519 Christina de Wit Street, Prince Albert
Accommodation in Prince Albert

Karoo Kitchen Adventures

eat | sleep | breathe

Dear Boet

I was thinking of you this morning and wondering whether one would find galjoene in the waters surrounding Britain. Have you tried fishing there? The place in Wilderness where I stayed with Pa and Ma for her birthday had beautiful views of the ocean and of course Pa was reminiscing about the fishing trips the two of you had made when you were still in South Africa.

Over here, the green figs are ready to be preserved. It is quite a process. You have to scrape them first and then soak them overnight in salted water. Some people use lime in the water, but Dina says the preserves can easily look murky if the figs are not rinsed well after soaking. Then you cut little crosses in the bottom of each fig and you cook them until they are just soft. But the cooking is also a complicated story. Else-Marie taught me to add a pinch of Copper Sulphate to the water. Blouvitrioel. This gives the preserves that dark, green colour. And you also cover the pot with fresh fig leaves.
When the figs are soft, you cook them in a strong syrup until they are glossy and the syrup is thick. By then you should already have been to the Koöperasie to buy a box of jars and they should be in the oven, all hot and sterilised.

I bought myself a canning funnel in Knysna that makes it easier to spoon the figs and syrup into the jars. It was jolly expensive. I first had to go for coffee and a slice of wortelkoek to get the courage to pay for it. But now I have it and the pain of paying is forgotten. We nearly sold out our preserves last Saturday at the Markie.

The museum is next to the Markie and tell you what, the watsonias in front are looking magnificent. Perhaps they are paying a tribute to your late queen. After all, Prince Albert is named after her great-great grandfather. Good thing they are not orange watsonias. A watsonia can really bloom a sad orange.

Joubert has just pressed his cheddar number 15. We get our milk from the Jerseys at Aswater. I’m sure their milk is more creamy because they are surrounded by Heleen’s beautiful calligraphy etched into the rocks, painted on walls and floors. When you visit we must go and do her walk on the farm. Last time I walked it, I fell asleep twice along the way. It is that peaceful.

Cheese number one will be ready to cut in December. These big, pale disks are just waiting there in their dark room, patiently maturing, allowing time to perfect that peppery creaminess. And talk about creaminess! We made an ostrich shakshouka on Sunday. First we opened the shell at the top by tapping it with the back of the big chef’s knife. We then fried some peppers and onion and fresh tomato and added some of Joubert’s chorizo for kick. We had to use the biggest flat Le Creuset, because man, oh man! That egg has volume! Once once the veggies had cooked down to a nice sauce, we made an opening in the middle and added extra olive oil. Amidst much camera clicking and MCC toasting and oohs and aahs we slid the massive, golden orb into the oiled opening. Salt and pepper and on with the lid and into the oven, quite low, it went. After roughly a bottle of bubbles the yolk was set and we sat down to a brunch for six consisting of one egg. Everything is realitive, eh?

I have another egg left and this morning we embarked on an attempt to cure the yolk in salt. Chicken egg yolks take about 10 days, but I expect we are looking at over month for this one. You place the yolk in a well of fine salt and then you cover it with more salt. Then, forth to the fridge it goes! I put the open dish on the top shelf of the wine fridge, because I can guarantee you that someone will, in true restaurant style, unwittingly put a bag of carrots on top of the egg if I put it in any of the other fridges. Jy weet mos. I will let you know how it came out in my next letter. If I keep quiet about it you can just assume it went green and we won’t ever mention it again.

Remember we were going to have a Heritage Day Kwaai Braai? We listened to Johnny Clegg and we kept bringing the food out. We even made broodjies with powdered biltong. The granadilla jelly wouldn’t set, so we made thick custard and topped it with the runny jelly. It was a good day.

We also have a new man-about-town on the farm. Rocky the Rooster. And he takes his job extremely seriously. He struts about with his harem of hens and beware anyone lacking behind! Like a man waiting in the car for his wife, he pecks the ground, highly irritated, and when the flustered lady joins again, the stately procession continues to patrol the orchard like a feathery cloud. He quite likes to show off his (very impressive) tenor crow, setting in action a riff from all the surrounding farms’ gentlemen, and even some ladies….

Have to rush off now, I’m afraid – Frances ordered some jars of preserved lemon and I have to plan that Afrikaans/Polish wedding that we are catering for in two weeks. Today we will try out the Szarlotka. Apple Pie. Tomorrow maybe the Pierogi with Sauerkraut and Mushroom filling. Little dumplings to serve with the midnight Borscht. You learn something new every day, don’t you?

Give Paula and Jan-Niel hugs from me and let me know when the first snow falls! It’s already hot here. Biscuit is laying next to me on the cool cement floor, chasing away a fly very ineffectively.

Love you lots!