Eat Out star chefs honour their heritage with family recipes

In honour of Heritage month, we pay tribute to the deep-rooted connections between four of Eat Out’s star chefs and their heritage. We had the privilege of delving into their personal culinary stories, where they shared family recipes that hold a special place in their hearts.

Chef Jessica Munisamy from Modern Tailors Restaurant in Rosebank, Johannesburg

Jessica holds close a family recipe that echoes her granny’s affection for creating a delicacy from beans and potatoes grown in her garden: Braised sugar beans curry with salted snoek. The key ingredients of the dish include fresh beans, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, with the unique twist of curing snoek at home.

Over time, this humble dish evolved, incorporating dried salted snoek, offering a glimpse into her resourceful granny’s simple yet profound approach. This recipe, spanning five generations, embodies the spirit of resilience and creativity, epitomising the heritage of her family.

Jessica Munisamy

“This dish was one of my granny’s favourites to make for my mum and her siblings. It ideally started as only beans and potatoes that she grew in her garden and braised when her crops were ready. It was a dish that was a delicacy in their household, and her recipe was passed on to my aunts and mum who evolved it by adding in dried salted snoek, which is what they could afford to add during their era. It holds a special place in my heart as I never got to meet my gran and it gave me an insight into what a simple and resourceful woman she was, which gives me a sense of closeness to her,” says Jessica.

Chef Charné Sampson from Epice Restaurant in Franschhoek

Charné shares a heartfelt story about her grandmother’s milk tart recipe, a cherished dish that has shaped her fondest memories. The recipe’s legacy spans generations, with her mom also recalling it from her own childhood.

“A family recipe which is close to my heart is my grandmother’s milk tart recipe.

It brings back fond memories of when I was young. My grandparents would fetch my brothers and I after school. We’d go to their house and always have milk tart, cake and tea. My grandmother never had shop-bought cakes – she always made them herself and there would be at least three options. Some of my grandmother’s sisters would visit. I learnt how to knit and sew, or we would sing along to music and record ourselves on the cassette player and play it back. I could never get enough of the milk tart, though!”

Charné Simpson. Image supplied, by Claire Gunn.

The secret ingredient is condensed milk, subtly enriching the filling, and a key technique lies in ensuring a creamy consistency by not overcooking the eggs.

With a 2.0 version now gracing the restaurant’s menu, this dish epitomises the comforting connection to family and the joy of sharing a beloved recipe through the generations.

Chef Freddie Dias from Séjour in Houghton, Johannesburg

Freddie pays homage to a dish that was often lovingly prepared for the family – his mother’s Caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese soup that encapsulates his roots.

“The dish closest to my heart is my mother’s Caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese soup originating in the north of Portugal. This humble dish comprises Portuguese cabbage, potatoes, onions, and chorizo, topped with peppery Portuguese extra virgin olive oil. Despite my culinary adventures worldwide, this remains my absolute favourite,” says Freddie.

Freddie Dias

The loss of his mother in 2019 makes this dish even more special, as he carries on the tradition and feels a deep connection to her every time he makes it.

Chef-owner Nicolas Charalambous from Ouzeri in Cape Town

Nicolas brings to life the essence of his family’s heritage through his gran’s Eliopita (olive bread) recipe, a dish that continues to inspire and ground him. This recipe, brought from Cyprus by his grandmother, has been handed down through generations.

Now, he shares it with others at his restaurant. The key ingredients include the Throubes olives, dried mint, spring onion, and the traditional practice of rolling the bread in sesame seeds. At the restaurant, they add creative toppings such as sesame seeds, confit garlic and his favourite, anchovies, ensuring that this family recipe continues to evolve while remaining deeply rooted in tradition.

Nicolas Charalambous

“The recipe that holds a special place in my heart is my gran’s Eliopita (olive bread). The nostalgia of walking into the kitchen and being hit with the smell is something that I carry with me to this day. It grounds me and keeps me humble and grateful for the opportunity to cook this food for other people,” says Nicolas.

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