Coming up roses

It’s been a hectic time around here and I confess that I’m just beginning to catch up.  That said, we have another busy weekend ahead, but I’ll save that for after the fact.

The busy patch saw three major annual events in our village, three weeks in a row.  A trail run and a mountain bike race which was preceded by Poetry in McGregor.  Our village was, to put it mildly, bursting at the seams.  Although we are heading towards summer and one of the weekends is “officially” considered the beginning of spring, the weather gods didn’t think so.  The poetry weekend was windy – the wind howled to such an extent that The Husband literally clamped my cloth to the table at the market.  Courtesy of the wind and the dust, my fair skin received a free, natural exfoliation and I didn’t have to cultivate that “windblown look”!  The mountain bike race was wet and muddy….and cold, but the weather for the trail run was mostly glorious!

As I started this post, we had just enjoyed come through one of the coldest days of the year and were again surrounded by snowy mountains and rain.

This photo was taken from our veranda, yesterday, through the rain at about 5.45 pm.

The rain and the cold are good.  The last few winters have been too warm and the pests have been awful. Although the farmers probably don’t need the cold, now, especially not a late frost which could have a serious impact on the grape (and wine) yield for 2019.

There was frost, and those mountains looked like this, this morning.

Impact on the grapes?  Don’t know yet.  Actually, we have enjoyed (really!) the wettest winter in about four years and nature is saying thank you.

Anyhow, as usual, I digress from what I did want to talk about.  Last weekend we had some respite, but it was also a little nervewracking.  I was going to catch up with someone whom I had last seen more than thirty years ago.  We had lived next door to each other for a year at university, and were in the same class for one of our subjects for three years, but had really had not had much more than a passing acquaintance.  We’ve actually got to know each other better since we’ve been friends on, yes, Facebook. Over the years we’ve discovered much in common – not just Rhodes University.

Like vintage things like linen, china and lace;  pretty, fragrant flowers, including roses, eclectic decor tastes and, of course, cats.  These dog roses from our garden have gone to hers in the hope that they will grow.

Anyhow, the face-to-face stuff is different, especially when there are spouses and they are present.  Also, the last time this type of “re-connection” happened, the ultimate outcome was an unmitigated disaster.  Still smarting from that, as I will be for some time, a repeat performance didn’t bear thinking about and, with hindsight, and partly because of what I have now realised, was unlikely.

Ahead of Ms Friday’s arrival, she and “him” were chasing flowers and then she posted this on Instagram:

Photo: Ms Friday

The subsequent exchange went something like this:

“Waterblommetjies!”  I exclaim. “On the menu for Sunday Supper this week…”

“Aah, I thought these might be …”

“Should I try to get for when you are here?”

“I have actually never eaten them! Would love to try them – if it’s not a hassle.”

So the die was cast.  With a twist:  she is vegetarian and, traditionally, waterblommetjies (water flowers is the literal translation) are cooked as part of a lamb or mutton bredie (stew).  My culinary skills would be somewhat challenged as I wanted to do something that retained as much of the traditional flavours as possible.

Waterblommeties are indigenous to the Western Cape of South Africa and grow in the natural waterways.  This year they have been abundant because of the equally abundant rain.

The traditional bredie includes white wine, coriander seeds, cloves and garlic as well as potato – either cubed or sliced.  Of course, no stew would not include onion, so that goes without saying.  There are a number of equally traditional variations of the bredie and the most common of these is a tomato bredie a dish regularly served up when I was at boarding school, and if I remember correctly, at university, too.  Then there’s a green bean, butternut and cabbage variation.  I have made the butternut and green bean ones and I have also dreamed up my own vegetarian waterblommetjie dish.  But not this time.

Before getting to what I did for Ms Friday, here is what I did for the traditional Waterblommetjie Bredie*

Traditional Waterblommetjie Bredie

Serves 4 – 6 (depending …..)

1,5 kg thick rib of mutton – I used neck and had the butcher cut it into slices rather than cubes
2 litres waterblommetjies + 1 tablespoon salt for soaking
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large sour (Granny Smith) apple, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cloves (whole)
4 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
450 g potatoes, thinly sliced
250ml each water and dry white wine
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
oil for frying
  • The night before making your bredie – which I did in my slow cooker – pick the flowers from the stems – if they’ve not already been picked.  Then soak them in salted water overnight.  Drain and wash thoroughly under running water to remove any sand, grit or other nasties.
Waterblommetjies swimming in salt water overnight
  • Place in cold water, bring quickly to the boil and then drain.  Set aside.
  • Season the slices of meat with salt, pepper and sugar** and brown before placing in the slow cooker layered between the slices of potato and apple
  • Brown the chopped onion, adding a little oil if necessary.  Then add the spices and then deglaze the pan with the water and white wine.
  • Finally, pour the liquid into the slow cooker – it probably won’t cover the contents.  If you have a slow cooker that allows less water, don’t add more.  If you have to add water, you may need to thicken the stew before serving it.  Not ideal if you want to keep it wheat free as I did in this instance.
  • Cook for 4 to 5 hours before adding the waterblommetjies and cook for about another hour or until they have softened quite a bit.

Vegetarian Waterblommetjie Bredie

These quantities fed about four of us

3 robot peppers ( 1 each, red, yellow, green), chopped
4 courgette, sliced
1 large tomato, skinned and chopped
1 tin (410g) butter beans, drained
1 litre waterblommetjies + 1 salt for soaking
1 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cloves (whole)
2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 potatoes, cubed
125 ml each water/vegetable stock and dry white wine
½ tsp sugar
salt & pepper
oil for frying
No, my challenge, here, was not to “kill” the vegetables, but to somehow develop the flavours so that there was at least some sense of the traditional flavours.
  • Follow the same process for the waterblommetjies as for the traditional bredie.
  • Sauté the onions in the oil and then add the spices followed by the vegetables and liquids.  Bring to a light simmer and then turn off and allow the flavours to develop for a few hours.
  • Then re-heat and transfer to a casserole dish to which you add the waterblommetjies and then place in a moderate oven for about an hour.

Both were served with plain white rice (which, I confess, I loathe) and butternut roasted with wild rosemary as well as a cucumber sambal consisting of grated cucumber, salt, vinegar and dill.

And then…

By all accounts, the bredies were a success but not the real focus of the evening which came to an end at the witching hour.  I forgot to take photographs of the main course, so that picture is of last week’s Boontjie Breedie (green bean bredie) but when all is said and done, I do have a wonderful memory of a great evening. With lots of nattering between “him” and The Husband, and, of course, Ms Fiday and I and wishes for doing it again…..
Oh, and much more tangible:  homegrown, homemade chilli powder from “him” and a lovely new Friday Bag as a mate to my five-year-old one!
* This recipe is my own and combines a few recipes that I found on the internet and in my copy of Magdaleen van Wyk’s The Complete South African Cookbook
**I left the sugar out the first time I made this – it was an unexpected mistake I won’t make again
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