Sunday, July 18, 2010

South African Dinner: The food.

Last night was the South African dinner. Before I start to tell you what we ate I have to admit that I thought I had tried most cultures food styles. Even the kids have eaten Mediterranean, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, Australian... and lots more besides. As we drove to our friends house the kids asked if we knew what was for dinner and I had not the faintest idea. Not only have I never really eaten African food but I didn't even know what it might be. I have one friend from Zimbabwe who is a great cook but other than a curried fish pie most of what she has cooked has been Australian style food. I was slightly apprehensive that the kids might be a bit fussy if the food looked unusual. As we pulled into the driveway I had my fingers crossed and gave the kids the pep talk to be polite and not to make a fuss if they didn't like something.

I needn't have worried. It was a great evening. As soon as we arrived the kids went downstairs to play together. There was a mixture of 7 boys and girls and ages between 7 and 12 they all got on like a house on fire and just invented game after game to play. They were fed traditional South African children's food which was sausages in bread rolls. Perfect! Then they disappeared back downstairs to play and we ignored the screams of laughter from below as we topped the wine glasses up and got ready to tuck into our South African feast!

Lucy and Rob had gone to so much trouble to prepare some traditional foods that are very time intensive in their preparation. Lucy had made her own Biltong which is slow dried, salted and spiced strips of meat. It was very similar to Beef Jerky in its texture and it really tasted amazing. Rob explained that it was typically brought to football games as a snack to eat because a little goes a long way and takes quite a bit of chewing to eat!

Rob cooked big spiral coils of dense sausages called Boerewors on the bbq (braai in South Africa) All this was eaten outside in the crisp, cold winter night air with us wrapped in layers to keep warm. The deck on the back of their house overlooks a large area of bush land so all we could see were the stars and the shadows of the gum trees. It was magic.

We moved inside and were served a Biriyani layered with rice, meat and nuts with poppadums and mint chutney. This was washed down with generous amounts of South African red wine which flowed with as much enthusiasm as the conversation. After the main meal we had Koeksisters which are plaited deep fried pastries that had been coated in a shiny syrup. They were sweet and delicious and went straight to my hips!

The evening was finished off by tucking into a traditional version of a lemon meringue pie that is creamier and sweeter than I have had before. It used condensed milk in the lemon curd and had a lightness to it that made it like eating soft clouds. We sipped a liqueur called Amarula that was similar to Irish Baileys and drank tea and coffee and carried on laughing and talking as long as the kids played.

Finally after midnight Gareth was snorning on the sofa and Rhiannon found her way onto Byron's lap and told him she was going to collapse if she didnt lay in her own bed. Sian was still downstairs and in no hurry to head home! As we left we were handed a bag of dried rusks. We were told to have them for breakfast and dunk them in our tea and coffee. We have and they were good! Kind of like we had when we were kids and our mums would soak them in hot milk as a baby food. Mmmmm!

The best thing about having a mixture of friends from different cultures is the ability to share things with them that we would otherwise never experience. Some of the food last night I had never heard of, never mind eaten. More importantly to me was the snippets of the culture that I learnt by listening to the stories told as we ate. South Africa is a country with a turbulent past and not everyone's reasons for emigrating are as rosy as ours. You can read all the history books you want or watch some Hollywood movies but the stories that come from individual people and families can show you a side to history that you may never have known existed. I'm really glad to be living in such a multi-cultural country and to have made some great international friends.

I am looking forward to the big finale of the three international nights: The Aussie style BBQ! If you are reading this Maree I would like to place my order for shrimps on the barbie and a monster Pavlova.

Bring in on!

10 comments - click here to leave your comment:

  1. Hello Gina, a wonderful evening, so great for you to have friends that entertain very well, and that the children get to experience it with you. I cannot think of the last time I went to a friends for dinner, well, I have but not both of us.

    We have lots and lots of South Africans in our small town of Wantage, Oxfordshire, with the families moving here too. My friend has just been over to bring her ill, ageing parents to live with her .. lets hope they are all settling well togther.

  2. OMgosh, this is like a dream dinner! What a delight! I could envision every morsel and scene. Thank you for letting me experience this with you.

  3. Sounds like a fabulous evening with lots of good food and company. I liked your flag of candy by the way....very clever.

  4. Sound great Gina but what about the weight loss challenge ?????? What challenge?,I hear you say. Hee Hee .X Deb Neill

  5. What a wonderful nite you had!! I love the thought that you were huddled in the cold. We're in the midst of a heat wave here and I can't wait for the cool, crisp air of autumn and winter!!

    ~ Wendy

  6. I felt like I was there, sounded very good and I love it that your hostess kept the kids fed and watered while ya'll had adult conversation. Brilliant! xo,Gina

  7. You have the best dinner parties! Can't wait to hear about the Aussie bbq...

  8. Wow, you guys really know how to party!!!!

    What exactly is dried rusks?

  9. I've no real idea what rusks are? They tasted sweet and were hard enough to break a tooth on if you weren't careful? I know my friend had been making them earlier in the week and had to get home to turn them so they dried well...?

  10. What an amazing dinner! I love what you & your friends are doing, how you're sharing in each other's cultures and foods. I have to say that I'm a bit envious...these dinners sound delicious!