Graham Paterson is an illustrator. He is also my housemate.
He moved down from Durban at the beginning of this year to move in with me and a few of our friends. Despite initial suspicions that he couldn’t cook, he surprised all of us tonight by making the best pizza any of us have ever had – on my terrible excuse for a braai, no less.
Here’s how he did it.
First, make this easy pizza dough from Jamie Oliver (link) and roll it out into 25-30cm rounds. It’s inexpensive and relatively easy.
If you can, roll your bases approximately 5mm thick. (You can make them thinner if you want, but seeing as we use an old Milk Stout quart as a rolling pin, it’s about the best we can get. The thinner they are, the easier they’ll cook on the braai.) Stab the rounds with a fork a few times to make sure they don’t shrivel up when they go on the coals.
After they’ve rested for a bit, braai your rounds on semi-hot coals for about three minutes on each side. Just par-cook them: make sure to get a little bit of colour on each side, but also make sure that the dough stays mostly raw.
Once they’re charred, thinly spread tomato paste on one side of each base. In this instance we used plain tomato paste from a tube, but a homemade Neapolitan sauce would also work well.
Lightly sauté some onions and whatever toppings you want for your pizzas while they cool. When your toppings are lightly cooked, spread them on the bases and add a thin layer of mozzarella on top. (Don’t bother using expensive cheese with this recipe – the smoke from the braai will likely overpower any light notes in good buffalo mozzarella. On saying that, however, blue cheese would work excellently.)
Chuck your pizzas on the braai, and cover with the lid. If you don’t own a Weber, cover it up with a cardboard box lined with aluminium foil like we did. This way the coal chars the bottom of the base and the heat trapped in the lid or box cooks your toppings and lightly melts the cheese.
For best results, only put your bases on the braai after the coals have been burning for anywhere between 70 and 90 minutes. Any earlier and you could risk charring the undersides of the base a bit too much. It won’t ruin the pizza, but the char might be too strong for some.
When the cheese is lightly melted and the bottom lightly charred, cut and serve.
Enjoy with any beer you wish. I chose Castle Milk Stout: the char on the base and the heavy roast on Milk Stout’s malt went together like a dream.
This recipe might seem like difficult work, but it is a lot more rewarding (not to mention a lot cheaper) than ordering pizza in. The dough is probably the most difficult part, but once you’ve made pizza dough a few times, it becomes second nature, even to an unnatural cook like me.
These are chocolate stout cupcakes that were made last weekend. Here they are fresh out of the oven. They were delicious.
And this is my friend Claire. In this picture she is the process of baking those chocolate stout cupcakes, which were delicious. She is very cool and it was her birthday yesterday. (Happy birthday again!)
Claire is also a part-time baker, and runs a little home-industries-style-bakery-thing with another friend, who is also called Clare. Since they’re both Cla(i)res, the bakery is called Clare & I (link). Together they make delicious cakes and cupcakes with a good sprinkling of humour and charm. (Flat-topped gray liquorice Le Corbusier cupcakes, anyone?)
Now, I’m not going to tell you exactly how Claire made these delicious cupcakes, just in case she plans on selling them out of the bakery one day, but I can tell you that it’s a variation on a simple beer cake recipe, of which you can find a dime a dozen online. The beer that we used for this batch was Darling’s Black Mist, of which I had a few sitting in my fridge from the week before. Other recommendations for baking would be Hook Norton’s Double Stout or, if you can’t get that, you can go for Castle Milk Stout. The choice is yours, although I wouldn’t use Guinness if I could help it - ideally, go for something less bitter or with a bit more character.
What’s great about baking with beer is that it acts both as a flavouring and a rising agent, which means anything you bake with it comes out super light and fluffy. For some reason, the beeriness of the cupcakes increases the longer you leave them before you eat them. From personal experience, however, I doubt you’d be able to resist eating all of them for too long.
The cupcakes were topped with chocolate butter icing, caramel and cherries. Irresistibly light and fluffy, morish and malty from the beer, they were finished off between five of us within half an hour.
So, I guess the point of this post is that you should: (i) bake with beer for deliciousness and fluffiness; (ii) eat lots of cupcakes because they are tasty; and (iii) buy the Cla(i)res’ baked goods.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy Rocking the Daisies if you’re heading out that way. And please don’t drink and drive.
Pie with beer in it. What’s not to like? It’s two of my favourite things combined into one perfect dinner. It’s hearty, wholesome and delicious.
Most people know beef & Guinness pie, which used to be a big favourite of mine. Recently I’ve been trying to eat much less meat, so I’ve come up with a new recipe that uses lots of delicious vegetables and replaces the Guinness with an old South African favourite: Castle Milk Stout. It takes a few hours to make, but it’s worth it. It’s savoury, a little bit sweet and malty from the beer, and incredibly morish.
So, here are the things you need to make a veggie stout pie, which serves three hungry guys by itself, or four with extra sides:
• Olive oil, salt, pepper and butter.
• Two red onions, diced
• 10ml tomato paste
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
• half a butternut, cut into 2cm pieces
• 1 large yellow/orange bell pepper, diced in 1cm pieces
• 150g portobello or brown mushrooms, quartered
• 5 or 6 young carrots, chopped
• 300ml vegetable stock
• pinch of rosemary
• packet of puff pastry
• 450ml Castle Milk Stout
And here’s how you do it. The directions for this recipe are nothing exact, but if you’re even only vaguely acquainted with a frying pan, they’re common sense.
1) Fry up your two diced red onions in two tablespoons or so of olive oil until brown.
2) Add in your garlic and a couple sprigs of rosemary and fry for three minutes.
