My upside-down, inside-out version of a much-loved traditional dish. Chakalaka is a highly spiced African vegetable relish usually eaten cold as an accompaniment to braaied [barbecued] meat, but here I’ve transformed it into a chunky soup brimming with punchy flavours. Topped with juicy mini-meatballs made from boerewors filling, this is a dish that will bring tears to the eyes of chakalaka devotees (especially if you increase the quantity of fresh chillies in the recipe).
Chakalaka, said to have been invented by Johannesburg's migrant mine-workers (although I can't confirm this) usually includes chillies, peppers and curry spices, plus - depending on who's making it - carrots, beans, cabbage, and so on.
You may be wondering why I've turned a relish into a soup. Well, because I love soup, I really do - to distraction. (And I'm a little annoyed that winter is over in the Southern Hemisphere, because it means the end of soups - at least hot, rib-sticking ones - until next year.) Also, I like turning recipes around to see what happens. This soup is good on its own, but the little meatballs make it really special. (And I'm grateful to my friend Nina Timm of My Easy Cooking for showing me how to make instant boerie balls.)
You can leave the baked beans out of the soup, if you like (as I did in the photographs, because I wasn't in the mood for beans today) but I recommend including them because they help thicken the soup. If you can't find authentic South African boerewors, use a raw, loose-textured sausage and, before you roll it into balls, mix in a teaspoon or so of toasted, ground coriander, plus some of the spices listed in this recipe.
Although it's best on the day you make it, you can prepare soup a day in advance. For best results, though, fry the meatballs just before you serve the dish. This is also very good with chopped green beans and cauliflower florets. If you don't have tomato juice, use a tin or two of chopped Italian tomatoes and a little tomato paste instead.
The chickpea flour and spices are used to give the meatballs a nice, toasty crust. Chickpea flour, also known as channa flour, is available from spice shops.
Chakalaka Soup with Little Boerewors Balls
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower oil
4 carrots, peeled
3 small green peppers, finely sliced lengthways
4 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 green or red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (or more, to taste)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
6 large, ripe tomatoes
4 cups (1 litre) tomato juice (the sort you’d use for a tomato cocktail)
3 cups (750 ml) water or vegetable stock
2 tins baked beans in tomato sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) medium-strength curry powder
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
salt and milled black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley or coriander
For the boerewors balls:
500 g slim boerewors, or similar sausage
½ cup (125 ml) channa [chickpea] flour
1 tsp (5 ml) paprika
½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
Heat the oil in a large pot. Dice two of the carrots and set the others aside. Fry the diced carrots, pepper slices, onions, celery, chilli, ginger and garlic over a medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, or until softened but not brown.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a blender and pulse to form a rough purée. Pour the purée, the tomato juice and the stock into the pot and cook at a brisk bubble for 30 minutes, skimming off any foam as it rises. Stir in the baked beans, curry powder and cumin, season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
For the meatballs, squeeze the boerewors filling from its casing and roll into balls the size of a marble. Combine the channa flour, paprika and turmeric on a plate and lightly roll the balls in the mixture. Fry in hot oil over a medium heat for 4 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper.
Coarsely grate the remaining two carrots. Serve the soup piping hot, topped with hot frikkadels, grated carrot and a shower of parsley.