Heritage food – my take


This post, in its original iteration appeared in 2018. On another platform. I have, for a number of reasons, been trying to systematically restore “missing” bits. It’s a mixed blessing: some I choose not to restore. Others, like this, make me realise how much our lives have changed in the last year and now, more.

This was the story of one of our Sunday Suppers. We hosted them for three years. We’ve not hosted one since January 2020. We’re still asked if we “do” them.

I do miss them, but honestly, until we understand Covid better, it’s kind of scary allowing strangers into one’s home and private space. I hate admitting that I (we) have developed a serious dose of stranger danger. I do, paradoxically, admit that we are a little lax in our village bubble. That said, I don’t miss the obligatory hugging and kissing that characterised so many social encounters – especially with acquaintances and people one has only just met and with whom one has, at best, a tenuous emotional connection.

I digress, of course…

Heritage, my adopted country and food

In South Africa, in September, we celebrate our combined heritage. Like so many countries, we are a bit of a melting pot but in South Africa, heritage is also the site of much contestation. However, I won’t go into that, except to say that Heritage Day precipitates two things. One, a public holiday and the other, South Africa’s shared love of gathering around a fire on which a meal is cooked. Yes, the barbecue. In South Africa, though, it’s the braaivleis or shisa nyama that is virtually universally traditional. Needless to say, when this particular commemoration spawned a public holiday on a Monday, the Sunday Supper menu reflected that. So it was, in 2018, when I had already been thinking about the menu, but had not come up with anything, I get this direct message on Instagram:

“Are you by any chance doing lunch/dinner on Sunday 23 September. Can you recommend a place to overnight in McGregor! Thought we would come and test your kitchen and catch up??”

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Ms Jolly Hockey Sticks, Dr Groundwater and I had all been – yes, you guessed it – at university together. All of us in the Geography department and she and I in the same residence. Other than bumping into her at a local market more than 20 years ago, and hearing Dr Groundwater elucidate about the drought and his speciality on a local radio station, I had seen neither of them since those days; other than her following my Instagram account, we are not in touch.

In addition to their advance booking for Sunday Supper, dear friends, Mr & Mrs Gummi, from Cape Town, were to booked into our Little Room and yes, especially so that they could be here for Sunday Supper.

Boot on the other foot

Now, there is something you should know about Mr Gummi. Not only are he and The Husband dedicated carnivores and bosom buddies who hail from the same part of the world, but Mr Gummi is a former restauranteur and chef. We met him – and them – in his restaurant. It’s one thing having a casual braai or a dinner around the table in one’s home, and quite another when, so to speak, the boot is on the other foot: there is just a little pressure.

South Africa and Scotland

Back to the menu. Of course, it needed a heritage theme. In my wisdom, I decided it should reflect both South Africa and Scotland. I am a naturalised South African; the Scottish connection is both about The Husband’s and my heritage and the village whose Scottish heritage is reflected in its name, McGregor. With my kitchen constraints, it was neither practical to do a “common or garden” braai nor given that Sunday Suppers had developed a set format of starter, main and sweet. Two things that had been part our first heritage menu in 2017, featured: the starter of a paté made with local, smoked fish, and the sweet.

The final menu

The starter was two pâtés served with crostini. Followed by a braaied Springbok fillet and Fiona’s Scottish Milktart. None of the diners was vegetarian. I cannot remember what that option was…

The two patés: I cannot give you specific recipes for either, except to explain what they consist of, and how I make them.

Two pâtés

Angel fish pâté

This is a pâté usually made with a smoked fish (snoek) which is a rather coarsely textured, very bony, oily fish. I prefer to make it with angel fish – the flavour is more delicate than the heavy, salted smoked flavour of the snoek. Either way, both fish are readily available if one has access to fresh fish or the sea.

I make the pâté with fish that’s is left over from a main meal – usually done on the braai – cooked over hot coals, on the skin, not turned. It’s basted with a mixture of olive oil, butter, parsley, garlic and lemon juice. The Husband reckons he only knows how long to braai the fish for because I make just the right quantity of the libation. I’m not so sure, but I’ll take it!

The cold fish is separated from the skin and flaked into a bowl into whichI add a spritz of dry white wine, followed by a dollop of cottage cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and finally, in this instance, wild garlic leaves and either chives or green onion tops.

Combine these ingredients until the correct consistency is achieved – without mashing or puréeing – adjusting the quantities and the seasoning as you go along. If you are in South Africa and using wild garlic (Tulbaghia), be judicious with the quantities. It is very (the actual word begins with an “f”) strong and it develops over time, especially when combined with dairy.

Stash the pâté the fridge until you are ready to use it – either in a single receptacle or in individual dishes – depending on what you’re planning to use it for.

