Cuisine of the Cape and the Kalahari

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Magnificent prawns, calamari, and mussels, made by a dear friend who knows how to cook seafood.

When you stay at beautiful places like False Bay and the Kalahari, you experience beautiful sights, sounds, sensations, smells, and tastes.

It’s tastes I want to talk about today. Let’s start with the wonderful tastes of food I experienced in False Bay while staying in Clovelly earlier this year.

What stands out for me is a very old friend’s braaing skills. He knows how to cook meat, fish, and fowl. I think his secret is getting the fire to the right temperature and cooking slowly.

His wife makes magnificent prawns, calamari, and mussels.

That reminds me, there is a supermarket in Fish Hoek that sells fried calamari. It’s better than most people could make in their own kitchens.

I just love fresh fish from the ocean. Its flavour is so much more delicious than anything that’s been frozen for months in a supermarket fridge.

Talking about fish, a fish shop in Fish Hoek, which has been frying fish since I was a kid, still prepares great hake and snoek.

My dearly beloved cooks magnificent pastas, roast lamb and chicken dishes while we were on holiday.

In the afternoons on a hot summer day, a humble snack of salty biscuits, smoked mussles, cheese and gherkins is tasty and helps to replenish your bodily salts from the heat of the day.

And of course, being in the Cape, you have such a selection of wines. My friends recommended various wines during my stay there, and all were wonderful to drink during the hot summer evenings, chatting to longtime and life-long friends.

In the Kalahari, I have been spoilt with so much delicious mutton while staying on my dearly beloved’s family farm. Lamb chops grilled over a big open fire. Roast lamb. Lamb stew. And even lamb kaaiens for breakfast.

I love eating those delicious lamb chops with a lemon flavour with my hands, hot fat collecting around my mouth.

The most interesting food I’ve tasted in the Kalahari is the wild Kalahari truffles known as n’abbas. They have a delicious flavour.

Another thing I love when I am on a farm is the home-made food. I enjoy the freshly baked, home-made rusks. You just don’t get that taste from anything that you could buy in shops.

A special meal prepared on the farm in Namibia by young ladies learning culinary skills at school.

What about fish, you may ask? The last time I went to the Kalahari, the farmer’s wife had received a gift of galjoen and kabeljou. The fisherman who catches fish up there at Hentiesbaai doesn’t eat fish.

I haven’t eaten galjoen for decades. I grilled it outdoors on an open fire, and everyone loved it. The kabeljou was very good too.

I haven’t spoken about biltong, but that’s one thing that when you’re out in the Kalahari you can get plenty of. And it’s a lot more delicious than the biltong shops offer.

I’m forgetting about the times when people want me to cook. That’s when I bring out my trusty chilli recipe and make sure to cook two — a mild one for the children and a very hot one for the adults, especially the men.

When we were staying on the farm the farmer’s friends came around from neighbouring farms. The visitors made a Kerrie afval Potjie ( skaap pens-en-pootjies). One of the farmers, a friendly chap, jokingly dared me to eat the afval delicacy. I’ve never eaten anything like this, and my stomach churned to think that I would be eating the insides of animal intestines. The afval was served. And it was delicious, but unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to eat things you’re not used to. The farmers have an acquired taste for the stuff, but for an old fisherman and a city slicker, it was something else.

I may just add that my dearly beloved did not attempt fate by having any of the dainty Kalahari dish.

I mustn’t forget about the beverages. Beverages are extremely important in the hot Kalahari. Especially when you relax with family and friends. During the day, we drank lemon-flavoured beer and non-alcoholic beer made in Germany. In that type of weather, it just slakes your thirst.

At night, I’d start off with one of the delicious Radler beers made in Namibia. Then on to one of the famous beers that is made in Windhoek. I just find it amazing that the beer from Windhoek tastes so good in the Kalahari climate. If ever a beer was made for climatic conditions, then the beer from Windhoek is just perfect.

These images of food, the sounds of meat grilling in the oven or roasting on an open fire, conjure many happy memories and jolly times. It’s wonderful how food brings people together. How sharing food puts people at ease and leads to easy conversation.

I haven’t mentioned any restaurants. Not because their food is as good. Sometimes a restaurant prepares something that you would never try out at home. I’m just tired of restaurant food.

It all begins to taste the same. A spoonful of butter is used in the cooking to prop up the meal. It’s just that I prefer the simple, delicious food that ordinary folks make.

It’s food that is prepared by people you know. People who care. People who enjoy cooking. People who try out their recipes at home, some recipes handed down through generations, have gotten them right so that they become easier to make and enjoy and are simply delicious.

I’ve briefly touched on two holiday spots where I’ve enjoyed the food in addition to everything else. I’m sure there are many more places where the food is just as good. A holiday shouldn’t, of course, be about the food, but you can’t live on bread alone wherever you are. Good food and good company (and good wine) make for good times.

The dear lady who gave me my appreciation of all sorts of food, my mother Myra. Her recipes from Myra’s Galley are still sought after. With her is her granddaughter Rayne.

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