UK celebrity Gregg Wallace, best known for presenting MasterChef and being a food expert, says there’s nothing quite like a South African braai. In a new series for ITV – ‘South Africa with Gregg Wallace” – it’s clear that Gregg fell in love with the country: its foods, its people, the wildlife, the culture, the diversity.
“I tell you what, you won’t understand a barbecue until you’ve eaten with the South Africans around a braai. I hate barbecues in the UK, they’re always put together by people who don’t cook. Out there (in SA), you won’t believe the quality. I saw someone baking a cake on a barbecue.They have got to be seen to be believed. They’ve got bits of lamb’s liver, on their braais, that are wrapped in fat, called skilpadjies, that with a cold beer are absolutely stunning. I just could not leave them alone, I mean they properly make your fingers sticky,” says Gregg.
Fat cakes in Soweto
He added however that it was the “fat cakes” in Soweto that were probably his best food, saying “really really cheap, they’re like fried dough balls and they come with different dips – I had a tuk-tuk driver, and we sat there with three of his friends munching on these dough balls into these chili dips and the memory of that is still with me. Really good. And it’s a kind of mid-morning thing for them, it’s their elevenses. I thought that they were lovely. (Try our vetkoek recipe.)
“They also have potjies, a South African stew done over the fire, you’ve got to try that. You can also try springbok, crocodile and ostrich steaks – all beautiful, really lean meats.” (Try our potjiekos recipe.)
The TV series will visit 6 destinations in South Africa
During the six-part series, Gregg explores SA’s “wild coast, vast savannahs, green valleys, and stunning cities” as he takes his “taste buds on the road for an epic adventure on the trail of the flavours and food, glorious food of the real South Africa,” says Gregg.
For South Africans in the UK, the show will bring a wonderful taste of home, as Gregg visits iconic SA landscapes. The destinations include a safari on the Amakhala Game Reserve, a pioneering wildlife and conservation area in the Eastern Cape just north east of Port Elizabeth; Cape Town and the Winelands; Augrabies Falls in the Kalahari Desert (and an ‘Afrikaans braai’ at sunset); the Whale Coast; Soweto in Johannesburg, Durban and a Zulu village, and the Garden Route
Here, Gregg answers a few questions about his tour of SA:
What would you say to viewers curious about visiting South Africa?
“Please go! Let me tell you from a food and wine point of view, you will not get that quality of food and wine at that price anywhere. A top end meal, three courses, in the smartest of hotels will cost you about £20. Go out and get a really good curry for about £3. And the wines are just exceptional. A safari is just a magical thing, the wine lands in South Africa are just beautiful, you can go into Soweto, speak to the people, and look at life carrying on in a very different way than you are used to. I would say that if you’ve got the time, please also go up and visit the Kalahari.”
you will not get that quality of food and wine at that price anywhere
What did you learn about South Africa?
“I learned that South Africa is the most diverse country I have ever seen. The diversity is just striking. To be in the Kalahari desert, and then the splendour of Cape Town, and then to see Soweto, and then to be on safari, it is just strikingly different. The food, the people, the culture, the look and the feel, for that all to be one country, to be in the wine lands of the cape eating fine food in really smart surroundings, to then be eating incredible street food in Soweto. To then be in the heat of the Kalahari desert, and then with the Indian population near Durban, and to find a big Muslim community in Cape Town, with street food, it just kept on surprising me over and over again. Everybody was different. And then to be in a Zulu village. And you think, this is all one nation – how can it be so different?”
Which was your favourite destination in SA?
“I think my favourite was the Kalahari desert, which has the absolute beauty of a wilderness. The pink Kalahari – the sands are red – with just one lush strip where the Orange River runs through the middle of it. It’s stunningly desolate, and life is just clinging on in the middle of this desert, to a fertile strip on either bank of this river. Incredible. As you fly over it, it’s like you’re looking down on a green zip in a massive red pullover.”
What experience in South Africa had the most impact on you in this series?
“Most certainly spending quite a bit of time in Soweto, and looking at the issues, and experiencing the poverty first-hand, had an enormous impact on my life. I was brought up in a council house in South East London – I didn’t have a privileged or wealthy upbringing – but just looking at the scale of the problems there (in Soweto) just left me dumbfounded and without an answer. Soweto feels like it’s the size of Manchester and much of it’s a shanty town. Just incredible.”
How was camping in a tent for the first time as an adult?
“Terrifying, absolutely terrifying. You are in the bush. Every single little noise wakes you up, it’s pitch black, there’s no street lights. Listen, I’m a Londoner – I get nervous when I run out of concrete. But being out there with all those noises? Absolutely terrifying. You think, I want the light on because I want to be able to see, but I don’t want the light on because it’s attracting the bugs and they’re enormous. What do you do? It could be something as small as a squirrel outside your tent, but every single sound seems like it’s going to be a lion. They’ve actually got you fenced off in the middle of a game reserve. But you could be unlucky and come across the first lion that’s built a ladder.”
I’m a Londoner – I get nervous when I run out of concrete… you could be unlucky and come across the first lion that’s built a ladder
Is there a secret you can tell us from behind the scenes of filming?
“At a place called the Oyster Box, a beautiful hotel near KwaZulu Natal (in Umhlanga), this sign on the wall, right next to the beach, said, ‘Be careful for your personal belongings, monkeys may drop in.’ That was different to the usual signs you get in London. I also had a Zulu driver for four days, who said to me he identified with me because we had both been divorced. The only difference was I lost my house, whereas he said his wife kept all their cows!”
The first episode of South Africa with Gregg Wallace will be broadcast tonight, Tuesday 5 January 2021, on ITV from 7.30pm to 8.00pm.