Words fascinate me and I have confessed to choosing to eat something – just because its name appeals to me (more of that when I get round to re-publishing that post). I live in a country with eleven official languages – and dialects. Also, in South Africa, are peoples of Bushman descent whose languages are ancient and have either been lost, or are in danger of being lost; some have never been codified (written down source). I ruminated about this when Jan Boer gave us oorskot (surplus) peaches. Because I have blogpals all over the world, I often wonder about the etymology of words, as I did when I decided to make a bredie the other day. Bredie is a winter favourite and typical of Dutch South African cuisine. Because my heritage is British, it’s not a word that was used in my childhood home. We would have a stew or a casserole – identified by it’s main ingredient, i.e. beef, chicken or
Southern African a meat and vegetable stew
Its etymology was unexpected, but when I thought about it, very obvious. It was the Portuguese – in the 15th Century who first rounded the Cape, in the form of Bartolomeu Dias (or Bartholomew Dias, my primary school history taught me), on his way to the East. He was the first European to have anchored off the South African coast; there is a monument to his exploits in the Eastern Cape, near Alexandria, and not far from where I grew up. The Portuguese went on to colonise not only bits of Africa (like Angola and Mozambique), but also India. The word has its roots in the Portuguese word, bredos or “edible greens.” Now I know why every bredie – in one incarnation or another – includes vegetables.
common popular one, is a tomato bredie which, come to think of it, really does show its Portuguese roots. It’s not my favourite because it’s too reminiscent of the cuisine of boarding school and university. The two that I prefer, and make, are butternut and waterblommetjie. Waterblommetjies (little waterflowers) are indigenous and grow in the natural waterways, ponds and dams in the Western Cape, and flower in spring. I talk about my first encounter with them here.
An original fusion food
A couple of weekends ago, we knew Sunday was going to be cold and it’s also low season, so we were not sure whether we’d have diners for Sunday Supper. I decided that I’d have a homely, easy plan B: a stew. Stews are a fantastic, nutritious way to use inexpensive cuts of meat – and they are usually the most flavoursome. I am not fond of beef and I find that stewed beef can be like eating bocks of
soft wood. It was also going to be a one-pot supper. After all, it was a Sunday night off.
This brings me back to the bredie: traditionally it’s made with mutton or lamb – fat cuts like rib or neck. I prefer the latter – there’s less fat and more meat and its equally flavoursome. I’ve already alluded to the vegetable components that make the variations on the theme and the consitiuent vegetable determines the spice (or herb) flavourings that are added (which, incidentally, also cut the fat). This is the influence of the East – India and Malaysia – making the bredie an original fusion food.
The Boers were descendants of the Dutch colonists, and who trekked to the hinterland of South Africa; the Malay folk were slaves and religious exiles sent to Africa. Much of the food in South African homes is a fusion of our rich history.
This is how I made a butternut bredie.
You will need an appropriate quantity of lamb or mutton stewing meat (I used neck), one or two onions, a green pepper (or a chilli if you like a bit of heat), a clove of garlic, a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and a stick of cinnamon; butternut – cut into cubes or chunks and potato, similarly prepared.
If you are using a slow cooker, place half the raw vegetables along the bottom, reserving some for the time being. Sauté the chopped onion, pepper/chilli, garlic and ginger, and then seal the meat in the same pan. Put the meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker and then deglaze the pan with a little water or stock to make a gravy. Add the remaining vegetables and then pour the liquid over that and put on the lid.
“Fire up” the slow cooker and leave it alone to develop into a wonderful rich bredie – a good few hours. The vegetables will be tender and the meat will be soft and fall off the bones! Download a PDF version of the recipe (and its variations) here.
A note about the fat: for those who are Banting, it’s not a concern. For those who don’t like it – there was much less fat than I expected. Don’t shun fat – that’s where the flavour comes from!
Traditionally, bredies are served with boiled rice, but I’m sure it’s good with pap (corn porridge or grits (for my American readers) – a bit like polenta) and other vegetables.
A last word
A stew is not a stew when it’s a bredie!
On Steemit, there are a number of weekly contests or themes. One is Tasty Tuesday, and last week blog pal, Lizelle,
challenged invited me to participate – specifically with South African fare. So this is my first contribution.
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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