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The great South African streetfood collision : How Mrs Balls and Gandhi met by accident on a plate.

30 Dec

This week a friend of ours arrived from South Africa armed with two giant jars of Ms Balls Chutney. I was thrilled. It has been years since last I have had the distinct pleasure of Mrs Balls in the  kitchen.  I started thinking about how best Mrs Balls could be utilised. A  simple cheese and chutney sandwich ?  A Durban curry ?  A Bunny Chow ? How about a lekker bazaar vetkoek ‘n mince – better known in South Africa as a Curry Bunny?

Though I cannot think of anyone I know who would actually have the nerve to serve bunny chow or Vetkoek to even vaguely respectable house guests, I plucked up courage and decided this was exactly what was going onto our dinner table for Saturday night with the visitors. The gold-rimmed plates would be filled with giant vetkoek, stuffed with authentic Durban curry, instead of the pretentious wannabe spread of la cuisine française .

Splash of History
Though there are various accounts of the origins of the Bunny Chow, it is safe to say that it originates from the Durban area, around the time of the great depression, and it was a way to have a cheap meal served in an edible container. The word bunny chow comes from Bania, (an Indian Caste), and chow, slang for chinese food.

Click to find out how to bunny chow

The first place to commercially sell Bunny Chow was the G.C. Kapitan Vegetarian Restaurant which operated in Grey Street, Durban between 1912 and 1992. Whether the bunny was invented or simply perfected there , G.C. Kapitan’s beans bunny was famous and enjoyed by ordinary people and such luminaries as Indira Gandhi and I imagine every Reddy, Govender, Botha or Smith that happened to frequent that part of town. Nowadays bunny chows have not really shaken off its peasant image, though, like pap en wors, you may well encounter it cellophane wrapped at the local supermarket, next to the foil encased pies and ready for the micro pasta dishes.

As  for Curry Bunnies, you will find these at the most greasy food counter anywhere near a train station, downtown cafe or, most curiously,  Afrikaner Church bazaar  or school fete.

Vetkoek (pronounced FET-cook) is a traditional Afrikaner ‘pastry’. It is dough deep-fried in cooking oil and either filled with cooked mince (ground beef) or spread with syrup, honey, or jam.

So the Saturday mealplan  started coming together :  Real labourer’s food eaten by really broke men (I have to confess Ive never seen a woman – rich or poor, and a bunny chow at the same table.) . Somehow our Saturday Spread would not be unlike sitting next to a chiseled farm laborer breaking for lunch after felling 12 foot high cane on a Kwazulu sugar plantation, tearing with his bare dirty hands at the crisp crust of  a fresh white bread . The bread casing is supposed to serve the same purpose as a lunchbox container and in the absence of eating utensils, theoretically this is the perfect green meal. Nothing to wash, recycle or throw away.

The curry took about 90 minutes, and in the absence of square government loaf, I compromised the bread encasement by using vetkoek. Soon enough everyone was happily tearing through the whole dripping  affair making happy eating noises.  Though I did not bother with the silverware, the gold rimmed fine bone china was definitely not going to be spared, so I forced everyone to eat from plates – Authentic green, containerless spicy peasant food is one thing,  scrubbing yellow curry stains from an egg colored  Damask tablecloth bought from a souk in Syria, quite another.

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Durban Curry (Serves 4, twice!)

(Adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 loaf bread, white, fresh, unsliced, flat-topped

Whole spices

  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 onions roughly chopped

Fine spices

  • 3 tablespoons curry powder or marsala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper / ground dried chilli powder (more if you want it hot)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

The meat

  • 3 tomatoes, medium, chopped
  • 1 kg meat – mutton / beef / chicken (mutton is usually used for a bunny chow )
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped ginger
  • 3 potatoes, large, in cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • a handful of peas or green beans, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons Ms Balls Chutney or any chutney (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce.
  • cilantro (optional)

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Directions:

Before starting, dry the meat with a kitchen towel and brown in a tablespoon or two vegetable oil. Set Aside

