Stirring up home cooking

Carmen Niehaus

Long before Anthony Bourdain and his rock-n-roll Kitchen Confidential redefined food writing, we had our own star.

It’s been 36 years since Carmen Niehaus sashayed onto the food scene, cooking up a storm at Huisgenoot/You with her easy-to-follow buffet of recipes.

For Carmen, the kitchen has always been her lodestar. ‘What matters to me is food that’s good for you and lekker. It’s as simple as that,’ she said.

As a child growing up on a fruit farm in Citrusdal, she wasn’t exactly a cooking buff. ‘Time outside was far too precious.’ After a spell as Home Economics lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, the opportunity of a lifetime came along when Huisgenoot food and lifestyle editor Anet Human advertised for an assistant. Later, when Carmen took over as editor, the department grew significantly – ‘I even had two assistants at my beck and call. Those were the days indeed.’

In 1989, her first book for Huisgenoot/You hit the bookshelves: Let’s Cook and Wenresepte 4. By the time the department was culled in 2020 during the Covid pandemic, she’d notched up a staggering 25 books.

But she hasn’t exactly been idle since those glory days. With her name being the first syllable in the Carmién rooibos tea brand that her sister Mientjie Mouton founded, Carmen does quite a lot of work developing recipes and writing articles for the business. She’s also an ardent food blogger with 20 000 followers and has published two books under her own name. Recipes in these two books cover the gamut: from exuberant special occasion meals and quick lunches to classic dinners, breads and lyrical desserts.

Food writing is much more than recipes of the fuel we put in our mouths. It’s the connective tissue of all cultures. She highlighted the essence of the cookbooks as ‘in keeping with current food trends, but still remaining true to my philosophy of food that’s easy to prepare, affordable, wholesome and made with readily available ingredients’. Her recipes are both meticulous and sublime. But what stays with you is the yearning for truly lekker kos.

Of course Carmen has her favourites. ‘I love Mediterranean-style food, plus cooking with lentils, beans and pulses. And a special place goes to our daily bread. Nothing quite like a good bread! As for my favourite recipe, it has to be French chicken with olives, capers, wine and coriander. It’s as easy as abc – put it in the oven and forget about it.’ (Atlantic Gull will share the recipe in the July/August edition.)

Now a Langebaan resident, Carmen and husband Lodewyk enjoy a laid-back lifestyle. But there’s more to life than working. That’s when they hit the road to explore the West Coast and beyond.


To relax I page through magazines
My sport is CrossFit
For armchair sport I watch rugby and tennis
Favourite West Coast place is Langebaan
Best restaurant is !Khwa ttu on the R27 near Yzerfontein
I love eating bread
My signature drink is Carmién Energise tea
I like reading magazines, Eenvoud being my favourite