Homemade maaskaas (cottage cheese) pâté with wild herbs

Making cottage cheese is easier than you think. In South Africa, you can buy cultured soured milk. I have, when I could get really, proper (how’s that for English) full cream milk, soured it and made cottage cheese from that. Full fat milk is getting harder and harder to come by, so at the suggestion of a friend, I cheated and bought the maas. I haven’t looked back and I make it regularly, treat it exactly the same way:

Put a colander into a large bowl to catch the whey and then line the colander with muslin. Dump in the maas and tie up the muslin. The whey will drain out and you will need to pour that away if it fills quickly (on to your pot plants or into the compost because it’s actually full of goodness). It will need to hang for at least 24 hours, but better for 48 and you will have cottage cheese of the most fabulous creamy consistency to which you can add the flavourings you want.

For this supper, I added wild garlic and suurings or wild sorrel to the cottage cheese. I grew up eating these sour little leaves and flowers – in the Eastern Cape they are mauve and where I live, in the Western Cape they are yellow and flower in abundance in spring – especially if it’s been an especially wet winter.

A bit like the angel fish pâté, adding the seasoning and flavourings is a matter of personal taste, remembering the caveat about the wild garlic leaves, and which applies just as much to conventional garlic. When you’re happy, either serve immediately – the flavour is better at room temperature – or store until you’re ready to use.

Springbok loin on the braai

The second course was Springbok loin rubbed with a mixture of my homemade spicy plum jam, Worcestershire sauce and olive oil to which I added a teaspoon of crushed coriander seed, a crushed clove of garlic and about a dessertspoon of fresh, grated ginger. Having marinated for about four or so hours, the loins were braaied (grilled) over hot coals until they were medium rare, and then removed and allowed to rest.

Some will say that this is too rare but remember two things: venison is not just well matured but has no fat marbling which makes it dry and easy to overcook. Secondly, as I had to keep it warm and avoid overcooking while waiting for diners to be ready for their main courses, I always elect to take the meat off when it was under-done and allow it to rest.

In terms of quantities: Springbok is a small animal and one loin serves about two people.

A diner’s plate of springbok fillet medallions, jus and vegetables with herb butter.

Fiona’s Scottish Milk Tart

The dessert, when I served it for the first time last year, was an instant hit and has become a regular feature of Sunday Supper menus.

It consists of the filling of a traditional South African melktert (milk tart) served with a side of Scottish shortbread in either a lovely little glass or, more prettily in my mother’s Royal Albert coffee cups.

By all accounts, it was a menu and a meal that was a success!

* direct translation is “grilled meat” and usually shortened to braai pronounced “bry” – like “fry”

** shisa, according to an online dictionary, means to heat or to burn

*** nyama in many of the Nguni languages, including isiZulu and the one I am most familiar with, isiXhosa, is meat

In closing – it could take a while…


That I have been able to recapture much of this blogpost, albeit updated and edited, is thanks in no small measure to blockchain technology. What is on a blockchain can’t be deleted – even if your website disappears. The folk from @exxp, @fredrikaa and Martin Lees (@howo), the programmer behind the WordPress plugin have set up a front end that enables one to download – in text – everything one has posted from WP to the blockchain. So, although the image links were lost in the original post, the text was not. Fortunately, the file names were saved and I could find and reload the images.

Not just for Gen Z and Milennials

People of my vintage tend to glaze over when I mention that I blog to a blockchain. I’m not going to pretend that I understand much if any of the details. The social blockchain community of which I am part, includes folk of all generations.  From all over the world.

Recently, fellow S’Affrican, contemporary and blogpal @lizelle started an online community that is home for the more hesitant less geekish and technically inclined. I don’t like being pigeonholed or boxed, so the eclectic focus of this community and the multi-generational (40 – 100 year) span of Hive Silver Bloggers is a space in which my equally eclectic interests fit. It’s recently been noticed by some of the blockchain big cheeses whales which means @lizelle is doing something right. I know that. She and the community deserve support.

Sunday Suppers

We do miss them. Not necessarily the not having a weekend and the sometimes bone-aching exhaustion after a busy (and successful) Sunday. We have met some interesting and fascinating people. We (I, perhaps more than The Husband) had fun. I miss the cooking and the sense of occasion that I had the privilege of creating for our guests. We will, possibly “do” them again. If. There is a need, we feel safe, and/or, as we have always said, people (there must be between four and ten) ask us to “do” a Supper @ The Sandbag House experience.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.
  • I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications. From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click on the image below to sign up –

Image: @traciyork

  • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo below:

    Original artwork: @artywink
  • I also share my occasional instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click the icon below, and give it a go.

Angel fish – astonishingly versatile

AngelfishA couple of weeks ago, the new season of Master Chef SA started, and I was watching with half an eye, as I was preparing our supper – angel fish.  Imagine my surprise when the first episode concluded with a boot camp – on a wharf in the Cape Town harbour – with the contestants having to prepare a dish with, yes, angel fish!

Before we moved to McGregor, we used to eat fish regularly, and over the last 10 or so years, the range of fresh fish available in the few independent fishmongers (as opposed to large supermarket chains), has shrunk enormously.  The implications of this, beyond availability for home consumption, is profound for both our environment, and for small fishers in South Africa.  However, that’s a rant for another time and place.

