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The rice dish at the end of life

Funeral rice, better known in South Africa as begrafnisrys, is part of a rich South African tradition.
The grim procession snakes from the farmhouse across the werf towards the low white wall that surrounds the little fenced cemetery. The dominee’s right arm is heavy under the weight of the heavy family Bible, rendering him lopsided, as though he has a limp. An old man near the back of the procession leans on his walking stick, head bowed, brow morose; the son should not die before the father. Two children, a boy and a girl, slightly younger, skip and giggle with the insouciance of the innocent; a mother and aunt chastise them, bringing them to heel. A dog wanders the yard oblivious.
When the day and the climbing sun have taken their toll of sweat and tears, the troupe is less ordered as they traipse back to the house, the wailing done, regrets pocketed, resolve firm. These people are stoics, as were their forebears. They know that the putting to the ground of the loved one is also the laying to rest of the hope that they might see him just one more time. Even as they turned away from the grave, they were turning their backs on the life all had had with that person, and facing the rest of their lives without him. This is the way of life and death.
But first, after the sombre ritual, there must be the joy, inasmuch as any can be found in it, the trenchant telling of tales about the life of the departed, and the feasting.
The feasting. At the old Cape, whether in the town or a dorp deep in the country, a funeral could be a lavish affair, not dissimilar to a modern day after-tears gathering.
Renata Coetzee, in her The South African Culinary Tradition, wrote that an old Cape funeral was “a major social occasion”, so much so that laws had to be promulgated to make the proceedings less extravagant.
There was even an element of what today might be termed rent-a-crowd. When a funeral was held after dark, lantern bearers were hired to light the way for the cortège. Weepers, called huilebalke, were paid to sob and wail, while others called trop sluiters or procession joiners were hired to bring up the rear, to create an impression of greater numbers.
After the funeral, “everyone who had been to the cemetery, including the hired participants ...

What’s cooking today: Begrafnisrys

The meal after a funeral would include begrafnisrys, the jewelled yellow funeral rice that still bears the name today, although in our times this dish is commonplace and not only brought out for a funeral or after-tears party.
Michael Olivier wrote that begrafnisrys was traditionally served in Cape Malay homes at large family gatherings such as funerals, cooked either as “droeërys” (dry rice) or “paprys” (wet rice) and that while saffron was used in earlier times, “turmeric is the current favourite spice used for colouring the rice”. The raisins, he added, were optional.
I chose to use a cinnamon stick with ground cumin (a winning aromatic for rice) and a few cloves in a nod to the old Cape spice tradition.
1 cup basmati rice
3 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp seedless raisins
2 Tbsp butter
I cook rice like this: Rinse in a saucepan and pour the water off, four times. Measure 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Add the cinnamon stick and cloves and stir in the salt, turmeric and cumin, then add the raisins. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then turn off the heat, cover with foil and put a lid on tightly. Leave it to steam for half an hour until cooked. If, when you check the rice, there is still any liquid at the bottom of the pot, cover, put the heat on for half a minute, turn off and leave it to finish steaming through. Add the butter and fluff it with a fork. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.
SUBSCRIBE to TGIFood here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing.

Stoep sitting after the rain

A stoep. A chair. A glass in your hand. The view of the koppies and infinity beyond. For Karoo people, this is living.
In the Karoo, when the weather is fine and you’re feeling really placid, you find a stoep, sit down, and count your blessings. Luckily, the weather is nearly always fine in the Karoo and we feel really placid most of the time, so when you come to visit us in the Karoo there’s a very good chance you will find us on our stoeps.
Stoep sitting is not a rigorous sport. You do need to bend your elbow frequently, when raising glass to lip, but most of us are happy to endure this discomfort as a small price to pay for the benefits to mind and body of this singular pastime.
The activity is not for everyone. Those for whom the thrill of leaping out of planes or abseiling down treacherously high mountains gives them the adrenaline rush that ignites their minds should steer clear of this relatively tame alternative. We get our rush when, once the curtain has fallen on the day and the nightly bioscope projector has been switched on by Zeus in his universal wisdom, we look up and our eyes are taken yet again by the splendour of infinity. We catch our collective breath, as though we have never before seen these wonders that shine above us despite our worthlessness in the greater scheme of things. We are reminded, once again, of how infinitesimal we are, and how infinite, how unfathomably vast, is everything that is not ourselves.
Sit on the stoep after the rain, and there’s an even more magical aura about everything. The scents of the dry earth unleashing its bouquet of leaf, blossom and soil as the rain releases it from its scorched aridity is to be savoured like the finest wine. “After the rain” has so much meaning, and is such a compellingly beautiful phrase in Afrikaans, that a singer even named himself after it: Joshua na die Reën.
So we gather on our stoeps, with our friends or neighbours popping in to kuier, and we tell stories of the land and the sky, of the trees and the creatures that scurry among the karoobossies. I share my stories of my cooking adventures, of the jam I made with the figs that a friend gave me or how I learnt to cook a Wagyu ...

