Friends. Food. Flavour.: Michael Olivier's Great South African Recipes
“the Oliviers’ recipes are easily accessible for home chefs wanting to recreate the foods South African cuisine without much fuss or difficulty . . .”
Outydse hoenderpastei, denningveleis, pampoenkoekies, and hertzogkoekies—the words either separate or together almost sound like some sort of ancient chant, but these are just a few of the dishes you’d likely encounter at an Old Cape Table Buffet luncheon. The foods speak to years of South African foodways and their names are much less daunting in English—old-fashioned chicken pot pie, spiced fricassee of lamb, pumpkin fritters, and coconut and apricot jam tarts—than they are in their native language. These are also the dishes that Michael Olivier, a South African wine and food commentator, and his wife Madeleine, grew up eating. The two recreated these dushes and more when asked to present a buffet style Cape Table for lunch on the Voyager Estate for the Margaret River Wine Festival in Western Australia.
“The recipes are well known,” Olivier writes in the introduction to his fifth book, Michael Olivier’s Friends, Food, Flavour. “What Madeleine and I did was to pull each recipe apart, change or add ingredients, modernize the cooking methods and add flavor. The wine festival was a great success, with many former South Africans coming down from Perth. Many of them in tears when they saw the food. These are the recipes we devised for the occasion.”
Olivier grew up on his parents’ wine farm in Durbanville and trained at Le Cordon Bleu London before going on to run a series of restaurants including three in the Cape. Among those was Parks, considered a top national restaurant. He describes the cookbook as a culmination of a long journey of promoting the foods of his country.
It’s a beauty of a cookbook with introductions for each recipe that include its history, how it was served in the past compared to the present, and how it’s ingredients have evolved over the decades as well as full-color photos, and wine. We learn the origins of Bobotie (Curried Beef Mince Timbale), a dish using the spices of the Far East which was introduced in the 17th century by Malay slaves brought to the Cape by Dutch settlers. It became a Monday supper dish and was made using the left over lamb and beef made for Sunday dinner the day before. Now, served in an earthenware dish, the ingredients include raw beef mince (or what we think of as hamburger), yellow raisin rice, toasted coconut, sliced banana, a finely chopped tomato and onion sambal or paste, and a fruity chutney. Such a meal calls for, writes Olivier, “a young and frisky Pinotage.”
Further enhancing the book’s charms are lively, colorful food drawings by illustrative designer Rolein Immelman.
Overall, the Oliviers’ recipes are easily accessible for home chefs wanting to recreate the foods South African cuisine without much fuss or difficulty, even for those as far away from South Africa as the U.S.