Tiger Canyon recently launched its new South African-inspired menu that celebrates the vibrancy of local cuisine in a culinary exploration of this unique destination.

South Africa enjoys a rich cultural heritage that has long been strongly reflected in its myriad cuisines. As a nation boasting eleven official languages, South Africans often integrate aspects of each culture at the dining table, so that most meals are an unwitting tribute to cultural diversity on a plate.

Slow roasted guinea fowl served with figs, grilled baby onions and parsnip puree

Phuthu pap, a staple starch of the Bantu peoples that is found throughout Southern Africa, is a maize-based savoury porridge that is served at almost every South African table, whether it be during the quintessential ‘braai’ (or barbecue), or as a side to standard evening meals, often served with a tomato and onion gravy, known as ‘Sheba’, or with meat or beans.

South Africa’s rich Indian heritage has contributed a bounty of distinctive curries, another staple enjoyed by most cultural groups. Many will relay, with a hint of whimsy and even slight fear, the delicious fire of the Durban curry, originating from its namesake Kwazulu Natal city, a ruby-red infusion of garam masala and bay leaves, enjoyed with crispy poppadoms or, as a local delicacy, in a half-loaf of bread, colloquially called a ‘bunny chow’.

The delectable curry lunch of chicken curry, served with chick pea dahl, poppadoms, sambals and relish

The vibrant Cape Malay culture provided another famous staple to the homes of Mzanzi, namely Bobotie, which is thought to derive from the Malayan word boemboe, or ‘curry spices’. This delightful curry combines a sweet complexity of beef or lamb mince layered with dried fruit, often raisins or sultanas, while an egg-mixture topping lends moisture to the dish.

The Afrikaans culture has brought its love of meat dishes to the table, and with the introduction of sheep farming, the famous Karoo lamb, distinct among its peers for its rich flavour, as the sheep graze on the many plants and grasses indigenous to the Karoo veld. True Karoo lamb comes from animals that have been raised and pastured among at least two of six fragrant indigenous shrubs that have been scientifically proven to impart this distinct herbal flavour: Ankerkaroo (Pentzia incana), Kapokbos (Eriocephalus ericoides), Rivierganna (Salsola glabrescens), Silverkaroo (Plinthus karrooicus), Boegoekaroo (Pteronia glauca) and Skaapbossie (Pentzia spinescens).

Foraged wild lavender crusted Karoo lamb loin served with parsnips and wild minted peas

Recognising the particular uniqueness of our culinary history, Tiger Canyon recently enlisted consultant chef Bridgette Bartleman of Kolossal Consulting to develop a menu that would incorporate the splendid South African table with the refinement of international cuisine. Drawing strongly on Tiger Canyon’s location in the Upper Karoo region of the Free State Province, Bridgette created an array of dishes that focus on locally-sourced ingredients with certain elements distinctive to the Karoo.

Venison ravioli with beetroot and gin reduction served sesame crusted goats cheese

In this creative fusion guests at the Tigress Julie Lodge may enjoy such local delicacies as slow roasted guinea fowl served with figs, grilled baby onions and parsnip puree; oxtail dumplings with green apple curry cream; or foraged wild lavender crusted Karoo lamb loin served with parsnips and wild minted peas. Our vegetarian guests are provided such fusions as vegetarian butternut panzerotti with sage-burnt butter sauce; honey and sesame roasted tofu with smoked butternut puree and a soy sauce reduction; or slightly curried sweet potato gnocchi.

Tiger Canyon staff demonstrate the smores-making process enjoyed with South African Amarula cream liqueur and gluwhein around the firepit

The result is a cosmopolitan menu of proudly local food superbly prepared and delicately presented, each a dish a small art piece painted with the brush of South African flavour, a rich story on a plate that celebrates our many cultures while paying homage to the diverse melting-pot that makes South Africa a destination unlike any other.

Consultant Chef Bridget of Kolossal with the Tiger Canyon lodge team