  1. Fry all the ingredients listed under “Whole Spices” until the onion becomes transparent.
2  Add the list called “Fine Spices”. ” Stir and fry until the spices stick to the bottom of the pot.
3  Now add the tomatoes, and stir until everything sticking to the pot bottom comes loose.
4  Add the meat, ginger, garlic.
5 Simmer for 45 mins- 1 hour, or until the meat is almost tender. (If you are using chicken skip this step)
6 add a little water, the veggies, potato cubes tomato sauce and peanut butter. (if using, add chicken) Simmer at least another 20 minutes or until meat is very tender. (add water if things start looking dry)
7 When the meat is tender,  add some chopped cilantro (dania/corriander leaves) stir through. You could also add a teaspoon of minced garlic, just before serving, this really brings out the flavor.
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Condiments (Sambal):
Use small bowls filled with a variety of the following sambals : Chopped banana or mango, chutney, raisins, chopped cilantro/coriander, / chopped tomato and onion in a vinegar-sugar dressing (use 2 teaspoons sugar for every 2 tablespoons vinegar), dried coconut.
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 Making it into a Bunny Chow :
Using a very fresh loaf  of white bread, you could cut the bread across into two, three or four even chunks, depending on how hungry the eaters will be.
Whatever you decide, with a sharp knife cut out most of the soft white bread, leaving a thick wall and bottom. Keep the bread you removed.
Ladle the curry into the hollows, and then put back on top the bread you removed. You could use this bread to help eat the curry, as “this is ALWAYS eaten with the hands”.
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Making it into a Curry Bunny
Using ready made dough (bread) from the supermarket, flour your hands, tear off a chunk slightly bigger than a golfball and roll between your hands. Flatten into a disk, flour the disk well, and lay on a well floured tray. Once the dough is all used up, place the tray with the disks in a dry warm place (I use the oven.) to leaven for at least an hour. (the dough should double in size)
Heat up about a litre of cooking oil in a large pot (there should be enough oil for the disks to float freely). The oil should be fairly hot – test it by throwing in a pinched piece of dough. It should immediately bubble when it hits the oil. Using a spatula carefully lift the leavened rolls from the tray and gently lower into the hot oil. You need to be quite careful, as you do not want the rolls to deflate when getting them off the tray.  Fry for about a minute, or until the bottom turns a deep brown. Turn over and do the same on the other side. Remove to a mesh or drain on kitchen towels. Let the vetkoek rest for at least 5 mins before serving.
To serve, cut the vetkoek in half, but stop somewhere in the middle to make a pocket. Make space at the bottom of the vetkoek, and fill with the curry and various helpings of the sambalfor extra taste.
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Something to drink please…
Though you can serve this with whatever drink you like, I got to say it goes extremely well with a ice cold sweet, but not too sweet, iced mint tea. Alternatively, tea, made the indian or english way, served strong and hot, with a cloud or two of milk.
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Malva Pudding – South African Serendipity

9 Jan

Image courtesy WikiMedia

For the uninitiated the word pudding in this context refers to any dessert served after a main course. The word can also refer to something savory, like a Black- or Yorkshire pudding.  There are also an array of puddings originating from the Commonwealth which refers to  a hot, sweet, cake -like dessert, often served with a hot sauce. The most well known is probably Chrismas Pudding – a hot dessert which has its origins in Medieval England and is made from 13 ingredients representing Christ and the 12 apostles.

Malva pudding is a baked pudding in the South African tradition. Along with Brandy Pudding, Jan Ellis pudding and a flurry of other hot puddings, the cake batter is baked in the oven, a sauce is made seperately, and then poured over the pudding once it comes out of the oven.  As is the case with many traditional Afrikaans puddings, apricot jam is added to the batter, which gives the final product a soft, velvety texture.

The name Malva, is a bit of a mystery. Some say that it has a literal reference to Malva which means marshmallow in Afrikaans, and is thought to refer to the soft and spungy  texture. Colin Cowie, a hospitality expert from South Africa has suggested that the pudding was named after a woman by the same name. However, the most likely explanation is that the  pudding’s name was derived from Malvacea wine from Madeira. This makes most sense, as this dessert and dessert wine used to be served together after a main course at Cape tables during the 17 th century.

