It was at the suggestion of some friends in England - who had spent a few years at the Cape, and who have ever since shown a kindly interest in South Africa - that I collected some homely and old-fashioned recipes from relations and friends, and from practical housewives some simple and dainty dishes.
I trust that to some old friends in England my little book may bring back recollections of days spent at the Cape; and to my country cousins and far-off friends in South Africa - who, in the rush of life, have not found leisure to copy their mothers' and grandmothers' old recipe-books - this collection may prove useful. Few Colonial cooks of the present day understand the art of cooking; it is therefore absolutely necessary for the lady of the house to know something about it, so that she can direct them. Let us look at some of the simplest terms.
Simmering (to bring as near as possible to boiling without letting it boil) is one of the great difficulties. Cooks will not remember how much depends on slow cooking.
Hashes, Curries, "Bredees," etc., etc., must simmer. Fry the onion with the meat, a light brown ("smoor," as Cape cooks say). This must be done rather quickly; then the meat must simmer with whatever ingredient you like to add.
The old Cape families of Dutch descent, who had Malay and Indian cooks, and many of French descent, understood the art of ROASTING. They roast their Chickens, Partridges, Quail, Wild Duck, Venison, etc., not in an oven, but in a flat, round pot, about five and a half inches deep (Dutch baking-pot), with a raised lid. The meat is put into the pot with, say, half a pint of water, and the pot is put on the stove. About half an hour afterwards some live coals are put on the lid, and just before the joint or chicken begins to brown it is basted well with a little butter or dripping. Half an hour before serving the cook should pour half a tumbler of red wine, well mixed with a small dessertspoonful of flour, over the joint or chicken, while giving the gravy a good stir. This gives a delicious flavour to any Poultry or Venison. A leg of Mutton done in a Dutch baking-pot in this way is very good.
In Boiling meat, a leg of Mutton, or Chicken, etc., be very careful that the water boils when you put it in, and then let it simmer. The meat will be tender and juicy - this is my experience.
Boil all green Vegetables - viz., Peas, Cabbage, Green Beans, etc. - in an open saucepan; put them into boiling water, into which a teaspoonful of salt and a pinch of carbonate of soda has been added. This is the American mode of cooking vegetables. The Peas, Beans, etc., will be beautifully green and delicate.
Broiling is the most primitive way of cooking, and it is best understood by our country folk. It is, nevertheless, one of the most appetising ways of cooking a Mutton Chop; and any one who has travelled in South Africa will remember how good was the "Sasatie" (Kabob) or tender "Carbonatje" (Mutton Chop), steaming hot from the gridiron on wood coals, or two-pronged fork held against the coals. Some kinds of fish broiled are very good, such as the Cape "Harder," "Hottentot Fish" or "Snoek."
STEWING is a very easy and economical way of cooking. First stew the meat and Onions together, with a very little water, till nice and tender and slightly brown; then add Cauliflower, Green Beans, Potatoes, or any vegetable you like. This should be done in a flat pot, not a deep saucepan. Meat and vegetables done in this way are called by the Malay cook a "Bredee." Add a red chilli cut small, or a few pieces of it.
In Frying Fish, Cutlets, etc., be very careful that the lard or clarified dripping in which you do it is boiling. Do not forget to dust your fish with flour, and dip it into an egg and bread-crumbs, before putting it into the frying-pan.
The tail of the native Cape sheep - which is composed entirely of fat, and often weighs five or six pounds - when minced and melted out, supplies the Cape housewife with a very good substitute for lard; is excellent for frying fish or Fritters in; it is more delicate than lard, and eaten on hot toast, with pepper and salt, is a good imitation of marrow.