What’s cooking today: Potato & salami breakfast skillet

Take a break from bacon as a breakfast essential and use salami instead, in this one-pot (well, one-skillet) meal cooked on the stove top.
This was one of my “necessity” meals, the kind of recipe that transpires when I have something left over, stare them down for a few minutes, then come up with an idea for what to do with them.
The leftovers were potatoes, so they had already been cooked (steamed, actually). I left them to cool overnight and then made a one-(skillet) breakfast with them also involving salami (which I also had a few leftover slices of), cheese and, of course, eggs.
(Serves 4)
3 medium potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 Tbsp butter for the onion
4 Tbsp butter for the potatoes
8 XL eggs
100g salami, sliced and diced
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
Parboil the potatoes whole or halved until almost tender; about 15 minutes. Let them cool, then dice them into small pieces.
In a skillet, fry the onions until soft and pale golden. Remove to a side dish.
Add more butter and sauté the diced potatoes until golden on all sides, salting them lightly while they cook and adding a grinding or two of black pepper.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and stir the cooked onions in.
Scatter the chopped salami over the potatoes in the skillet. Grate the cheese and scatter it all over the top.
Pour the eggs over and move the skillet about so the egg settles evenly.
Cover the skillet with foil and cook on a low heat on the hob until the eggs are cooked through to the top and the cheese has melted. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.
SUBSCRIBE to TGIFood here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing.

Black nights, white lights in the City of Golden food

Three nights in Johannesburg, in the shadow of a giant black diamond in uber-cool Rosebank, has you questioning whether the country’s food capital is anywhere near where Capetonians have long presumed it to be. It’s not necessarily at the coast.
The City of Gold shines diamond-black. The gleaming omnipresence of the AngloAmerican De Beers Group headquarters, an architectural masterpiece that looks like a giant ship made of cut-glass black diamonds, ironically at berth in supercharged Rosebank, oversees a sea change in Jozi’s food life.
Her passengers seem to have been spewed out into the streets below, dispersing into cafés, restaurants and bars to eat, drink, laugh and shuck off life’s stresses in tall tales of trial and triumph, washed down with world-wise humour and stoicism. This is a hard city; it parties at the edge over which any may plunge in a flash of bad judgement.
Somewhere in the middle of it all I’ve found Proud Mary, a swish bar-eatery that reminds me of a Soho brasserie. At dusk here the people spill out of offices and into bars and restaurants the way they do in London before getting the Tube home. I remark on this to my friend and colleague Jillian Green, who has come to meet me for a drink and catch-up before getting back to the Daily Maverick grind. She adds context for me, and context is everything. Sandton is the high end, the gilt heel, the fat wallet; Rosebank is more real, less flashy. And it’s where a restaurant revolution has been happening since lockdown locked down so many restaurants, forever.
I had stayed here in 2018, before all that happened. The precinct is barely recognisable now. Where there were a handful of familiar franchises, Bright Young Things and their cosmopolitan elders now flit in and out of a slew of new eateries on every street and block. Finding them all, in a well planned brief visit, turned out to be a comedy of errors. I Ubered from place to place, day after night, only to find that each was only a short walk from the other. The restaurant I went to on my last night was barely 50 metres from the Indian place where I’d met an old friend on my first night.
This is a business visit to meet my colleague Ferial Haffajee to talk all things TGIFood and bringing you more of what you like on our food ...

