THERE'S something about Langverwagt. It lies just outside Kuils River, on the edge of everything that is soul-destroying about the city of Cape Town.
When you drive through the farm gate, there are ponds, vineyards and stone pines, but nothing you won't see on numerous other wine farms in the Boland. It's only when you approach the farmyard wall that the enchantment beckons. It bursts forth as you drive through the entrance and suddenly find yourself in the midst of my Aunt Janette's magical garden: century-old oak trees, and an encyclopaedia of endemic and exotic plants, planted with a keen eye for the beauty of the single plant and of the whole.
And not least of all, a whole flock of peacocks, sitting on the farmhouse porch in the afternoons tending to their feathers while waiting for their food. I have yet to meet anyone who was not blown away by this magical place with its view of Table Mountain.
Part of Langverwagt's charm is that it doesn't look like a Real Housewives wine farm garden and homestead. Rather, it's a farmyard that welcomes the onslaught of the elements, and it's effortlessly beautiful even on the most miserable winter day.
Old-world Boland farm
The farm was first awarded to Jean le Roux, a French Huguenot from Normandy, in 1721. Over the years, owners came and went.
Meanwhile another Le Roux, Fanie, left behind a prosperous farm in what was then Rhodesia and started anew in South Africa as a middle-aged farmer. But Fanie and Janette's ingenuity and hard work paid off when they acquired the severely neglected Langverwagt 26 years ago. And since Fanie is a direct descendant of Jean, a circle was completed.
The same dedication and ingenuity enabled them to restore Langverwagt to an old-world Boland farm.
The Sunday lunches are now legendary, like something you remember from your childhood, if you were lucky: feasts with delicious food, good wine and interesting guests who tell spiced-up stories full of flavour.
And it's one of Janette's greatest pleasures when all the seats around the long dining room table are filled for a Sunday afternoon meal, because “on Sundays I want to be entertained".
A while back we were invited to such a lunch. As usual, we first went to the large, warm and fragrant farm kitchen for conversations with glass in hand while the final preparations were being made. A pissaladière was at hand for the very hungry.
In the oven was a boneless pork neck with golden apple and pear wedges, a whole chicken with cream and mushrooms, roasted vegetables, rice and fried potatoes: a real old-fashioned, hearty Sunday meal. The crown jewel was something to write home about: a steamed orange pudding, served with homemade crème anglaise. It's a winter pudding, the equivalent of which is hard to find. We keenly gave a new meaning to “abandonment".
As always, I left with the desire that Langverwagt will remain the home of such delights for a long time to come. Fortunately, my oldest child doesn't yet drink but can drive, and I could slumber in the back seat while reliving the bliss at leisure.
Hoping that you will try it and enjoy something of Langverwacht's fine culture and ingrained civility — commodities that have unfortunately become scarce — here are the recipes for a pissaladière and the steamed orange pudding.
Pissaladière, 8-12 portions
This is a flat, open pie filled with sweet braised onions and decorated with anchovies and ripe olives. Traditionally, the tart is seasoned with pissalat (a purée of salted fish) before it is baked, hence the name.
The crust for this version is a rough puff pastry, although a yeast dough base is also common. Janette uses a quick sour cream crust, which is delicious. Pie dough bought at the store will also work.
One of my favourite treats, imported anchovy fillets, are so expensive these days that I have to pass them by. Just after I read that Louis Leipoldt thought bokkoms are a good substitute, I received a gift of bokkom strips from Mappie Visserye in Velddrif at exactly the right time. So a paste made of these bokkoms, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, and spread under the onion filling on the base, had to do for the Cape version of pissaladière.
The skin of a red pepper was singed off and used to create the beautiful characteristic chequered pattern. The local pissaladière looks a little different from its cousin from Nice but tastes quite authentic — more like the sea, according to the tasters in my residence.
1. For the crust, prepare a rough puff pastry of 225g cake flour, 225g butter and 90ml ice water.
2. In the meantime, make the filling by cutting 1kg of onions into thin slices. Sauté in ⅓ cup of olive oil in a heavy-based pan. Also add a tablespoon of fresh thyme. The onions should be soft, but not brown — this takes up to 45 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough in a rectangle of 20x30cm and place on a baking sheet. Spread about 30ml of bokkom paste over the dough, then the cooled onions.
4. Create a diamond pattern over the onion base with strips of red pepper and put a black olive in each diamond. Grind a sprinkle of black pepper on top.
5. Bake at 200-220ºC for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
Steamed orange pudding, 8-12 portions
The orange pudding's outstanding features are that it is not too sweet, and you can really taste the citrus. The pudding can be made in advance or in stages and will keep for a day or three.
1. Start by boiling orange slices (2-3 thinly sliced oranges) in a syrup of one cup each of water and sugar until the peels are soft — about 20 minutes. Leave to cool in the syrup. Grease a deep dish with a volume of 2 litres and line the bottom with baking paper. Drain the slices (reserving the syrup) and line the dish with them.
2. Now make the batter: Cream 250g of butter and caster sugar. Add the grated peel and juice of one lemon, as well as a pinch of salt. Beat 4 eggs one by one into the butter mixture. Mix 2 cups of self-raising flour and ½ cup of almond flour together then add to the butter mixture to form a batter. Janette uses a food processor for the preparation.
3. Scoop the batter into the dish lined with orange slices and put the lid on or cover with a sheet of baking paper and foil, with a string tied around the edge to seal it.
4. Place the dish on a saucer in a deep pot and fill half of the pot with boiling water. Put the lid on and steam for 2 hours. The water should boil gently — top it up if necessary. After 2 hours, use a skewer to test if the pudding is done.
5. Turn the dish upside down on a serving plate. Pour the remaining heated syrup over the golden dome.
6. Eat until nothing is left.
♦ VWB ♦
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