There are different variations of Malva Pudding – traditionally it contains apricot jam, and occasionally ginger. Some recipes call for hot water, others for sherry or orange juice.  This Malva pudding is unique in that it uses apricot, orange juice, and then, to add depth Orange Liqueur or Cointreau, which gives the pudding substantial depth and taste.   Though it can be served with Creme Anglaise (or any custard), creme or ice cream,  it is absolutely outstanding on its own.  The addition of Cointreau is my own, but without it, its still excellent. With it – its just heavenly.

Malva Pudding

Cake (Pudding):

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup milk at room temperature

Sauce:

  • 1 cup whipping cream (not whipped)
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter (3/4 of a cup)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup of Cointreau / Orange Liqueur

Directions:

1 Beat the egg and sugar well in a mixer.
2. Add the jam, sift flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.
3. Melt the butter add the vinegar and milk.
4. Add liquids to egg mixture alternately with the flour.
5. Beat well and bake in a COVERED  at 350F/180 C for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Use foil to cover the dish)
It is important to use a covered dish otherwise the sauce won’t soak into cake.

For the sauce:

Whilst the pudding is baking, make the sauce . Its a good idea to finish the sauce just as the pudding comes out of the oven, as its best poured over when both the pudding and sauce are both still hot.

1) Melt together all the ingredients for the sauce except the Cointreau, and bring to boil. Remove from the heat and add the Contreau.

2) When the pudding comes out of the oven, puncure holes all over the surface using a fork, to make it easier for the pudding to absorb the hot sauce.

3) When the pudding comes out of the oven, pour the sauce slowley over the top of the pudding, making sure as much sauce as possible is absorbed by the pudding, particularly the buldging middle

4) The pudding is meant to be swimming in sauce. However, you could pour over half the sauce, then reserve the rest in a sauceboat and serve seperately.

5) The pudding keeps for at least 5 days in the refrigerator. To reheat. place  each portion for about 20 seconds in the microwave, then let it stand for 30 seconds for the heat to even, before serving.

 

 

Challah on a Christian Sabbath

12 Sep

click to enlarge

I have been meaning to make the Jewish sweetbread Challah for some time now.  This afternoon I was making a country tomato and bean soup, and thought it would be perfect served with a sweetbread. Though it sounds like an odd combination – a french bean soup with a Jewish sweetbread – it worked very nicely.

Here is the recipe…

This makes 2 big loaves. You can half the recipe if you only want to bake one. Or bake both and give it to your favorite Muslim friend in the interest of world peace…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter / margarine
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 7 cups bread flour, divided – though it may need as many as 8 or nine, depending on the flour – you can also use all purpose
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast – thats 7 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine water, butter and oil. Heat until butter is melted and very warm, but not boiling.
  2. Reserve half a cup of the liquid in a separate small bowl for proofing the yeast. Measure out the white sugar , then steal a teaspoon of this and add to the reserved liquid, together with the yeast  and let it bubble – around 5 – 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups flour, the remaining white sugar, brown sugar, and salt. Add water and margarine mixture; beat well. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If you find the dough is too runny, simply add more flour. You can add up to 3 cups without having to get paranoid or nervous.
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Keep in mind there is a lot of yeast in this dough… it will walk off the table if you are not careful…
  5. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into six equal pieces and form into long ‘ropes’. Braid the pieces together to form two large loaves. Place the loaves on two lightly greased cookie sheets, cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  7. Brush the risen loaves with the beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Watch carefully after 30 minutes, and take out if it gets too dark.

NOTE : I have a fairly small convection oven – slightly bigger than a microwave. So the second loaf had  to wait a further hour whilst the first was baking. Here is what I discovered. The second loaf was lighter, softer and far superior to the first. So if you dont mind the extra hour – let the dough raise when its out of the mixer and kneeded, after an hour punch it down and let it rise again for another hour. Then make the braids, let it rise for the final hour, before baking. It will make a suuuper bread, and you will most definately not be sorry. Besides – all the work is done in the beginning – its not like you are sitting there watching it rise for the full 4 hours!

