On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Sunday Buffet Lunch of What I Ate at Ate, created and curated by my friend and chef, cook and connoisseur Tania Olivier. A new business for Tania, she passionately presents quintessential South African dishes locals remember with nostalgia, and visitors to our city can experience in the cosyness of her home on Kloof Street.
Tania grew up in Paarl, in an Afrikaans home, and was inspired to cook by her mother Helene, who used the South African Bible of cooking: Kook en Geniet. Many of the recipes of Tania’s dishes come from the cook book. She has also researched South African cuisine extensively, including C Louis Leipoldt, one of the first persons to document South African cuisine, dating as far back as the early 20th century. He was a poet, a doctor, reporter, and food expert. During the meal Tania shares stories about our local cuisine and her specific dishes.
The invitation is for 12h00, and one is offered potato and beef or chicken samoosas with a glass of wine on arrival. Seated at a long table of ten on Sunday, yet able to seat up to 16 guests in her open-plan lounge, office and kitchen, one randomly chooses a seat, and enjoys getting to know the persons on one’s right and left. An unexpected guest arrived last minute, and he shared his fascinating food business story with me. A lovely couple from Stellenbosch sat opposite me, and we had lively discussions about beach cleaning, the Barbie movie as well as Oppenheimer, the short term accommodation business, and developments at La Motte in Franschhoek.
Tania welcomed her guests, and explained the starters to us. Her Pickled fish made with yellowtail was sweeter and less curry-tasting she said. The dish was flavoured with Indian curry and to it was added roasted nuts, thinly sliced red pepper, and it was plated on a bed of rocket. It was finished off with a sauce and yoghurt, and topped with a black sesame seed dressing. It was a beautifully presented dish, on a large platter, almost looking like a salad. Being such a cold day, her mushroom soup made with mushrooms and cream and a hint of truffle oil, served in Le Creuset mugs, was a perfect start to the meal.
Tania and her assistant chef Trust quietly work in the background, finalising the main courses, and the conversation at our end of the table got going very quickly. Tania wants to tell the South African food story, and Chef Trust will add a Xhosa dimension to it, he having prepared an oxtail dish for the main course.
The main course was an indulgent feast, its star attraction being the roast leg of lamb, accompanied by some vegetables, cooked as is and unseasoned, she said. She added thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper later, and had cooked carrot and onions in the lamb sauce. The lamb was sourced from the Karoo, a winner lamb region in a chefs cook-off, comparing lamb from various parts of our province.
Bobotie is the most typical South African dish, and served in numerous South African households, with its origin being the slaves brought to Cape Town from Malaysia and Indonesia in the late 17th Century. Tania had generously made two versions of the dish, one more fruity with lamb and apricots, and another with beef, wanting us to detect the difference. They were served with white rice. In addition, she offered the most beautiful looking beetroot popsicle dish, looking like small toffee apples, with baby beets dipped in saffron and cinnamon-infused beetroot candy on a skewer. It’s simplicity of presentation in a white bowl with a few red splashes looked like a modern art work. If that wasn’t enough food, she offered a huge lettuce, avocado and parmigiana salad, as well as a roast cherry tomato and feta salad. Roast potatoes as well as mash, and the oxtail cooked in an African style in a tomato sauce finished off this amazing feast.
As if we had not eaten enough already, we were served three desserts:
*. One of the best known traditional desserts is Malva pudding, a South African speciality with Dutch roots. It contains apricot jam or preserves. It is drenched with a sauce or syrup. Its name comes from the original use of Malvasia wine in its preparation. ‘Malva’ is the Afrikaans word for marshmallow, and the textures are similar. It was served warm, with custard.
*. Another beloved South African dessert and cake is melktert, made with a homemade shortcrust pastry, its filling being a creamy, cardamom and cinnamon custard, topped with a hint of cumin and lots of cinnamon.
*. A dessert I had not heard of before but was made in Tania’s parents’ home was Japie se Gunsteling (Japie’s favorite) , a baked orange pudding, containing lemon and orange juice, and served with freshly whipped cream.
A choice of tea or coffee was offered with the desserts, and brought a wonderful Sunday Lunch to a close.
Footnote: On Tuesday I guided Swiss tourist Melvin and he asked me about a restaurant at which he could eat traditional South African dishes. I thought of Biesmiellah in Bo-Kaap, but have not been impressed with its service nor pricing. Another restaurant servicing Bobotie is closed for a winter break. I thought of Tania, and called her, asking if she had any Bobotie left over from the Sunday Lunch. She said that she had, and 45 minutes later we arrived to a table laid for two, and spoilt with Bobotie and rice, left-over lamb roast, oxtail in a tomato sauce, and a dessert of Japie se Gunsteling, with espresso for me and Stokkies Rooibos for Melvin. Melvin was impressed with the dishes he tried and the amount of South African cuisine information which Tania shared with him.
What I Ate at Ate, Tania Olivier, Cell 060 529 9891. R700 per head
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