27 January 2009

Apricot blatjang (chutney)

This is an original Cape recipe and as much as Mrs Balls rocks. If you make it yourself – it’s just way better.

2kg ripe apricots
1 large onion peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
500grams seedless raisins
400 grams brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
small knob of ginger finely grated
small dollop of fresh mustard
500mls of vinegar

Halve and stone the apricots (means take out the pips.) Mix all the ingredients together in a stainless steel saucepan (don’t use brass or copper – the vinegar reacts with these metals and gives your chutney a not so nice metallic flavour). Bring slowly to the boil and then simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally until the chutney is thick and shiny.

Bottle immediately in sterilised hot jars and seal immediately. Eat whenever you feel the need but especially with Bobotie.

Bobotie (because it just goes with blatjang)

When you ask the average South African bloke what our national dish is – the majority will say “the braai” – but down in the Cape, the Bobotie rules supreme: spices were introduced by slaves from Indonesia and the presentation is reminiscent of English shepherd’s pie. This recipe will serve 4.

25g Butter
1 large onion, chopped
250g minced beef
250g minced pork
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp garam masala
1⁄2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 gloves
3 allspice berries
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
50g dried apricots, chopped
25g flaked almonds
3 tbsp Apricot chutney
4 tbsp chopped parsley
4 bay leaves, plus extra to garnish
250ml full cream milk
3 large eggs
50g sultanas

Preheat your oven to 180˚ Celcius . Heat the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions until soft. Then set them aside. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and fry the beef and pork without any oil, until golden brown. Remove from the heat and add the onions together with all the other ingredients except the milk and eggs. Mix well and put into a largish ovenproof dish. Using the back of a spoon, spread the mince out evenly in the bottom of your baking dish, and then press down firmly. Whisk the eggs and milk together and pour over the mince. Grill until the egg custard sets and is nicely browned and cooked. Serve hot or cold with loads of blatjang and a green salad but traditionally, it’s eaten with yellow rice. Check out below.

Springbok Neck Potjie with Dumplings (and a doughboy)

Springbok Neck Potjie with Dumplings (and a doughboy)

There is something macabre about eating your National Symbol but the wild game flavour is worth it. If you can’t get springbok, or game is not your cup of tea, you can always replace with lamb neck and if you don’t have a potjie pot (a.k.a a Dutch oven), you can use a heavy pot with a good tight fitting lid.

Generally, Potjie is cooked in the great outdoors over a slow fire, but in Winter I cook inside next to my fireplace. Potjie pots aren’t fussy pots, so you can even use charcoal. Once the pot is heated up, and because the pot is made from cast iron, it generally needs just the occasional log or coal to keep it on the go. Generally, cooking on a potjie pot is slow cooking – when you’re totally familiar with your pot – you’ll begin to recognise that the potjie pot whisper is a sure sign of good food on the way.

1.5 kg springbok neck cut into sections
enough cake flour to dust the springbok
good dollop of olive oil
1 onion roughly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
sprig of fresh rosemary
250ml (1 cup) good red wine (warmed up)
250ml (1 cup) meat stock (warm)
2 leeks cut into thin rounds
2 carrots cut into rounds
half a butternut cut into chunks

Coat the springbok in flour and brown in the oil in the bottom of your potjie pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add salt, black pepper, rosemary and to the meat, garlic and onions, give it a good stir, then put on the lid and simmer on gentle heat for 2 ½ to 3 hours until the meat is tender. This is very important: the dish must simmer (I call it the potjie pot whisper). If you boil the meat rapidly, chances are the meat will turn tough and taste like leather so please… gentle heat. Next, layer the leeks, carrots and butternut on the meat (don’t stir) and cook for a further 20 minutes. Now make the dumplings (and the doughboy).

To make the Dumplings (and the doughboy)

100 grams of butter
500 grams cake flour
2 t baking powder
grated pecorino cheese
1 t salt
about a cup of cold water

Sift the baking powder, salt and flour together. Add pecorino cheese, then rub in the butter with your finger tips, then gradually add cold water until you have soft dough. Break off small pieces of dough (about half the size of an egg) and place in the pot in the gravy. To make the doughboy, roll out a piece of dough and cut out a ginger bread man and place in the pot. Put the lid on and cook for a further 20 minutes. Ps. don’t peak or the dumplings will flop.

Serve with a good glass of red wine.

