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Tamarind Lamb Stew

This week’s recipe, Denning-vleis, or Tamarind Lamb Stew is one of the oldest dishes in South Africa and is a Cape Malay favourite.

Cape Malay cuisine stems back to the days of the Dutch East India Company when political dissidents and Muslim religious leaders were imprisoned and taken to Cape Town, thus the Muslim community of Cape Town was born. Nowadays the Cape Malay Muslim Quarter, or Bo-Kaap is made up of brightly painted houses, romantic cobbled streets and simple neighbourhood mosques.

It is a is a very unpretentious, homely but deliciously diverse cuisine that uses a mix of strong spices like turmeric, star anise, fennel, coriander, mint, nutmeg saffron and tamarind.

Denning-vleis stew is flavoured with tamarind, bay leaves and spices to give a rich and exciting sweet/sour taste. It is traditionally made with lamb’s knuckles but you can use lamb chunks or even a roast leg would be perfect for a Sunday roast with a twist! The idea is for the tamarind to become dark and syrupy so feel free to add extra dashes of wine, chutneys or jam at the end.

It’s very easy to make but make an impressive dish to serve at a dinner party.


2 tbsp olive oil

1kg lamb knuckles or chunks (preferably bone-in)

2 tbsp flour (seasoned with paprika, salt, pepper, chilli)

2 large onions, sliced thinly

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

1 tsp nutmeg

500ml water

4 tbsp tamarind paste or 6 heaped tbsp of tamarind sauce

2 tsp caster sugar

salt and black pepper

red wine vinegar, black treacle/molasses, apricot chutney, mango chutney (to taste – all optional) 


1.  Heat the oil over a medium heat. Dust the lamb in the seasoned flour and fry (in batches if necessary) for a couple of minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.

2.  Turn down the heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook until softened and the onions are golden, add a dash of water if the onions become too brown and dry

3.  Return the lamb to the pan and add the cloves, bay leaves and nutmeg. Pour in the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for an hour

4.  Stir in the sugar and tamarind and cook for another 20 minutes or so.

5.  Have a taste and feel free to throw in a dash or red wine or red wine vinegar for more sour taste and more sugar, honey or molasses to add some sweetness.

6. Serve with rice or freshly made bread and enjoy!

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