Sometimes, and certainly in South Africa, there’s nothing quite so enjoyable as a braai or shisanyama, whiling away the hours (or entire afternoons) with lamb chops, chakalaka, melktert, and a beer or cooldrink or two. Alas, we don’t have the time to do that every day, what with busy 9-5’s, school runs, and endless chores.
Fear not! We’re going to share our thoughts on making delicious and simple family meals, where time (and stamina) is of the essence at the end of a long and tiring day. And just because they’re easy to make doesn’t mean you have to compromise on flavour. Quite the opposite. Simple family meals can be just as delicious as that weekend braai, and in a fraction of the time!
So, let’s take some of the hassle off your plate. We’re getting the basics right, as well as offering up twists on how to make the classics unique in less than an hour.
Cloudy with a chance of meatballs? Not only is it a great movie, but meatballs are a bedrock of simple family meals. They’re hearty, filling, and don’t cost much, so you can see why they’re a family favourite. They're also great to make in bulk and freeze - taking even more work off your plate. Make it your own, and lighter in the palate, by using a mixture of pork and beef mince for a lighter tasting meatball.
The great thing about stir-fries is you can make them with what’s normally on hand, and with their abundance of healthy vegetables, it’s a great way to get that 5 veggies-a-day target into your whole family. Easily and quickly made (ready in a few minutes), you can mix up the ingredients to suit everyone’s tastes. Go even further, and serve coriander, chillies, and lime wedges as a side.
Who doesn’t love bunny chow? This famous Durban street food is popular across South Africa and is even wowing the crowds at pop-up food markets across the world. Harking back to the Indian community in KZN, you can give it a twist by trying chicken, pork or vegetarian varieties like lentils and beans.
Simple family meals should be simply bursting with flavour. With vibrant salsa, cool sour cream, and moist chicken or beef, fajitas are a top scorer on the deliciousness board. Try something fresh and make a prawn, beef, and chicken combo to knock this baby out the park.
Millions of South African’s can’t be wrong. Bobotie is cooked, and enjoyed, throughout the land, in both humble homes and fancy restaurants. Simmer your minced meat with spices (curry powder, herbs, and dried fruit) then top it off with an egg and milk mixtures and bake until set.
A kid’s favourite this one. Make your own with crispy strips of fish for the ideal healthy fast food. You can prep them in advance and freeze till you need them. Even easier, you can buy them ready made! Squash them into sandwiches, or dunk them into tomato sauce, kids (and grown-ups) will love them. Get creative and add flavourings to your fish fingers coating, like dried chilli flakes and lemon zest.
Sausage and mash
Bangers and mash are one of the most popular simple family meals. You have creamy mashed potatoes on the one side and golden baked sausages on the other. Throw in some veggies like peas and you have a dish that takes minutes to prepare. Want something saucier? Add gravy and onions (and whatever comes to mind) to the roasting tin while the sausages cook.
This classic combines a rich beef gravy with creamy mashed potatoes for a lip-smacking favour second to none. With breadcrumbs or grated cheese on top, you’re in line for a crispy finish too. Think laterally and swap the mashed potato topping for carrots or sweet potatoes.
Baked delights these are, they can be popped into the oven and forgotten about (not for too long though). With a crunchy outside and fluffy centre, you can fill them with whatever you like, be it tuna, cheese, or beans! Make the family even more impressed, and scoop out the cooked potatoes insides, mash them with spring onion and cheese, and put back into the skin for a taste with hidden depth.
Spag bog. This simple family dinner is a winner for all, even the fussiest of eaters. All you need is tinned tomatoes, dried pasta, and perhaps some mince. You probably have the ingredients in your kitchen already, so no need to queue at the shop. Give it your own spin by stirring pesto through the tomato sauce.
Strictly not too simple a meal, but simple enough, no list of family meals would be complete without the yummy roast! Juicy meat, rich gravy, and crispy spuds, they’re great for the whole family to spend quality time over. Try rubbing Asian flavours under the skin of your chicken before cooking, like chilli, lemongrass, and ginger. And simple family meals wouldn’t be simple if they weren’t simple to clean up too. Finish detergents uses enzymes and bleaches to break down the fats and make light work of the grease and grime.
Although, once your family finishes their moreish meals, the plates will already be spotless!