Blommetjies & Braais

August 12th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

We had a day of winter last week so I bought a bag of waterblommetjies at the Spar. It felt like bredie time. And with such an oldskool dish I consulted my newly acquired C. Louis Liepoldt cookbook Kos vir die kenner, a book with over 1000 recipes that proves that at least one Afrikaner knew what mirepoix was in the 1930’s. Afrikaners, nay all white folk, may have benefited from Apartheid economically but culturally, it dumbed us down something awful. Like rocks on an island.

Savvy as Leipoldt was, cousin J warned that his book had to be taken with a pinch of salt. ‘Some of his combos are dreadful.’ Waterblommetjiebredie is a dish best prepared with restraint. Don’t innovate or deviate. It’s just blommetjies, lamb, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Maybe potato. She’s the queen bee of bredies. Leipoldt provides a few options and recommended the addition of anchovy, which I fell for. He advocates the use of suurings – those soft little wild stems with pink flowers that we used to eat as kids, before toxic sourworms hit the scene – to add zing to the stew. It rained cats and dogs so instead of picking suurings, I zested a lemon and added a bit of juice later.

But the blommetjies… Leipoldt wouldn’t have touched the gnarly old Spar blommetjies. My buds looked like cold-chain cadavers but at least they were picked early enough (pre-bloom). Soak them in vinegar water, rinse under a fast-flowing tap, top and tail the gnawed, tough bits and they should do.


Cap Classique

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Poppin my pork belly cherry

May 18th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

These days, pork belly is on every fine dining menu. Almost without fail. Mostly infused with Asian flavour and preferably with crisp crackling. I’ve been less than impressed with some of the offerings, either due to blubbery skin or dried-out meat. Which left the impression that pork belly was somehow difficult to prepare. Fear set in. Could little old me do this, at home? So when I bought half a pork belly from Joostenberg Deli, the occasion demanded that rarest of rare kitchen vixen occurrences: a recipe!

By process of elimination (time & ingredient availability) I decided on Marcus Wareing’s Blackened chili belly of pork on page 106 of Nutmeg & Custard.

Left: the end. Right: the means

It is a basic recipe that I was determined to follow to the letter. If anyone, Marcus could take the blame. The only exceptional instruction was to rub the skin with salt and let stand for two hours. Why? He didn’t say but salt always draws moisture so that might have something to do with it (I’m just following orders here, right). Finely chop and mix together the following: salt, red chillies, soy sauce, a really big knob of ginger, demerara sugar, cloves garlic and maple syrup. My Eerste Kookboek couldn’t be simpler. Rinse the pork, pat dry and coat with the soy mixture.

Not to be mistaken for a festive ham

I must admit, I had two people coming for dinner (one of them my rather hard to please cousin) and things just weren’t going my way. I slashed the tip off my ring finger whilst chopping. I know! The bloody ring finger – what’s the knife doing over there in the first place? Waaay off course… Plus I have a rather basic gas stove sans grill. Under 180 degrees you have to guess the temperature by the size of a little blue flame down below… so I free-styled the belly at a random low temperature for two and a half hours.

I needed an easy side so decided on sweet potato mash with spring onions. A brief boil, then mashed with a dash of coconut milk, a hand full of spring onions and a pinch of salt. And butter, of course. It is mash after all. What a lovely, clean-tasting dish. Perfect with an Asian-style meat main. I had fancy ideas of carrot and courgette ribbons steamed and flashed in sesame oil, lime and coriander but after the detipping of the ring finger I didn’t have the nerve to use a mandolin so settled on courgettes, steamed and flashed with a few rosa tomatoes, lime, sesame oil and coriander.

In mash I trust

With the meat roasting away at a mystery temperature I started fretting, until cousin J reminded me that I had a meat thermometer (thanks Weber) and a quick google search revealed that pork is done at 71 degrees. The thick ginger and chili coating meant this belly was never going to crackle. I had to make do with the little grill in my microwave to blacken the pork and lo-and-behold, when I took it out cousin J said the magic words: ‘It looks exactly like the picture’. Waves of relief I tell you… and at 76 degrees it was perfectly done.

I deviated from the recipe only once – by adding half a bottle of cider – to keep the soy sauce from burning. Permissible, I’d say. Cousin J and Hermien loved it, with cousin even pronouncing the belly to be ‘a bloody marvelous piece of meat’. Although the skin wasn’t crisp, the blackened ginger and chili crust saved it from having that blubbery look, plus the flavour was amazing. It takes about three hours from start to plate (excluding time spent resting with salt) and provided you get going in time, there really isn’t much to it. Let the improvisation begin. Next, I’ll go the bay leaf and fennel seed route…