Dr. Christian Louis Leipoldt,
great Cape born surgeon, poet, esteemed chef and wine connoisseur
who died in 1947, left a rich and amusing account and recipes for
a number of Malay dishes in his book, 'Leipoldt's Cape Cookery', eventually
published in 1976. Noted for his aversion to weights and measures,
his recipes are liberally sprinkled with 'a hint of this' or 'a scattering',
'a pinch' of that.
In 1946 he wrote of an interest
in cookery that dated back to the late 1880's when he was just a small
boy, where, under the guidance a spotless if obese, expert Cape Coloured
woman, he greedily devoured her culinary magic and expertise in the
preparation of Malay cookery. "The Ayah's art was the result
of many years of instruction and experience in the traditional methods
of Malay cookery, whose outstanding characteristics are the free,
almost heroic use of spices and aromatic flavourings, the prolonged
steady, but slow application of moist heat to all meat dishes, and
the skillful blending of many diverse constituents into a combination
that still holds the essential goodness of each," he wrote.
It all began in 1652, when the
Cape of Good Hope was born, a stop in South Africa for ships of the
East India Company of Holland on their way east. Immigrants from Europe,
convicts from China, slaves from Mozambique and the prisoners from
Java soon increased the populace of the seaside village bringing with
them their unique cookery skills. A multi-ethnic cuisine emerged,
and one can only imagine the aromas emanating from kitchens producing
highly spiced dishes from Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and especially
oriental recipes handed down for generations.
The Malay influence comes through
in the curries, chilies and extensive use of spices such as ginger,
cinnamon and turmeric. More Malay magic comes through the use of fruit
cooked with meat, marrying sweet and savoury flavours, with hints
of spice, curry and other seasonings. The food has a nuance of seductive
spiciness, true testament to the culinary capabilities of Malay women
world wide. I cannot think of a dried apricot without the image of
a caramel coloured woman, grinning widely, a wooden spoon in her hand,
gently stirring a pot of simmering curry and fruit. Splendid!
"To make a bobotie it is necessary to have clean hands, for you
must knead the meat as you do a dough. Take then of tender mutton
and the backstring (fillet) of pork of each a pound in weight, and
that without fat or hard part; pound it vigourously in your mortar,
with a handful of blanched almonds, 12 pepper corns, a slice of green
ginger, a chili, a leaf of the herb marjoram, some coriander seeds,
a very small piece of fresh garlic, or if you have none of it, half
a leaf of an onion, and the grated rind of a lemon, and work into
it half a cupful of wine in which you have soaked an ounce of tamarind.
Let it stand overnight. Then, beat into it half a cupful of cream
and two tablespoonsful of good butter, not too much salt, and knead
it well. Shape it into a round loaf and put it into an earthenware
pie-dish that you have well smeared inside with butter and sprinkled
with a few cumin seeds. Put it in the oven and when it gets hot and
expands, but not before, pour over it two cups of milk in which you
have beaten up the yolks of three eggs and a tablespoonsful of curry
powder such as you may get at the Malay store. Let it bake till it
is well set, and then put upon it a few blanched almonds and a grating
of nutmeg. Before you send it to table you may, if you are not pleased
with its top colour, pass a hot salamander over it."
I think that our Cape Malay bobotie
recipe may be a little simpler and just as good. However, for the
hardy and brave, try this method and enjoy a little bit of South Africa.
I plan to, tomorrow.