Safaris and Spices is a real African adventure

Safaris and Spices is a real African adventure

Safaris & Spices takes you on the same African journey author Nico Verster experienced while travelling to all corners of Africa. It captures the essence of African food steeped in tradition and ancient recipes, while highlighting the modern diversity in the current gastronomic scene.

“On our food safari we start in North Africa among the Kasbahs and medinas of Morocco, following the ancient trade roots all the way past East Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar down to southern Africa,” says Nico.

Nico effortlessly guides the reader through a colourful range of magnificent, but easy to follow recipes. With stunning photography from award-winning Joe Dreyer, the recipes will inspire you to make your own stocks, spice mixes, chutneys and sauces that can be used with an array of local dishes, as well as give you simple tips on making the most delicious cakes and desserts.

Nico has spent the past 15 years as a professional chef in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful locations throughout the Middle East and South Africa. He has worked in some of South Africa’s top boutique hotels, mastering his craft of modern African cuisine. Hotels include the Royal Portfolio Birkenhead House, Royal Malewane and LaResidence as well as some of Africa’s leading safari lodges like Phinda Private Game Reserve and Jamala Madikwe in Madikwe Game Reserve where he is currently a part owner and the permanently based head chef.

Over the past two years Nico has been travelling and studying North, East and West African cuisine to create his new book, Safaris & Spices. Destinations include Morocco, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Madagascar, to name a few.

Let’s cook!

Pork belly, apple spice chutney and butternut purée

There are few things more satisfying then crisp pork skin. Combined with sweet acidic apple chutney and pumpkin fritters, this recipe smacks of my childhood in South Africa.

Serves 4–6

Main ingredients:

1½ kg pork belly

2 teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 white onion, peeled and roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves

2 star anise

300ml white wine

600ml chicken stock

For the butternut purée:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2 butternuts, peeled and roughly chopped

75ml chicken stock

50ml cream


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Score the pork belly skin with a knife in a rough diamond pattern.

Season the pork with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof roasting tray on top of the stove.

Fry the pork belly, skin-side down, until golden brown for about 8 minutes, remove from the tray and set aside. Place the fennel, carrot, onion, garlic, star anise, white wine and chicken stock into the tray and bring to the boil. Place the pork belly back into the tray onto the vegetables; be careful not to get the pork skin wet.

Place in the preheated oven for 2½ hours, by which time the pork should be tender and the skin crisp.

For the butternut purée: heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion for a few minutes until softened.

Add the butternut and roast in the pan for five minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and simmer gently for a further 10–12 minutes, until tender.

Pour in the cream and season well to taste.

In a food processor, blend the pumpkin until smooth and then pass through a sieve.

Cut the pork belly into four equal pieces, serve on butternut purée with apple spice chutney and pumpkin fritters

Ingredients for the Apple Spice Chutney:

500g Apples peeled and chopped

1 white onion peeled and chopped

2 red Chillies, deseeded and chopped

200g dark brown sugar

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1 sprig rosemary

2 cinnamon sticks

3 whole star anise

300ml apple cider vinegar


Place the apples, onions, chillies, sugar, cloves, coriander seeds, turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, star anise and vinegar in a medium pot and bring to the boil.

Allow everything to cook covered for 35 minutes.

Once the chutney is cool, spoon it into sterilised jars and store in a fridge for up to 4 weeks.