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Sardines on toast A YEAR ON THE WEST COAST TOFFIE POP CULTURE FESTIVAL CAPE TOWN 24 March 2011

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Uvela phi?

> Studied at Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch. > Couldn’t see myself working in an industrial kitchen for the rest of my life. Decided to explore my love for writing and ended up pursuing a career in journalism. > The two interests happened to combine with an appointment as web editor for local restaurant magazine, Eat Out. > Realised that my real passion still lies with food. > Quit my job, joined our family business in Paternoster and decided to convert the tea garden into a West Coast bistro. DIE WINKEL OP PATERNOSTER | OEP VE KOEP Oep ve Koep has been in the Van der Merwe family since February 2009. It is a humble but multifaceted business which combines elements of a country store, farm stall, corner cafe, bakery, vintage plaaswinkel - we stock anything from jams, preserves and pickles to nostalgic sweets, shweshwe fabrics and veldskoene. We also inherited the shop’s ‘tea garden’, which happened to be the fifth ‘eatery’ in the village to offer fish and chips. When I arrived in October 2009, I decided to shift the focus to simple, innovative meals, prepared using unique local produce. Sixteen months later, I like to think of it as a small al fresco bistro, almost in the dictionary sense of the word ‘bistro’ – a small restaurant with a chalkboard menu, serving honest, seasonal food with a strong local focus, with friendly, laid-back service.

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Unique surrounds

:

Saldanha Strandveld

Paternoster lies within the Saldanha Limestone and Saldanha Granite Strandveld biome, an area that stretches roughly from the Postberg section of the West Coast National Park in Langebaan, across the Saldanha Peninsula and up to Paternoster. My interest in this unique plant kingdom – in particular the edible plants - has had a significant impact on my cooking over the past year. MEDITERRANEAN LOOKS Our village may have Grecian good looks - turquoise water, pristine beaches and white-washed houses - but the surrounding veld is quite a different story. It’s dry, oftentimes with perpetual wind, in summer - vegetation here needs to adapt to the scorching sun and the salty breath of the icy Atlantic ocean. But if you look closely, you’ll spot some interesting survivors that get by on the minimum – some store water in their succulent leaves, others survive on a lick of dew caught on foggy mornings, and some only thrive after the rainy season, such as the well known West Coast daisies for example. Not unlike Cape Town, weather in Paternoster changes swiftly. I would even say we have a microclimate – it is almost impossible to follow the weather forecast on the internet or from the daily paper with any hopes of it being accurate. Mist is a common occurrence - some days a foggy patch will hover over Paternoster for the entire day, winter or summer.

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


CRAYFISH, CRAYFISH, CRAYFISH Colourful boats dotting the beach – iconic West Coast imagery. Locally, they’re known as kreefbakkies. There is no denying that the West Coast is famous for its crayfish, or West Coast rock lobster (jasus lalandi). On most days, Paternoster is a hive of crayfish haggling activity. Ironically, I am extremely allergic to this iconic West Coast delicacy, and not being able to cook with the most obvious, perhaps most-coveted West Coast ingredient provides an interesting challenge. I had to start looking elsewhere.

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Resources

: Local

ingredients

My search for local ingredients started with the basics such as eggs, milk, flour, as well as specialist ingredients from the area – salt, rooibos tea and heirloom vegetables. IN THE AREA FLOUR > Koperfontein : small community mill outside of Hopefield 61.2km EGGS > Paternoster plaaseiers: two suppliers who live and farm less than 1km from Oep ve Koep SALT > Khoisan: natural, hand-harvested salt producers in nearby Velddrif 39.8km MILK > Darling Creamery, Darling 95.2km (MILK, unpasteurised > Uitkomsboerdery, Paternoster) 2km HONEY > Strandveld heuning from a small private producer in adjacent Stompneusbaai 16.2km OLIVE OIL > Kloovenburg, Riebeek Kasteel POTATOES > Sandveld aartappels: Aurora, Redelinghuys 103km BEANS > Heerboontjies from Aurora, Redelinghuys area 103km TEA > Honeybush, Rooibos from Clanwilliam 201km BOKKOMS > Harders / Maasbanker bokkoms from Velddrif 38km HERBS > home-grown 0km HOMEMADE BREAD > I bake white and brown farm loaves and ciabatta-style bread on a daily basis PASTA > A versatile classic and an Oep ve Koep staple – linguine, ravioli, open ravioli and lasagne. RICOTTA > Homemade with Darling buttermilk

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Wild food

:

