Christmas on the KZN coast does not exactly lend itself to the traditional oven-baked meal, so why not celebrate with a seafood feast which can be cooked outside on the coals.
Here’s inspiration from Maia du Plessis and Simon Scarboro’s sumptuous book, Halfaampieskraal Celebrates, a visual feast of food, friendship and festivities on a South African farm. The menu would do just as well for a languid New Year’s Day
1kg bread flour
10g instant yeast
1tbs olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together, except for the water. Slowly add the water, working the mixture until it forms a stiff dough that will be able to “sit” on the grid and not fall through it.
Knead the dough well until it feels smooth and silky. Rub with oil and leave in a covered bowl until it has doubled in size. This could take between one and two hours, depending on the room temperature.
Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out on a wooden surface to form a rectangle about 2cm thick. Dust liberally with flour on both sides.
Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into diamond shapes of about 4X4 cm. Separate the pieces of dough, giving them space to rise again.
Once they have doubled in size, dust with flour again and place on a grill over very low coals. It is best to start with a very cool fire and to add coals as you need them.
Keep turning the roosterbrood by hand until they sound hollow when tapped and are dark brown colour.
Serve with butter, apricot jam and grated Cheddar cheese.
500g butter beans (soaked overnight)
¾ cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 x 400g tin peeled tomatoes
1tbs tomato paste
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 fresh bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Boil the beans until almost tender, then drain and place in a baking dish
Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic lightly. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, most of the parsley and the bay leaves. Cook for a few minute until the sauce thickens.
Remove from the heat and pour the sauce over the beans. Add the sugar, salt and pepper and combine everything. Cover with tinfoil and bake for about an hour. Lift the foil to check if a little water is needed to loosen the sauce and that the beans are tender.
Sprinkle with the reserved parsley and drizzle with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Season liberally with freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.
If you plan to serve only mullet, work on about five medium-sized fish per person. Where they are part of a seafood feast, two should suffice.
Scale and gut the mullet. Make sure you also get rid of all traces of blood inside the cavity, as it becomes very bitter when cooked.
Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into the palm of your hand and rub all over the fish, including the cavity. Sprinkle the fish with salt and white pepper, again not forgetting the cavity.
Refrigerate for about an hour.
Build your fire. The fish cooks best over slow, low coals. Cover the coals with fennel stalks and fronds.
Dust the fish lightly with semolina so they don’t stick to the grill. The semolina also gives a nice crunch to the skin. Place the fish in a grill, taking care not to fiddle with them too much, as they break easily. Turn when brown or black bubbles appear on the skin. When the other side has cooked, smack the grill with the back of a spoon to loosen the fish.
Arrange on a platter, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve with lots of lemon wedges, extra sea salt and, of course, plenty of ice-cold sauvignon blanc.
Braaied whole crayfish
Using a sharp knife split the crayfish along the underside from the head to head to the end of the tail. Leave the shell intact. Clean out the intestines and head cavity. Brush the flesh lightly with olive oil. Place on a grill fresh side down, over medium coals with no flames. It should take a couple of minute for the flesh to colour.
Turn the crayfish over and spread liberally with garlic and parsley butter. It will melt immediately on the warm meat, filling the shell. Grill for another few minutes until the flesh is just firm. Do not be tempted to overcook, as the crayfish will continue cooking in the shell after you take it off the heat.
Add more garlic and parsley butter if desired.
Garlic and parsley butter
Using a pestle and mortar, crush six cloves of garlic with a teaspoon of sea salt. Add 200g softened unsalted butter, combine well and then stir through a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley. These proportions can be adjusted to taste.
Cayenne pepper also makes a piquant addition.
Smoked mussels over the coals
Lightly steam the whole mussels in sea water or fresh water with enough salt added to replicate sea water. As soon as the mussels open remove them from the water. Discard any unopened mussels. Remove the beard from the mussels. Push the mussels to one side of a pan and sprinkle a tablespoon of oak wine-barrel shavings over the empty side. Cover with a lid or tinfoil and place on the coals. The mussels will smoke very quickly; a minute will be enough. They are delectable on their own or served with aioli.
2 cloves garlic
1tsp English mustard
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup canola oil (you may need more)
Blend all the ingredients except for the canola oil in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour in a thin stream of oil. Continue until you have a thick mayonnaise.
6 large eggs at room temperature
½ cup castor sugar plus a further 4tbs castor sugar
A small pinch of salt
6tbs cocoa powder
250ml whipping cream
1tsp vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a shallow rectangular baking tin or Swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper.
Separate the egg and beat the yolks with half a cup of castor sugar until pale and light.
Beat the egg white to soft peaks, adding the salt and two tablespoon of castor sugar. Keep beating until firm peaks form.
Fold the cocoa powder and the egg white into the yolk mixture. Try to retain as much air as possible.
Spread evenly in the baking tin and bake for 25 minute. Leave to cool and turn out on baking paper. Trim off the hard crusts.
Whip the cream, vanilla essence and the remaining castor sugar using an electric beater. Spread the cream evenly over the cake.
Start to roll the cake, removing the paper as you go. Don’t worry if cracks appear, as they can be hidden by dusting icing sugar or cocoa over the cake.
Decorate the roulade with melted chocolate or chocolate shavings if you prefer.
* Halfaampieskraal Celebrates is published by Human and Rousseau. The book, beautifully styled and illustrated, takes readers through everything from spring nuptials and the wheat harvest to a birthday picnic and Club Havana gypsy carnival. It’s a perfect Christmas gift. - The Mercury