It’s no bull…

It’s a funny old world we live in.  As I write, we are in day 501 of South Africa’s National State of Emergency (aka lockdown), and thanks to the vagaries of the Interweb and erstwhile hosts, this is the second iteration of a post with this recipe.  The original post was three years ago.

How things have changed since then.

Back in the day

It’s strange looking back.  Those days seem, in so many ways, so carefree.  We invited strangers into our home.  Weekly.

As you know, I have, for the past eight or so years had a food stall at the local pop-up market, and for those who are not familiar with where we live:  McGregor is a village in the heart of the winelands and with about 650 households, dependent on tourism and agriculture.   It’s somewhat off the beaten track (you can read a bit more about it here). Four or so years ago, there was no eating establishment open on a Sunday evening, so I suggested to The Husband that we host simple (ha!) Sunday Suppers in our home.  A service to the community.

The groups would have to be small – the house is small and we’d have to re-arrange things to make it work as a pop-up restaurant.  Also, we are not fans of being forced to sit with strangers, so we were not going to do a long table.  That also presented certain challenges.  Especially in winter when we couldn’t possibly have people spilling on to the veranda and into the garden.

Well, you know, there are two old sayings:

You’ll never know until you try it


Be careful what you wish for

Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House

Then using yet another idiom, be careful of words spoken in jest:  Sunday Suppers, for a while, became a regular and expected thing in the village.  But I run ahead of myself.

Camera shy

About a week into this new adventure, good friend and fabulous photographer, Selma sent me a message.

“I’d love to document one of your Sunday Suppers.  Can I?”

“WHAT?  Are you out of your mind?  It’s complete and utter chaos.  I don’t think I want all that sin exposed.  Besides, I’m camera shy and most certainly won’t be dressed for success.”

“No, man,” says she, “It’ll be of your hands and the food, the table, and, of course, the cats.  Mostly the cats.  We do weddings, you know.  You cannot imagine the mess that goes on there, hahaha!”

That last bit is, of course, the most believable part of the statement.  So I discovered. After I was convinced.

“I’m going to be in the village because…, blah, blah, fish paste….”

I was persuaded.  Anyhow, she arrived in the village and said, “I’ll see you on Sunday.  What time do you start prepping?”

“Well, actually, I’m going to be doing quite a lot on Friday so that things are a bit more manageable on Sunday.”

“I’m on my way!”

So began my first (and only) ever experience of being in front of the camera and I do admit that I had fun.  Mostly because Selma loves what she does, is more than good at it, particularly persuading reluctant subjects to conform to her whims.  The results of the two days’ shoot are here and also appear in this and many of my other posts where they are duly acknowledged. She has given me a gazillion fabulous photographs to use.  And I did (and do):  virtually every time I put together the weekly menu which was posted in the local online newsletter and in the social media.

All photos: Selma’s and of that Sunday Supper earlier in July 2017.

Then, the food

Putting out the menus also meant that I got requests for recipes – from a Swedish guest (more of that another time), and from friends, as happened here:

So think about it I did, and here’s what I sent:

Slow cooker Oxtail

(serves 4 with mash)

1 oxtail (probably about 800g to 1kg)
4 – 8 carrots (peeled (or not) but left whole) – makes for prettier presentation (and they don’t turn to mush)
1 onion finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic
vegetable oil
1 cup beef stock (250ml)
1 glass red wine (125 – 175ml)
1 bay leaf
Fresh / dried herbs of choice:  thyme, rosemary/McGregor Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons seasoned flour (+ extra to thicken towards the end of cooking)
Salt & pepper

What to do

Roll the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour to cover and then brown in a large frying pan or skillet, with a little oil.  Place in the slow cooker.  top with the carrots.  In the pan, add a little more oil if necessary and sauté the onion until glossy and transparent.

Add the herbs of choice and sauté for a little longer.  Then add the stock to de-glaze the pan.  Then add all the liquids to the slow cooker.  If the oxtail isn’t just about covered, add a little more water.

Cover and cook on high for about 5 hours. If you have more time (like 7 hours), set the cooker to on auto or low, and let it be.

About an hour before serving, check the consistency of the gravy.  If not to your liking, remove a little of the liquid and add it slowly to a dessertspoon (or more) of flour until you have a smooth paste.  Gradually add this to the stew and leave for an hour.  If you are using commercial stock (cubes), only add salt at this stage,  but if you add the potatoes, wait until just before serving because potatoes tend to absorb the salt.