Throwback Thursday: Meatloaf

It may seem as American as pumpkin pie, but a kind of meatloaf is mentioned in the Roman cookery book Apicius in the 5th century AD and has its ‘modern’ origins in Belgium, Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
Meatloaf, the dish, not the late singer, has such a presence in the American psyche that in 2017 it had an entire cookbook devoted to it, A Meatloaf in Every Oven, by New York Times journalists Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer, colleagues who shared a passion for meatloaf and turned their hobby into a book.
The dish is so “American” as to inspire passion, even homage, to what we might regard as everyday supper; or is it?
Alex Beggs, writing in Bon Appéttit, observed that the food historian Andrew Smith had noted that early (in American terms, around the 1870s) meatloaf was eaten for breakfast. The magazine wrote that meatloaf became a staple of many Americans’ diets during the Depression, “so that more people could be fed with less meat”.
“By then meat grinders were common and meat grinding less difficult, two developments that helped to popularise meatloaf. In the 1940s meatloaf was an emblem of wartime ingenuity; this was the era of Penny Prudence’s ‘Vitality Loaf’, made with beef, pork and liver.”
Ever since, it seems, Americans have presumed meatloaf to be their own, as American as hamburgers and hotdogs. Fair enough; in South Africa where many of us grew up eating it, we may think of it as ours too, as might Australians. But Wikipedia notes that “American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal served by German-Americans in Pennsylvania since colonial times”. It adds, however, that meatloaf “did not appear in (American) cookbooks until the late 19th century”.
Yet, the history of meatloaf is much deeper and older. There are variations of it in many countries, from Belgium (vleesbrood), the Czech Republic (sekaná, meaning chopped) and Germany (hackbraten) to the Philippines (embutido) to Sweden (köttfärslimpa) and Turkey (dalyan köfte), as well as Italy’s polpettone.
Cook’s Illustrated wrote that meatloaf “typically contains a milk and bread panade that helps lock in moisture. But the textural enhancement comes at a cost: all of that starchy bread dulls flavour”.
The Atlantic reported that America’s Culinary Arts Institute published a recipe in 1940 for a savoury meatloaf “that called for beef, vegetable soup, and cereal flakes”, while in 1957, a recipe for pork loaf appeared ...

Time and terroir – the essence of fine Cognac

An inspiring Cognac tasting experience with Rémy Martin’s brand ambassador, Maxime Pulci, dispels myths and preconceptions of this rarefied spirit realm.
We’re talking Cognac upstairs in Cape Town’s Old Bailey whisky bar, more specifically House of Rémy Martin Cognacs, in the lead-up to an “Opulence Revealed” tasting experience of their premium XO Cognac. Only a few stories into the conversation, my mind is already reeling at the almost vertiginous timescale involved in the making of fine Cognacs.
How good are you at casting your mind forward 100 years? That is what you have to do all the time as the cellarmaster at Rémy Martin. As with the ancient art of making the traditional Cognac tierçon which cellarmaster Baptiste Loiseau has recently revived, together with artisan cooperage Seguin Moreau, making 15 new barrels from Limousin oak each year since 2017. In 50 years’ time, these new barrels will just about be ready to start ageing the venerable eaux-de-vie for the house’s future flagship Louis XIII Cognacs, vintages which will only be enjoyed some time in the 22nd century.
In the meantime, for the first 50 years or so the tierçons will be put to work ageing younger eaux-de-vie, imparting those oaky, vanilla notes to add to the complexity of the bouquet. Only once most of that woodiness has been released will the barrels be deemed sufficiently seasoned for the rarefied spirits destined for the ultra-aged Louis XIII.
A hundred years or so of preparation, plus 150 or more years already gone by for the growing of that oak tree and the three-year curing of its mature wood; it’s a dizzying perspective. I have trouble getting my head around a five-year plan.
As we chat, ensconced in very comfortable velvet armchairs, we’re sipping a zesty Sidecar. I wondered whether it might be considered sacrilegious to use fine Cognac for mixing cocktails, but according to the brand’s ambassador, Maxime Pulci, it’s all about selecting the appropriate blend. The Sidecar is made using one of the younger Cognacs in their repertoire.
“The 1738 Accord Royal has an aromatic palate with toasty vanilla notes that goes perfectly with the sweetness of Cointreau and citrus,” Pulci says. The perfect measurements are 3:2:1 – 30 ml Cognac, 20 ml Cointreau, 10 ml lemon juice, easy to remember for a perfectly balanced Sidecar. And let’s be clear, when we’re talking younger it’s all relative – the 1738 is blended from eaux de vie aged ...

Is there honey still for tea? Oui!