Here is how you braid the 6 ropes – its really not rocket science…

Karringmelk beskuit / Buttermilk rusks – no fuss and no mess…

7 Aug

I have never made Rusks.  Drying something overnight in an oven? All that ungreen energy and what if you wake up with the entire kitchen smouldering? Sounds like far too much trouble to be worth the effort. Besides, from experience I know that only expert bakers make rusks. People like grannies, who over the years have perfected their baking repertoire, culminating in their crowning achievement : batches of rusks sent in antique caketins to a grandchild who will not be able to survive university, that camping trip, or 6 months in London, without them…

Truth is, though it takes a few hours, the effort is minimal. You mix up a batch in 15 minutes and even though the drying takes time, who the hell sits next to an oven for 2 hours watching rusks dry ?

So I managed to snatch up the last bottle of Buttermilk in Bangkok, and searched for a recipe that was straight forward and simple. Nothing fancy. The recipe below is really forgiving and delivers excellent buttermilk rusks without any fuss…   Anyone can make them and you don’t have to be an expert at baking. On the contrary…

Ingredients

6 cups of flour (you can use any flour – I use 3 cups all purpose and 3 cups breadflour, it makes it crunchy and slightly dense)
250 grams margarine , or if you prefer, butter
2 beaten eggs
6 heaped teaspoons baking powder
about 2 cups of buttermilk
1 cup sugar (no it will not be too sweet)
pinch or two of salt

Method:

  • Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and blend for about a minute.
  • Add the butter/margarine bit by bit, rubbing it with your fingertips until the batch resembles fine crumbs.
  • Add the beaten eggs. Mix a little until the egg has blended with the crumb mix, then stop.  Add the buttermilk, 1/2 cup at a time ,whilst mixing with the mixer at medium speed. I take it you are using the dough hook. You can of course do this using a wooden spoon.
  • After about the second 1/2 cup, take the mixing bowl off the stand and kneed a little,  add more buttermilk, little at a time if the mixture is too dry. Depending on the flour, it may take another 1/2 cup to 1 cup. You will know that you have the correct dough if the texture is soft, smooth and silky. Very similar to a high fat-content cookie dough. Dont overknead, its never a good thing. The moment its soft /shiney /silky, stop. (If you find you have added too much buttermilk – and the mix has become too wet – add flour, handfuls if you have to,… don’t fret – this is a forgiving recipe) Have a look at this website if you are in any doubt as to what the dough should look like.
  • Grease 2 breadpans.
  • Roll the dough into balls – slightly bigger than a golfball, and pack into the pans – Typically you will get 6-8 to a pan. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to about 165’C – or if your oven is electronic, and the temperature setting does not allow for 5’C increments, use 160’C and bake 5-10 mins longer.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for an hour .
  • Take out the pans, cut the rusks  ( I find cutting between the raised tops and then halving a each row of the tops once, produces a nice sized rusk.
  • Turn the oven down to 120’C
  • Cover a flat baking tray with aluminum foil – shiny side on top.
  • Empty the pans and distribute the sliced rusks evenly onto the foil. Its okay to layer them – but be sure you do it in such a way that you allow for enough warm air for the layer at the bottom to dry.
  • Put into the warm 120’C oven for about 2 – 2  1/2 hours. At this time, its totally fine if you move the rusks around from time to time, if you see  some of them colouring faster than others. Remember even temperature across the inside of an oven is rare.
  • You will know they are dried out when they have coloured a light brown, and are dry to the core.
  • Take out and cool completely – pack into a caketin with blotting paper – this will keep them fresh longer.
  • Send them to grannie.

Dunked in a mug of coffee, its a corner of South Africa being undone in your mouth!

anel

A deeper desire – pining for the perfect pie…

2 Aug

Over the years I have longed to find the perfect pie, alla Ramona, and here in the East, with pies not tasting anything like they are supposed to, my craving for a decent pie has turned into something moving in the direction of desperation.

We have something here in Thailand called Puff and Pie, but despite the promise in their name, their pastries are neither puffed, nor are they worthy of being called a pie.

