People’s Choice: The TGIFood recipes you loved the most in 2023

People’s Choice: The TGIFood recipes you loved the most in 2023
(Photos and collage: Tony Jackman)

A burger named after former Eskom boss André de Ruyter is the TGIFood recipe of 2023, based on the numbers of readers who engaged with our daily food offerings.

Our Super de Ruyter Burger was conceived and cooked in darkness, but for the dim light of a common-or-garden solar lamp. It seemed a fitting illustration of how we cope when the lights go out. We’re tough, we’re resilient. We make a plan. Even if the people at Eskom can’t seem to.

I wrote, in February 2023: “It was a pleasant evening so I lit a fire and planned to make beef burgers entirely on the grid, or more particularly on a plancha placed on a grid over hot coals. To provide some light I had a common-or-garden solar lamp which I hung on a hook next to the braai. I had sliced onion and tomato while there was still reasonable light in the kitchen. I had mixed the beef mince with onion and tomato and herbs and the like. I’d bound it with breadcrumbs and egg.”

I didn’t add, but I could have added: “In the darkness, I forgot to butter the bread roll.” But somehow that made the burger even more fitting of the challenge. This was no-frills cooking in a no-light landscape. Yet, 43,581 of you read the story and, we hope, turned the lights out and had a go at it yourselves.

The second-most-read recipe of 2023 was my Throwback Thursday story about our beloved melktert, followed in third place by the air fryer edition of our ongoing Crackling Good Quest series in pursuit of the ultimate pork belly and its crackling.

There were two chicken dishes on the list too, and three desserts. Also making the lineup were a Throwback Thursday piece about bunny chow, another about the traditional braaibroodjie, and an air fryer recipe for rustic spinach and feta quiche.

The list confirms what we know: That you love chicken recipes, have a taste for puddings, and that we hit the mark when we introduced our AirFryday feature at the beginning of the year. We’ll keep them coming in 2024.

Here’s the Top 10, followed by the number of reads each story enjoyed


The Super De Ruyter Burger 43,581

Tony Jackman’s Super De Ruyter Burger. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Drink a toast to one of the few heroes we seem to have left,” I wrote at the conclusion of this recipe, and since then the rest of the year has gone by, with more and more hours spent in darkness throughout the land. So let’s drink a toast to the hope that, a year from now, we’ll have much more light in our lives. That’s surely something worth drinking to. In the meantime, next time the lights go out, light a fire and make yourself a couple of Super de Ruyter burgers.


Melktert 27,721

Tony Jackman’s melktert, a fridge-set version rather than baked. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

In June, I wrote that after a lifetime of only ever having eaten a milk tart made by other people, I finally plucked up the courage to have a go. The revelation for me was that in some instances, today at least, the tart with its filling in is not baked, only the pastry beforehand.

This fact resulted from much browsing in many books and on various websites, to get a decent overview of how people prefer to make a melktert. But at the old Cape such tarts were baked, and in our time that Bible of all things to do with South African cooking, Cook & Enjoy, has three recipes for milk tart: Easy shell, traditional and crustless, all of which are baked in the way that the tannie from down the road bakes them for the Tuisnywerheid shop in every Karoo town.


A Crackling Good Quest, the air fryer edition 22,500

Tony Jackman’s pork belly and crackling cooked in an air fryer, on a Mervyn Gers platter. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

I wrote in April: The countertop convection oven that is called an air fryer makes perfect pork crackling, and it takes barely 15 minutes. That is, once you’ve cooked the meat attached to it until it’s succulent, of course. 

The quest to find the perfect pork crackling has been going almost as long as TGIFood has existed, which will be five years in December. I’ve even tried it once before in an Instant Pot (combination air fryer and pressure cooker) I had on loan. That produced mixed results; the crackling was great but I battled to get the flesh cooked just right. 

You may like to read our previous A Crackling Good Quest pieces: Make it snappy here, Just add lemon here, Soy, orange and rosemary here, Air fryer pork belly and crackling (in an Instant Pot) here, Pork belly in nagmaalwyn here, Neal Derman’s crackling here and Slow crackling here.


