The Story of Lemon and Waterblommetjies

Want to cook something specific?  It’s simple isn’t it, you go to your local supermarket, buy the ingredients and cook what you want to.  When you live in a small town like Barrydale and you own a restaurant, it’s not that simple.  Your approach needs to be one of; what is available, what can you buy at the shop, but also from local gardens and even forage locally.  Foreign concept?  Not really, if you think about it.  The days before the large retailers and chains that is exactly what people did.  You created your plate and your pantry according to what is in season and what you had in excess.

waterblommetjies

You end up making up your menu from there. It can be rather challenging, but it’s also refreshing.  You get to play around with simple ingredients and you end up with the most amazing results.  For instance, the other day a local gentleman told us to come and pic tomatoes, he had way too much in his garden.  So, we had to look at the tomato as not just the red fruit that goes into a salad.  So, we applied our minds and look at some of the things you can do with a meagre tomato:  five spice tomato chilli jam, simple roasted tomatoes and garlic in olive oil, tomato carpaccio, green tomato chutney, crispy skins to dress salads, flesh and tomato water for dressings….the list is endless

How does this bring us to Lemon and Waterblommetjies.  Forraging; or in the case of waterblommetjies harvesting straight from the dam.

Late July, beginning August is normally when you’ll find Waterblommetjies in die Klein Karoo area.  Or simply look at when the small yellow ‘suurings’ (a wild sorrel with a yellow flower) come out.  What are waterblommetjies?  I’m not going to bore you with the fancy names, it’s basically a edible flower that grows in the water – the short version.  When you see the ‘suurings’ you know it’s time to load the bakkie with the dogs, boogie board, wicker basket, water boots and towels.  Some hot coffee must also go with, as it’s still winter in the Klein Karoo and the dam water is very cold.  The only way to harvest the waterblommetjies is to wade into the dam and pick them.  The amazing thing when you harvest them yourself is that you can also pick the very young small flowers.  These are wonderful just tossed in a pan with some butter and added to salads.  You very rarely get these young ones when you buy waterblommetjies in the store.

So how does this process work.  Everything and everyone (there are normally people that join the trip to the farm) are loaded onto our trusty Ford bakkie (Sharky).  Then we set out to Ganslaagte, a farm that still belongs to family within the Van Coller family.  The drive is fantastic as it takes you through the hills and valleys of the Klein Karoo towards Ladismith.  Arriving on the farm, there is a silence that you cannot explain.  The eye can see so far there.  Just hills and mountains, filled with Karoo vegetation, and the smell of this is so absolutely typical to the area.

Harvesting the waterblommetjies is a team effort, which means that Lemon joins in.  After all there is a dam.  That brings me to introducing you to Lemon.   As I had to leave the Dachshunds behind with the ‘grandparents’ in the city, a new addition joined the household of Rooi Kombuis (the restaurant, deli and catering business I’m a partner in).  So after long debates and wondering what to call this potential giant dog, Lemon made complete sense.

Lemon (339x640)

Lemon is a Great Dane, Pointer and a bit of a farm dog cross.  So, she’s a rather large, very athletic and extremely energetic animal.  And above all she is the animal with the most love to give.  She needs a lot of entertainment and you can never keep her out of water.  Hence the extra legs and mouth that helped pic the waterblommetjies.  She simply grabs the stems that’s under the water and pulls them out.  And it was her first time that she helped with the harvesting.

Waterblommetjies done (360x640)

Toitnette with the first basket of our harvest

And then, what do you do with these edible flowers?  There are loads of things you can do.  Don’t just think the traditional waterblommetjie bredie.  Before you do anything though, clean them properly.  They might come from water, but it’s a dam, so they do have grit and other things in the flowers.  Place in a large container with water, and I always add some salt, just to get rid of any insects.  It is a plant after all.  And again, apply your mind.  Don’t just think stew.  Waterblommetjie stew is very hearty and traditional, but I tend to find that the flower doesn’t always come to its right in a stew.  Here are some different ideas on how to give the waterblommetjie the centre stage, next time you get hold of them.

Steamed with butter

The simplest version and my favourite.  Simply place them in a colander, steam them over hot water so that they’re still slightly al dente (think artichokes).  Serve these on a platter, with a nice squeeze of lemon over the waterblommetjies and on the side…just melted butter, flavoured with fresh herbs like flat leaf parsley, some dill or fennel

Waterblommetjie tempura

This is a very nice way of garnishing your waterblommetjie bredie.  It adds nice texture to the bredie.

Why not dress this tempura up further and make something for your vegetarian friends.

Waterblommetjie tempura stuffed with lentil ragout. 

For the ragout:  cook the lentils until done BUT NOT SOGGY.

While cooking, make an Italian tomato sauce (which ever version you prefer).  I simply get the skin of fresh tomatoes, chop them up roughly.  Infuse some olive oil with garlic, add a touch of rosemary (fresh), follow this with the chopped tomato and sauté.  Then add some vegetarian friendly stock (preferably your own you’ve made).  And let this cook down until it’s a nice sticky consistency.  Add the lentils and cook together for five minutes.  Then stuff the waterblommetjies and set aside.

Tempura batter:

1 Cup of cake flour, extra cake flour to dip the waterblommetjies in, 1 cup of soda water, 1 egg (separated), canola oil (for shallow frying), salt & pepper to taste.  The batter consistency must be like a thick pancake mix.

Mix flour and soda water together, whisk egg white to stiff peaks and keep aside.  Add the egg to the flour mixture and mix through.

Dip the stuffed waterblommetjies in the extra flour, then in the batter and fry in a heated oil in a shallow pan.  Make sure the oil is hot enough.  TIP:  when heating the oil, put back of a wooden spoon into the hot oil, if bubbles form around the spoon, it’s hot enough.

You can serve this with a simple plain yoghurt dipping sauce (plain yoghurt with some spices of your choice, even add some sesame seeds to the dipping sauce.)

And the list can go on.

So, I challenge you to try and approach your simplest ingredients with a bit of a different approach.  Why not close the recipe book and work with the ingredients.  Look at your seemingly most boring ingredients and see what else you can do with them.  Sometimes this process starts by tasting them once again.  And I mean really tasting them.  See what flavours you get from them and then start creating something with complimenting and sometimes clashing flavours.  You will be surprised at the results you can get.

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