Many years ago I read a short story called ‘Dieper Dors’ (a Deeper Thirst). It dealt with a woman who was stuck on a farm in the arid Karoo, and all she wanted was to return to the excitement of the big city. This desire had become an unquenchable thirst, where the sweltering daily heat and the sound of the passing cars on the distant motorway, were a constant reminder of her unfulfilled emotional thirst.

So Ramona Bakery is my Dieper Dors, my very own pie in the sky.  Over the last few days I had the need to get something which would qualify as an actual pie into my system, so I decided the only solution would be to make a batch myself.  Select and prepare an appropriate filling, crack some eggs, cube the butter for the puff pastry, the works.

But I did not just want any old thrown together cafe pie.  I wanted to make a pie which someone would have had the courtesy of bringing to a Biduur, or perhaps, as a thoughtful afterthought to a grieving widow, would leave her with a plate of these after all had left her husbands funeral… she would have the bittersweet comfort of being able to delay having to cook for her widowed-self for the first time, thanks to the plate of homemade pies she was now holding in her hand. I longed for a culinary experience that reminded one of wildsvleis en bokskiet, one which would connect with such primitive desires, it could bring about a culinary catharsis by ultimately allowing one the luxury of having a meaningful cry about the untold shortcomings of this imperfect world.

Ok, wait –  this is really taking it a bit far… I mean this is real life, and this me and my imperfect baking record we are dealing with, not a scene from Like Water for Chocolate.

So, toned town, I would be quite pleased if I could manage to produce a litter of pies which would not be out of place in a dining room somewhere in the Karoo. There they wait in all their plated glory, under faded recoloured photographs of an austere dead relative, staring out at them from above a heavy oak dining table. Yah, a beautiful plate of pies somewhere in the inner confines of a dusty farm, situated on a windswept African plain, miles away from a shop that sold Rennies. Yes, this is a far more delicious fantasy, and one within the boundaries of my actual baking abilities.

So I went about the next few days planning how I would construct my object of deep desire.  I wanted a taste which would remind me of  boerewors or biltong, or something which would make me think of  wildspastei, in short an experience  which would quantum leap over my rather safe definition of what I considered to be comfort food.

The crust had to be somewhere between pastry and tart, the way that they would make it on a farm. So a sophisticated flakey pastry alla Ramona was absolutely out of the question. The filling would need to be very there and very plaas.  Quite salty. something slightly sour, perhaps malt vinegar, the undeniable presence of copious amounts of dried coriander,  some spices which were hinted at – maybe just the slightest suggestion of nutmeg or a whisper of cloves.

This is what I came up with…

Kamma Wildsvleis Begrafnis pies / Widow’s Sausage Rolls

Filling

750g ground beef

450g pork mince or a packet of fatty beacon, ok make that two…

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 level teaspoon nutmeg

A splash of cinnamon

A decent pinch of ground cloves.

About a Teaspoon of salt

About a  teaspoon of pepper depending on how you prefer it.

1/2 cup of malt (brown) vinegar

2 slices of white bread, crumbed

Two eggs

Oil for browning

Except for the breadcrumbs and eggs – mix the whole lot using the dough hook on your mixer for about a minute. or in the absence of one, your hands. Careful not to over mix, especially if the meat is near room temp. Put in the fridge to marinade for a half hour

Once done, test-fry a small piece in a little oil to make sure you are satisfied with the taste. Add whatever you feel it may lack. If its over seasoned, you can add another egg or slice of bread. Or a bit of frozen mixed veggies. ( though introducing anything healthy like a vegetable, you’d be straying from what would be a boere funeral pie, so consider making the pies for a different charitable cause. Now let me think… Veggies boiled in salt? quite English – the local church Anglican church fete, perhaps? )

Having mixed up the batch, I realise that there would soon be a choice to be made regarding the cooking methodology.  A critical decision, which would bring about two very different end results: 1) I could either mix in the crumbs and egg, put the raw mix in the fridge, then shape the pies using the raw meat and dough, and bake it in the oven till done. Or  2) I could cook the meat a little, then let it cool, mix in the crumbs and beaten egg, shape the filling fold the pastry.