Serve with mashed potatoes, the whole carrots and a green vegetable like beans or broccoli.

Download the recipe

A while ago, I decided (for my own convenience and yours, to create downloadable versions of the recipes I dream up.  The Slow Cooked Oxtail recipe’s available for downloading here.

If you download recipes, please follow the link buy me a virtual coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

Of course, one could serve this with polenta or rice.  My friend served hers with rice (one of the children doesn’t like potatoes).  If you serve with mashed potatoes, give them a zing, and which I did last time I served oxtail for Sunday Supper, by adding about a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard to the mash.

So it was

For nearly three years, we opened our home to anyone, at least once a week and it’s no bull that, for a while, Sunday Suppers became a village fixture.

In the kitchen ahead of “Selma’s Sunday Supper” and in front of her camera that July 2017.

By the time guests arrived, the sin is mostly dealt with and guests were greeted with a warm fire (in winter) and pretty tables.

Just one of Selma’s awesome shots from that shoot.

A last word –

We still get asked if we do Sunday Suppers.  We haven’t since February 2020 because we’ve wanted to preserve our (mercifully Covid-free) bubble.  For the moment, our stock answer is that we might.  That said, the village now has Sunday dining offerings, so there’s no real need. For those who really, really want a Sunday Supper experience, we’ll make a plan:  with the proviso that there must be between four and ten to make it viable.

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 am adding 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 here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
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 here or on the icon, and give it a go.

African Slow Cooking: North and South

100_3236It was cold this weekend – perfect weather for a slow cooked stew.  Stews are a fantastic, nutritious way to use inexpensive cuts of meat – and they are usually the most flavoursome.

On Saturday, after the market, I decided to make a traditional South African bredie.  A bredie is, essentially, a stew that was made by the Boer folk, and depending on the variation you make, also includes some Malay influences.  The Boers were descendants of the Dutch colonists, and who trekked to the hinterland of South Africa;  the Malay folk were slaves and religious exiles sent to Africa.  Much of the food in South African homes is a fusion of our rich history, so here is how I made a butternut bredie.

Butternut Bredie

You will need an appropriate quantity of lamb or mutton stewing meat (I used neck), one or two onions, a  green pepper (or a chilli if you like a bit of heat), a clove of garlic, a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and a stick of cinnamon;  butternut – cut into cubes or chunks and potato, similarly prepared.

100_3238If you are using a slow cooker, place half the raw vegetables along the bottom, reserving some for the time being. Sauté the chopped onion, pepper/chilli, garlic and ginger, and then seal the meat in the same pan.    Put the meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker and then deglaze the pan with a little water or stock to make a gravy.  Add the remaining vegetables and then pour the liquid over that and put on the lid.

“Fire up” the slow cooker and leave it alone to develop into a wonderful rich bredie – a good few hours.  The vegetables will be tender and the meat will be soft and fall off the bones!100_3239

A note about the fat:  for those who are Banting, it’s not a concern.  For those who don’t like it – there was much less fat than I expected.  Don’t shun fat – that’s where the flavour comes from!

Serve, either with or without rice or pap and other vegetables.

And now, this, for my first ever follower!

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

This is a Jenny Morris recipe – from the Giggling Gourmet newsletter, what seems like a million years ago, and which I’ve made successfully, often – also in the slow cooker.

Chris, I’ve put in brackets my substitutions for the “unusual” ingredients, and it serves 4.

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 small lamb shanks
1 Spanish onion. chopped (white or red)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar (molasses sugar)
4 teaspoons fish sauce
4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves (lemon or lime leaves)
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 potatoes, unpeeled and chopped

If you are doing this in the oven, preheat to 160°C.  Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat.  Add the lamb shanks and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until they are well browned. Remove the lamb and place in a baking dish/crock for the slow cooker.  Reduce heat and add the onion to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute longer, then add the chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the sugar, fish sauce, chopped tomatoes, lime leaves and stock, and bring to the boil.  Remove from heat and add potatoes and sweet potato to the baking dish/slow cooker with the lamb, and pour the sauce over the top.  If using the oven, cover with foil and bake for 2 hours, or until the lamb falls away from the bone.   For the slow cooker, put the lid on and leave until you’re ready to eat and the lamb falls away from the bone.

Serve with steamed couscous or rice.

Two different African stews, one from the North and the other from the South.