A fiery passion

South African-born Australian chef Duncan Welgemoed.
South African-born Australian chef Duncan Welgemoed. PHOTOS: ANDRE CASTELLUCCI
Top Australian chef Duncan Welgemoed cooks on fire — either in embers or ashes, in ovens or cast iron pots.

All of these methods are showcased in his cookbook Africola, named for his Adelaide restaurant.

Welgemoed is a South African expat who came to Australia via London where he worked with executive chef Michael North at The Goose at Britwell Salome, which gained a Michelin star during Welgemoed’s time there.

He moved to Adelaide, where he co-founded Bistro Dom. From there, the accolades followed: his restaurant was named The Australian’s Hottest Restaurant in South Australia and earned a listing in Gourmet Traveller’s Top 100, and Welgemoed was crowned The Advertiser’s Chef of the Year (2013).

In 2014, he went out on his own, opening Africola, a restaurant dedicated to modern South African cuisine and classics from his childhood.

Africola, by Duncan Welgemoed, published by 
Murdoch Books, RRP$55.
THE BOOK: Africola, by Duncan Welgemoed, published by Murdoch Books, RRP$55.

A fire in the kitchen led to a reassessment of what he was doing, and he reopened the doors with a new menu leaning towards vegetables and grains and less meat and with a focus on less wastage.

One of his mentors is chef Marco Pierre White, whom he met while working in London. Pierre White writes in a cook book’s foreword that Welgemoed’s restaurant is the best in the world.

Welgemoed writes of his food journey and about how his love for food stems from his childhood growing up in Johannesburg, an only child with a Scottish expat mother, chef father and a passionate foodie and ex-chef domestic worker.

"The joy of food kept our world together."

The book, which is peppered with swear words and straight talking, has chapters titled "Slaughterhouse braai (meat)", "La Mer (vaguely vegan)", "Acid trip (recipes to cut through the richness)" and "Seriously whipped dessert" (his favourites), along with ones covering vegetables, seafood, condiments and cocktails.


Beetroot salad of the gods

Another easy beetroot salad, this one was inspired by my favourite London restaurant, the quintessentially English St John. One of the very few restaurants in the world I pine for, their respect for food and wine is inspiring without being overly sentimental. It makes me cry and go hard at the same time. Kind of like the bedroom scene in The Crying Game.

Serves 2

200ml (generous ¾ cup) extra virgin olive oil

100ml (scant ½ cup) aged balsamic vinegar

150g (generous ½ cup) creme fraiche

1 Tbsp capers

2 raw beetroot, peeled and finely grated

¼ red cabbage, core cut out, very

finely sliced

1 small red onion, finely sliced

2 bunches of chervil, leaves picked

sea salt and freshly ground white



Throw everything into the bowl, keeping back a few chervil leaves, and mix thoroughly with your hands. Season very well and garnish with the leaves.

Then go online and order heaps of the St John Claret. Send me some while you are at it.


North African fish curry

A light, floral and perfectly spiced curry. The nutmeg gives this dish some serious back palate, which works perfectly with the juices of the seafood. Make sure the seafood is fresh, though.

Serves 4


2 litres (8 cups) vegetable oil

2 onions, finely diced

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp peeled and finely chopped

fresh ginger

1 cup Baharat spice mix (see below)

1kg tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 whole preserved lemons,

roughly chopped

2 litres (8 cups) fish stock

250g shelled prawns

1kg mussels, scrubbed and bearded

1kg clams

1kg fresh calamari, cleaned and cut into

thin rounds (ask your fishmonger to

clean for you)

10 sardine fillets

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

drizzle of olive oil

To serve

1 bunch of green leafage of your choice

Baharat spice mix

75g cumin seeds

75g coriander seeds

75g paprika

350g ground cinnamon

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp chilli flakes


spice mill, coffee grinder or mortar

and pestle

cooking thermometer


To make the spice mix

Put all the spices in a dry frying pan and toast until fragrant, then add to a mortar and pestle, spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.

To make the curry

Heat 1 litre (4 cups) of the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger until the onion just starts to brown. Remove from the pan.

Add the remaining vegetable oil to the pan, bring up to about 180degC (checking the temperature with a thermometer), then add 1 cup of the spices. Fry all the spices for a couple of minutes until fragrant, then add the cooked onion, tomatoes and lemon to the pan.

Add the fish stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for one and a-half hours, then check the seasoning.

Add the prawns, mussels, clams, calamari and sardines and cook for 5 minutes. Serve straight away with a side of green leaves and herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.


Peri peri chicken the way his dad cooked it

Okay, gather round, kids. Time for some real talk now. Peri peri chicken is the most important dish in my life because Mozambican/Portuguese food was central to my upbringing in Johannesburg. This recipe is my father’s, the most important man in my life (apart from my two boys), and remains unchanged. It’s better than pretty much all the recipes for this dish that exist. In honour of my father, my beautiful city of Johannesburg and the chefs that cook this dish day in, day out ... I give you the world-famous Africola Peri Peri Chicken.

Serves 4

1 whole chicken, spatchcocked

lemon wedges

4 soft floured bread rolls

Peri peri sauce

15 red bird’s eye chillies

10 green bird’s eye chillies

5 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 tsp sea salt flakes

½ tsp chopped fresh bay leaves

½ Tbsp smoked paprika

100ml (scant ½ cup) extra virgin

olive oil

1 tsp white wine vinegar

100ml (scant ½ cup) lemon juice


160g (¾ cup) sea salt flakes

55g (¼ cup) brown sugar

55ml (¼ cup) apple cider vinegar

1 bunch of thyme

10 fresh bay leaves

2 lemons

2 garlic bulbs, halved



60g applewood smoking chips, soaked

in water overnight


To make the peri peri sauce

Heat the oven to 180degC. Place all the chillies on a baking tray and roast them for 10 minutes.

Cool and roughly chop the chillies. Place the chillies, garlic, salt, bay leaves, paprika, olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool, then blend it to a puree in a blender or food processor. Store in a lidded container at room temperature; it will keep for about a month. Shake well before using.

To make the brine

Put all the ingredients and 1 litre (4 cups) water in a large pot and bring to the boil, then take off the heat. Once cool, add the chicken and leave overnight. When you are ready to cook, take the chicken out of the brine and give it a wash in cold water.

Place the chicken in a bowl and add half the peri peri sauce, spreading it over evenly, and marinate in the fridge for 3 hours.

Light your braai. When the coals are ashed, throw the chicken on the grill. Place the lid on the braai and cook for 10-15 minutes on each side or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through, occasionally taking off the lid to baste with excess marinade. For the last 5 minutes, toss the smoking chips on the embers and shut the lid.

Serve the chicken with extra peri peri sauce, lemons wedges and bread rolls.

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