Britain might not be the obvious choice for a gastronomic holiday – even less so if you live in France – but some traditional tastes will always remind me of the Great in Great Britain. The challenge, during a recent hop across the Channel, was to convince my French travelling companions of this simple truth.
If you come from a dry country it is easy to be seduced by green places. England’s many shades of green have always charmed me, ever since I briefly lived and worked in London decades ago, and during numerous subsequent trips I remained under this green spell.
Therefore my first post-Brexit and post-Covid visit, in the company of my French family, was a rather unsettling experience. I had never seen London and the English countryside so dry, so brown, so brittle. The usually lush green lawns of Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and other city parks and squares almost resembled the South African veld. Green Park could have changed its name to Brown Park, which would certainly be more descriptive.
But some things never change, thank heavens, and I could still find comfort in a few favourite food traditions. What made this food journey more challenging was that I wanted to share some of these traditional tastes with my French beloved, our French daughter and her French boyfriend. Sometimes it was easy, especially in the morning. We all love a croissant or a pain au chocolat early in the day, but no amount of French pastry can come close to a full English breakfast.
On this we all agreed. Breakfasts the Brits can do. The full monty consists of back bacon and British sausage with eggs, fried tomato, fried mushroom, baked beans, black pudding, and toasted bread. Sadly the daughter who doesn’t eat red meat couldn’t appreciate the bacon or the sausage, and I declined the baked beans, which I’d always regarded as an abomination on a breakfast plate. And none of us really appreciated the black pudding. Even my husband, who loves French blood sausage, found the British version too rich, too fatty, too whatever. De trop, as they say in French, too much of everything.
Besides, the daughter asked with a puzzled expression, wasn’t pudding supposed to be sweet. That’s what I also thought when I first came to England, was all I could answer.
The next culinary adventure was pub food swallowed down with lukewarm beer or ale from ...

My Kitchen Rules returns to its pre-pandemic format

Season three of the cooking show, filmed during lockdown, was restricted to one location for all the instant restaurants. Now the format has reverted to instant restaurants in each team’s home, followed by challenges filmed at locations along the Garden Route.
There’s a very nice science group on Facebook to which I belong. People post what they think are “stupid” questions, and all the science people say “nonsense! No such thing!”. And then they give long scientific explanations, most of which go clean over my head, but that’s not the point.
So I feel it’s not stupid to ask why, in the name of Our Lady of the Midnight Snack Nigella, do contestants on cooking competition shows decide to make something they’ve never made before, or change a tried and trusted recipe, when their very success or failure rests on the dish? Home cooks on MasterChef Australia (season 14 on M-Net weeknights at 6pm) do it all the time, in pressure tests and elimination cooks, inexplicably. It sends my anxiety through the roof and I’m trying really hard to cut back on the Xanax.
It’s an unwritten rule – or maybe it is written somewhere – that when you invite people, ordinary people, people you’ve known for years or only met recently, for dinner you never, ever, make something for the first time. Do you think chefs do that midway through dinner service? Like “ooh la la! This sauce needs a new ingredient, right now!” No, they test and test, and test some more before sending out the dish.
It’s the time to bust out a recipe with which you are confident, that you know how to make in your sleep, that never goes wrong. Yet for some reason, when eight relative strangers plus two judges – being David Higgs and J’Something – are coming over and there’s never been a more important time to be flawless (never mind the R1-million prize carrot), the home cooks in My Kitchen Rules South Africa decide to go off script. There is no hidden or secret rule that they must cook something for the first time. I checked.
In episode one, Martin and Eddie, son and father-in-law from Riebeek West, made ice cream in their instant restaurant called Ignite. They were really stoked to cook for judges David Higgs and J’Something.
When the menu was revealed to the judges, Higgs hinted that making ice cream at home can be ...

What’s cooking today: Red Roman poached in a clay pot

A poaching liquid flavoured with aromatics is a classic way to poach a whole fish. There’s no reason why those aromatics can’t be Asian, rather than French, in style.
Red Roman is a fine sea bass that swims in southern African waters. The flesh is mildly flavoured, not strongly “fishy”, and is worth considering for a simple poached recipe such as this. Ask your fishmonger to scale, gut and clean it for you.
Rather than a court-bouillon such as this recipe, I poached it with ginger, garlic, coriander and chilli in my clay pot which was a real find at my local second hand goods palace.
(Serves 2)
1 whole Red Roman, gutted and cleaned
2 whole garlic cloves, bashed
1 x 2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
6 coriander sprigs, rinsed
2 green chillies, seeded and sliced
A little salt
Water to cover the fish
Prepare the clay pot ahead of time. Make sure it is clean, then fill a sink with cold water and submerge both halves of the pot in it. Let it soak for at least half an hour. Let it drain and dry before use.
Be sure not to turn the oven on before you start to cook the fish, and allow time for the oven to heat up with the pot inside.
Lay the whole cleaned fish in the pot and cover with enough cold water for the fish to remain submerged while poaching. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander and chillies to the pot. Salt it very lightly.
Put the lid on and place it in the cold oven, then turn it on to 170℃. Give it half an hour to reach its temperature, then poach for about half an hour. You can turn the oven off after 20 minutes of cooking and let it continue poaching while you prepare the noodles.
Serve with Asian noodles which are simply covered in boiling water and, after 5 minutes or so, drain them. You can toss them in aromatics such as soy, ginger and garlic, perhaps a splash of mirin, or leave them plain. If you like, strain the poaching liquid into a pot and reduce to a sauce, which you can enhance with wine, which is reduced again, and finally a dash of cream, to be simmered until thickened. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes ...

