Warm, nourishing meals; hot drinks; and wholesome treats — that’s what winter was made for. To celebrate the cooler weather, Chef Charmaine Lilje has curated some of her finest recipes. The versatile coconut makes a star appearance this season ­— enjoy it in a fragrant curry, or in a truly decadent chocolate drink. And because there’s always time for cookies, why not try her super-simple oatmeal and raisin version on a rainy day. All of these recipes happen to be deliciously vegan, too.

Butternut, chickpea and coconut curry

Serves 4


  • 1kg butternut, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp medium curry powder
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp crushed garlic
  • 100g diced white onion
  • 50g diced carrots
  • ½ birds eye chilli chopped
  • 20g diced celery
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 100g pre-soaked chickpeas
  • 2 x tins coconut milk
  • 20g chopped coriander
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • 20g fresh coriander – for garnish
  • 4 Tbs toasted flaked coconut – for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. On an oven tray place the butternut cubes, curry powder, 50ml of the olive oil and garlic and toss together, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 180C, remove the foil and roast until golden brown and soft for another 15-20 minutes
  3. In a medium sized pot over a low heat place remaining olive oil, onions, carrots, chilli and celery and sauté until soft
  4. Turn the heat up and add the vegetable stock, chicken peas and coconut milk, cook for 15 minutes
  5. Add the pre roasted butternut and cook for further 5 minutes in low heat
  6. Season with salt and pepper and add the fresh chopped herbs
  7. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  8. Serve with couscous or rice and garnish with a few springs of fresh coriander and a sprinkle of toasted coconut shavings

Coconut milk hot chocolate – winter style

Serves 1

Coconut Hot Chocolate


  • 100ml coconut cream
  • 100ml almond milk
  • 50g 70% or 85% chocolate
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 50ml agave syrup
  • A pinch of cinnamon 


  1. In a sauce pot heat the coconut cream and almond milk until boiling and then reduce heat and add dark chocolate, mix until chocolate melts
  2. Separately mix the agave syrup, cocoa and cinnamon until you have smooth paste
  3. Add the paste to your mug and slowly add the hot milk mixture while stirring
  4. Drink and enjoy!

Oatmeal & raisin cookies


  • 250g soft butter
  • 1 ½ cups of brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups self raising flour
  • 3/4 cup of almond flour
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1 ¼ cups of rolled oats


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  3. Add one egg and mix, add the other egg and mix
  4. Add the vanilla extract and mix well
  5. Add the sifted self-raising and almond flour, raisins and oats and mix until combined
  6. Set the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes to slightly stiffen up
  7. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture onto a non-stick backing tray
  8. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown


Charmaine Lilje is known in Cape Town foodie circles for her two charming eateries — Chardonnay Deli in Constantia and Dalebrook Café near Kalk Bay. Both menus offer a selection of dishes packed with local ingredients and plenty of flavour.

Dalebrook Café is the newer of Charmaine’s spaces and is open daily for breakfast and lunch. If you pop in for breakie, you can enjoy options like freshly baked bread with free-range eggs or a raw energy bowl packed with fruit, seeds and nut butter.  Lunch options include fresh seafood like mussels, calamari and line fish, as well as some great veggie options like a falafel bowl with roasted aubergine, brown rice, hummus, slaw and salsa.

Established in 2014, Chardonnay Deli has since become a firm favourite in Constantia. The rustic farmstall-style space serves up artisan breads, cakes and pies. The menu offers healthy and simple breakfast and lunch items, as well as some nourishing smoothies and juices. The atmosphere is relaxed, with a focus on local, healthy produce.