The Earthmother Of  Food, Honest Food, Country Food, With Nostalgia As The Best Flavouring, another excellent review by Myrna Robins…

The Earthmother Of Food, Honest Food, Country Food

Whether you enjoy Herman’s books in English or Afrikaans you are sure to react in similar fashion – there’s  sincerity in his DNA, reflected in his culinary philosophy and present on every  page of his cookbooks.

Home Cooking is his sixth title, one in which he combines some autobiography, reflects on his love of food and adds entertaining anecdotes along with the recipes – mostly his, some  those of friends.

His life story is similar to the food he loves – simple, honest, predictable, a counterpart to the past few years of turmoil in our world as we know it. Herman says the “world has been turned upside down and what is there to help carry us emotionally? The humble banana loaf, that’s what.”

Herman Lensing

Herman grew up in Upington, qualified as a chef from the ICA in Stellenbsoch and was appointed food editor of Sarie magazine at a very young age.

Having found a second Northern Cape home in Douglas, he starts with a recipe for curry pasta salad made by a resident there, follows with sweet carrots finished, will you believe, with custard powder, continues with moskonfyt sweet potatoes.   Not all the vegetable dishes are sweetened, one hastens to add.

Next up is a chapter on ‘bread, butter and jam’.   Baking bread early on Saturday mornings is one of Herman’s favourite weekend activities. Here he gives us his mother’s recipe for bread flavoured with various soup powders, his father’s enormous cheese scones, and the family’s holiday-time banana loaves and bran muffins that are the stars of the show.

The Cold Food chapter opens with a wonderful story of a posh summer wedding in the Northern Cape that was washed out by a summer storm, but saved by the buffet that survived th downpour. There’s coronation chicken. glazed gammon, leg of lamb with green sauce and a green pea salad that is easy and colourful.

Herman Lensing & his mother Susan

More meat in the following sections, which include a breakfast menu, then biscuits and rusks take centre stage – old favourites that I haven’t sampled in years plus a couple that are new to me – Lepelsteeltjies are savoury cheese biscuits that look like jolly jammers – each with a centre filling of apricot jam.

Sweet finales see trifle, simple banana custard and bazaar pud, alongside sophisticated spiced white chocolate icecream and festive cassata. Each has its place and all look delicious in the photographs that accompany each recipe. Mention must also be made of the excellent index –essential in a cookbook like this one, but not always forthcoming.

As well as an ode to his much-loved late mother and her good food, Herman does not hesitate to share with readers the importance in which he holds the affection of  good friends. That he manages to do this without sounding soppy or sentimental is an indication of his sincerity and the honest way he shares failures as well as success stories as he recalls them.

Myrna Robins – doyenne of South African Food and Wine Writing

Home Cooking: Food that connects with your soul by Herman Lensing. Published by Penguin, Cape Town, 2022.

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