This dish is best made during the “Waterblommetjie Season” which occurs in the Western Cape during the spring – August/September – when all the plants seem to be bursting into life.
Waterblommetjies – the much sought-after water-plants – are harvested from ponds and vleis when their green flower parts appear near the surface, just waiting for the discerning picker to find them.
One can sometimes see people out in the countryside, wearing wading clothes such as those worn by fishermen, waist-deep, and cutting the flower-tops which are used like a vegetable.
Seeing these green plants in the markets leads to the yearning to produce this old-fashioned South African dish.
I cannot attest to my recipe being “authentic”, and I imagine that most farmers’ wives and professional cooks have their own tried-and-tested recipes. However, the bredie that I made last night turned out to be one of the best that I have cooked in years!
And this is how I proceeded:
Enough good meaty stewing lamb for 4 people, cubed into bit-sized pieces
Waterblommetijes, fresh from a known source (unpolluted water). It is also possible to find them canned in the supermarket.
2 large onions, chopped
A few cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil – also produced on the sunny hills here in the Cape – pure and golden.
4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
A few millimeters of peeled and chopped fresh ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Optional: ground chili powder
Salt and white pepper to taste
Juice of 1 large lemon
Some cornflour mixed with a little water
Wine to add moisture to the stew.
Rice to serve
- Wash the waterblommetjies well, and drain them.
- Heat a large skillet.
- Sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil
- Seal the lamb pieces by frying them with the onion. The temperature must not be too hot, but just hot enough for the lamb to become nice and browned.
- Then add the ginger, ground cloves (never overdo the cloves), ground cinnamon, salt and pepper – judiciously. My grandmother used white pepper, so I stay with that.
Optional: ¼ tsp chili powder (or chop some fresh chili “to taste”).
- Add the potatoes
- While this is cooking in the skillet, add a glass of dry white wine, and then put on the lid. This way the meat remains succulent, with all the juices retained.
- At the same time, place the washed waterblommetjies in a steamer, and a good portion of rice in a separate dish, and let that all cook. My steamer is the best equipment I have ever acquired. (My second name could be “Cinderella”, for all the pots I have neglected in the past. Now I no longer burn the victuals!)
- Squeeze a lovely fresh lemon – mine was harvested from a friend’s tree the day before, and once all the “greens” are cooked through, put them into a bowl and pour over the lemon juice, shaking them a little.
- Once the stew, or bredie, looks just right, cooked to the satisfaction of your eye and nose, thicken the juices with a little cornflower mixed with water, and give it a good stir.
- Then quickly tip the waterblommetjies with their lemon juice into the stew, and turn the mixture over to coat the waterblommetjies.
- Serve the skillet right onto the table, along with the cooked rice.
A veritable feast!
Serve this dish with a wine of the district. Here in the Cape of Good Hope we have no shortage of a wonderful selection from the vine.
- A bredie is a stew or hot-pot cooked with a variety of meats and a good assortment of vegetables.
- The waterblommetjies are also known as wateruintjies, which means “onions that grow in water”, vleikos – food from a still body of water known as a vlei, or Cape Pond Weed. Only the tops are used, before the flowers open. Most of these vleis dry up during the summer months, and the plants then become dormant.
- The botanical name for the plant is aponogeton distachyos.
If you find yourself far from your homeland, this may serve to remind you of the Cape, and the delicious flavours that we can produce!
Contributor: Jeanne Bull
For more delicious South African favourites, click here