Knowing that Afrikaner boeretannies would fear all kinds of unspeakable disease from half cooked meat, I decide that the woman who would be cooking for her widowed best friend’s freshly departed husband’s Karoo funeral, would definitely make sure the meat would be done when the pies eventually get out of the oven. This approach is admittedly a little risky, cause the meat can easily end up becoming overcooked and dry.

In the end I went on the hunch that she would probably risk a dry pie, over having her pastries be the cause of another funeral.

Here is how I prepared the filling…

Preparing the Filling

Heat up a thin film of sunflower oil until sizzling hot in a heavy base frying pan. Add the mix bit by bit, frying it in two or three batches. This is fairly important, as you want to brown the meat – not end up with a pale and watery mince concoction, which is exactly what you would get if you add all the meat at once into the sizzling pan. Once browned, set aside to cool..

Now the pastry dough.

If you have any doubt about making pastry, then don’t. It is a very risky affair, which, considering the time, and expense, will most likely not be worth the disappointment. They make ready puff pastry for a very good reason: making perfect puff pastry in your own kitchen is quite possible if you are nearing your sixties, belong to  a biduur group and have won at least one award for previous pastries at the annual fair.

So run out and get two packs, but don’t admit to anyone what you are about to do – -only when pressed, admit to everyone what hell it was to get the pastry this perfect. (they don’t have to know you mean cutting the corners of each sausage roll at a perfect 90’ angle)

I, however do not have the luxury of dashing to a supermarket stocked with much in the line of anything western, so I am faced with the prospect of having to actually make this dough. Getting ready-to-use puff pastry at a supermarket in a dead average Thai suburb is as much a fantasy as pretending I am cooking in a plaaskombuis in the Karoo. The only baking Thais do, is in their cars in the traffic, and puff pastry can be found, baked to near perfection, in quant shops located just off the foyers of luxury hotels, carefully quaffed and coiffured by chefs who’s parents have spent a fortune to allow them to produce pastries that look and taste like a lost Picasso.

Whatever I would be using to make the outer layer of the pie, would have to be something I made myself.

Puff Pastry. My kitchen nemesis.  The holy grail of baking. I have heard so many people talk about how difficult it is to get right. Everything should be cold. the almost frozen butter, the ice water, the cooled flour, the chilled fingers.  The picture which was emerging for the perfect pastry dough was clearly that it should preferably be prepared on a marble slab in a walk-in deepfreeze.

I’m stuck in the tropics. My kitchen is around 32’C on any given day, and dips just below 40 if I decide to boil the kettle.

Making Pastry in my kitchen is thus out of the question.  The coolest place is the lounge. If I run the ancient aircon for an hour I can get it to about 28C. I could cut the butter in sessions, store it, bit by bit in the minute freezing compartment of the lounge bar fridge. Sounds like a workable plan.

I switch on the aircon, pack up half my kitchen and move into the lounge.

I follow this failproof recipe carefully:

Kittencall’s Fail-proof flaky puff pastry.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups pastry cake flour (or use 3 cups all purpose)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter, very cold consider freezing it for a few hours

1/4 cup lard, very cold (you can also use shortening / Crisco

1 egg yolk

7 tablespoons ice water

1 teaspoon vinegar

Directions

Mix both flours, and salt in a large bowl.

With a pastry cutter (or knife) cut in the very cold butter and lard until the consistency of tiny peas. (tiny peas? im using a knife not a miniature ice cream scoop – little cubes will have to do)

In a small bowl whisk the egg yolk, vinegar and water.

Stir the egg/water mixture into the flour mixture until moistened and dough holds together (usually it takes the full amount of water/egg mixture).

Gather into a ball then divide into two.

Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 30 minutes (or the dough may be frozen after the 30 minutes chilling time, just wrap firstly in plastic wrap and then tightly in foil, leave in fridge overnight to defrost).

PROCESSOR METHOD: whirl the flour and salt for a couple of seconds.

In a small bowl mix the egg, vinegar and water together; set aside.

Add in the partially frozen butter cubes and lard to the flour mixture; pulse until well mixed, then add in the water/egg mixture.

