Cookbook review: Taste The Little Karoo
Taste The Little Karoo
By: Beate Joubert
Published by: Random House Struik
Of all the 2015 crop of local cookbooks, this is the most appealing visually, inviting readers to revel in the rugged mountainous beauty of the Tradouw region.
It contrasts with the orderliness of productive orchards, vineyards and sweeping meadows of the Klein Karoo.
Such books complement the images of Beate’s robust colourful fare, which range from al fresco appetisers through traditional braais 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 braais in the veld.
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 Mediterranean 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 liver pates, 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 trad 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 centrepieces like biltong, gruyere, tuna or hard-boiled eggs are teamed with an array of veggies, leaves, even fruit.
Tradouw boboties come 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.
Tradouw desserts present a mix of “memory food” – rice and sago puds and koeksisters alternating with exotic finales like panna cotta with lemon-and-rose syrup, berry trifle, lime souffle and lavender creme brulee.
The index is followed by 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.
Also Available in Afrikaans as Proe die Klein-Karoo.