Boeka Treats | Bo-Kaap’s Favourite Recipe Book
The Bo-Kaap is quite possibly the most photographed neighbourhood in Cape Town. On any given day, a stream of tour buses rolls in and tourists roll out to photograph the rows of houses painted different candy colours. It must be difficult to get a good shot on weekdays when the overflow of commuters to the city squeeze their cars into whatever available parking spaces they can find in the cobblestone streets. More recently property developers have come sniffing around Bo-Kaap’s prime location with their threat of gentrification. In spite of this, the locals endure and welcome outsiders to The Bo-Kaap Museum, to Atlas Trading for spices or to one of Bo-Kaap’s restaurants. Together with the Islam faith, food is one way that cultural heritage in the Bo-Kaap is kept thriving. For the past 18 years, the Boorhaanol Islam Movement in Bo-Kaap has been publishing Boeka Treats, an annual collection of recipes for the dishes traditionally made by the Cape Muslim community during the month of Ramadaan. Boeka Treats has since become an institution; a vessel to pass down recipes and cultural knowledge through the generations. We asked Nazreen-Kiyaam Bassier, from Boeka Treats, about this much-loved publication and what dishes you might find in it.
Where does the name Boeka Treats come from?
“Boeka” is the term used when you break your fast after you’ve been without food from sunrise to sunset. It is traditional to break one’s fast with dates and water. Thereafter most people have soup with a sweet treat (fritters, pancakes, koeksisters) and savoury treats (samoosas, daltjies (chillie bites), pies). Hence the term ‘Boeka Treats’.
How did Boeka Treats come about?
Boeka Treats was first published in 1999. It was born out of the idea that we were losing our cultural heritage and we felt the need to put together a book of “Boeka-time eats”. We also discovered that there was a need for Boeka time recipes. In its first year it proved to be so popular we decided to compile another the following year and now 18 years down the line Boeka Treats has become part of most people’s homes and is a very sought after recipe book during the month of Ramadaan. However Boeka Treats is useful all year round.
Who contributes recipes to the books?
Recipes are passed on from our great grandmothers and recipes are featured from all over the world, adapted and adjusted to our tastes. Recipes are sourced from our community and people who are known to make the best, for example, samosas, koeksisters, doughnuts, cakes and foods are asked to share their recipe. The Boeka Treats team try and test these recipes to guarantee that they are flop-proof and on this basis they’re added to our Boeka Treats book/s.
What characterises food from the Bo-kaap?
It’s rich, aromatic and flavourful. The beauty in our food lies in the hospitality with which it is shared and the love with which it is made. [The flavours are] sweet and sour (denningvleis or sosaties), spicy (roti and curry, bredies ), aromatic, rich and flavourful (meat, chicken, fish breyani) just to mention a few.
What dishes are made for different life events: marriages, funerals?
For weddings, starters are usually an array of savouries served with a dip. (samosas, pies, half moons, quiches etc) traditionally main course is meat breyani followed by roast chicken served with vegetables and salads and roasted leg of lamb and when in season, crayfish curry as well at paella and desserts.
For funerals, many years ago it was worteltjies & ertjies (carrots & peas) with white rice and suikerboontjie bredie (sugar bean stew) and uiweslaai and achar/pickles (onion and tomato finely chopped in vinegar with a little sugar). Now most funerals serve akhni: a spicy rice and meat/chicken dish served with dhay (yoghurt infused with green chillies, coriander and spices).
What foods are typically made for Eid?
Eid morning is known for its soutvleis and gebakte brood with pastei (corned beef with freshly baked homemade bread and a big steak or chicken pie).