TASTE THE LITTLE KAROO by Beate Joubert. Published by Struik Lifestyle, 2015.
Of all the 2015 crop of local cookbooks, this is, I think, the most appealing visually, inviting readers to revel in the rugged mountainous beauty of the Tradouw region contrasting with the ordered verdancy of productive orchards , vineyards and sweeping meadows of the Klein Karoo. They complement the images of Beate’s robust colourful fare, which range from al fresco appetizers through traditional braai to stylish desserts, some of which travellers can relish in her renowned Alfresco Deli on the family farm near Barrydale.
Traditional Cape and Karoo dishes play a major role in this collection: many have been updated or given additional twists to please contemporary palates. As one would expect, there is a chapter of recipes to cook over fire, which the Jouberts do often when entertaining, setting up the simplest of outdoor braais in the veld: a few bricks to hold the grid above the coals or to stand the traditional black pot over a small fire. The outdoor choice includes heritage skilpadjies made from lamb or kudu liver, well spiced and flavoured with chopped onion, garlic and rosemary . For a more exotic first course, Joubert suggests beef and lamb koftas, teamed with canned chickpeas and grilled brinjal slices . A traditional oxtail potjie is followed by another with gourmet aspirations: pheasant and chicken simmer in white wine with porcini and spiced butter beans, with chorizo, bacon and port providing additional flavours.
While working in France and Spain Beate became an enthusiastic fan of Med flavours, now reflected in her farm deli as“ boere tapas” starring mostly local ingredients. Camembert, sliced and filled with preserved green figs, is phyllo-wrapped and served with berry sauce, while lamb and chicken livers, spiced and cooked in red and white wine respectively, make delicious toppings for home-baked breads. Brinjal and red pepper terrine is sparked with feta and parmesan and presented on homemade tomato sauce. Corn stars in chilli-spiked pastry triangles and in down-home mealie fritters with bacon
Brawn is enjoying a comeback among contemporary chefs, but Beate’s version comes from her grandmother in Sutherland, who also inspired much of the comfort food featured in the following chapter. Melkkos, vetkoek and roosterkoek are slotted between warming barley and mutton soup and four-bean tomato soup with beef. During the hot Karoo summer a kaleidoscope of salads take centre stage – protein centerpieces like biltong, gruyere, tuna or hard-boiled eggs are teamed with an array of veggies, leaves, even fruit.
Tradouw boboties comes with a fruit compote and Beate’s curries benefit from buttermilk and are finished with yoghurt, Sweet and sour beef tongue stays trad with slaphakskeentjies on the side. A friend’s chicken pie is more than a little redolent of 19th century Cape cuisine. Baby chickens rather than an elderly cock star in coq au vin, and duck breasts are citrus-spiked with oranges and lemons, orange liqueur and brandy. Venison, prunes and muscadel combine to make an original and delicious sounding bredie. Tradouw desserts present a mix of “memory food” - rice and sago puds and koeksusters alternating with exotic finales like panna cotta with lemon and rose syrup, berry trifle, lime soufflé and lavender crème brûlée.
The index is followed with a short list of Klein Karoo wines and spirits recommended as partners for Joubert feasts. This title well reflects the generosity of rural hospitality presented in unpretentious style against a background of spellbinding beauty. Available in Afrikaans as Proe die Klein-Karoo.