Sookh and ye shall find

A deli-style halal butchery is a welcome addition to Joburg’s northern suburbs. Hilary Biller checked out its offerings.

English celebrity TV chef Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall of
River Cottage is well versed in ruffling a few tail feathers in his
uncompromising exposure of good food. If you are a fan, his recipe
books are good too — The River Cottage Meat Book is one of the finest,
a meticulously researched tome for anyone who enjoys meat and how best
to cook it.

“I’d like to encourage you to think about the meat you
eat. Is it good enough? Good enough to bring you pleasure every time
you eat it?” he writes in his introduction.

I was reminded of his words as I stepped through the door of a new butchery in Melrose recently.

A first for the northern suburbs of Jo’burg, Sookh is a
specialist halal butchery and delicatessen — an emporium of meat,
poultry and other pre-prepared foods. No ordinary butchery, there is an
air of contemporary elegance to the place which is reflected in the
Moorish design on the windows repeated in the Moroccan-style floor
tiles and in their logo and packaging.

Drawing on their Indian food traditions, joint owner
Rufaida Ismail says their aim is to produce a cache of traditional
halal delicacies using family recipes.

Intially Sookh looks like a butchery offering the usual fresh-meat selection. On closer inspection, it’s a lot more.

A whole section of the shop is devoted to cold meats and
sausages all freshly made on the premises. There are the usual
polonies, which I gather are good sellers, and some unusual ones like a
chicken roll with mustard seed and another with pepper. A salami fan, I
tried their speciality — lamb salami. Not quite like the original, but
for those who don’t eat pork an alternative.

“Everything is made with traditional family recipes
brought to life in a new way. We believe in a wholesome approach to
food, using the finest ingredients. As people’s lives have become so
much busier we aim to take all the guess work out of cooking,” said
Ismail, pointing to the array of ready-made items which include pies,
schnitzels, chicken tikkas and Kievs.

“We are passionate about the return to the tradition of home- cooked food and family recipes,” said Ismail.

For the uninitiated the fridges are stacked with skinned
and deveined whole chickens — prepared according to halal customary
food laws.

“They have proved to be so popular — even with the Jewish community in the surrounding area,” said Ismail.

A customer came in searching out their specially smoked
chickens and another their kitke breads. So, although halal, their plan
is to cater for everyone.

As a specialised Indian emporium of course there are lots of spices, pickles, relishes and marinades — and piles of rotis.

I particularly enjoyed the unusual green mayonnaise
chutney — a mixture of mayonnaise, piccalilli, mustard, coconut, green
chilli and coriander. It was good with cold meats and sausages.

“The miracle of food lies not only in its flavour and
texture, but in the feast of sharing and the mutual enjoyment of each
other. These are our traditions — t raditions experienced at the dining
room table,” said Ismail.

  • Sookh Butcher and Deli, Melrose Crossing, Illovo, Johannesburg

  • Open seven days a week

  • Call 011-786-9164