Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I recently had some company over at my new house for a crazy nerd gathering. One of my friends has traveled damn-near across the globe, but she's originally from South Africa, and we often talk about one of my favorite subjects, which is South African food. I've dabbled in a few things in the past, like old favorites Bobotie as well as my favorite drunk food Bunny Chow. We collaborated on a few of her favorites like Periperi Chicken too. Prior to her visit, I had been browsing over a South African cookbook I bought a while back, and thinking of anything hard to find over here that I could ask for.

The first was Elephant Biltong, which not surprisingly, is near-impossible to get. I did get Springbok Biltong, which was awesome though. It's similar to venison jerky, but imagine a little clove, allspice, or garam masala on it. No real reason for this other than sating a round of post-drinking munchies.

The second thing on my list was Waterblommetjies.

I like typing the word, I like saying the word. Afrikaans is a hilariously awesome language. It translates into "water flower" which is a polite way of saying that it's something that long ago some Voorstrekker (ie, Ted Nugent or Jeremiah Johnson or Bill Brasky) spotted growing in a stagnant ditch full of water and decided it would taste delicious with his freshly-killed Springbok. All it would take would be a little stewing, and it just so happens that the word for stew in Afrikaans is bredie. Hence, waterblommetjiebredie.

Stuff you'll want:
  • 2 1/2 pounds of roasting meat (ideally, lamb, mutton, or game, but I used beef short ribs to great effect too.
  • 2 pounds waxy potatoes (ie, don't go makin no damn mashed potatoes son), diced
  • 1 giganto onion (or, 2-3 smaller ones), diced
  • About 2 pounds of waterblommetjies (you can get em on Amazon if you can't hop on the dakadak to Pretoria)
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp periperi (african bird's eye chili powder, again, Amazon) or cayenne pepper (at minimum you weenie. You want to add more, I know you do)
  • 1 tsp black pepper

You'll want your dutch oven for this. Crank up the stovetop to about medium-high heat. While you're doing this, towel off your short ribs and rub them down with a bit of salt. Start to brown them on each side. All we want is the look and the smell really. They'll get cooked fully later.

Once each piece is browned all over, remove from heat.

In the juices left in the dutch oven, add your butter and then your onions & salt, and turn the heat down to low. Cover and sweat those for a good 20 minutes, then return your meat to the fray.

Add the water & wine. Put your lid on, preheat your oven to 350, slap it in there for 2 hours, and forget it exists till your time's up. Remove again to the stovetop. Your meat should be getting tender enough to come apart a bit, and you can shred it with your spatula or spoon as you go.

My picture of the stupid shredded apple survived, but not my picture of the waterblommetjies themselves. They look somewhere between swamp thing and a leopard, and smell like a wonderful cross between good olives and asparagus.

Thanks, Google image search! Mine looked pretty much like that, yeah!

Too bad I didn't get a snap, because after that, I tossed the apple, potato, and waterblommetjies into the melange.

To this hearty mash, I added my nutmeg, pepper, bay leaves, and periperi. I tasted it, and added more periperi still. When my particular heat affinity was reached, I simmered for another 30 minutes with the cover on, killed the heat, then tossed in my raw garlic at the end.

I topped the "stew" over another Afrikaner dish - funeral rice, which is basically a pot of rice fried into some butter, turmeric, cinnamon, onions, shredded carrot, and raisins.

What I love about South African food is that it's completely unsophisticated stuff that seems very familiar to any of us who have or had a grandmother who liked to cook. So much of it is old timey and homey, but it's also coupled with a few exotic flavors to remind you that you're eating something just a little different.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


So, I've procrastinated this long enough. Time to roll up my sleeves and get back to blogging. Yes, I'm still in the long process of settling after the move. No, I'm not done yet. I'm having camera issues in the interim, so if I do get some snaps off, they will be of dubious quality, be warned. I just can't neglect this any more, and I love sharing the work I'm doing, even if I don't have pictures at hand.

My mom, dad, and sis came out to the house this weekend, which was a treat. I got to cook for everyone, and mom helped out as my sous-chef fry lady. We rocked out a never-ending stack of ruffle-cut kettle chips & fried okra fingers (with homemade remoulade, because I love making it). We also had a bit of black-eyed peas, which mom also helped with, and some trout I bought from Grow Alabama.

This is where the story is funny. See, I knew my trout was whole, and I figured it would be a snap to fillet it out. Well, not quite. I'm not at that level of awesome quite yet unfortunately. Instead of fillets though, I decided to stuff the trout with herbs, squash, and shallots and pouch steam them with some brown butter. There was just one catch - I underestimated my sister's aversion to icky fish skin! Now, if you don't like the stuff you can easily peel it away so that's not a problem. Still, it got me thinking.

We're living in a boneless, skinless dystopia, and in a world where people put bacon on all sorts of inappropriate dishes, how are people still hesitant about eating fish skin and chicken skin? It's connective tissue, salt, and fat. It comes together to not only form a deliciously crunchy layer on pan-seared and roasted dishes, but it also holds in moisture. People opt for skinless meat, realize they're often eating dry meat, and overcompensate with sauces and marinades. I would shrug it off if so many of them weren't looking down their nose at skin and the added fat in it, when their sauce is often loaded with the stuff.

This isn't in any way a slight to my sister. She thought what I thought the first time I was confronted by skin on a fish. (1) Ew gross and (2) How do I get it off. All I'm hoping for is that more people give skin a chance, and pack their bags to Flavor Country.