In case you didn’t know. The potjie pot is the most widely used pot in Africa. Introduced more than 200 years ago by the Dutch, it has become a pillar of African cuisine and is used to make everything from stews to bread to Umqombuthu (African beer). I have a collection of pots in various sizes although the biggest does the most duty because generally, potjie pot food is slow food and best shared with good friends.

If you can’t cook on a fire, you can use a stove on low heat, but it’s not the most energy efficient way of cooking (and just won’t taste the same).

Roosterkoek (bread)


This is a traditional recipe for bread that you can make on a fire in the great outdoors. Doing it at home? At a push you can use the oven grill – but roosterkoek made on a fire tastes best.

¾ teaspoon sugar
100ml’s lukewarm water
10ml dried yeast
400grams flour
¾ teaspoon salt
60 grams butter
2 eggs
sunflower oil

First up, you have to activate the yeast, do this by mixing the sugar, yeast and warm water together, then sprinkle a tablespoon of flour on top (this prevents the yeast mixture from getting a dry crust) and leave in a warm spot for 10 minutes or until frothy. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the salt and using your finger-tips, rub in the butter. Next, beat the eggs lightly with a fork and add to the yeast mixture. Make a hollow in the dough, pour in the yeast / egg mixture and knead it well until you have a soft, pliable dough. Brush the dough with sunflower oil, place in big bowl, cover in cling wrap or a damp tea towel, and let it rise in a warm spot for about 40 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. Then, knead the dough one more time (called knocking it down), and then you’re ready for the interesting part:

Break off a fist sized ball of dough, flatten it with the palm of your hand. Put a dollop of strawberry jam (or chocolate or or or) into the centre of the dough, and fold over. Press the edges down firmly and leave for about 15 minutes in a warm spot until it virtually doubles in size. Then roast on a grid over coals on a medium heat until the roosterkoek are brown on both sides and cooked inside. Lekker with real coffee.

TIP: If you’re camping, place dough around a stick and cook over the coals. When it’s ready, remove the stick and fill the hole with jam and butter. Serve with Moer Koffie.

Tarzan Lamb Roast-by popular demand!!

Tarzan Roast

This is no ordinary roast, in fact the name is slightly deceiving as you rely on smoke and radiated heat as opposed to the all encompassing heat of an oven..

You’ll need

A fatty leg of lamb (with the shank intact – very NB)
Sprigs of Rosemary
Couple of whole chillies (as hot as you can handle)
10-15 cloves of garlic, peeled, and cut in half
3-4 bunches of spring onions
¼ cup oyster sauce
A handful of dried Oregano
juice of 2 or 3 lemons
juice of 1 orange
2 onions, sliced
a baking tray
about half a meter of galvanised wire
2-3 meters of rope
a forked stick
basting brush
Small stool
1 x Wheelbarrow.

Lay the leg of lamb on it’s side in the baking tray, and using a small sharp knife, cut slits 3-5cm deep at a 45º angle all over the lamb (Imagine holding the leg of lamb by the shank and stabbing the meat like a psycho movie). Force rosemary sprigs, garlic and chilli slivers into the slits, then, dip the spring onions in the oyster sauce and force them in as well.

Next, mix the Oregano, balance of the oyster sauce, the onions and the juice from the lemons and orange, and pour all over the leg of lamb.

Ready to Cook

This amazing way of cooking a haunch of meat is just sublime, but takes hours. First, slip the wire thru the shank, twist it so there’s no chance of the meat falling into the fire and attach the wire to the rope with a slip knot and hang from the tree. Hang the lamb away from being directly above the coals and downwind so it catches all the smoke. Place a drip tray below the lamb to catch all the fatty juices which you can use to re-baste and keep it moist. You will need to turn the lamb frequently to cook evenly. Invariably, by the time it’s ready, you and your mates will be ravenous (and probably a little wobbly), but it’s worth it.

After 4 odd hours, poke a skewer into the meat at its thickest section to see if it’s done. If the juice that oozes out is red, the meat is still raw and needs more cooking time, pink and the meat is perfectly medium rare. When it is cooked raise the roast above the heat and let it rest for ten minutes.

I normally carve the meat with the wire still attached – that way, if it’s a bit too rare closer to the bone, you can just drop the roast and cook it for a bit longer.

Spaghetti and Meatyballs

The Best Spaghetti and Baked Meatballs ever!


