For Cariema Isaacs, food is about family, flavours and fond memories. She shares some of her delectable recipes with Kamcilla Pillay. The recipes appear in her cook book Cooking for My Father in My Cape Malay Kitchen (Struik Lifestyle)

Mavroom (Mavrou) is cooked mostly for Eid and weddings. In fact, I cooked this for my own wedding or, more specifically, for 500 guests! At that time I thought it would be a thoughtful gesture for our guests, family and friends – a gift served by the bride.

My father, the proudest father on that day, reminded me once again that, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Pathia is a curry served among the Parsi population in India.

The Parsi migrated to India from Persia more than eight centuries ago and settled in Gujarat. Parsi cooking is therefore a fusion of Old Iranian and Gujarati cooking. It is a sweet, sour and spicy curry, not very different to what Cape Malay palates are accustomed to.

Prawns, like most shellfish, are quite expensive and are usually only eaten on special occasions such as Eid or when one is hosting a lunch or dinner.

My father loved prawn curry with vegetable biryani or served with basmati rice.

Since this is such a delicate dish, it’s best served with a simple Indian tomato, onion and chilli salad.


Prawn Pathia Curry

Serves 6-8


1 tbs (15ml) vegetable oil or ghee

1 tsp (5ml) black mustard seeds

6 curry leaves

1 tsp (5ml) roasted masala

1½ tsp (7.5ml) turmeric

1 tsp (5ml) salt

1 tsp (5ml) ground cumin

1 tsp (5ml) seafood masala or red chilli paste

2 large onions, finely chopped

1 tsp (5ml) crushed garlic

1 tsp (5ml) peeled and finely grated ginger

1 x 410g can whole or chopped tomatoes

1 tsp (5ml) sugar

1 cup (250ml) water

10 prawns, deveined, shelled and cleaned

10 prawns, deveined, shelled, with the tails intact

¼ bunch fresh coriander, chopped, for garnish


Heat the oil in the large pot over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, remove from the stove and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Be careful because the oil tends to splatter as you add the seeds.

Turn the heat down to medium and place the pot back on the stove. Add the roasted masala, turmeric, salt, cumin and seafood masala and cook for about 5minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the onions, garlic and ginger (and the chilli paste if using) and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Place the canned tomatoes in a blender and blend to a fairly smooth purée. Add this to the cooked ingredients along with the sugar.

Add the water and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes – this needs to simmer gently in order to allow the ingredients to reduce.

The curry sauce should be a thick, smooth gravy. If it is still watery, then allow it to simmer for a few minutes more.

Add the prawns to the sauce and cook on high for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for a further 10 minutes until the prawns are pink.

Remove from the heat and garnish with chopped, fresh coriander.

Serve with fluffy white rice.

Note: This curry requires you cook all the other ingredients separately from the prawns to form a thick flavoursome curry sauce.

Add the prawns at the end because they need very little cooking time. Remove the pot from the heated stove as soon as the curry is cooked.

The prawn curry itself must be immediately transferred into a serving dish or bowl.

The longer the curry stays on the heat, the more it will cook, thus causing the prawns to become rubbery and compromising their delicate taste.



Boeber originates from Indonesia, where it is know as burbur.

The Indonesian version is much thicker than the Cape Malay boeber and is eaten as a breakfast porridge.

The Cape Malay boeber is a silky sweet, warm milky drink, which contains sago and vermicelli, is laced with rose water and garnished with slivers of almonds.

Boeber is really only served during Ramadan and in most Cape Malay households is served on the 15th night to signify the halfway mark of the fast.

Serves 6-8


4 tsp (20ml) butter

2 cardmom pods, slightly bruised

3 cinnamon sticks

4 lokshen balls or 1 cup vermicelli, crushed

¼ cup (60ml) sago, soaked in water

4 cup (1 litre) full cream milk

1 tbs (15ml) rose water

¼ tsp (1.25ml) almond essence

½ cup (125ml) sugar

2 tbs (30ml) toasted flaked almonds for garnish


Melt the butter over a medium heat and add the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks.

Once the spices start releasing their aromas and the butter is about to sizzle, add the crushed lokshen or vermicelli.

Brown slightly for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously.

Add the drained sago, milk, rose water and almond essence and simmer for at least 15-20 minutes, or until the sago is translucent and the boeber has thickened slightly.

Add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Do a taste test at this stage, as additional sugar maybe required.

Bring the heat down to a lower setting and allow the boeber to cook, covered, for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat once the boeber has thickened and garnish with toasted flaked almonds before serving.

Note: Other variations include sultanas and coconut.

Bruising the cardamom pods slightly releases more flavour, which will infuse the milk.

It’s important to cook all the ingredients over a medium heat. Anything higher and the butter and vermicelli are likely to burn.



Bollas are almost a quick and easy substitute in the absence of a koeksister. They are sugared in a sweet and hot syrup made from water and sugar and prepared on the stove top (recipe available in the book).

Makes about 40 bollas


4 cups (4 x 250ml) self-raising flour

1 tsp (5ml) baking powder

5 tsp (25ml) butter, melted

2 eggs

4 tsp (20ml) sugar1 tsp (5ml) vanilla essence

1 cup (250ml full-cream milk

1 cup (250ml) water

¼ cup (60ml) black currants (optional)

3 cups (750ml) oil, for deep frying

1 quantity sugar syrup

1 cup (250ml) desiccated coconut for sprinkling


Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

Place the melted butter, eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla essence and mix until it’s infused into the batter.

Gradually add the flour to the egg mixture while the mixer is running on a medium setting.

Add the milk and water and mix until it forms a soft and sticky batter. Add the currants and fold into the batter. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.

Warm the oil over a medium heat for about 5 minutes before dropping dessert spoonsful of the batter into the warm oil. Use a slotted spoon to toss the bollas in order for them to attain that golden colour all round and crispy texture on the outside.

Remove from the oil and set aside on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

Prepare the syrup.

Toss the bollas in warm sugar syrup for 1-2 minutes, ensuring that they are well coated. Remove with a fork.

Give the bollas a generous dusting of desiccated coconut and serve hot.

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