Food fit for a Prince
Our Country Cuisine series takes you on a culinary tour of South Africa, offering the essence of our historical and traditional food treasures. This taste of adventure comes with the compliments of Raymond du Plessis, our tough man from Tuffstuff Insurance.
Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Jannie Herbst
Nursing the hunger
Johanna Luttig is a local – as local as they get. She is also celebrated as the town’s caterer. Her family has been in Prince Albert since 1833, making her grandson the fifth generation of Luttigs.
One of her three daughters, Madri, runs the catering business with her. Johanna is so famed for her food that Francois Rossouw, Leisure Wheels contributor and much-loved tour operator of RSG 4X4 Toere, uses Johanna exclusively when he’s in the region with a tour group.
When tour groups or special functions are not demanding Johanna’s cooking skills, she caters for weddings. The decorated, make-shift functions hall on their farm on the fringes of town is the wedding venue. It served as a restaurant for many years, but that chapter is now closed.
“I gave it up after all the hours on my feet just became too much for me,” says Johanna, a warm-hearted boere tannie. “Now that I’m a grandma, I only do weddings and functions. This at least gives me a break in-between.
“Madri is the dessert specialist, Bianca, my daughter-in-law, does the decor and I do the flowers. And that’s what we do for a living!” she says with a laugh.
Johanna, a qualified nurse, never imagined that she would become a caterer, never mind the most respected one in Prince Albert.
“The drought of the early nineties demanded that I throw my weight behind my husband to help create some income. I started a farm stall from our original property in town. People loved my produce and after five years I sold the farm stall to open the restaurant on our farm, Drie Riviere.”
For our visit, Johanna decided on a tried and trusted mainstay of a recipe, enjoyed by many who take pleasure in a taste of kudu fillet. It is served in netvet (net-like stomach membrane) with a quince sauce and veggies.
After years of having to cater in all conditions, Johanna is perfectly able to prepare this sweeping spread on the patio of the wedding hall – over an open fire. A genuine pair of bellows is used to blow on the coals while an original iron-doored clay oven takes prime position on the patio. Although the old oven is more ornamental than operational, Johanna assures us that it has served her well over the years.
Johanna’s kudu wrapped in netvet and served with quince
What you need
Sheep netvet (net-like stomach membrane)
1 packet powdered French salad dressing
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
1 cup olive oil
Ground salt to taste
What you do
Mix one packet of salad dressing powder in 100ml water. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Marinade the kudu fillet in marinade for four hours.
In the meantime, make a big fire outside!
Place a cast iron pot on its tripod stand on very hot coals. Add marinade to the pot. Sear/seal the fillet on both sides. Take out of the pot.
Place netvet in marinade, spread open and wrap fillet in the fat. Secure with toothpicks.
Grill the fillet wrapped in netvet on hot coals until the fat has almost disappeared. The fat will dissolve into the dry fillet and make it malleable and juicy.
Note: The fillet should still be pink on the inside when it is removed from the coals. Game meat coagulates for some time after being taken off the coals.
What you need
Left-over sauce from kudu fillet (salad dressing)
1 cup water
1 cup good red wine
What you do
Cook the vegetables in one cup water, one cup red wine and the remaining sauce in a cast iron pot until tender.
Chutney cream sauce
What you need
6 tablespoons apricot chutney
3 tablespoons Bisto made with 500ml water
1 tablespoon soya sauce
What you do
Cook the above ingredients together. Just before serving, add one cup of cream and mix well. Pour over meat.
Scrub quinces with a sponge under running water.
Place quinces in a pot on an open fire. Close the lid and put a few coals on the lid. Leave to cook for two hours and until soft and golden brown. Do not add any water.
Adding everything together
The vegetables are already in the cast iron pot. Cut the quinces in wheels and add to the vegetables. Place kudu fillet wrapped in netvet on top of the veggies and quinces and cook for 20 minutes, allowing time for all the flavours to be absorbed into the meat.
Take kudu fillet out of the pot and place on a serving dish. Cut into neat, medium-thick slices and arrange the vegetables and quinces around the fillet.
Pour the chutney cream sauce over the meat just before serving.
A pallette of flavour
Brent Phillips describes himself as a restaurateur. Not a chef. He did not have any form of training, never intended to open a restaurant and never thought he would be able to make a living from something he only discovered on his travels – the wonderful world of fresh food.
