Cradock - Work and play. Sugar and spice. Sweet and sour. It’s the disparate that creates interest, the odd one out that makes all the rest just a little less dull.
So give me the clown in the classroom of lemmings, the one that thinks, nah, I’m not having any of this conformity, I’m going to shake things up around here, and sets about being outrageous just to challenge the status quo. And a status quo often deserves to be challenged because more often than not it’s the way it is just because that’s the way it has been. So we’ve all just accepted it as The Right Way. But along comes the maverick, the joker in the pack, the fish that swims against the tide, the peacenik standing in front of the tank, the only gay in the village, the one who has an original perspective on life and on how things might be, or could be.
The chef who sees ice cream not as a sweet, frozen dessert but as an opportunity to present a savoury dish to challenge a palate. And when you think about it, you have to think: who said something that’s creamy and frozen has to be sweet? Isn’t it just the way it always has been? And who decided that? We were all just told it was so, so we accepted it. And you tentatively taste some garlic ice cream or parsley sorbet, and something about it is strangely pleasing.
Tea is made with dried leaves. But the maverick says no, pick some fresh mint and steep that in boiled water with a few rose petals. Slice some fresh ginger and steep that for a few minutes, sweetened with a little honey. That’s tea too.
And meat. Meat must be savoury. Right? (Afrikaans people who’ve eaten sweet meat and veg since birth may look away for this argument and return to the fold three paragraphs down.) We’re told meat has herbs and spices and stocks and robust nuances like mustard or Worcestershire sauce, lemon or soy, but sugar? Honey? Muscadel? Old Brown Sherry? Liqueur? They didn’t have much to say about all that.
Yet finding a balance – of the sweet being more attractive against a backdrop of something sour – means not excluding one or other of those choices but shoving them together and coming up with a more interesting whole.
So add that honey and sweet wine to the marinade for the prime rib of steak you’re planning to roast. But balance it with soy and lemon, and subtle spicing. And use herbs as well as spices, in the same dish.
When making venison pies this week I slow-cooked springbok shanks in a broth that included Old Brown Sherry (and plenty of it) and raspberry jelly. With plenty of spices and some herbs.
SPRINGBOK SHANK PIE
100ml venison or chicken stock
1 Tbs mustard
250ml dry red wine
200ml Old Brown Sherry
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 bouquet garni or sprigs of thyme, oregano and parsley tied together
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs raspberry or apple jelly or other translucent fruit jelly
12 springbok shanks
3 packets of Today puff pastry
Pour boiling water on stock cubes, if using, or heat liquid stock to simmering point.
Whisk in the mustard until it well blended. Pour into an oven casserole. Add other ingredients and stir, then add the shanks, making sure they’ve covered as much as possible.
Cover with lid and cook in a pre-heated, 180°C oven for half an hour, then lower heat to 160°C and cook for three to four hours until the shanks are super-tender. Every hour or so, remove from oven and baste to ensure they all remain moist.
When done, remove from oven and pour off cooking stock into a pot. Reduce on stove top until it thickens and becomes a little sticky. Cool this and the shanks to room temperature.
Grease a 6-muffin pan. Roll out pastry and cut large rounds to fill each muffin pot. Prick the base of each six or seven times. Beat an egg and brush round edges of the pastry cases.
Remove shank meat from bones and cut into dice. Remove cinnamon stick, star anise and bouquet garni when you find them. Spoon meat into pastry cases and then spoon in 2 or 3 tablespoons of sauce. Cut smaller rounds to top them, and crimp edges with your fingers.
Brush the tops with beaten egg, cut small incisions in the top of each with a knife, and cook in a 180°C oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.