Inversely proportional to the reduced choice, is the increased price.  When I first moved to Cape Town some 22 years ago, my adventure with cooking fresh fish began.  I used to ask the lady behind the counter what was nice and how to cook it.  Being cash strapped, decisions were price-driven.  Consequently, and because hake seemed boring (and not always cost effective, and I am not fond of snoek), choices were limited:  Gurnard (shad) and angel fish.  Both, I discovered, are great eating – and very underrated.  In the Western Cape, Gurnard is not frequently available, so angel fish became our usual, and almost most favourite fish.  It remains so.  Even after moving, we still go into our “old” fish monger (Plumstead Fisheries), when we are in Cape Town.  A friend who commutes, also goes into the shop to get fresh fish for us – she has now got to know Desiree who has looked after us so well for about ten or so years now.  However, I digress…

A simple supper

Returning to angel fish – we eat it at least once a week.  Angel fish is moderately flavoured and relatively firm;  the fillets are thin, if you have a medium sized fish, so they don’t take much cooking. Tom is very fond of cooking over the coals (braai or barbecue), and will do so at any opportunity.  Having grown up in a land-locked country, when we first met, eating sea fish was foreign, and the first fish meal I did for him, he ate “met lang tande” (with long teeth), and was pleasantly surprised.  The next task was to get him to braai it:  a typical Western Cape way of eating fish.  Needless to say, some nearly fourteen or so years later, he’s a convert.

All that’s a long way of telling you that nine times out of ten, our angel fish is braaied on the Weber, over a moderate to dying fire, skin side down, regularly basted with a mixture that always includes an appropriate herb, garlic, butter and olive oil.  Recently, I’ve been using my lemon and parsley pesto as a base for what what is commonly referred to as “the paint”.

This is a simple, easy meal accompanied by a garden salad and potatoes (or not) boiled in their skins.  Depending on the weather (or the season, my mood and what’s in the garden) I will make a parsley or tartare sauce or a salsa, so although we eat the same thing, often, it doesn’t get boring.

Cold fish or luscious leftovers?

With only two of us, we often have fish left over, and I’m not one to throw away good food.  Prepared over the coals, the cooled fish has a lovely, light smokey flavour.  We have, on occasion, taken cold angel fish as a contribution to a picnic – the first time, against Tom’s better judgement.  On one occasion, there was quite a quantity and he was certain that we’d have lots left over:  what would I do with that?  “Make fish cakes,” was my immediate response.  But there was none left – no fish cakes!  On that occasion, the “paint” consisted of olive oil, butter, a little garlic and some grated ginger.

Fish cakes

Fish cakes are really easy to make, even if a little messy towards the end, with the egg-dipping and crumbing.  That said, Fish Cakes they are worth it and they freeze well, making them a great stand by.  Fish cakes are also a good way of using up extra potato and parsley sauce, which is what I did when I had a surfeit of fish, a week or so ago.  To make them, break up the fish, and mash the potato and then mix the two together, well.  Add the parsley sauce (if you have it; it’s not mandatory) and a good handful of fresh, chopped parsley.  Ensure this is well mixed in, season and add a lightly beaten egg to bind.

Then divide into cakes.  I’m not a great judge of size by eye and always used to end up with a load of unevenly sized fish cakes.  Now, I prepare a tray, covered with a layer of grease-proof paper, and then use a cookie cutter as a mould.  I press the mixture firmly into the shape and then once I’ve used it all up, I roll each cake in flour, dip it in beaten egg and then roll it in commercial bread crumbs:   fish cakes ready to fry.  At this point you can freeze them if you have more than you need.

Fish cakes - ready

I love fish cakes.  For me, they are a rare but indulgent comfort food.  I’ll eat them with lashings of tomato sauce (ketchup) and peas.  I’m especially comforted when the peas are freshly picked and lightly boiled/blanched with a sprig of mint.

Angel fish paté

Of course, to make fish cakes, you need a relatively large quantity of left over fish.  Often this isn’t the case, and one way of using up little bits of left over fish is to make a paté.  This has become one of the most popular products that I sell at McGregor’s Saturday pop-up market.  As far as quantities are concerned, use your discretion….

The paté consists of the left over fish, a spritz of dry white wine, a dollop of plain, creamed cottage cheese, a sprinkling of chives (or if it’s winter, and the chives have died back, green onion leaves) as well as salt and pepper.  Mix that all together, and you have angel fish paté.   Of course you can serve it with biscuits and/or fresh bread, but I have also served it in a lettuce leaf with a baby salad as a starter.

A last word (or two)

The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) is a World Wildlife Fund initiative and, among other things, aims to create awareness about marine conservation and encourage people to eat fish responsibly, ensuring not just the sustainability of our oceans, but also, one hopes the re-establishment of stocks.

Both Angel Fish and Gurnard are on SASSI’s green list – at the moment.

I loved what the Master Chef contestants did with their angel fish and am grateful for a slew of new ideas….