Veldkos

I have always been interested in wild food – eating from the veld. We have lost touch with nature – we don’t know what’s seasonal, or in some cases even what’s local or imported or ‘inherited’. Eating from the veld forces you to be seasonal: some things simply won’t grow during certain times of the year. DUINESPINASIE > Tetragonia decumbens. A perennial, hardy beach ‘herb’. Young tips are almost vegetable-like. The slightly woolly leaves can be eaten raw, but texture improves when fried briefly or blanched in boiling water, then refreshed. My latest favourite is to wilt it in olive oil, adding just a pinch of black pepper. SOUTSLAAI > Mesembryanthemum pappilosum. The beautiful ruby-edged, slightly saline young leaves of the soutlsaai are delicious used raw in salads. Crunchy and slightly salty, good substitute for capers. VELDKOOL > Trachyandra cilliata. A most versatile, very seasonal local veld vegetable . The young flower clusters of the trachyandra cilliata and trachyandra falcata can be likened to asparagus tips in appearance. Delicious in stews, or steamed and dipped in soy sauce. WATERBLOMMETJIES Aponogeton distachys > a versatile indigenous ‘vegetable’, popular in heritage recipes. I like to explore new ways of cooking this pond flower. Perfect partner to egg. Delicious with soy sauce. Young ones are good in salad, late season blommetjies are better suited to slow-cooking in bredies. SUURVY > Carpobrotus edulis / ELANDSVY > Carpobrotus kwadrifidus. Fruit are edible, fresh or dried. Dried vytjies can be soaked in water over night, peeled, then boiled till soft and caramelised as jam. © Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


The sticky syrup has a tamarind-like taste, good with sweet Cape-style curries, hot & sour Thai flavoured dishes, sosaties. WILD SAGE Salvia Africana-lutea and WILD ROSEMARY or KAPOKBOS Eriocephalus africanus > Fragrant twigs and leaves of these indigenous herbs are delicious used in stews or slow-cooked meat dishes or fish cooked on the braai. Also imparts flavour if used to smoke fish or meat. SEEKORAAL > Salicornia sp. Indigenous samphire or glasswort. The seemingly leafless stems are delicious lightly steamed or blanched - slightly saline, and tastier than fine green beans or young asparagus.

Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Wild food

: Seafood

BOKKOMS > Harders Liza richardsonii / Maasbankers Trachurus delagoa. Salted, air-dried fish. Maasbanker bokkom fillets are delicious when reconstituted in olive oil and lemon juice. Adds rich flavour to stews, pastas. Gives depth to compound butter sauces. Delicious with egg. Very salty, and needs accompaniments that soothe the palate – fresh cucumber, green apple, sea lettuce, joghurt, citrus, bread etc. SEA LETTUCE > Ulva lactuca. Beautiful bright green sea algae. Rinse under fresh water and use raw in salads. Delicious dressed with lemon juice, although discolouration occurs. MUSSELS > West Coast black mussels Choromytilus meriodionalis and the invasive alien Mytilus galloprovincialis Best cooked in smoking-hot olive oil so they steam in their own juices. Pairs well with sage, or gremolata (equal parts fresh herbs, lemon zest, raw garlic). Good with smoked ham.

Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Heritage food

: Family

inheritance

Although I grew up in the winelands town of Stellenbosch, much of my childhood was spent on our family farm in the ‘groen Kalahari’ – 30kms outside Kuruman, in the Northern Cape, where I was born. It was a livestock farm where holidays were spent raising hanslammers, hunting guinea fowl and springbok, making sausage and biltong. It was mieliepap for breakfast, and for lunch we had stews in winter and braais in summer, usually with carrot and potato mash, or green bean and potato mash. Vegetables were picked from the vegetable garden, we got milk from the small household dairy twice daily, and the farm’s own sheep and boerbok stock supplied meat for the table. These childhood memories of honest, simple food cooked with the help of the whole family had a profound influence on my interest in food. HERITAGE FOOD AT OEP VE KOEP BOBOTIE > Baked in individual portions in many variations, including traditional beef, mussel, fish, and lentil, with yellow rice and sambals. BOEREWORS > A family recipe: beef, lamb and pork generously spiced with coriander, dried thyme and clove. CURRY > Or ‘kerriekos’ as the Paternoster locals call it. Anything from gemsbok sosaties, or curried calamari, to curried quince and tomato, pickled fish. Mild, sweeter curries, the masala roasted and ground from scratch. The sauce is often tomato based and fragrant with fresh dhanya and tamarind – mostly softened with plain yoghurt and buttermilk, or coconut milk. UMQA > Mielie rice cooked in stock, with mushy roasted pumpkin or butternut added at the end- a hearty African risotto. A recipe which I inherited from Mama Koleka Ntshwante.

