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Classic South African Christmas recipes

By November 23, 2018October 3rd, 2023Newsletter

Classic South African Christmas recipes

November 23, 2018


Christmas is a wonderful time of year filled with festivity, fun, good cheer and of course wonderful food. It’s a time when you can release your inner child, unwrap surprise gifts and indulge in food that you normally wouldn’t during the rest of the year. Christmas in South Africa falls in the height of summer, but for many South African families, this doesn’t mean that a hot Christmas meal is off the table. Roast Turkey still features prominently on the menu, combined with other Christmas dishes that are more suited to the hot climate.

A ‘traditional’ South African Christmas

South Africa is a melting pot of cultures, so defining a ‘traditional’ South African Christmas is a challenge. The Zulu culture enjoys food such as amadumbe – a herb with large heart-shaped “elephant ear” leaves with tubers that can be boiled, roasted, grilled, fried or mashed. The Xhosa people may feast on a dish that includes Samp called umngqusho. For other South Africans who don’t want to slave over a hot stove, braaing is part of the day as they tuck into crisp salads and marinated meat. Here is our top summer Christmas menu meal plan:


Smoked Snoek pate recipe

Snoek is a fish found in the sea around Cape Town and it has a distinctive flavour that is enjoyed by many South Africans.


  • 250g smoked Snoek
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 15ml (1 Tablespoon) lemon juice
  • Pinch of Ginger powder
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) tomato paste
  • 2.5 ml (half a teaspoon) sugar
  • Black pepper
  • Half a small chopped onion
  • 125ml (half a cup) of fresh cream


  • Remove all skin and bones and flake the fish.
  • Blend all ingredients except the cream in a food processor.
  • Whip the cream and fold into the mixture.
  • Press into a mold of your choice.

Gives between 8 and 10 servings.

This should keep for about a week in the fridge.

Main Course

South African Karoo lamb is famous across South Africa, and many argue that it’s best enjoyed on the braai!

Butterflied leg of lamb on the braai

This recipe serves six to eight.

Ingredients for the lamb

  • 1.5 to 2 kg leg of lamb, butterflied (ask your butcher)
  • 200 ml buttermilk
  • 2 portions of spice rub
  • Olive Oil

Ingredients for the spice rub

  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 1 tsp onion flakes (you can use fresh onions too)
  • 2 tbs dry rose petals (not essential)
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs turmeric
  • 2 tbs chilli flakes (leave out if you don’t like hot spicy food)
  • 1 tbs tamarind paste (often difficult to find and not essential)
  • 3 tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped (essential)
  • 2 tbs pine-nuts, toasted and ground (could be substituted with cashews or macadamias)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. You can refrigerate the rub in an airtight container for up to two weeks


Mix the buttermilk and spice rub to form a marinade for the lamb (for best results, rub directly into the meat before marinating). Ideally leave overnight, otherwise leave for at least three to four hours. Brush kettle grill with oil. Cook lamb over medium coals for 30 to 40 minutes depending on your preference. Remove and set aside for five to 10 minutes. Slice and serve.


Malva pudding is a famous South African dessert and now it’s given an extra boost with a famous South African liqueur.

Amarula malva pudding

Serves 8


Malva pudding

  • 1 egg
  • 250 ml sugar
  • 1 tbs smooth apricot jam
  • 2 tbs softened butter
  • 250 ml flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 250 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vinegar

Amarula sauce

  • 125 ml melted butter
  • 200 ml cream
  • 125 ml caster sugar
  • 80 ml Amarula

Beat egg and sugar until creamy, then add jam and butter, stirring to combine thoroughly. Sift together the dry ingredients and pour them into the egg-and-sugar mixture. Stir to combine. Pour in the milk slowly. When the mixture is combined, add the vinegar. Pour into a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 180°C for about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

To make the sauce, combine the butter, cream and caster sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce thickens – this will take a few minutes. Take the sauce off the heat and add the Amarula. Pour the sauce slowly over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven. Once the pudding is saturated with sauce, pour the remainder into a jar for guests to add. Serve immediately, with custard on the side.

If you’re living abroad, why not try these recipes to add a South African flavour to your meal. If you would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.