  • 500 grams of lean beef mince
  • 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • handful of basil leaves roughly chopped
  • handful of grated parmesan
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chuck all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly by hand – then, using your hands, make smalls balls with a diameter of about 2.5 – 3cm’s. Place these balls on a baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180° Celsius for 10 minutes. The idea here is that the meatballs must be slightly undercooked because the balance of the cooking will take place when you add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and you don’t want to end up with dry tasteless balls, but rather juicy tender taste bombs. Like a decent steak, rather rare than well-done.

Homemade Tomato Sauce:

You’ll need:

  • 2 garlic cloves – peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion – with the skin off, cut into thin slices
  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • knob of butter
  • 2 anchovy fillets (they’re expensive but critical and a jar can last for months in the fridge)
  • 4 vine-ripened plum tomatoes, washed, roughly chopped up, skin and all
  • 1 x tin whole peeled tomato’s

In a saucepan, fry the garlic and onion in the olive oil and butter until the onions are translucent. Add the fresh and canned tomatoes. Using your fingers, break up the anchovies into the pan. Let this cook for about half an hour on low heat (it must simmer not boil) until the fresh tomatoes have disintegrated into the sauce. NB - give the sauce the odd occasional stir and break up any whole pieces of tomatoes with your wooden spoon.

While the sauce is cooking up, make the pasta.

Homemade Pasta:

This isn’t rocket science but the taste of fresh pasta is well worth the effort and once you’ve tasted it, there’s no going back.

  • 1 egg (free range and organic)
  • 1 cup of cake flour

Place the flour onto a flat clean surface and make a well in the centre (think of a volcano). Break the egg into the centre and using your fingers, gently mix the egg into the flour. Once the egg has been absorbed into the flour, knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water, too wet, sprinkle with flour. It should have a rich golden colour and the texture of play dough. Wrap the dough in some cling wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Now would be a great time to check on your sauce. Taste it first – you might want to add another anchovy fillet, but that’s entirely up to you.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface to keep the dough from sticking. Using your hands, make a small ball from the dough. Flatten it out using a rolling pin or wine bottle. Working slowly, keep rolling the pasta out until you have a thin even sheet of pasta that’s almost translucent. As thin as you can gents because when you finally cook the pasta it will double in thickness. Once you’ve rolled out the pasta sheet, cut the pasta into thin strips about half a centimetre wide and hang over the back of a chair to dry a bit.

Cook the pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water. Since it’s fresh, it will cook in about three minutes. This is very important: Fresh Pasta has way less gluten than commercial dry pasta, so it’ll become soggy and soft if you overcook - so watch like a hawk and check often.

To Serve:

Drop all of your meatballs into the tomato sauce, stir gently, and simmer for 5 minutes. Then, cover the pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs. Smother in grated Parmesan cheese and a twist or two of black pepper and serve with a green salad on the side.

PS: with Pasta, the idea is that the pasta is really just a vehicle to coat with cool flavours.

26 January 2009

The Marula Tree

I’ve always had respect for a tree that produces useful fruit. The marula tree is part of the mango family and best of all it grows wild in the northern parts of Southern Africa. The sweet, yellow fruit is used for jam - which is good, but it’s also turned into homemade wine and beer - which the people who make it say is better. Then of course there’s the commercially produced, lekker sweet Amarula liqueur that rocks on ice, and gives the skop to this recipe.

Is it any wonder that the local people believe that this fruit is sacred? They eat it to improve fertility and used it in a cleansing ritual before marriage, but most importantly they warn that to drink unfermented marula juice offends the spirits and is regarded as sacrilege. So to be on the safe side I’m sticking to the liqueur, even with breakfast.

After all there is no wiser beast than an elephant and for centuries there have been tales of how they “gently warm their brains” by eating the rotten fruit. The fact that academics are now disputing this should surely be treated with a pinch of salt. I only hope that the elephants take absolutely no notice of these ridiculous observations and continue to revel in the effects of the fermented fruit – I know I will.

Amarula and chocolate crème brulee:

You’ll need
8 egg yolks
1 cup white sugar
2 cups cream
1 vanilla pod
2 tots of Amarula
3-4 tablespoons of good quality dark chocolate - grated
Extra sugar for the caramelised tops

Preheat oven to 150º C. Put cream and vanilla pods in a pot and heat through but remove before it boils and put to one side. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Then slowly blend in one cup of the warm cream vanilla mixture while whisking. Then take this mixture and add it to the rest of the hot cream and whisk well. Now here comes the tricky part – split the mixture into two separate bowls. Mix the chocolate into the one and the Amarula liqueur in to the other. Now find a handy mate to help you fill the ramekins. You each take the same size ladle and from either side, simultaneously drizzle equal quantities of the two mixtures into the ramekins – and voila! A two-tone cup of custard!

