• To some, Fatima Sydow is the mastermind behind the delicious recipes on her various social media platforms, while others might recognise her as one of the Sydow twins on TV show Kaap, Kerrie en Koesisters. We sat down with Fatima Sydow to learn what made her fall in love with food.

    In true foodie spirit, Fatima tells us that she’s prepared a chicken with a small knob of butter, black pepper, oil, a touch of salt and thin slivers of garlic – which we learned is her favourite ingredient to use when cooking – just shy of doing her interview. And on that mouthwatering note, we got to know Fatima’s love for cooking and sharing her recipes with her followers.

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

    Fatima grew up in Manenberg and was raised in Mitchells Plain and Strandfontein Village. She now resides in the Lansdowne area, where she lives out her passion of cooking and sharing her talent with the public. But where did this flair for making food come from? From her roots, of course.

    ‘I discovered my love and passion for food at a very young age; I was about nine years old. My late mother was a very good cook and she used to cook for big functions and weddings and there were always a lot of people,’ Fatima shares. ‘She was very good at sorting out and putting a menu together for gatherings and then making everything herself, with the help of her children. I loved that!’ When she reminisces about those days, she remembers the very first thing she made in the kitchen – pumpkin fritters.

    ‘I helped my mommy. She would ask me to go chop the onions or grate the potatoes or peel the potatoes for the pot. And then eventually, as it continued, she would tell me to throw in the potatoes, or throw in the onions and go stir the pot. And that’s how you end up knowing how to make the food after a little while,’ she says with laughter.

    Home is where good food is

    Fatima started her Facebook page about a decade ago and named it Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow. ‘I later realised that I cook more than just Cape Malay food, and I changed my Facebook, Instagram and YouTube handles to Fatima Sydow Cooks,’ she explains.

    But her cooking journey began well before that. At the age of 15 or 16 she cooked her very first 100-litre pot of food – something she absolutely loved. ‘I loved how food brought people together. I would feed people and sustain them.’

    She later started her own little catering company and did all kinds of events. She tells us that she’s learnt a lot of lessons along the way. ‘With cooking and baking, you’re always learning and your food always evolves. Some stay the same – the classics. And then there’s always time to create or add something else to your dishes,’ she shares. ‘Over the years it’s been my passion. I did other things along the way, but food just brought me back every time.’

    We asked her what she looks for when she makes a dish, and her answer is proof that heart not only lies with food, but with people, too. ‘When I make a dish, I tell a story. I’m telling a story and my circumstances before I’m making the recipe. What I’m going to throw in the pot is what’s available to me and what I can afford. That is the basis of my recipe,’ she says. She continues: ‘I also always keep my viewers and followers in mind – what can they afford? Is it something that is readily available at their corner store or nearby supermarket, or in their pantry cupboards? I’m always thinking of that.’ One thing about Fatima’s recipes is that it is not only easy to make, but economical and so tasty too. ‘Secondly, when I make a dish, it has to taste like home. My style of cooking is “huiskos” – home-cooked food. Food we grew up with, survival food, food that can go far.’

    Fatima’s list of career highlights includes self-publishing her first cookbook, The Journey of Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow. This paved the way for two more cookbooks, including Cape, Curry and Koesisters which she released with her twin sister Gadija Sydow-Noordien, and her most recent cookbook, Fatima Sydow Cooks, which reached number one in the country. ‘Then to be on six seasons of a TV show was amazing and it will always be special to me. And now recently I’ve been nominated for an award for the Gourmand World Food Award.’

    Yet she singles out her biggest highlight as the connection with her followers. ‘I would not have a career without my followers and the people that love my work. That’s why I treasure my social media in such a way that I stay connected to them.’

    fatima sydow Steak masala sandwich
    Fatima’s Toasted Masala Steak Sandwich

    Who do you look up to in the industry?

    I have many people that I simply adore. But the first person I met that’s in the food industry was Jenny Morris and she is such a supportive lady. She’s so friendly and always so kind and concerned – always reaching out to see if you’re okay. She is one amazing lady and so inspiring. She’s a great motivation to me.

    What do you love most about the industry?

    What I love most about the industry is that everyone I’ve met in the food industry has one the same goal and purpose, and that is to make people happy with food – that our love language is food and that’s how we communicate.

    Your favourite dishes to make:

    I love doing sweet and savoury, cooking and baking. I’m crazy about making bread, I love working with dough… And roti. But my favourite is to make a dish from whatever I see in the fridge and just put things together.

    Do you have any tips for our readers who have limited time but would love to make filling and delicious food?

    I cook my rice, let it cool off and then pack it in freezer bags. Then I put it in my freezer. When I come home or I want to make supper, I know my rice is done. I just take it out and put it in the microwave for a few minutes and my rice is ready, so I just have to focus on my food.

    Words by Bianca Muller

    Follow Fatima

    Facebook: Fatima Sydow Cooks

    Instagram: @fatima_sydow_cooks

    YouTube: Fatima Sydow Cooks

    Website: fatimasydow.co.za

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    Sjaan is a food stylist and recipe developer for Food & Home. She aims to create mouth-watering images and exciting How To videos on our Instagram, hoping to inspire people to try new recipes and have fun in the kitchen.