3) Add diced peppers and mushrooms. For extra delicious, and to ensure nothing sticks on the pot, add a little knob of butter.
4) Once peppers and mushrooms begin to get soft, add in your diced carrots, butternut and sweet potato. Stir every few minutes until it looks like the picture above. The butternut and sweet potato should be the tiniest bit soft.
5) Heat up your vegetable stock. Stir the tomato paste into your stock and add the mixture to your pot. Ideally, the liquid should not completely cover the veggies.
6) Reduce on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
7) Once the stew has reduced a bit, add in your Milk Stout. Don’t worry if everything looks a bit foamy and it smells a bit weird: that’s completely normal and mostly due to the alcohol from the Milk Stout evaporating.
8) Preheat your oven to 120 degrees.
9) After further reducing for another 10 minutes, put your stew in an ovenproof dish or pot and bake it for an hour at 120 degrees.
10) Your stew should be brown and beautifully reduced when the hour is up. Take it out, give it a stir and let it rest while you preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
11) Cut your puff pastry and lay it on top of your dish. Put your pastried pie inside the oven at 180 for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry turns golden. For better results, you may want to egg wash your pastry, but it’s not essential with many readymade puff pastries.
After all that, you should have this: pure beery, pie-ey satisfaction. Enjoy it, naturally, with a glass of Milk Stout.
All in all, the main ingredients should cost you no more than R80, including the Milk Stout. You can mix and match vegetables to your taste (I think celery would be a good addition, but I forgot to buy it at the shops), add some steak for a more classic version of the pie, or you can even leave the pastry off for a less carbohydrate-heavy stew dish.
It’s a very basic recipe, so have some fun with it. Just don’t leave out the stout.
Following on from yesterday’s post about Khayelitsha utwala, I endeavoured to find a recipe for a typical umqombothi. Why? The reasons are numerous.
Firstly, I have quite fond memories of umqombothi from my time in Grahamstown studying at Rhodes University. Every six months or so, I used to help organise benefit shows for a soup kitchen called Masincedane, which was run by a lovely woman called Cynthia in Joza township. She was backed by an eponymous student society and, together with a society I was part of, we put on very well attended gigs. The shows were called Singing For Soup, and featured a whole bunch of folk bands and poets from the Grahamstown area. We always used to raise about R5000 or so for Masincedane after costs, which might not seem like too much, but it was enough to help the soup kitchen feed scores of people for a couple of months afterward.
I used to play at these shows with my band, which was always fun because the crowds were large and the venue was pretty. It was made even more fun by the women who ran the soup kitchen. They used to make a huge barrel of umqombothi, and it was sold for R5 a cup. It was sour as hell, but by no means unpalatable. It also got you very drunk very fast. Each time the show came around, another batch was made, and each time it tasted completely different. I drank it nonetheless.
I managed to find a recipe at this website (link). It seems simple and, more importantly, legit. I realise now that the differences between each batch were a result of what is an incredibly simple brewing technique that, depending on the place and time of year at which you brew it, will result in varying types of brew.
I quote from the above link:
Equal measures of: mealie meal (corn meal); crushed mealie malt (corn malt); crushed sorghum malt; warm water.
(The mealie malt provides a lighter-toned beer with a mellower flavour. The sorghum malt provides a darker beer.)
The ingredients are mixed in a cast-iron pot (potjie)
The mixture is left overnight and will start fermenting and bubbles appear. A sour odour can be detected.
A small portion of the corn-flavoured water is removed and put to one side.
The remaining mixture is then cooked until a crusty sediment forms. This product is known as isidudu and can be eaten as a porridge.
When making beer, the isidudu is left to cool for a day.
After the mixture has cooled, it is poured into a large plastic vat. The liquid that was set aside is added to the vat.
A handful of sorghum malt and a handful of mealie malt is added to the vat.
The brew is stirred with a traditional stirring spoon called an iphini. The vat is covered with a lid and blanket (to retain heat). The vat is put in a warm place overnight, to encourage fermentation.
The traditional method of testing to see if the brew is ready is to light a match close to the vat. If the match blows out quickly, the brew is ready. If the match remains lit, the brew is not ready. This is because the fermenting mixture is producing large amounts of carbon dioxide, which does not allow for combustion of the match.
When the brew is ready, the mixture is filtered through a large metal strainer, to collect the excess corn. The sediment at the bottom of the vat is known as intshela. The intshela is added to the filtered beer, to give extra flavour.
The corn solids, collected from filtering, are squeezed out. This corn is usually cast onto the ground for chickens.
Once the beer has been strained, it is poured into a large communal drum known as a gogogo. It is ready for sharing with friends and family. When guests arrive at the brewer’s home to taste the beer and join in the celebration, they traditionally bring a bottle of brandy, as a symbol of gratitude.
As unsophisticated and natural as it seems, if you don’t have the money for expensive home or kit brewing equipment, you could give umqombothi brewing a try. Although this is a relatively simple procedure, there’s quite a lot of room for variation and experimentation with different malts and filtering methods. Each brew will be unique, even if they’re all made with exactly the same recipe: the bacteria and yeast naturally in the air differs from place to place, and will result in different tasting brews depending on the environment, or probably even which part of your house or garden you brew it in.
I don’t currently have the room to brew anything in the house I’m in right now, but this seems like a good brewing experiment to try out one day. I can say from experience that township umqombothi is really worth a try. I think that, if you’re, like me, not exactly a typical working (or, in many cases, non-working) class South African, it’s just a matter of having an open mind and trying to develop a palate for new things. Personally, I’ve never had terrible umqombothi, so I recommend at least trying it if you’re ever in a shebeen or umqombothi-brewing village. It’s the quintessential South African homebrew.