Place these in a water bath (large pan filled with 3 -6 centimetres of hot water) and bake until set around the edges, but still soft in the centre, between 30 and 60 minutes. Take out of oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove ramekins from water and chill for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard and using a small blowtorch heat sugar until it caramelises. If you don't have a torch, place the ramekins under the grill until the sugar melts and then re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving. Very simple, very impressive and its smooth and just plain yummy!

PS. Use the egg whites to make meringues.

Slow Baked Warthog With Roasted Veg

You’ll need:

1 papaya - blend - skin, seeds and fruit
500ml Bulgarian yoghurt
2 sprigs rosemary
Big pinch Maldon salt
Whole head of garlic
Good quality local olive oil
100g oxtail fat (fat = flavour)
Loin of Warthog
Small bag peeled cocktail onions
3-4 peeled red onions, sliced
5-6 beetroots, peeled and halved
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
250mls cream

Wack the loin of warthog into a large dish and pour over the mixture of yoghurt and blended whole papaya – leave it in the fridge overnight. Papayas are packed full of enzymes called papain, a protease which is useful for tenderising meat and that’s been used for thousands of years – this along with the cooking time is going to make the meat fall right off the bone.

Next day, rinse off the marinate under the tap and pat the meat dry. Chuck salt, whole garlic cloves, rosemary and olive oil into the pestle and mortar - crush into a runny paste and rub this all over the meat - be generous. Then throw lashings of olive oil and the ox-tail fat into a hot pan and seal the loin - fat side down. Add some of the cocktail onions and sliced red onions and sear until everything is nicely caramelised. Now put the loin into a deep baking tray, add the rest of the onions and the other veg. Pour over a bit more olive oil and put the tray into a pre-heated oven at 100-120º C and let it cook slooowly for four hours.

Once the meat is cooked, remove both the loin and the vegetables, leaving only the seared onions and the juice from the warthog in the baking tray. Put the tray on the hob and add the cream to make a simple but really lekker sauce. Carve the meat, plate the veggies and cover with rich creamy sauce and serve

Papayas or paw paws are best eaten when they’re just about fully yellow and slightly soft to the touch. They’re delicious just like that or cut up in fruit salad. Cooked they make good chutney and while still green can be boiled as a vegetable. Steam the young leaves and use as morogo or dry the seeds, crush and use instead of pepper like they do in India and Asia.

Warthogs are sometimes called the naked swine of the savannah because they’re pretty ugly – a bit like crocodile, hyenas, vulture and wildebeest. So if you haven’t already come across one maybe you should try their meat before you do, it tastes a whole lot better than they look.


Make bread dough using brown flour. Break off balls of dough roughly the size of your fist and roll out till they’re about .5cm thick – place Camembert in the centre of each and wack a dollop of cranberry and quince jelly on top of it. Now pull the sides of the dough up and over, to meet in the middle. Press together to close - creating cheesy pockets. Bake for 15 min at 180 C. Once they’re ready cut in two and serve immediately – each pocket is enough for two servings.

Chocolate Vodka

The story behind this potent drink is one that has its roots in a seedy Long Street joint, a place I spent many cold winter’s evenings in playing backgammon with mates. The bar served real deal flavoured vodkas – this one was my favourite and I used to drink copious amounts of it, but no matter how I pleaded the owners would never tell me how to make it.

Via a little trial and error, I figured it out. One massive warning: the combination of alcohol and sugar will rush straight to your brain, so please steer clear of operating any heavy machinery afterwards and of course don’t drive.

You'll need:

2 slabs of your favourite plain chocolate

Break the chocolate into pieces small enough to fit down the neck of the bottle - then whack it all down. Put the lid on tightly and immerse the bottle in a pot of warm water for about 10 minutes. As the water warms up and the vodka is heated it melts the chocolate and the two infuse. What you end up with is a lethal sweet-chocolatey-goodness that will warm even the coldest heart on a crisp African night. Serve as a shooter or pour over ice cream. If you’re really feeling adventurous, substitute the chocolate with other sweets from Smarties to Jelly-babies. But if you are using chocolate make sure its plain i.e. no wafers or nuts etc. – these just ends up a soggy mess.