The Gallery Cafe in the Seven Arches building is where Brent’s restaurant “happened”. He’s been at it for 11 years now.
“I only discovered as an adult how amazing food can be when it doesn’t come from packets,” says Brent, with a hint of a smile on his usually serious face. His Valpre-coloured eyes don’t give a hint of his emotions. He is reserved, even shy.
“I grew up with food coming from cartons and sachets – instant this, convenient that. It was only when I started travelling that I realised how marvellous cooking can be.
“I have a knack of remembering how things taste. Later I can recreate that taste, and add a bit of my own preferences to it. The lemon-crusted rack of ribs on the menu is a successor to my grandmother’s Sunday lunch of roast lamb with a fresh mint sauce. I love combining different tastes from different places – just as I remembered them.”
The only “unfresh” foodstuffs used in The Gallery Cafe are tinned coconut milk and black cherries. The rest are all fresh from local farmers and prepared from scratch.
“We make all our stocks ourselves,” says Brent. The “our” means Brent and his staff – all local women he has trained from scratch. While some of them had worked in take-away shops, none of them could really cook when he took them on.
“Ons kon nie eens ‘n ou groentetjie gaarmaak dat hy lekker lyk nie, Mevrou,” one chirps from behind the gas stove in the very orderly kitchen.
“All the recipes are my own creations, and although they’re unique, I like to call them ‘safe’, since nothing is extravagant or strange.”
Brent wasn’t lured to Prince Albert by a lifelong desire to open a restaurant or even a coffee shop. “I came here to open a wellness retreat with two partners. There was a coffee shop next to the retreat that wasn’t run to its full potential. When the lease came up for renewal, I took it over and started the Prince Albert Gallery, with a small coffee shop at the front.
“The support I received was tremendous and the coffee shop morphed into a fully fledged restaurant that now occupies the entire top storey of The Seven Arches building.
The gallery – adorned with artwork from well-known locals to nationally acclaimed artists – is still downstairs. Some of the paintings have made it up the stairs to embellish the restaurant and beguile the patrons.
The Gallery Café Springbok Shank
What you need
60ml olive oil
2 large onions – finely chopped
15 tomatoes (skinned and de-seeded)
10 whole peppercorns
1 x 750ml bottle red wine (Brent uses a good Merlot)
750ml venison stock
A good bunch of thyme
3 bay leaves
8 to12 fresh springbok whole shanks
What you do
Brown the meat briefly using the olive oil.
Remove the meat from the pot and add the chopped onions and peppercorns. Fry until onions are translucent.
Return the meat to the pot with the onions, adding the venison stock, red wine, thyme, bay leaves and tomatoes.
Place in oven (preheated to 170C) and bake until the meat is soft – usually 2 to 2 ? hours.
Gallery Café’s Venison Stock Recipe
What you need
1kg venison bones (Brent uses kudu)
2 large onions – sliced
4 large carrots – roughly chopped
1 celery stick -chopped
3 whole star aniseed
5 juniper berries (lightly crushed)
Good bunch of thyme
30ml olive oil
2.5 litres cold water
What you do
Gently fry the onion in the olive oil. Add the juniper berries and star anise to the other ingredients. Simmer gently for 1 ? to 2 hours. Occasionally remove the foamy layer that develops. Strain through a sieve.
- Raw quinces are inedible, but make excellent natural air fresheners. If a quince is kept in the glove compartment of a car it will shrivel but will rot, and will fill the car with a pleasant aroma for up to six months.
- Quinces originated in Turkestan and Persia.
- It is speculated that quinces were the fruit referred to as “apples” in myths and legends
- In Spain, they are still highly prized and are used to make a thick fruit paste called “membrillo”, which is made by boiling quince with sugar. After cooling, it is cut into squares and served with soft cheeses – much like traditional South African kweper lekkers (quince sweets).
- When quinces are cooked, the heat and the acids in the fruit convert the colourless pigments to red, thus turning its flesh from pale yellow to a pink or red. Cooking also transforms the strong, unpleasant astringent taste to a more mellow flavour, halfway between that of an apple and a pear.
- Because of their high pectin content, found mainly in the skin, quinces make an excellent jelly. In fact, the Portuguese name for the quince is the origin of the English word “marmalade”, which was originally made from this fruit.
- Source: www.wikipedia.com
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