One-pot chicken and potatoes 21,207

Tony Jackman’s one-pot chicken and potatoes cooked in an air fryer. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Only three weeks ago, I wrote: For the first time since I acquired my Instant Vortex Plus 5.7 l air fryer, I removed the slatted rack and used the basket as a pot, so to speak. This after having eyed several possible dishes that would fit into it, but then remembered a tip from Louisa Holst’s new South African Air Fryer Cookbook 2 that certain dishes can be cooked in the entire basket, sans the rack. So you’re really using the air fryer basket as just another of your kitchen pots or oven dishes.


Lemony Greek roast chicken and potatoes 17,928

Tony Jackman’s Greek chicken and potatoes. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

And just two weeks ago I wrote: Let’s explore this simple but truly satisfying Greek family classic. Most often, it is made using chicken portions, especially thighs, which are often, and sensibly, the go-to portion for a chicken bake. But this beloved dish can be made with a whole roasted chicken too. 

To make sure the potatoes cook through and have time to turn golden brown while cooking alongside the chicken, it’s best to parboil them first, but don’t take them so far that they risk falling apart. Just 10 minutes of steady boiling is enough.


Mutton Bunny Chow 15,985

Tony Jackman’s mutton bunny chow. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

In June, I wrote: The precise history of the bunny chow is disputed, but the prevalent belief makes sense: That Indian workers who had come to the then Natal province as indentured labourers used hollowed-out bread loaves as a vessel to carry their curries to the sugar cane fields for lunch. Why “bunny”? This is believed to be simply a bastardisation of the name of the Bania caste. And chow, of course, just means “food” or “to eat”.

A Durban curry is hot, not for the squeamish or for those who can’t seem to grasp the truth that a burning mouth is a desirable thing. It’s just burn; look past that to the flavour kick you’re getting out of it.

Then we get to the bread. I cringe when I see a bunny chow on a poncy menu that calls for “artisanal bread”. Come off it. That’s a “whole new level” of pretentiousness, to use an overworked current expression. The whole point of a bunny is that it is made using good old-fashioned cheaper-than-chips “government loaf”. Just a plain loaf of common-or-garden white bread. The sturdiness of the loaf when cut in half and hollowed out (but not too much) is what makes it able to hold the curry within.


Cremora tart 13,382

Tony Jackman’s Cremora tart. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

I wrote in September that this beloved dessert “is a fridge tart that sprang from the sudden rise of Cremora (dairy creamer/milk substitute powder) in the 1980s in the wake of that delightful TV commercial that still gets quoted today and has had several iterations since. Here’s that very ad:

I confessed to having turned out a miserable flop the first time around. Then I researched, read up, talked to experts, and when I was ready to have another go at it, it came out wonderfully.


Tiramisu, Nature’s Viagra 12,451

Tony Jackman’s decadent, authentic tiramisù. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

In March I wrote: Tiramisù. Who doesn’t know and adore the now classic Italian dessert that seems to encompass everything a perfect dessert should be? Or is it tira mi sù, or tireme sù? And why do older people have no memories of it from their youth?

There are all sorts of claims about the origins of the dish, though in truth it is not all that old at all. Read the link above for the fascinating story.


The traditional braaibroodjie 11,222

Tony Jackman’s traditional braaibroodjies. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

In March I wrote: Everybody who has ever prepared a braaibroodjie must have made the classic error, at least once, of using the buttered side of the bread on the inside, purely because it is our habit to butter it on the inside.

Even while preparing these braaibroodjies, my mind wandered off and when I looked down I realised that I’d spread the chutney on the buttered side 🤦. So I had to start again. So, focus.

And the way to make and assemble them is very particular.


Rustic spinach and feta quiche in your air fryer 10,904

Spinach and feta quiche, sliced after setting. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

In early November I wrote: The golden rule of baking a quiche is that it must be made ahead and given plenty of time to set. Short of this, your quiche is going to be a floppy, runny disappointment. So, ideally, make this the day before.

Generally, a quiche is left to set at room temperature over many hours. It is argued that this is preferable to fridge setting, which can have the filling pull away from the pastry.

But the other side of this coin is that the filling includes egg and cream, which you want to remain safe for consumption. And you may be cooking it on a hot day. So, I prefer it to go in the fridge. Luckily, the filling in this instance did not separate from the crust. DM

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


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