Paul and I were recently invited to join one of African Relish’s weekend cookery courses. Wanting to visit the Karoo town of Prince Albert for quite a while and being intrigued by the African Relish set up, we set off for the 400 odd kilometer journey along the N1. Not the most varied route, but I find the monotony of the Karoo fascinating – endless space and emptiness. Born and bred in the small area that we call Holland space is a luxury.
The historic town of Prince Albert is set against the beautiful Swartberg Mountains on the one side and the Karoo on the other. Driving into town along Church Street, it is obvious that the people of Prince Albert care a great deal for their town. Most of the Cape Dutch, Karoo and Victorian buildings are skillfully restored to their former glory and African Relish’s meticulously restored Langhuis is no exception to this rule.
Inside awaited a warm welcome by resident chef Vanie Padayachee and her team of local staff. The purpose built kitchen is contemporary, airy & light, fitted with all the cooking paraphernalia you can dream up. Before starting The Art of Preserving with Oded Schwartz, it was time for one of Vanie’s ‘light’ lunches. A delicious lightly curried butternut soup for starters, pizza slices with the freshest salad for main and an out of this world fresh fruit meringue with triple double crème desert.
We started the course by picking our own fresh ingredients at nearby farms - mulberries, gooseberries, carrots, cabbages, broccoli, fennel, prickly pear leaves, lemons, fresh herbs – and preparing these for the preserving sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Buying local is the norm at African Relish – all their produce is bought from within an approximate 80 km radius. This way they not only reduce the carbon footprint of their food, but also support local businesses.
Oded, a food historian and culinary anthropologist, took us on amazing journey of traditional preserving methods with a modern twist. His passion and enthusiasm for preserving shines through at all times making the experience even more remarkable. As a total novice in preserving, the most bizarre preserve we made was braaied pickled prickly pear leaves – an acquired taste and Paul’s personal favourite.
Carrot Jam, an occasional Victorian tea-time treat, is my top choice, because of its simplicity and surprisingly deliciousness. Try this recipe and let me know what you think of carrot jam!
1 kg carrots – peeled & grated
250 g sultanas
500 ml water
3 lemons – juice and grated peel of 2
750 g sugar
75 g fresh ginger – grated
4 tablespoons brandy
Place grated carrots in preserving pan (or any other decent quality pan), add the water and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 10-15 mins until the carrots are just soft. Add the sugar, lemon juice & peel and sultanas and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook for about one hour until a jam set is achieved. Before switching the heat off, add the ginger and mix well. Allow to cool a bit and stir in the brandy. Bottle and seal hot.