Rooibos tea trips up contestants on the first episode of ‘MasterChef SA’

The food editor shares two recipes that make rooibos tea winning starters

03 March 2022 - 09:30
By Hilary Biller
One of SA's most beloved teas, rooibos.
Image: 123RF/baibakova One of SA's most beloved teas, rooibos.

Rooibos, SA’s fave tea and one of the country’s best exports, came to the boil this week when it saw three of the 20 contestants in the popular reality food show bite the dust in the very first challenge and leave the MasterChef SA kitchen.

I felt for the trio —  Sylvie, Lisa and Matthew — who did the walk of shame, all very disappointed to be leaving so soon and their dreams of winning a million bucks in tatters.

It was judge chef Gregory Czarnecki’s ask to make up a starter highlighting rooibos tea (judge chef Zola Nene described the plant as “endemic to the country”) in 60 minutes that had the contestants in a flutter. The common cry from most was why a starter when a sweet/dessert would have been so much easier?

It got me thinking, of course, way easier sitting comfortably on the other side of the screen without the glare of TV cameras, what I’d make featuring rooibos tea in cooking. It is one of the most versatile ingredients, and way beyond a cup of tea, it can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury applications, the many ideas only limited by one’s creativity.

It makes a great base for a punch — nonalcoholic or boozy — and the tea will add a sparkle of flavour to many desserts and cakes. It’s about replacing some of the liquid in the recipe with a strong infusion of rooibos tea, best cooled before using.

The dry tea itself is good for smoking meat, chicken or veggies, as we saw one of the contestants do, or try using a rooibos infusion in a salad dressing, replacing the vinegar with the tea, or adding a flourish of rooibos to sauces, soups and stews.

And for SA’s favourite way of cooking — the braai — two of my favourite ideas are featuring rooibos in a marinade as in my kebab recipe and instead of the usual potato salad.

Here’s my recipe for a truly SA salad with naartjies and biltong and a splash of rooibos dressing:

Delicious salad starter.
Image: Ryno Delicious salad starter.


Serves: Six


6 naartjies, peeled and sliced horizontally in 3-4 slices (you can use small oranges)

150ml made with boiling water and 2 rooibos tea bags

2 bulbs of fennel or 2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced

A large handful of rocket or mixed lettuce leaves, optional

½ bunch of spring onion, finely sliced on the diagonal

90g thinly sliced biltong

A handful of chopped toasted macadamia nuts

Rooibos dressing:

Reserved rooibos tea from soaking naartjies

10ml (2 tsp) runny honey

100ml olive or vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the naartjie slices and the cooled rooibos tea and leave to stand for 15 minutes before draining off tea and reserving.
  2. Divide the naartjie slices and place on the base of six individual plates or a serving platter.
  3. Top with fennel, rocket or lettuce leaves and spring onion and toss to mix.
  4. For the dressing combine the reserved rooibos tea, honey, oil, garlic and seasoning in a glass jar with screw top lid and shake well.
  5. Just before serving pour over the dressing and sprinkle with biltong slices and nuts and serve.
Sizzling fruity kebabs.
Image: Warren Heath Sizzling fruity kebabs.


Makes: 10-12 kebabs


250g mixed dried fruit

375ml (1 ½ cups) rooibos tea made with boiling water and 3 rooibos tea bags

125ml (½ cup) ready-made barbecue marinade

1kg pork fillet, cut into cubes, not too small (or use beef or lamb)

12 wooden kebab sticks, soaked in water for 15 minutes before cooking over the coals

Olive oil


  1. Place the fruit in a glass bowl and pour over the rooibos tea. Microwave on high for 2 minutes then stand for 30 minutes to plump up and infuse the tea.
  2. Drain the fruit, saving the tea and remove the pips from the prunes.
  3. Combine the cooled reserved rooibos tea and barbecue marinade and add the pork cubes. Toss to mix and let to stand for an hour.
  4. Remove the fruit from the marinade and dry with paper towel. Thread the meat on the kebab sticks alternating with the soaked dried fruit.
  5. Brush the kebabs with olive oil and cook under the grill or over the coals, turning frequently, till cooked through.
  6. Serve with a potato, rice or pasta salad.