
- A few small brinjals, chopped (optional)
- Salt to taste
Soak the tomatoes in hot water until the skin starts to come off, then remove and puree in a food processor. Add just enough oil to cover the base of a flat bottom pot and heat. Add mustard seeds and allow to fry. Add diced onions, green chillies and curry leaves. Once onions are translucent, add the sliced garlic and masala spices. Mix well and allow to braise for a few minutes before adding the pureed tomatoes and salt to taste. Allow to simmer on medium heat for about 15 – 20 minutes. Mix tamarind in a little hot water then strain into the mixture. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes before adding the fish and brinjals, making sure you don’t break the fish. Swirl gravy around but do not mix. Reduce the heat and allow to cook for another 10 minutes or until gravy thickens and fish is cooked through. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, bread or roti.
Pretoria campus student Kamogelo Makhubela says his favourite dish made by his mom is her spinach pesto pasta with chicken. “It’s one of those recipes where a little goes a long way and it can be eaten hot or cold.”
Spinach Pesto Pasta with Chicken
- 200g spinach
- 50g cashew nuts
- 4 garlic cloves
- 120ml extra virgin olive oil
- 200g parmesan cheese
- 300g pasta (penne or rigatoni works well but you can use just about any pasta)
- 200ml lemon juice
- 2 chicken breasts
- Sprig of rosemary
- ½ tsp lemon pepper
- 1 tbsp thyme
- Sea salt & ground black pepper
For the pasta: Place spinach in a bowl and blanch it by pouring over boiling water and covering it with a lid. In a separate pot, boil the pasta in salty water until almost al dente. Toast the cashew nuts in a frying pan over medium high heat until golden brown (about 3 minutes), keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. In a blender add the blanched spinach, 60ml of the oil, three of the garlic cloves, half the parmesan, 20ml of lemon juice and the toasted cashews and blend until everything is incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain the pasta and save a cup of the pasta liquid. In a pan at medium heat add the pasta and pesto a spoon at a time, then add the pasta water for the right consistency (it should be thick but smooth).
For the chicken: Soak the chicken in lemon juice for about an hour. Pat dry and set aside. In a pestle and mortar, grind the rosemary, thyme and a garlic clove adding 20ml oil to create a smooth paste. Rub all over the chicken then grill or pan fry the chicken until cooked through. Slice into pieces and lay over the pesto pasta and finish off with grated parmesan.
There may be dishes for Mother’s Day that’s a lot more intricate, fashionable or even grander, but the best part of this cake, is the sharing,” says Pretoria campus student Catherine Greyling. “I used to make it with my granny for my mom, as she did with her granny for her mom. It’s every mom’s favourite and it’s the stuff memories are made of … what more do you need for Mother’s Day?”
Granny E’s Triangle Delight Cake
- 1 packet Tennis biscuits
- 1 tub of smooth cream cheese
- 1 tin condensed milk
- 50m lemon juice
- 10 cherries
- ½ cup icing sugar
- 2 tbs margarine
- 3 tbs cocoa powder
- 3 tbs hot water
- Dark chocolate shavings/buttons
In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk and slowly add the lemon juice while stirring, until the mixture thickens. Taste regularly to make sure it is just right. Set aside and cool in the fridge. Divide the biscuits in two equal amounts on a sheet of tinfoil, set half of the biscuits in rows of three each to form the sides of the triangle. Carefully spoon half of your mixture over the biscuits. Set out the other half of the biscuits in the same pattern. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the biscuits. Arrange the cherries in the middle of the cake lengthwise. Carefully use the foil to bring the two sides together to form a triangle. Press gently together. Wrap firmly with the foil and cool in freezer. Mix the cocoa powder with the warm water, add the margarine, sift in the icing sugar and mix until you get a spreadable mixture. Spread over the sides of your cake and decorate with whipped cream, cherries and chocolate shavings.