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


New food Exploring new territory :

The food I’m exploring here – ‘new’ techniques, ‘new’ combinations - is not new at all. But it’s new to me. Existing techniques that I’m exploring for the first time, new flavour pairings, using wild foods that I’ve discovered for the first time and combining them in new ways. To me, two things play roles in coming up with new ideas – inspiration and isolation. Blogs, books, visits to restaurants (in particular Richard Carstens at Nova and Tokara) have had a profound influence on me. But also being ‘isolated’ in a small kitchen in Paternoster, without a sounding board. A lot of my new food exploration involved vegetables and wild food and raw ingredients. One of the most exciting areas of development in the last year has been salads. EXAMPLES OF NEW TERRITORY EXPLORED Plum ice-cream with custard soil, fresh plum, nasturtium, beetroot marshmallow, coriander brittle and lemon basil > playing with new flavour pairings, treating vegetables and fruit differently, new textures, challenging conventions of savoury / sweet, exploring new plating. Winter salad with seasonal leaves, preserved quince slices, capers, avocado, feta cheese, veldkool > using wild food (veldkool) as ‘new’ vegetable, pairing conventional (quince) with new (veldkool). Smoked snoek ‘ceviche’ with raw corn salsa, popcorn, coriander, rocket flowers, sesame seeds, tomato jam, yoghurt > new technique with local staple, raw texture, new flavour pairings. © Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Amuse bouche of black olive soil with olive-oil-marinated-watermelon, popcorn, mint, soy sauce > new texture, new technique, new flavour pairing. Melon salad with watermelon, winter melon, cucumber, gooseberry, pickled onion, sesame oil, ponzu, mint, coriander > new flavour pairings, treating fruit and vegetables differently, challenging conventions of savoury / sweet, new plating. FOOD INSPIRED BY NATURE

Boulders, Bekbaai : Muscat d’Alexandrie (hanepoot) and olive oil sorbet, red globe sorbet, Kloovenburg olive oil, basil Kelp, Abdolsbaai : Curried beetroot salad, banana soil, home-ground masala, yoghurt, mint and coriander leaves, cabbage, apple Summer veld, Bekbaai : Green salad with steamed dune spinach, green apple, green tomato, mange tout, fennel bulb PLANTS OF THE FUTURE? Seekoraal Salicornia > saltwater irrigation Spekboom Portulaca Afra > negative carbon footprint Sea lettuce Ulva species> abundant, healthy

Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Bokkoms on toast An evolution :

Sardines on toast> Student food sardines from a can, plaasbrood, onion, tomato, basil > Bokkoms on toast> Open sandwich olive-oil-lemon-juice marinated bokkom strips, tomato, ricotta, fennel, chilli Bokkom bruschetta> Breakfast or starter on Oep ve Koep ciabatta with fresh lemon and chilli relish Bokkom Benedict > Breakfast with poached egg, smoked ham, citrus beurre blanc Breaded Bokkom Tokara > with apple, basil, dune spinach, citrus-ginger dressing, yoghurt New ‘Bokkoms on toast’ > poached egg, citrus beurre blanc, apple, basil, gooseberry, steamed seekoraal, sea lettuce

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Beyond food : Other references

> The scenic West Coast > Books > My bicycle > Mozambique holidays > Bebop, Bach, Rachmaninoff > Kalk Bay, my second home

Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


Noteworthy names > Rupert Koopman > Roelie van Heerden > Koos & Elise Claassens > Richard Carstens > Hedwig Slabig > David Bellamy > Koleka Ntshwante > Familie Van der Merwe > Familie Heyneman > Familie Oep ve Koep > Nina Petri Dish > Alma Saboteur

Š Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.


List of references > Claassens, H.W. 2006. Die geskiedenis van Boerekos. Protea: Pretoria. > Coetzee, R. 2009. Koekemakranka. Lapa: Pretoria. > Gerber, H. 1950. Cape cookery old and new. Timmins: Cape Town. > Gericke, N., Van Wyk, B. 2000. People’s plants. Briza: Pretoria. > Leipoldt, C.L. 1933. Kos vir die kenner. Tafelberg: Cape Town. > Leipoldt, C. L. 1976. Leipoldt’s Cape Cookery. W.J. Flesch: Cape Town. > Rood, B. 2008. Kos uit die veldkombuis. Protea: Pretoria. > Rossellini, I. 2009. Green porno. Harper Collins: New York.

© Copyright 2011 Kobus van der Merwe. All rights reserved.

Sardines on toast : A year on the West Coast  

Wild food and laid-back cooking on the West Coast of South Africa.

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