Myrna Robins

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Recipes

Posted by on in Recipes

 

The South African Milk Tart Collection by Callie Maritz & Mari-Louis Guy. Published by Human & Rousseau. 2017.

 

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 Long live the milk tart, long live! So ends the introduction to this delectable title, the sixth by sibling duo Callie and Mari-Louis. The couple is renowned for successful cookbooks, attractive styling and  cookery columns while Mari-Louis is also a judge on the popular Koekedoor television series on KykNET.

 

The very word melktert induces nostalgia for the best of Afrikaner cooking:,so much so  that few English speakers use the words ‘milk tart’. There is little else that can compete with this dessert in terms of comfort food, and right now it makes a welcome contrast to the non-stop flow of low-carb, high fat, no- sugar cookbooks that have flooded the market over the last few years. Here sugar, butter, milk, eggs and wheat flour are the basics required to  produce irresistible fare when treats are in order.

The authors open with a brief history of custard tarts, and offer a 16th century Dutch recipe which could claim to have inspired the tarts baked by the first European settlers at the Cape of Good Hope. The incomparable C. Louis Leipoldt features next with an updated version of his French-style milk tart, a deep  feuilletage crust filled with a custard flavoured with vanilla essence and a dash of brandy. Melksnysels, or milk soup, another traditional recipe – here sans sugar or egg –presents the dough on top – and the chapter includes recipes for both Voortrekker and Cape Colony pioneer melktert.

 

Classics star next, starting with “proper’ milk tart, characterised by a double frilled collar of pastry, followed by  a cardamom flavoured tart developed by the Cape Malays and the writers’ own best bake, a childhood memory where flaky leaf pastry encloses a soufflé filling. Reuben Riffel’s version combines cinnamon and nutmeg, a roux replaces the pastry in a Transvaal tarts and  peach leaves flavour one from Bloemfontein.

A chapter of tarts using a crumb base includes a coconut version with others moving away from the classic, favouring toppings such as  condensed milk meringue. Afrikaner adaptations using cans of condensed milk were developed by holiday makers in remote parts of the country. Individual milk tarts are perennial  favourite for teatime, tv time, coffee mornings and more.

The authors investigate egg custard tarts entrenched in the culinary repertoires of the UK,. USA, Europe and even  Far East, then turn to a chapter of desserts and cakes with milk tart flavour,s including vanilla cheesecake.There’s also one for Banting followers, using a coconut oil and Xylitol crust and coconut flour in the filling.

This is a very attractive hardback, with beautifully styled food photographs, as one expects these day,  finished with a comprehensive  index. A cookbook to cherish.

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It’s not only brinjals that have three names, I discovered recently, witlof can boast of four – as this intriguing head of tight creamy leaves is also known as chicory, witloof and Belgian endive.

Appropriately, we were gathered at Den Anker, that classic Belgian restaurant at b2ap3_thumbnail_Fanie-van-der-Merwe-standing_20170207-153515_1.jpgthe Waterfront, for the launch of this healthy addition to our summer diets. The media turnout was impressive, and Brian Berkman looked pleased. Farmer and producer Fanie van der Merwe of Bronaar, one of the oldest farms in the Koue Bokkeveld, was more than happy to tell us the secrets of this versatile vegetable that has been popular with northern European consumers for some 170 years.

As one of the few South African producesr, and as one who guarantees a continuous supply 12 months of the year, Farmer Fanie imports the little seeds from Holland at great expense, plants them  outside in the spring, and harvests in the autumn when the plant has developed a large tap root, similar to a parsnip. This is cleaned and refrigerated. The next stage is carried out in the dark, to avoid the development of chlorophyll. The roots are planted in soil-free hydroponics and the head of creamy leaves develops over three weeks, after which the chicons ( leaves) are harvested.

The endives are packaged 2 – 3 to a see-through bag and are available at several supermarkets.

We enjoyed a starter of tiny shrimps paired with crisp apple, shredded witlof, tomato, moistened with mayonnaise. The mix was served in a witlof or endive leaf, which makes an ideal container for any number of  summery salad ingredients – corn kernels and diced red pepper dressed with lightly chillied olive oil comes to mind. Add diced bacon if you wish.

Chef Doekie Vlietman followed with a seasonal salad geared to vegetarian palates, but enjoyed by all: He combined little balls of chevin, crumbed and deep-fried until crisp, with small wedges of fresh pear, briefly sautéed in butter. Finely chopped endive, baby lettuce and micro greens added crunch to the mixture, and crushed walnuts made a good topping. The composition was drizzled with a little honey and paired with a fruity Belgian beer.  It’s a light luncheon dish to recommend, although I will substitute fresh local pecan nuts for walnuts, (which are imported and often tired and old by the time we use them). A Belgian classic, endives wrapped in Parma ham and baked in a rich cheese sauce made the main course.

Apart from agreeable crunch, endives are delicately flavoured, with just a trace of bitterness to add interest. (The current endives seem to be less bitter than those I remember eating years ago – perhaps catering to modern tastes?) Their attributes are many and music to health- nuts’ ears: Apart from being  low in carbs, the witlof is high in fibre, and contains folate or B9, some vitamin C, and is also a source of thiamin, potassium, calcium , magnesium, vitamins B6 and C. There’s more – its both an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid.

