Last week I was invited to be a part of a very exciting day to celebrate waterblommetjies in the Breede River valley. The Waterblommetjie, otherwise know in English as ‘pond weed’, gets turned into a much-loved traditional dish- Waterblommetjie Bredie in the winter months in the Western Cape. We gathered at Du Toitskloof Winery to learn more about the heritage of this dish, and to judge a ‘cook off’ between two Boland wine farms Du Toitskloof Wines  and Muratie Wine Estate.

Martelize Brink, RSG presenter (who interviewed me last month on Nina’s show) and daughter of Dr. Matie Brink who was known for his culinary skills, talked about her love for waterblommetjies and the fact that the early settlers and their slaves probably learnt from the indigenous Khoikhoi that these aquatic plants were edible.

“Over the years this led to a fusion of three cultures and the creation of what we know today as waterblommetjie bredie.And the secret ingredient in making this dish? Everyone’s interpretation will be different but consensus calls for a fatty meat to partner with the flowers, salt and pepper and a handful of wild sorrel to balance the fattiness with a hint of acidity. However, it is in essence a simple dish that needs little fuss. The simpler the ingredients and cooking method the better.”

Brink added that waterblommetjies, grow wild in swamps and marshes which dry up in summer. During autumn and winter when the ponds fill again with water, the plants sprout producing a narrow, oval leave that floats on the surface. A white sweetly scented flower stands clear from the water but for cooking purposes the flowers must be harvested while still in the bud, typically between June and September.

So it was long before the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, and long before foraging had become the trendiest culinary phenomena that the waterblommetjie has been picked in the wild and been a food source to the local people.

The Du Toitskloof team won the competition by just one vote.

I’m not going to reveal which recipe I voted for, but will say that they were each a bit different, one slightly more traditional than the other, but in both the mutton was cooked to tender perfection.

Here are the recipes:

Du Toitskloof – By Marina du Toit (twin sister of Dr Matie Brink)

INGREDIENTS
• 3 kg mutton in large chunks
• 1 chopped onion
• 12 small onions
• 4 cloves of garlic
• 15 small potatoes
• 4 cups chicken stock
• 2 cups Du Toitskloof Chardonnay
• 3 kg waterblommetjies
• 1 cup soy sauce
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• A bunch of wild sorrel or lemon juice to taste

METHOD
• Brown the meat in its own fat or use a bit of oil.Remove and brown the small onions until brown and keep aside.
• Braise the chopped onion and garlic and add the meat, wine and stock and place the waterblommetjies and small potatoes on top
• Place the lid on and simmer for about an hour
• Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a further 20 minutes
• Serve with crushed wheat, rice, beetroot salad and baked quince

Muratie: Cooked by Annetjie Melck (local culinary icon)

INGREDIENTS
• 1 kg mutton (a combination of platrib, dikrib and sheeps’ tails)
• 2,5 kg waterblommetjies, cleaned
• 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
• 1 onion roughly chopped
• 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
• A bunch of wild sorrel, finely chopped
• 250 ml hot water
• 15 ml brown vinegar
• A pinch of grated nutmeg
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Lemon for serving

METHOD
• Use a heavy bottomed cast iron pot with a lid
• Season the meat with the brown vinegar, salt,pepper and nutmeg
• Braise the meat, onion and garlic in a little water until tender
• Add the waterblommetjies and wild sorrel and place the potatoes on top
• Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and add the 250 ml hot water
• Cover with the lid and simmer until tender. Keep hot water handy should you need more moisture –
don’t let the contents cook dry or turn into a soup.
• Don’t stir the pot during the cooking but only before serving to mix the meat, potatoes and waterblommetjies
• Serve with rice and lemon wedges.

Cooks notes:

CLEANING THE WATERBLOMMETJIES

Soak the waterblommetjies overnight in salt water and rinse thoroughly. Remove all sand and dirt as well as the
harder parts from the flowers and the leaves.

THE MEAT

If using mutton tails, don’t exceed the weight of the meat as specified in the recipe. If using lamb, braising will be
much quicker. The success of this stew is the marriage between the fat of the meat and the waterblommetjies.

There were a couple of prestigious guests at the event including Masterchef SA judge Benny Masekwameng and the shows culinary director Arnold Tanzer.

I was honoured to have been invited to be a part of this special day which was born out of a Twitter chat a few months back with Bernard Kotze (@TheGoggaman) and Emile Joubert (@Emile Joubert) and myself (@drizzleanddip). I have certainly come a whole lot closer to understanding this wonderful ingredient and I look forward to this becoming an annual event. I took a bag of flowers home with me so watch this space to see what I make.

Here are Bernard and Emile:

Oh and lets not forget about the wine that gets paired with this dish…….

The wine best served with waterblommetjies is a creamy, fruity wine that will compliment the subtle flavours of the brediewithout overpowering its gentle taste. Du Toitskloof Wines suggest its limited edition 2011 Chardonnay Viognier blend. The wine was made with food in mind and its delicate, smoky flavours coupled with the apricot and peach characters will pair exceptionally well with waterblommetjies. Similarly Muratie Wine Estate suggests its 2011 Isabella Chardonnay, an elegant Burgundian-style Chardonnay with notes of citrus and a lingering mineral finish. Wood is well integrated around a juicy fruit centre with a long lingering aftertaste which would appeal to both wooded and un-wooded Chardonnay drinkers.

The 2011 Du Toitskloof Chardonnay Viognier is available from the cellar and retails for about R65 per bottle whilst the 2011 Muratie Isabelle Chardonnay is available nationally from supermarkets and fine wine stores at around R95 per bottle.

For all the pictures of the event as shot by Andres de Wet, visit my Drizzle and Dip Face book page.

The drive out to Du Toitskloof was breathtakingly beautiful on a crisp winters day with snow capped peaks in the distance. These are a few pics which I snapped along the way:

I look forward to connecting with you again in the future.

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8 Comments

  1. I love that landscape so much. When I visited Southern Africa a few years back (South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe), I was blown away by the landscape. The one place I didn’t get to see and regret it was Capetown. One day….

  2. Sam

    Hi Suzanne, Sorry you didn’t get to CT as it is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but sounds like you did a lot of other interesting and beautiful parts. I feel truly blessed to live in paradise.

  3. Marcia Michalitsianou

    Ag, man !! you make me SO homesick !!!!!!!

  4. Hi Sam,
    Drove the same road on the same day, snow on the peaks were fantastic.

    I was lucky enough to get waterblommetjie flowers earlier in the season, they have an amazing jasmine like scent and make for a very interesting ingredient at this stage of their development.

    Also of interest is the fact that the uintjie (underground storage organ) is referred to as a delicacy in Leipoldt’s writings. But production would have to be a bit better managed as widespread harvesting of this slower growing organ would likely affect the supply of flowers.

    Cheers.

  5. Sam

    Hi Rupert that is so interesting to know. I would like to make a soup with it and was also thinking of a barley risotto. It has such a delicate flavour which is worth exploring further.

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