What’s cooking today: Fynvleis & wildspastei

First comes the hunt, then the fynvleis (fine venison meat cooked with spices, spek and mutton for many hours), then the wildspastei (game pie made with fynvleis filling). Karoo tradition, first in a pot, then in a pie.
Sandra Antrobus invited me to use the kitchen at Lion House in Cradock’s Market Street as a perfect setting for photographing the wildspastei I made from this fynvleis, for which I tried to honour her teaching. This recipe accompanies this column.
2 kg venison meat, cubed (The venison meat can be in big pieces if you prefer, as the whole point is for it to cook until it disintegrates.)
500 g fatty mutton, in chunks
600 g pork spek, diced
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
12 cloves
Salt, fairly generously
Fine white pepper, generously
Cold water to cover the meat well
For the second cook:
2 large onions, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
200 g bacon, diced
500 ml robust dry red wine
100 ml red wine vinegar
4 to 6 Tbsp quince jelly, depending on how sweet you like it
2 Tbsp cornflour mixed with 4 Tbsp water
Salt and white pepper for adjusting seasoning after tasting, if needed
For the wildspastei:
1 recipe of my hot water pastry crust or bought frozen puff pastry
Fynvleis cooked a second time with bacon and wine etcetera, enough to fill the pie to the brim (freeze the rest for another pie on another day)
Butter for greasing
1 egg, beaten, as egg wash
Add venison, spek and mutton to a big heavy pot on the stove, cover with water, add the coriander seeds and cloves, season with salt and white pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook, at a fairly rapid boil, until the meat is so soft it disintegrates.
Leave it to cool. With clean hands, go in and feel for bones, and remove them.
Second cook: cook the chopped onions in butter until softened. Add bacon and continue cooking while stirring. Add venison mix. Add red wine and vinegar, stir in quince jelly, stir well and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning. If it is still watery, stir in cornflour mixed with water and cook gently while it thickens.
For a wildsvleispastei, cool the fynvleis. Grease a pie dish, roll out the pastry and line the dish. Prick holes in the bottom with a fork. Fill the pie generously with fynvleis. Brush egg wash around the pastry edges. Place a pastry lid on top and press down all round. Crimp the edges with a fork. ...

Hunting down the wild taste of fynvleis

This was a quest. First came the hunt, the seminal day that would stay with me forever. A year later came the fynvleis and the end of a mission.
Fynvleis is royalty among Karoo dishes. It surely came from the omnipresence of the old kitchen ranges, whether a creamy Aga, a pale green Jewel or the black stoves that now sell for a fortune. There’d be black iron pots and kettles on top, and in winter the stove would be lit to warm the house all day.
From a big pot near the back of the iron hob would come the soft whisper of the simmer and the sweet scent of koljander and clove. And much as I love the beauty of the English coriander, isn’t the Afrikaans word just so beautiful on the ear, often pronounced as if the “d” were silent: kol-janner.
I’d wanted to cook fynvleis myself, to understand its intricacies and joys, ever since that seminal day in late July 2021 when I finally found myself at the end of a three-year quest to learn how to hunt. This latter-day Karoo Boy was a reluctant hunter. Like many city people I have foibles about these things, even though I do eat meat. It’s all so innocent, portioned into tidy cuts and packaged for us to pop into a trolley. It’s quite another thing to shoot the animal yourself.
It was a day like no other. At the end of one of the most seminal days ever, a day full of beauty and the complexities of life – sweat, aching legs, tired muscles, a gash on my forehead from mishandling the rifle scope, but beauty in nature and the strangely spiritual experience of the cull – there was an animal whose meat you may well find so neatly packaged to buy to take home.
After the animal, a blesbok, had hung in the farm cooler room for a week, the meat was delivered to me. I made biltong, the odd potjie, and promised myself I would, with some of the meat, learn the fine Karoo art of preparing fynvleis. And with that end result, if it went to plan, I would make a traditional wildspastei, or game pie.
The happy consequence of that quest is in the photograph on this page. With a beast that size, and blesb0k is one of the larger game animals, there’s a lot of meat, and inevitably some ...

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