Waterblommetjies, to give its botanical name Aponogeton distachyos, is a water hawthorn considered a delicacy by many South Africans. It grows in farm dams and still river waters in the Western Cape. The young seed heads of the plants are harvested to create tasty bredies.
The young flowers have a sweet smell, much like jasmine. They cannot be used in a bredie, because they simply cook away and should rather be chopped into a fresh salad or be lightly steamed.
It is only when the flowers make seed heads that they are ready for the pot and you wade up to your waist in the water to pick them, before the coots and moorhens eat them all up.
Wash the waterblommetjies really well to make sure all the mud and bugs are removed and then cut off the stems.
Boil the waterblommetjies rapidly in clean water. Pour off the water and refresh the blommetjies in cold water. Let the water drip off through a sieve. (The blommetjies can now be packed and frozen to be used later.)
Waterblommetjie bredie is traditionally made using mutton or lamb. And, just as with any other bredie, it actually tastes better the following day.
If you can’t get hold of sorrel, you can use lemon juice. Sorrel flowers can be replaced with lemon blossoms – if you can find any.
1 kg fresh waterblommetjies
1,5 kg lamb
cooking oil for braising
2 onions, cut into rings
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
10 ml (2 t) coriander seeds
15 ml (1 T) salt
5 ml (1 t) black peppercorns
700 g potatoes, cut into quarters
bunch of sorrel, washed and chopped up or lemon juice to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
sorrel flowers as garnish
Wash the waterblommetjies as described earlier. Sauté the meat in the cooking oil. Scoop it out and set aside.
Sauté the onions and the garlic until transparent, then place the meat back in the pot.
Sprinkle with cloves, coriander, salt and black peppercorns.
Layer a quarter of the potatoes over this. The potatoes will soak up some of the water so that the meat doesn’t cook to a pale colour.
Toss in a layer of waterblommetjies, followed by the chopped sorrel or lemon juice.
The rest of the potatoes come right on top of everything else. Finally add a grating of nutmeg.
You don’t need to add any water to the pot; the waterblommetjies and meat will draw enough water. The waterblommetjies will cook until they fall apart and the flavours of the vegetables and meat will blend according to the traditional method.
When the waterblommetjie bredie has cooked until tender, sprinkle with sorrel flowers and serve on rice. The sorrel flowers give an unusual and tangy flavour to you bredie.
Don’t allow the food to remain in a cast-iron pot for any length of time once the lemon juice has been added; this will turn the food to a blue-black colour.
Michael’s wine recommendation – click here
I have known Dine van Zyl for a number of years, her father was the legendary Pon van Zyl, longtime and revered winemaker at Robertson Winery. Dine, in my view is a National Living Treasure – a multi awarded exponent of her craft. She is a much-awarded multi-media person, publisher and writer, broadcaster and television personality – her programme “Boerekos met Dine van Zyl” is well worth watching.
She is a leading South African repository of knowledge of Boerekos. Her books, apart from two works of fiction, are all about Boerekos, from her first publication Potjiekos, an enchanting and informative little book, to her magnum opus Die Groot Boerekosboek, in two volumes and available in English.
Dine lives in Rooi Els with her husband Graham and their fur children.
Do visit her website. You can buy her books there, and sign up for her fabulous, highly person weekly newsletter, which always starts my weekend off the right way – thinking of food. Click here.