Before we get to the food portion of the menu notes, I’m going to give one more plug for buying a plane ticket to South Africa and tasting the wine that doesn’t make it to U.S. shores. And I don’t even like wine (or traveling for that matter) and I’m saying this, so just imagine how delicious that wine might be. Luckily, I don’t need to spend a lot of time writing promotional materials because the Stellenbosch Wine Route organization has already done so and the website is here. I will simply add that if you are in South Africa and in possession of a few bottles of wine, you can bring them to the summer concert series at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, one of the most visually spectacular places in the world. They too have their own promotional materials posted here.
And now for some food:
Bunny Chow aka Durban Curry:
Bunny Chow is a thick curry (not necessarily involving any rabbit meat – I made it vegetarian) in a bread bowl. I read in a history museum that this food exists because non-white laborers weren’t allowed inside Durban restaurants and so took their food in hollowed out, day old bread from the back door, and thus invented takeout food. I also see articles claiming that the wives of the laborers invented this trick so that curry could be taken out into the fields. Whichever way you look at it, it’s tasty. I’m linking here a typed out recipe for Bunny Chow if you like specific guidance. Below is a not-specific description of how I myself make it.
First, the curry. You want to have something that’s not too broth-y. One way to do that is to just not add a lot of broth to your favorite curry recipe (or drain some out). I do it by using a curry butternut soup as my base (particularly useful if you had that same soup on a takeout menu earlier in the week, as I did, it’s also the only way to trick my husband into eating butternut squash). Then, I add sauteed vegetables – like red peppers, cauliflower, or green beans – and cooked cranberry or pinto beans to give it chunks. Then, I cook up peeled and diced potatoes, and add them, mashing a few of the potatoes to release the starch into the soup. This strategy is using two thickening options – the pureed butternut squash from the base soup and the starches from the potatoes.
Now, the buns. Here the goal is a roll that won’t collapse, because these are supposed to be very sturdy packages. I use bread that is light, not the dense hearty artisan kinds. I hollow out each roll and brush it liberally with olive oil. Then, I toast them in the oven at 400-degrees for a few minutes until they’re browned outside. Basically you’ve made crostini in the shape of a bowl. The recipe that I linked above doesn’t tell you to do this, but in the picture that’s clearly what’s happened to the bread, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.
Monkey Gland Sauce:
Monkey Gland sauce is a meat sauce with tomatoes, chutney, and Worcestershire sauce. No monkeys. I don’t know the real history of the name, but here is a detailed history that could possibly be true – the short version is that monkey glands were rumored to restore vitality in aging men and so it was an attractive term.
This article includes one option for making the sauce. I used this Monkey Gland Sauce recipe from the BBC. Because I can’t actually follow a recipe, for the tomato sauce I used 3/4 cup ketchup, and for the sugar, brown sugar. And Beach Plum jelly for the chutney which is not at all chutney, but it tastes similar without chunky bits. I poured it over racks of St. Louis cut ribs, covered them with tinfoil, and put them in a 350-degree oven for 2.5 hours. Then, I poured off the drippings and sauce and simmered that down for half an hour, skimmed off the fat, and used it as gravy.
A Word on Grits
Mielie-Pap and grits aren’t exactly the same thing. Mielie-Pap is closer to what we’d call cornmeal mush – but it can be varying consistencies. For example, krimmel pap would be crumbly, stywe pap is very stiff. In any event, I like grits and so I made grits. Here is how my grit making goes: take grits, put them in a pot over medium-low heat, add whole milk cupfuls at a time, stirring or whisking after each addition to eliminate lumps, until it won’t take any more, then add salt to taste and some butter. It takes a while and the grits will absorb more milk than you think possible. Some recipes call for half water and half cream which would be even more rich (since I was serving these underneath braised short ribs and gravy, I didn’t feel a need to make them more rich – I’m from Vermont, I’m frugal that way). If you’re using the cream approach, the ratio would be 1 cup grits, 2 cups cream, 2 cups milk, 1/4 stick butter at the end (from the cookbook Root to Leaf).
Cape Pudding is delicious and smells wonderful when you bake it and it’s easy.
To start off use:
1 cup deglet dates roughly chopped (not pre-chopped, not rolled in sugar or oat flour or anything like that) & 1 cup water
In a small saucepan, bring the dates and water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp of baking soda.
While the dates cool, turn on the oven to 350-degrees and generously butter a 9 x 5 bread loaf pan (ie what you would use for banana bread).
In a stand mixer
Cream 6 Tb of unsalted butter at room temperature and 3/4 cup of white sugar until aerated (also known as fluffy).
Beat in 1 large egg
In a small bowl whisk together:
1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, generous pinch of salt.
At low speed beat the flour mixture into the butter, eggs, and sugar until *just* combined. Stir in the date mixture and 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts (medium fine chop).
Pour into the greased pan and bake until fully set, about 50 minutes to an hour. If it starts to brown too much on the edges, cover with tinfoil.
When you serve the cake, pour hard sauce on top. The only time I’ve had someone else’s version of this pudding, I’m pretty sure they just upended a bottle of brandy into the tin. Here’s what I recommend:
In a small saucepan, cook 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of water at a vigorous simmer until it thickens (about 8 minutes). Stir in 1/2 tsp of vanilla and then 1/3 cup of bourbon. Stir in 2 Tb of butter.
I served this with diced Asian pear on Thursday night, whipped cream would also be a good choice. Or both, both would be possibly a better choice. Or neither. We also have determined that the hard sauce is a fine addition to rooibos tea.