Cooking in English class might sound a bit absurd, but following a recipe and cooking food is a great way to teach and learn some aspects of a new language. Find out why teachers sometimes do this in their classes, and learn a new recipe for South African bobotie (a typical South African Cape Malay dish)!
The photos in this post (other than the one of Bobotie at the bottom) are all by Jey, a lovely Iranian student who recently completed her course with us but continues to share her love and talent for cooking with us all. This post is dedicated to you, Jey!
James Beard said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” Food – cooking it, preparing it, sharing it and eating it – is indeed a universal experience that transcends all barriers and can bring people together. But, it can also be an interesting and novel way to learn English!
In a typical English course, wherever you are learning English in the world, you will probably encounter the language of cooking and recipes. We have often been lucky enough to sample the results of some English lessons at the UCT English Language Centre and they have been very tasty lessons indeed! But how could cooking in class, or reading a recipe, help you to learn English? There are a few reasons English teachers enjoy using this activity to help you learn:
1. It teaches a range of food and other vocabulary associated with cooking, eating, baking or shopping
2. It revises numbers and measurements (100 grams, 25 ml, 3 tsp)
3. Recipes and cooking instructions are very often written in simple grammar (present simple and past simple) and offer an important opportunity to become familiar with this grammar aspect and practice it in context
4. It is a fun and non-traditional way to practice English, but also become a bit more familiar with local foods and share cultures, preferences and traditions.
Do you know the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans”? This basically means when you are in a foreign place or culture then do, act, speak and/or behave like the local people do. In South Africa, with the melting pot of different cultures and ethnic groups, there are also very different foods that are eaten and made in many different areas. South Africans, in general, love their meat, and while beef, chicken and the usual meat groups are enjoyed, we also like the not-so-everyday options such as Ostrich meat.
Bobotie is a very typically South African dish using spiced minced meat and baked with an egg topping. The exact traditional origins are not very clear, but this dish was taken up by the Cape Malay community in South Africa and has been known here since about the 17th Century. There are many unique versions of Bobotie, using various secret spices and substituting meats, but the basic recipe remains the same.
Here is a recipe to try making some ostrich bobotie, which serves about 4 people, takes about 15 minutes to prepare and 25 minutes to cook with an oven temperature of 200 degrees Celsius.
You will need:
15 ml of sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
15 ml of curry powder
1 large apple, peeled and cubed
70 ml of apricot jam
4 slices of white bread
125 ml milk
500g of ostrich mince (or if you prefer other mince this is also fine)
2 large eggs
Rice and a salad to serve
How to do it:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
3. Add the onion, curry powder, apple cubes and apricot jam and let this all cook for a few minutes
4. Soak the bread in 100ml of milk.
5. Then add the bread and all the mince to the onion mixture in the pan.
6. Stir this all together until cooked through.
7. Transfer the meat and onion mixture into an ovenproof dish.
8. Beat the eggs with the leftover 25ml of milk and then pour this mixture over the mince.
9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until it has set.
10. Serve with the rice and salad.
We hope you enjoy a little taste of some typical South African cuisine and were able to see how following a recipe can help you improve your English, practice your grammar and learn some new vocabulary along the way.