Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Food from The Housemaid's Daughter!
A number of readers have spoken about how much they enjoyed the references to traditional Karoo cuisine that are sprinkled throughout The Housemaid's Daughter. So I thought I'd let you in on a few secrets...
Ada, the heroine in the book, is taught to cook by her mother, Miriam, and her Irish employer, Cathleen. It is the 1930s and 40s, so locally grown produce dominates their fare. And of that, it is probably Karoo lamb that has become the most famous not just in the region, but around the world. This is because of its unique taste - a result of the tough but aromatic bossies that the lambs feed on as they wander the stark plains. The plants' tiny leaves contain oils and alkaloids that concentrate a fragrance in the meat that is unmistakeable. Don't miss roast Karoo lamb, or tender Karoo ribbetjies (ribs) if you are in the area!
Ada serves her Karoo lamb with butternut squash, cooked in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. If layered into a pan and allowed to simmer slowly on the hob, the butter and brown sugar caramelise the squash gently, while the cinnamon lends a piquant flavouring on top.
If chicken is more your dish, try a stuffing such as Ada makes with dried apricots - especially if they happen to come from an apricot tree in your garden!
For dessert, the focus switches to the Cape for a signature Cape Brandy Tart, rich with dates and pecan nuts, and served with a warming (?!) brandy sauce that is trickled over the hot tart after it comes out of the oven. A swirl of whipped cream will add a final flourish, and a brisk walk round the block might be in order if you've partaken of the entire meal outlined above!
One other possibility: how about Ada's homemade granadilla (passion fruit) icecream, made from the fruit grown in a protected corner of the garden at Cradock House - or, if you live too far from the nearest granadilla vine, from a... tin?
It's delicious, wherever it originates.