Like scenes from the iconic movie, Thelma and Louise, Errieda and I let out an excited whoop as we saw the signboard “Vanwyksdorp Mall”. We never saw “the mall”, but rather found ourselves in the midst of an Easter market in the middle of the Little Karoo. Who would have thought? It was like stepping into a live film set of the locally produced Faan se Trein. “It is as if a production crew was specifically instructed to make this Easter market wonderland for the two of us”, said Errieda with contented surprise. We were in our own food and people Utopia!
Our first stop was “The Barking Frog”, for a cup of coffee. Henry informed us that the “Barking Frog” was open 7-days a week and sometimes an entire tour bus would make its way over the mountain pass and long gravel road all the way from Mossel Bay. A cup of coffee would set you back R15, a milk tart, toasted sandwiches and pastries could stretch the budget by between R15 and R22. Errieda had the chicken pie with a crunchy salad with fresh raw baby corn. What a marvellously, refreshing surprise – right in the middle of this isolated town.
Just in front of The Barking Frog, we met Pam Du Toit, selling her home-grown bok choi and deep purple eggplants along with her fresh herbs and purple cauliflower plants. I found myself wondering again in awe “… bok choi and eggplant in Van Wyksdorp?” Well, yes … I found it in the middle of the Klein Karoo.
Many hours later, with the locals still lingering in the beer tent with their ice-cold beers and music we made our way back along to our mountain retreat. We may have left our footprints in those very dusty tracks but it was the people, the food, the barking frogs that left their prints in our hearts.
As the sun set over this beautiful part of the world, I decided to it would be fitting to make an oven roasted lamb ribs with a wheat and green bean risotto.
Where is Van Wyksdorp? Van Wyksdorp is located on the R327, 42 kilometers from Ladismith
The Barking Frog Henry Jones 083 653 8009 | 028 551 2597
pepper (I prefer white pepper , but you can also use black pepper )
Wheat and green bean risotto
1 cup wheat
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (not dried thyme)
300g green beans – cut half in the length and then sliced in two
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
250ml double cream
Cook the wheat, salt and fresh thyme for about 45 minutes until almost cooked - the wheat should still have a bite. Add the beans and cook until the pot’s bottom is dry. Add the Parmesan cheese and cream and simmer for another 5-10 minutes until thick
Pan fried tomatoes
200g tomatoes on the stem
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lamb ribs - Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Sprinkle a good amount of salt on both sides of the ribs and rub it in with your hands. Sprinkle a little pepper over the lamb. Cover with foil and bake in oven for an hour. Then take the foil off and bake for another hour.
Wheat and green bean risotto - Cook the wheat, salt and fresh thyme for about 45 minutes until almost cooked - the wheat should still have a bite. Add the beans and cook until the pot’s bottom is dry. Add the Parmesan cheese and cream and simmer for another 5-10 minutes until thick
Pan fried tomatoes - Fry tomatoes over medium heat in olive oil in a pan until begin to burst open. Remove and sprinkle with salt.
I love wheat….and I love Italians. I am fascinated by the way Italians eat and the way they cook – it is the simplicity and the flavours, their history and the la famiglia. I grew up with wheat on our table and have always loved the earthy crunchiness of wheat, its healthy and nutritious in so many forms, its cheap and then of course it is also grown just around the corner from us in Malmesbury. What got me thinking about Italians and wheat was a fabulous foodie get-together with #chicksthatchow (see below)* at the Italian restaurant, Zibaldone. It was a spectacular feast of Italian cuisine and the kind of atmosphere that makes a South African like me feel part of the greater La Famiglia…
What stole my heart and took my gastronomic spirit on a wheat journey was the lamb tortellini with creamed pearl barley. Out of my endless curiosity when it comes to food, I had to explore wheat as a risotto ingredient. I went back to Jamie’s basic risotto recipe that I use every time I make risotto and tweaked it somewhat by replacing the risotto rice with wheat and added some martini and mascarpone cheese. It is so delicious and crunchy. It has such a proud and distinctive nutty undertone of flavour and can be enjoyed as a main meal or accompany any beef or lamb dish.
*About #chicksthatchow: we are a group of “taste, tipple and tweet” women who celebrate life, happiness and all things good over a serving of fabulous food and a glass or two of the best pressed grapes whenever or wherever the mood or the menu may take us. #chicksthatchow was founded by the inspiring and enchanting Errieda du Toit, aka @huiskok and now the presiding President of #chicksthatchow.
1 Cup of wheat – pre-cooked for 25 minutes without salt in the water
1T Olive oil
1 T Butter
1 Medium onion – finely chopped
1 Celery stick – finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic – grated
60ml Martini Bianco
450 ml Stock of your choice
40g Grated parmesan
2 Generous tablespoons of mascarpone cheese
500g Mushrooms – any sort – thinly sliced
2T Olive oil
2T Fresh thyme –leaves picked
2 Cloves garlic – grated
Pinch of chilli powder
Big squeeze of lemon juice
30g Chopped parsley
Prepare the mushrooms first: Cook the mushrooms, thyme and garlic in the olive oil and butter in batches in a very hot pan – season each batch with salt and black pepper. Do not let the mushrooms become soggy; they should be a beautiful nutty and brown colour.
When cooked add the chilli powder, a squeeze of lemon juice and the chopped parsley and then set aside.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot and add the olive oil.
Add the onion and celery and fry for about 5 minutes till translucent.
Add the garlic and let it fry for another few minutes then add the cooked wheat. Slowly fry the wheat for a minute or two.
Add the Martini – and stir till the martini has evapourated.
Now start adding the stock ladle by ladle – allow each ladle to be absorbed by your ingredients in the pot before you add the next one.
Continue until all stock has been added to the saucepan. Remember… your wheat needs to stay moist and creamy.
Now add the mushrooms – give it a good stir.
Then add the parmesan and mascarpone.
Taste for seasoning – it is not normally necessary to add salt – but I always give it an extra pinch of black pepper.
Serve with beautiful fresh Italian bread and a glass of good red wine.