Maverick Life


Spice up your life with scrumptious Middle Eastern meatballs, chunky tomato sauce and home-made hummus

Spice up your life with scrumptious Middle Eastern meatballs, chunky tomato sauce and home-made hummus
Safaris & Spices (Jacana Media/Composite: The Reading List)

It’s a four in one! These recipes from Nico Verster’s new cookbook Safaris & Spices: An African Food Journey are just the thing to keep your mind occupied while you wait for, shall we say, a certain class of shops to open up again. 

Safaris & Spices is an African cookbook, but it takes its inspiration from all over the world.

The book is grounded in tradition, and Nico Verster has added his own signature twist to each dish. In addition to African cuisine from many parts of the continent, the book also features several of the Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and European recipes that have influenced South Africa’s food over centuries.

Make your own stocks, spice mixes, chutneys and sauces with Safaris & Spices, and learn some simple tips on making the most delicious cakes and desserts. But before we get to that course, feast on these!

Kofta with chunky tomato sauce

Serves 6-8

These scrumptious Middle Eastern meatballs or kofta (in Arabic) are easy to prepare and totally versatile as a snack. Served in a pita with some onion chutney, this is the perfect, quick, flavoursome bite. I like sourcing free-range, ethically farmed meat whenever possible.


  • 400g minced lamb
  • 300g minced beef
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 60g pine nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons baharat (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 250ml chunky tomato, basil and balsamic sauce (see below)
  • 100ml hummus (see below)
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted


With your hands mix the lamb, beef, onion, garlic, pine nuts, baharat, rosemary, mint, salt and pepper together. Shape the lamb mixture into sausage shapes about 6cm long . Heat the oil in a large pan then sear the kofta on all sides until browned. Place the kofta on some warmed chunky tomato sauce and serve with hummus and toasted pine nuts.



Baharat, meaning “spices” in Arabic, has an infinite number of recipes depending on personal taste. Baharat, mainly used in the Middle East, has trickled down into Africa over decades and has become a popular flavouring for lamb, beef, chicken and various stew and pulse dishes. It is often sprinkled onto soups and adds a comforting finishing touch.


  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated


Place the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves and cardamom pods in a small pan and toast them gently on a low heat to release the flavours. Place all the spices in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Mix the mint, paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg through and store in a sealed jar for up to 8 weeks.


Chunky tomato, basil and balsamic sauce

Makes 500ml

I included this recipe only because I can’t handle another lacklustre flavourless tomato sauce. Africans love to serve salsa (tomato, chilli, onion salsa) with pap. The combination of sweet tomatoes, sharp vinegar and the buttery finish of this sauce makes for an easy, delicious accompaniment to most meats.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 280g tin plum tomatoes, skinned and seeded
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • White pepper


Heat the olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan, fry the onion and garlic briefly until lightly browned. Add the vegetable stock, tinned tomatoes and fresh cherry tomatoes, followed by the sugar, vinegar and basil. Simmer for 10 minutes until thick and pulpy. Lastly, stir in the butter; season with salt and pepper and serve.



Few dishes speak of the Middle East more than hummus; in fact, the earliest mention of hummus dates back to Egypt from the 13th century. This recipe makes a creamy and smooth version. Extra chickpeas, lemon juice and cumin can be added according to your own taste.


  • 500g tinned chickpeas
  • 280g tahini paste
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 50ml cold water
  • 50ml olive oil


Drain the chickpeas and place them in a food processor and grind to a smooth paste. With the machine running add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Next drizzle in the cold water and olive oil, continue to mix to a smooth paste – about 5 minutes. Pour over

some extra olive oil and adjust the seasoning if necessary. DM/ ML

Safaris & Spices: An African Food Journey is published by Jacana Media (R350). Visit The Reading List for South African book news – including recipes! – daily.



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