Meet the ‘Dinner Diva’ who likes pushing boundaries

Ex-Bay resident Anél Potgieter is now an ardent food blogger

Ex-Bay resident Anél Potgieter is now an ardent food blogger. Picture: Supplied

FORMER Nelson Mandela Bay PR practitioner Anél Potgieter, winner of SABC2’s Dinner Divas cooking series, is now hoping her food blog,, will be voted SA’s best.
Anél, who lives in Cape Town with her husband, Rick, was disappointed not to make it beyond the top 35 on popular cooking reality TV show MasterChef SA last year. She  she turned to an old childhood favourite, zoo biscuits, for comfort. And so came the light-bulb moment for her blog.
Success on Dinner Divas – a show pitting food bloggers against each other – would follow, and lifeisazoobiscuit is now among 30 blogs vying for the Eat Out DStv Food Network Produce awards for “best food blog of the year” – a people’s choice award.

Anél says she is no chef, just a passionate foodie. She blogs mainly in her spare time, as she works full time as communications head for a group of architecture and design companies.
Visit before the closing date on Monday to vote for her blog.
Anél spoke to us about her love of cooking, and now also blogging, while sharing one of her favourite summer recipes below.


Recipe: Strawberry carpaccio summer salad

This is one of Anel’s favourite recipes, specially at this time of year when cherries and strawberries are plentiful. Serves 2.

Preparation time: 10 min
Cooking time and cooling down time for balsamic glaze: 20 min


For the salad: 200g strawberries, finely sliced; 100g Black Forest ham; curly lettuce; 10 cherries, fresh

For goats’ cheese crostinis: 100g goats’ cheese (plain); 30g dried cranberries; 1 big basil leaf (cut into fine strips); melba toasts or crostinis (3 per person); pink peppercorns

For the balsamic glaze: 125ml balsamic vinegar; 2T orange blossom honey; 1/2 tsp rose syrup; 2 Tbsp water; 5 pink peppercorns, crushed; pinch of salt


For the balsamic glaze, put all ingredients in a small pot and boil for 8 to 10 min over medium heat. Remove from stove and allow to cool.
For goats’ cheese crostinis, mix the goats cheese, cranberries and basil together. Smear the goat and cranberry spread over each little toast. Carefully place 2 to 3 pink peppercorns onto each crostini.
To serve: Arrange the sliced strawberries on the bottom of the plate. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic glaze. Place a few salad leaves over the top. Add the goats’ cheese crostinis, ham, cherries and extra peppercorns. Drizzle with more balsamic glaze and serve.

Q&A wit ‘Dinner Diva’ Anel Potgieter

When did your love of cooking begin?
I grew up with three older brothers in a small Free State town – at that time there were no luxuries when it came to food. We grew up on meat, rice and potatoes, but Sunday was cake day! People came to our house after church for tea and cake.
My first food memory was at the age of eight, when my mom told me to bake “dadelbrood” (date loaf) for the next day. After that I did it every Saturday.
During filming of Dinner Divas, how did you handle the stress of cooking on telly, and what was it like to have your cooking scrutinised so closely?
It was extremely stressful and exhausting. I hardly slept a wink most nights before the various shoots and it showed. But the big thing was not to lose focus.
What inspires you in your cooking?
I surround myself with people who love food. My friend Pierre lives in Bangkok and influences my Eastern cooking through his cooking blog.
My friend Louis in Spain sends me paella recipes and the Mediterranean influences seem to rub off on me.
My friend Leonard gives me lessons on how to make the best Indian curries in the whole world. Doreen lives in Guguletu and has taught me her real African dishes.
My friend Mary is 70 and she inspires me through her “plattelandse” cooking with a modern twist.
My boss Derick inspires me by sharing his food experiences and by advising me which wine complements the food I make (he is the co-owner of a few wine shops).
What is your style of cooking?
I don’t have a specific style but I do like to push the boundaries with flavours and flavour combinations. I am also a “no-fuss” foodie.
Who are your culinary heroes?
Each year the list gets longer. At the moment it is Alain Passard. I dined at his restaurant in Paris recently (a rare treat!) and met him personally. I am still star-struck – what a wonderful, humble man.
What five ingredients can’t you live without?
Salt, good butter, garlic, chillies and Indian spices.
Which kitchen tools are you most attached to?
I only have the basic utensils and my favourite is my wooden spoon. It’s been with me since I owned my first flat many years ago. I can stir with it, crush garlic with it and plenty more. I like to chop and pound things to bring out their flavours. My husband reckons I need to beat or make food suffer before the good can really be savoured and enjoyed!
What sort of food would you serve to dinner guests? Suggest a three-course summer menu you might prepare.
I like to share food – I have a long table where people can sit and relax, drink wine, nibble and have fun.
Starter: Cabbage Greek salad with olive oil and vinegar with freshly baked breads. Main: Whole baked fish. Dessert: I love making my own ice cream, drizzling some good olive oil over it and serving it with a sprinkling of Maldon salt. That’s dessert with a twist!
Any top tips or tricks to share when hosting a dinner at home?
Choose simple dishes and do as much as you can beforehand. It’s more about the flavours and company at the end and you need to be relaxed to also enjoy the evening.
What is your favourite comfort food when not cooking for anyone but yourself?
It’s only my hubby Rick and me (and our Spaniel “children” Frankie Sinatra and Robbie Williams) and so we often eat simple meals. We love to braai – Rick likes trying different recipes and I normally do a simple salad with old-fashioned “braaibroodjies”!
Any guilty pleasures in your home or kitchen?
I always have a tin of caramel hidden away – and a bottle of good wine in the fridge for drinking while I’m cooking.
When you eat out in the Cape, what is your favourite spot?
I love the elegant restaurant at De Grendel wine farm 10 minutes from my home.
How often are you in the Eastern Cape? Any restaurants you are keen to try?
I haven’t been there for a while but some of my best friends still live there. I hear Stanley Street in Richmond Hill, PE, is a must.
What is your pet hate when eating out?
I don’t enjoy tasting menus! They confuse my palate and are too full of drama – rather give me a beautiful pasta and salad and I’m happy.
Always serve butter, not margarine – and don’t forget the balsamic vinegar and good olive oil.
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