I recently attended the Karoo Food Festival in Cradock and was impressed by what I saw and tasted there.
The festival showcased many of the region’s talented cooks as well as the local produce.
I met Kim van Niekerk, known as the green-fingered kitchen goddess, who cooks with fresh herbs and flowers grown on her farm. Her spicy fragrant pastes and pestos reflect her love of Moroccan and Mediterranean flavours.
Marelise van Niekerk, a chef and teacher, cooked dishes using craft beer and prepared a stunning array of recipes, from risotto to bacon and beer jam to beer-poached pears and even sourdough bread.
Gordon Wright from Stockenstroom Guest House in Graaff-Reinet is well known for his game dishes, and is passionate about local venison.
Heyla Meyer, the chef at Victoria Manor Hotel in Cradock, prepared a dinner using every part of the animal, from sheep’s head to crispy lamb’s tails. The cherry on the top of her meal was the best brandy tart I have ever tasted.
Chrissie Michels is a formidable cook who has become famous for the delicious curries she sells on the street in Cradock. She has cooked for the annual Karoo Parliament in the town and caters for weddings and funerals.
As part of the festival, local chefs and cooks prepared dishes using angora, boerbok, springbok and fallow deer and Chrissie prepared a delicious fallow deer curry for 300 guests.
I persuaded these talented cooks to share their recipes.
CHRISSIE’S BEEF CURRY WITH DUMPLINGS
10ml chopped ginger
10ml chopped garlic
15-20ml curry powder
5ml ground allspice
2-3 cinnamon sticks
15ml cardamom pods
1kg beef shin, cubed
45ml tomato paste
50g chilli beef and green pepper soup powder
50g chakalaka soup powder
1 litre of water
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
chopped coriander to serve
10g instant yeast
1 litre of warm water
1kg white bread flour
15ml sunflower oil
CURRY: Heat the oil and fry the ginger, garlic, curry powder and spices for2 minutes.
Add the meat and fry until it is coated with the spice mixture.
Stir in the tomato paste and soup powders. Add the water and bring to the boil.
Add the vegetables and simmer, covered, until the meat is soft, about 2 hours. Add more liquid if necessary. Season.
DUMPLINGS: Mix the yeast, sugar and 250ml of the warm water. Sprinkle with 15ml of the flour and leave to become frothy.
Put the remaining flour and salt in a bowl.
Add the oil to the yeast mixture and then add to the flour with enough warm water to make a dough that is not too stiff. Knead well.
Cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Pull small balls of dough from the bowl and roll into balls. Place on top of thestew. Cover and steam for20 minutes.
GORDON’S VENISON LASAGNE
1 onion, chopped
300g mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 litre of milk
60ml grated Parmesan cheese
10ml grated nutmeg
500g venison mince
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
40ml chopped rosemary
salt and pepper
about 12 sheets of lasagne
300g spinach, cleaned
200g bacon or Parma ham
extra Parmesan cheese
about 200g mozzarella cheese, grated
Melt the butter in apot and fry the onion until soft. Add the mushrooms, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook for a minute.
Gradually stir in the milk and cook, stirring until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a frying pan, fry the mince with the garlic and rosemary until cooked. Season well with salt and pepper.
Submerge the lasagne sheets in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
Cover the base of a large ovenproof dish with 4 lasagne sheets. Top with a layer of half the mince. Then pour over one third of the mushroom sauce. Cover with a layer of spinach leaves and sprinkle with half the bacon or Parma ham.
Add another layer of lasagne, mince, mushroom sauce, spinach and Parma ham.
Add a final layer of pasta and mushroom sauce.
Dot with butter and grate over Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
* You can use ostrich mince or beef mince if venison mince is not available.
MARELISE’S BEER AND BACON RISOTTO
15ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
250g streaky bacon, chopped
5ml crushed garlic
500ml Arborio rice
1.5 litres of chicken stock
60ml grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
125ml chopped chives
Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan. Sauté the onion, celery, streaky bacon and garlic for5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat it in the other ingredients.
When the rice is crackling hot, add the beer and stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
Heat the chicken stock.
Reduce the heat of the risotto slightly and add the stock 250ml at a time, until all the stock is finished, adding more only after the liquid is absorbed by the rice.
When the rice is tender – this shouldtake about 20 minutes – remove from the heat and add the butter, Parmesan, salt, pepper and chives.
KIM’S CHERMOULA CHICKEN WITH PESTO COUSCOUS
15ml coriander seeds
15ml cumin seeds
1 stick of cinnamon
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped |(about 250ml)
2 handfuls of coriander, roughly chopped |(about 250ml)
juice and rind of |1 large lemon
1 large red chilli, seeded |and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2cm piece of ginger, grated
180ml olive oil
salt to taste
4 chicken breast fillets
20g wild rocket
juice of 1 lemon
15ml chopped garlic
½ chilli, chopped
10ml grated ginger
180ml roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
150-200ml olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
375ml hot vegetable stock
CHERMOULA: Place the coriander, cumin and cinnamon in a pan and toast the spices over a medium heat for about 3 minutes until fragrant.
Remove and grind|to a powder in a coffee grinder.
Place in a food processor with the herbs, lemon rind and juice, chilli, garlic and ginger. Process until well blended.
With the machine running, add in the olive oil to form a thick paste.
Add salt to taste.
Rub the paste onto the chicken breasts and leave to marinate for at least an hour.
PESTO: Put the rocket, lemon juice, garlic, chilli, ginger and nuts into a processor and process to a rough paste.
With the machine running, add enough olive oil to make a thick paste. Season to taste.
Place the couscous in a bowl and pour over the boiling stock. Cover and set aside for 2 minutes.
Fluff with a fork.
Stir the rocket pesto through the couscous until well blended.
Cook the chicken breasts in a frying pan in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes a side without burning the chermoula mixture.
Place them on an oven tray and finish cooking in the oven at 180°C for 10-15 minutes.
Serve the chicken breasts sliced, on a bed of couscous.
VICTORIA MANOR BRANDY PUDDING
Makes 18 muffin size or 1 large pudding
250ml chopped pitted dates
5ml bicarbonate of soda
180ml boiling water
10ml baking powder
125ml chopped pecan nuts
2 drops of brandy essence
5ml vanilla essence
4 drops of brandy essence
Combine the dates, bicarbonate of soda and water in a pot and cook over a medium heat until soft. Remove and set aside.
Beat the eggs and sugar well.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt, then mix in the nuts.
Heat the milk and butter and add to the egg mixture.
Add the dry ingredients and the date mixture.
Mix in the brandy and vanilla essence.
Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins or a large greased ovenproof baking dish.
Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes for muffins or 30-40 minutes for a larger pudding.
A skewer inserted into the pudding should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and pour the hot sauce over. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.
SAUCE: Combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil.
Angela Day, The Star