Process/pulse JUST until the dough holds together (do not over process, or your dough will be tough!).

If it holds together, collect your junior pastry chef certificate on your way out.

Wow, that actually worked. To my utter surprise, I have a very workable dough.  I finish off a double batch of the dough, cut it up into 4 equal bits and cool it for an hour.

In the meantime, I take the cooked and cooled meat mixture out of the fridge, add two beaten eggs and two handfulls of breadcrumbs, mix it well and put it back into the fridge. Back to the dough, I take a lump and cut it in two. One half goes back into the fridge with the others, the remaining one is rolled into a rectangle of about 15x25cm.  I spoon a rectangle of cooled meat onto the dough, roll it over with my fingers to shape it into an cylinder, then seal it with eggwash and transfer it carefully onto the  baking tray, covering each sausage roll with clingfilm to prevent the raw dough from drying.  Each sausage roll takes about 5-10 minutes to complete.

So is this what those bakers at Ramona had to do for each of the hundreds of pies they made every day, multiplied by the fifty years they were in production? This is a helluva lot of work for a measly sausage roll…  My adoration for Ramona has just deepened to a genuine desire to worship.

After about forty minutes I have 7 sausage rolls, each differing ever so slightly in shape and size.

Having never baked pastries, and being rather surprised that the failproof recipe did not include baking instructions, I resort to reason and experience to figure out the baking time and temperature. So I preheat the oven to 210’C and set the timer for 25 minutes.  My reasoning is that at the traditional180’C, they may take too long to cook, and this would most likely increase the risk of drying out the meat more than it needs. Increasing the heat by 30 degrees would allow a faster baking time and, in theory at least, reduce the time for the moisture in the meat to escape. At 25 minutes they should be golden brown, and if they are not, I can always leave them in a little longer until they are the desired colour.

I make an eggwash made up of one egg beaten with a half an eggshell of water. What the hell, if this ratio produces perfect scrambled egg and perfect omelet’s every time, it should produce a perfectly fine eggwash. I brush the wash liberally over the pastries before putting them into the oven.

My reasoning turns out to be well-argued . At 210C they are done after 25 minutes. I take them from the oven and let them cool for 30 minutes before I try the first one.

Stop the clock :

Total time to from the moment I pack up the kitchen, to the moment I bite into a cooled sausage roll : 4 hours and twelve minutes.

Total time since I have had the desire to bite into a cooled sausage roll in asia and actually bit into one:  8 years and 7 months.

V E R D I C T

The piecrust.

Softens after cooling. Not overly flaky, in fact not flaky at all. It is just moist enough to produce a slight crunch when you bite into it. Definitely not London Pie Co, instead very Sunday afternoon with tea on the stoep, sheep grazing  motionless in the endless dusty veld, whilst I effortlessly cut through the warm pastries with my knipmes.

The filling

Unsurprisingly, the filling is slightly dry. (more pork fat next time?) But the texture and wildsvleis taste is totally from someone’s plaaskombuis. The coriander and nutmeg, combined with the slightly sour taste of the cooked vinegar, creates the impression that this is authentic fake wildsvleispastei.  A culinary quantum leap has occurred in the comfort-food department.  Very much what I was aiming for.

CONCLUSION

I imagine these pastries on that oak table on the crocheted beige tablecloth, neatly plated next to the fake flowers in the elaborate turquoise vase. I imagine the murmur of the funeral guests and the distant crinkling of teacups in the nearby kitchen.  Not wanting to seem impolite or overzealous, I reach over for my second pastry in just under three minutes. I glance at the family portrait on the wall as I take a bite. Perhaps it’s the way the afternoon sunlight has caught the glass, or perhaps it’s my imagination, but that menacing stare has definitely softened to something far less threatening… For  the moment, I cannot hear any cars on the distant motorway, and for a brief instant the room feels slightly less oppresive.

