Cape, curry and koesisters: an interview with Fatima Sydow and Gadija Sydow Noordien

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Cape, curry & koesisters
Fatima Sydow & Gadija Sydow Noordien
Human & Rousseau
ISBN: 9780798177733

An interview on Cape, curry and koesisters. Fatima Sydow and Gadija Sydow Noordien talk to Naomi Meyer about their cookbook and TV show.

Hi Fatima and Gadija! Congratulations on your new book, Cape, curry and koesisters. You were on TV recently in the Via cooking show, Kaap, kerrie en koesisters, and now also have a recipe book. Which recipes of those that viewers saw on TV are in the book?

It is a beautiful combination of recipes that were made on our TV show and a few bonus ones added.

Where did it all begin – the cooking process, the TV show, the book?

The whole journey began with our love for food, but more so, our community, our love for people. Sharing the recipes and stories on my Facebook page, “Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow”, led to great success, with over 300 000 followers. I was then approached by a producer to do a cooking show, and from the cooking show Kaap, kerrie en koesisters came the birth of the cookbook with the same name.

South Africa has a wide range of cooking styles and traditions. Please tell our readers a bit about your own.

Cape Malay culture and food, for us, is a melting pot of many different cultures – Asian and parts of the rest of Africa. So, all these flavours combined have resulted in a unique culinary experience that has yet to be discovered by the rest of the world.

What are your earliest memories of your mom’s kitchen?

I believe that the influence our mother’s cooking had on our own journey is immense. She taught us how to make a delicious meal with very few ingredients. But, then again, that has always been the motto of great cooks all over the world – keep it simple. Most importantly, I believe, is the bond that was created between mother and daughter, which is unbreakable and, henceforth, is what has fuelled my journey.

Is your mother still alive? What do you think she’d have thought if she could have seen you today? Or do you have your own cooking style? Also, what are the differences between you two sisters with regard to your cooking styles?

Our mother passed on 15 years ago – her name was Wasiela – so, we celebrate her life every day through cooking, and here and there, we add our own ideas to some recipes. We cook the same but differently, meaning that our journey is together, but we are sometimes in two separate lanes with our own culinary identities.

Suppose a bunch of people arrived for dinner unexpectedly. What is your easiest and nicest recipe to prepare? Which spices do you always have in the kitchen?

For me, it will always be a chicken curry or a chicken ahkni.

Everything is so expensive, nowadays. What ingredient should be in every kitchen in order to prepare delicious food?

Regarding spices: garlic and ginger, two musts, for sure. But the unsuspecting hero of all dishes, for me, will always be salt. Without some seasoning, most foods will taste quite bland.

Sometimes, children and men are fussy. How did your family, or people whom you have prepared food for, influence your individual styles?

I am lucky to have a family that’s not fussy and loves all food, but even so, I’m always making new flavours and experimenting.

What is your favourite recipe or cooking style which isn’t necessarily your own?

Ek is lief vir brood bak, en leer baie van boeke en ander chefs oor die hele wêreld!

Which food icon inspires you?

Definitely my late mother, Ina Garten and Anna Olson.

How did the TV show on Via change your lives?

So many people stop us now in public for pictures, et cetera. It’s really so amazing, and we are so grateful. And our schedules are quite hectic now.

Who is your ideal reader, and who are the people who like cooking your recipes?

I have found that it’s basically everyone who has a love for Cape Malay cooking.

What do you both enjoy, apart from cooking?

 I love gardening, being outdoors. And my two dogs, Sunny Boy and Bono Boy, have me wrapped around their paws.

Are you celebrities? Do people stop you in the streets to talk about recipes?

Yes, for sure, all the time, and I did wear sunglasses, but they still recognised me. It was so funny. We love our fans so much.

Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about a dream city during the SONA. What do you eat in your own dream city?

In my dream city ... People eat a balanced meal, filled with many flavours, lots of love and many shared stories – so, all favourite food loved by all South Africans, for example, a leka snoek, braaivleis met slaai, roti and curry, jelly and ideal milk ... en samoosas.

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