South Africa: Parusha Naidoo’s Cookbook Builds Community

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Parusha Naidoo’s cookbook is a fascinating newcomer to the South African scene. Her food philosophies and the curation of her recipes are not mainstream but are conscious of the times, the inherent power dynamics of the European (and male) dominated world of recipe books and gendered roles in the kitchen, while also offering an answer to these issues.

Harnessing all her creativity in one project – having done all the illustrations and design herself – Naidoo presents us with 21 colourful and beautifully illustrated plant-based Afro-Asian recipes in Least Effort Most Reward. The dishes are easy and delicious, and made with accessible ingredients.

Her chilli noodles deliver high-impact flavour but take only five minutes to make and Naidoo’s recipe for muriwo unedovi, a Zimbabwean dish of leafy greens cooked in peanut butter, uses just four ingredients and takes about 10 minutes to make. If you have a little more time and are looking for comfort, you can cook something like the aloo fry, which feels like “a hug from the inside and soothes the need for real, human hugs in a time when being held can be so scarce, inaccessible, dangerous and even banned.” The book was created as respite from the Covid-19 pandemic, when money might be short, energy low and time limited.

What is unique about this cookbook is that it emphasises eating together and how sharing a meal heals, creates and strengthens community. By choosing simple, flavourful meals that can be made in generous portions – langsouskos-style dishes – the focus is on sharing meals alongside the cooking. “Less time in the kitchen, more time at the table,” writes Naidoo.

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