And if there had been any doubt about having satisfied my Dieper Dors after this elaborate undertaking, not 15 minutes after the first pie, I am searching for the pack of expired Rennies I keep in the Deepfreeze for these kind of emergencies.

melktert, mondwater, ….moerse maklik

25 Jul

When people are sick, for some reason, boeretannies consider melktert to be the cure…, as this is what they will bring when they visit. If its not going to heal the common cold, or mend your broken bones, or cure cancer, hey, the least it will do, or so it is believed, is make you feel so much better. And it will. If there is one thing it will cure, it will be a spot of Sunday Blues – a slice or two with a nice cuppa tea after a Sunday nap works wonders…

Here is a recipe my great aunt Josephine gave me, after arriving with, what I consider, the absolute best melktert offering during my dads battle with cancer. There were many, many of these which arrived at our home, but alas, my aunt Josephine produced the one which was just out of this world.

Josephine se melktert

For newbies – melktert is actually a custard pie, with a thick cinnamon topping. If you dont like cinnamon – dont make this. If you do, you can never have enough cinnamon on top. Don’t be shy, a thin layer of cinnamon on top will be good. So much cinnamon, you don’t see the custard below, will be the best! The filling should be rich, so you can use more butter and egg if you really want to make a great melktert. As many as 4 eggs are fine, but no more. More butter will also make it tastier and more rich. You can add as much as 4 tablespoons. The result will be a creamier filling.

This makes just over a litre… so use a dish which will be able to hold this amount. The traditional 9×13 inch will work fine.

Ingredients :

Filling :

1/2 tin of condensed milk (give the remainder of the tin to your kids, or put it in the fridge for the maid – its the one thing she will polish during her workday , or better, if you’d prefer to be seen as a philanthropist rather than a racist, double the recipe and donate the spare tert to your favourite old age home. Considering the hidden healing powers of this tart, there may well be many grateful takers…)

1 litre of milk

2 eggs

1 heaped tablespoons custard powder (then a dash more for luck)

1 heaped tablespoons cornflower (and another dash, to give the luck an extra push…)

1 tablespoon butter, yeah what the hell, heaped as well

pinch or two salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

cinnamon (lots of it, for the top)

For the crust:

70 grams butter

a packet of tennis biscuits (or use any biscuit you usually use for a crust, though coconut biscuits works best)

alternatively – make/bake your favourite pie/tart crust, it will work just as well.

Method

Crust:

Coat the tart dish with a thin layer of butter or oil to prevent sticking

Break up the biscuits fine – actually I pound it with a pestle and mortar – but for a more gentle approach, feel free to use your food processor.

Melt the butter in the micro, try not to let it bubble too much.

Add the crumbs to your mixing bowl, switch on, then add the melted butter and mix untill all the crumbs are evenly coated with the melted butter. Pour this mix into the tart dish, shake it a bit to even things out, then use the pressure of an egglifter to press it evenly into a crust.

Put into the fridge to cool.

The filling.

In a mixing bowl, add 250 ml of the milk, the cornstarch, custard powder and eggs beat thoroughly for about 2 mins. Set aside.

Over medium heat, and whilst stirring, bring the the condensed milk, the butter (for filling), salt and the rest of the milk to boil. When it starts boiling, take off the heat and slowly add the custard/cornstarch/egg mixture whilst stirring continuously . Actually, stirring may well conjure an image of a wooden spoon – use a spatula or egg lifter and scrape at the bottom of the pan.  Place back onto the stove, and continue scraping over low heat until its cooked (I’d say about 3-5 mins, or when the mixture has become quite thick- see photo)

(I use the flat end of an egg lifter to scrape the bottom constantly as I stir. It makes for a very velvety smooth filling. Also it prevents the bottom from burning and distributes the heat evenly.)

When its done, remove from heat, add the vanilla essence, and if you are a perfectionist, the dissolved gelatin, mix through, then pour into the pie dish that was chilling in the fridge. Smooth the top with a spoon or knife to get it even, then sprinkle a layer of cinnamon on top. Lots of cinnamon. Best if you dont see the yellow of the filling below it!

Let it cool for about 40 mins, then put in the fridge for another 2 – 3 hours until it has set completely.

Serve cold, or if you are from the Free State, warm it for a few seconds in the micro and serve lukewarm. (Its actually not as bad as it sounds.)

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