By Carol-Ann Warr and Kaye Warr –
The South African wine industry is one of the oldest in the world and one of the newest.
The first vines were planted by Dutch settlers to fight scurvy in the Cape at the southern tip of Africa in the 17th Century. It is said that Napoleon in exile soothed his troubled soul with the help of the legendary dessert wines from this region. Winemaking thrived in South Africa until Apartheid forced the local industry into the doldrums. During the Apartheid era, from 1948 until 1994, the government dictated everything, including what vines would be cultivated. Wine growers were forced to work in isolation from the evolution that benefited the rest of the wine world in the latter part of the 20th Century.
After the end of Apartheid, this wine region was born again. Since South Africa rejoined the international wine community, some of the Black laborers who formerly worked the vines have become vineyard owners themselves.
In 2004, the Soweto Wine Festival was initiated in South Africa’s premier township and a whole new audience of wine drinkers were welcomed into the fold. We’ve been delighted to note that in the 15 years since we moved from South Africa to a coastal town in Florida, South African wines have been popping up on discerning wine lists across America. South Africa now boasts over 7,000 wines and is well on its way to making up for those years in the wine wilderness.
At its best, South African wine can represent a remarkable fusion of Old and New World styles, reflecting the forward sunniness reminiscent of Australian wine while still retaining the traditional structure of the classic French style. Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate named numerous South African wines in his recently published listing of The Most Memorable Wines of 2011, including the 2006 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Natural Sweet Wine, the 2009 Tokara Reserve Collection Stellenbosch Chardonnay, and, as the Surprise of the Year, a 1961 Lanzerac Pinotage.
Grandpa George’s Pickled Fish
My grandfather lived a life of excess in South Africa. He worked first at panning gold, then as a miner before finally being ordained as an Anglican priest. Grandpa George used to feed me bits of fat and sips of cream as well as crushed up mint leaves that grew like weeds around every tap in his garden. He was a creative cook who delighted in presenting us with his exotic, spicy, fragrant concoctions every Sunday after his sermon. I credit my grandfather for my love of food (and wine). Here is my mother’s version of my grandfather’s recipe for pickled fish. My suggested wine pairing: Mulderbosch 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch.
Granny Donny’s Bobotie.
My grandmother is the arbiter of nurture and comfort in a household of dramatic, creative, and sensitive characters that comprise our family. I remember eating grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches with her while watching soap operas in rare moments of mid-morning calm. My grandmother’s bobotie is the dish that I would pick as my last meal on earth if given the choice. Bobotie is a popular and traditional South African dish with a highly contested origin and a hotly debated ingredient list so this version is hardly definitive, but absolutely delicious. Suggested wine pairing: Boekenhoutskloof Syrah.
Curried Pickled Fish
4 pounds firm white fish (cod, kingklip, or similar) cleaned and filleted Sunflower Oil Salt and Pepper
2 cups water
3 cups malt vinegar
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons medium curry powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
6 medium white onions peeled and sliced into rings 4tsp salt
8 lemon or bay leaves
1 tablespoon allspice
12 whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons flour
Cut fish into pieces approximately 3″x2″ and pack into an oiled casserole dish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper, brush with sunflower oil and bake in 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before carefully removing fish pieces with a slotted spoon to a clean flat plate. Set aside. While fish is baking, cook curry sauce. Mix water, vinegar, sugar, curry powder, turmeric, onion rings, salt, bay or lemon leaves, allspice and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Bring just to a boil over high heat then reduce to low and cook for 30 minutes. Onions should not be allowed to become mushy. After about 25 minutes, mix flour to a smooth paste with some water and add to sauce. Bring to a boil while stirring, then simmer for 3-4 minutes before removing from heat. Place fish in a glass dish and cover completely with the warm sauce. Cool then cover dish and refrigerate for a day or 2 before serving. Flavor improves and will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Serve with buttered bread and a green salad. Serves 8 – 10.
1 slice white or brown bread (with crust)
8 oz milk
2 pounds lean ground beef OR mutton
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large white or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
½ cup seedless raisins (preferably golden, or sultana)
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 tablespoons fruit chutney (Mrs H.S. Ball’s – you can find it at British shops in the US – or any other kind will do)
2 tabespoons lemon juice
3 or 4 bay or lemon leaves
½ cup flaked blanched almonds
Soak bread in milk for a few minutes, then squeeze the bread dry (reserving milk) and mix bread into the ground beef together with half the salt and pepper.
Add oil to a large saucepan and saute onion, curry powder, turmeric and coriander over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add ground beef mixture to the pan and brown over medium heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining salt and pepper, raisins, apricot jam, fruit chutney and lemon juice to the pan and stir carefully.
Spoon mixture into a large oblong casserole dish, smoothing and leveling the surface. Insert bay or lemon leaves and almonds into surface of meat mixture. Beat eggs with reserved milk (use additional milk to make up 8 oz if necessary) and pour over surface of dish. Carefully place dish into an oven pan filled with half an inch of hot water and bake covered loosely with foil at 350 degrees F for 1 ½ hours. Carefully add hot water to pan if necessary.
Serve with yellow rice and offer sliced bananas and fruit chutney on the side. (Serves 4 – 6)
Yellow Rice with Raisins
2 cups white or brown rice
4 cups water
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp butter
½ cup seedless dark raisins
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low/medium and cover with a lid. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until all water has evaporated and rice is tender.
# # #