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Mum’s Recipes with Juanita Nortje

by Mum’s Recipes with Juanita Nortje

Born near Johannesburg, South Africa, Juanita Nortje and her family—husband Chris, 12-year-old Ian and seven-year-old Bethany—have lived in Doha for eighteen months. The cuisine of Juanita’s home country is influenced by a mix of Dutch, Indian, French and Malay flavours and includes fragrant, spicy curries; flame-grilled meats; and earthy, slow-cooked stews. The food is hearty, wholesome and packed with flavour.

This mix of culinary influence inspires Juanita’s family at home and international favourites such as nachos and spaghetti Bolognese—the kids’ favourite—regularly appear on the family’s dinner table. Juanita has a love for strong, bold flavours and the use of local, seasonal ingredients to create traditional recipes. Her two favourite cuisines are Italian and Indian. While Juanita enjoys rustling up nourishing, hearty soups for the whole family—“I think I have a knack for it!”—her husband Chris has a natural flair for whipping up spicy Indian delicacies and sweet treats such as pancakes with cinnamon sugar. “He makes the best onion bhajis [a type of Indian fritter]!” she says.

Luckily for Juanita, a taste of home is never far away, with South African classics such as biltong (dried, cured meat), beef sausage, maize (cornmeal porridge), anchovy spread and peanut butter regularly found in her favourite supermarket SPAR. South African produce and meat are also available at most supermarkets in Qatar.

While feeding a family can be a challenge at the best of times, Juanita has created a failsafe method to feed her fussy eaters. “Because my kids like different foods, I usually stir-fry a protein with an assortment of veggies and make a salad with fresh grated carrots and pineapple, which they both love,” she explains. For lunchboxes, she always packs a protein such as biltong, fruit, rice cakes and natural yoghurt with honey. Sometimes there’s also another surprise, she says, “Every now and then I will add a joke in the lunchbox to brighten their day.”

It’s obvious that both Juanita and her husband Chris share a passion for food. For Juanita, cooking is a way to express love for her friends and family. “I think eating is so much more than just feeding your body. It’s an emotional journey with effort in planning and preparation. The enjoyment is the connection that I make with the people eating my food. I love to cook for special people including my family.”


Serves six to eight

There are many variations on this traditional, meaty South African dish. This recipe from Aninas Recipes is Juanita’s favourite variation.


  • 15ml olive oil
  • 3 onions finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1kg beef mince
  • ½ cup water (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons smooth apricot jam
  • ½ cup chutney
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 2 slices white bread soaked in a little milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 500ml milk
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 bay leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic
  3. Add the beef mince and brown. If needed, add ½ cup of water to help with the browning of the meat
  4. In a mixing bowl combine the curry powder, turmeric, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, jam, chutney, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and soaked bread. Mix until combined
  5. Add the sauce to the browned meat, and simmer for 30 minutes, mixing thoroughly
  6. Transfer the meat mixture to a baking dish
  7. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk and seasoning. Gently pour the egg mixture over the meat and add the bay leaves on top
  8. Bake for 30–40 minutes until the egg has set. Serve with yellow rice, sweet pumpkin and green beans

Baked Sago Pudding

Makes six to eight servings

Sago is a starch made from the centre of certain types of tropical palm trees, similar to tapioca pearls. A simple and traditional dessert topped with feather-light meringue, this is Juanita’s grandmother’s recipe. The pudding can be served chilled or hot from the oven.


  • 750ml milk
  • 200ml sago
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 125ml sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 25ml butter
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 50ml apricot jam


  • 6 egg whites
  • 150ml sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Rinse the sago with water. In a saucepan, add the milk, sago and cinnamon stick and heat slowly
  3. Stirring often, simmer until the sago becomes clear
  4. Add the sugar, salt and butter to the milk mixture and stir well
  5. Remove from heat and take out the cinnamon stick
  6. Mix the beaten egg yolks into the milk mixture. It should now have the consistency of thick custard
  7. Pour the mixture into an oven-safe dish and drizzle with the apricot jam
  8. For the meringue, beat the egg whites until stiff, and slowly add the sugar one spoon at a time
  9. Spoon the meringue over the sago milk mixture and bake for 20–25 minutes

Juanita’s Top Tips

  • A splash of lemon juice can make a difference to your meal
  • Leftovers can make a handsome pasta dish
  • Salads don’t have to be complicated. Use whatever ingredients you have available
  • Stir-fry can go a long way when you have fussy eaters, as it can include vegetables that everyone likes
  • Don’t feel tethered to a recipe. Experiment and try to find ways to improve it