Little wonder the Belgians call it their “white gold.”

Also easy to understand why Fanie would like all South Africans, whether health-conscious, slimmers, vegans or vegetarians, - and all those who aim to make 2017 the year they change their diets for the better – to look out for these packs of crisp goodness to relish raw, sautéed and baked. Autumn means picnic season in South Africa – and it would be difficult to find a better edible container for your finger fare.

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I've tried dozens of apple pie, tart and crumble recipes over the years, but still think that this streusel, found in one of Robert Carrier's collections, is by far the most delectable. Roasting the apple at a high temperature adds to the flavour, and, there's no separate cooking of the apple, so its quick to prepare as well..

To suit local palates I have increased the spice quantities from Carrier's original, and you can omit the pastry base if you wish.If you are using a wide dish (25+cm diam) you may need to increase quantity of topping ingredients - if so, increase each ingredient by 25g to 100g.

Whether you serve it with cream, custard or icecream is up to you - when entertaining, I splash out on mascarpone, thinned with a little pouring cream and a good splash of Cape brandy, then whipped. Dont' substitute margarine for the butter and don't use bottled lemon juice.

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths

juice of 1 - 2 lemons

1 shortcrust pastry shell, unbaked

light brown sugar

1tsp powdered cinnamon

1tsp powdered allspice

half tsp grated nutmeg

Topping:

75g brown caramel sugar

75g butter, softened

75g cake flour

Toss the apple pieces in plenty of lemon juice. Bake the pastry case blind at 200 deg C for 10 mins. Cool slightly then arrange the apple in the shell. Combine the sugar and spices and sprinkle over, turning the apple so they all get coated.

Make  the topping by combining the 3 ingredients, mixing until you have a crumbly texture. Crumble it evenly over the apples. Bake at 230 - 240 deg C for 15 mins. Reduce oven temperature to 180 deg C and bake a further 30 mins. Check after 10 - 15 minutes, and, if top is browning too much, cover top loosely with a round of foil.

Serves 6 generously.

 

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No need to feel guilty about indulging in cheesecake with this delectable savoury cake, ideal for brunch, lunch, supper  and entertaining.

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Base:

1 cup finely crushed cheese crackers

60g (60ml) butter, melted

45ml (3T) grated parmesan cheese

Filling:

500g fresh or frozen spinach

3 rashers rindless bacon, diced

1 medium onion, chopped

250g creamed cottage cheese

110g feta cheese, crumbled

250ml (1 cup) sour cream

3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

Make the base: Combine cracker crumbs with melted butter and cheese and press into a 22cm diameter springform cake tin. Chill for 30 mins.

If using fresh spinach, wash well, remove thick stalks and steam or microwave until just tender. Drain well and chop. Or cook frozen chopped spinach according to packet directions. Drain well.

Saute bacon and onion until onion is tender, adding a little oil or butter if necessary. Beat cream cheese, crumble in the feta, stir in sour cream and mix. Stir in beaten eggs, then the spinach and bacon mixture. Spoon filling over base and bake at 160 deg C for about 1 hr, or until set at centre. Leav for 10 mins before slicing. Remove cheesecake carefully from tin and slice into small wedges. Serves 8. Note: You will need about 1 and half bunches of fresh spinach to make 500g.

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No other brinjal recipe comes close to this one for optimal enjoyment. It takes time, but it’s worth every minute, making a wonderful first course for a late summer lunch or as part of a buffet of Med fare. I have simplified the recipe from Delia Smith (Delia’s How to Cook, Book 2) a little – she, in turn, sourced it from Elizabeth David via a London restaurant called Chez Bruce.

About 700g fresh purple aubergines, cubed, unskinned

2 – 3 T fresh coriander leaves, choppedb2ap3_thumbnail_brinjal.jpg

About 700g firm, ripe, bright red tomatoes

45ml good Cape olive oil

About 300g onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large mild red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1tsp powdered cumin

1and half tsp powdered allspice

Salt and ground black pepper

To serve:

1T top quality Cape olive oil

Pita breads or bread of your choice

4T Greek yoghurt

Additional chopped coriander leaves

Chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)

The day before it’s required, salt aubergine cubes, place in colander and leave to drain for an hour, stirring mixture after 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 230 degC. Skin tomatoes by leaving them in boiling water for 1 minute, then slipping skins off. Halve and place cut side up on oiled baking tray. Brush with olive oil.

Rinse aubergine cubes under cold running water, dry and transfer to a bowl. Add 1T olive oil and toss to coat. Spread out on a baking tray. When oven is ready, place aubergine tray high and tomatoes underneath and bake for about 25 minutes (less for fan ovens) until aubergines are tinged gold and tomatoes tender. Remove. Chop tomatoes when cooled.

Heat 2T olive oil in large pan and fry onion until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add chilli and garlic and fry for 1 further minute. Add tomatoes, aubergine, cumin and allspice , stir well, bring to a simmer and season to taste. Transfer contents of pan to serving dish, cover, and leave overnight in the fridge.

Next day bring mixture to room temperature, drizzle with fine olive oil, top with a dollop of Greek yoghurt (serve more on the side) garnish with coriander and mint leaves and serve with pitas or bread of your choice. Serves 4 or more.

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