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Footprints in the sand
The strandlopers, back in the 17th century, dined on mussels, abalone, crayfish and seals, on roots and fruits and edible seaweed. Their kinsmen, the Khoi, kept sheep and cattle and feasted on kaiings - crisply fried sheep-tail fat mixed with wild cabbage. Their cousins, the San, were hunters who needed neither seafood nor domesticated animals when game was abundant, which it was in the 17th century, even in the Cape.
And along with buck or elephant or hippo meat, there was veldkos, or wild plants - mustard leaves, sorrel, wild asparagus - and waterblommetjies, found in dams and vleis in the Boland beyond Cape Town.
Veldkos was eventually edged out by the Company's crops - the usual beans, peas and spinach, lettuce and cultivated asparagus - but waterbloommetjies have survived. In season, these little creamy white flowers make it to the table in waterblommetjie bredie, a delicious stew usually - but not necessarily - made with mutton and flavoured with sorrel.
The spicy East Bredies are stews, but with a spicy Cape Malay difference.
That difference was hailed by poet-physician C Louis Leipoldt as "the free, almost heroic, use of spices and aromatic flavouring" in his book Cape Cookery, where he praised bredies as "a combination of meat and vegetables so intimately stewed that the flesh is thoroughly impregnated with the vegetable flavour while the vegetables have benefited from the meat fluids ... Neither dominates but both combine to make a delectable whole that is a triumph of cooperative achievement."
Tomato bredie, normally made with mutton, is cooked for a very long time, and its seasonings include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves as well as chilli. Imagine the Dutch burghers' surprise when their hotpots turned into bredies overnight.
Bobotie could be described as a Malay improvement on shepherd's pie, with a good deal of the spice cupboard mixed with the mince - cumin, coriander, tumeric, allspice, even chutney, almonds and sultanas as well as garlic and peppercorns - plus a masala that includes dried chillies, peppercorns, ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks and cadamom pods, with a savoury custard instead of mashed potatoes on top.
For sosaties - from sesate (skewered meat) and sate (spicy sauce) - mutton chunks are marinated overnight in fried onions, chillies, garlic, curry leaves and tamarind juice, then threaded on skewers and either pan-fried or chucked on to a grill. The result is lean and gloriously tasty.
Cape Malay curries are famous, and not as hot as Indian curries. They are served with an array of sambals and atjars: hot with cool meals and cooling with super-spicy ones
(Reprinted from www.safrica.info)
Hi Elna !
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