Plate: French comfort food at your fingertips

By Nikita Singh 12 April 2019

Tripe with Saffron, from Plate, the new book by Marlene van der Westhuizen (Penguin Random House). Photo: Robbert Koene

Marlene van der Westhuizen commutes between her homes in Green Point and Charroux, a small, cozy town in central France which is one of 52 protected heritage villages known as Les Plus Beaux Villages. Her favourite dish is not everyone’s. It’s tripe.

Every family in France eats tripe at least once a week,” says accomplished chef and author Marlene van der Westhuizen.

Her latest cookbook Plate is a collection of new and traditional family recipes, inspired by both South African and French heritage.

Tripe has always been my favourite food, in any shape or size,” says van der Westhuizen. “I could carry on forever about the absolute unctuousness and the flavour and sauciness of tripe.”

The self-confessed carnivore adores the flavour and comfort of offal meats: from tripe, to trotters, to tongue; all of which have recipes featured in the new book.

I love pig’s trotters — it adds so much flavour to any dish, I’ve even added it to a coq au vin.”

In France, tête de veau is a family favourite: a calf’s head deboned, rolled and tied with string. The roll is then poached and sliced, and can be served hot or cold. This French delicacy is often served with gribiche – a creamy sauce featured in Plate which is similar to mayonnaise, but oil is whisked into cooked eggs instead of raw.

Plate is a book of main courses. No appetisers, and no desserts. The recipes are warm and comforting, designed to be shared around the kitchen table. Many of the dishes are trusted old recipes reworked to fit modern lifestyles. Although most recipes are quick to prepare, some require time to develop layers of flavour and fall-off-the-bone tenderness.

These slow-cook recipes – like Provence-inspired beef stew which simmers for at least four hours – are only for when you have the luxury of time and want to experience French countryside living “where time seems to stop”.

Van der Westhuizen commutes between her homes in Green Point and Charroux, a small, cozy town in central France which is one of 52 protected heritage villages known as Les Plus Beaux Villages.

Charroux and the surrounding villages each host a market on specific days where residents and visitors can sample the freshest produce France has to offer.

In the morning, you can get fresh fish that came from Paris that night. There are terrines, eggs, breads, tarts, you name it. There are huge pans, like paella pans, with just seafood. Sometimes they’ll have a whole pig on a spit, roasted to perfection.”

Influenced by her dining experiences in France, Plate features a bounty of sauces and reductions which add to the richness and comfort of its dishes. For example, chicken with a sherry and cream sauce, pork belly with a syrupy apple cider reduction, or steak tartare with a rich anchovy créme.

It’s a known fact: you learn how to cook Italian, but you master French,” says van der Westhuizen.

I love sauces; I think it’s my speciality. I love the alchemy of a beautiful reduction, getting to the essence of flavours, and that is French cooking.”

She warns that French cuisine comes with a serious caveat.

In France, you are only considered a proper gourmand if you eat tripe. It means you’re not afraid to try new things, it means that you’ve got balls when it comes to food, you experience everything.”

Tripe with Saffron

For 6

This recipe hails from the south-west of France and is a slightly different way to handle the tripe-cooking operation. The beauty is that it creates a fragrant saffron-based sauce into which the cooked tripe is folded.


2kg lamb’s tripe

2 pig’s trotters

1 onion, chopped

1 whole onion, studded with 3 whole cloves

2 carrots, sliced into circles

1 bulb garlic, halved horizontally

1 bouquet garni

175ml dry white wine

salt and white pepper to taste

1 litre chicken stock

45ml capers

Saffron sauce

45ml good olive oil

3 leeks, sliced into circles

5ml saffron threads

a large handful fresh parsley, chopped

25ml brandy

30ml cake flour

  1. Place the whole tripe in a large casserole dish, along with the trotters, chopped and whole onions, carrots, garlic and bouquet garni.
  2. Pour the white wine into the casserole and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes until the alcohol in the wine has evaporated. Season lightly. Add the stock and simmer gently, covered, for 6–7 hours over a very, very low heat until the tripe and the meat on the trotters are absolutely tender.
  3. Remove the tripe and trotters, allow them to cool slightly then slice the tripe into 5cm pieces. Debone the trotters and return all the meat to the casserole. Remove the garlic from the casserole and squeeze the well-cooked and fragrant garlic pulp into the sauce. Reduce the leftover sauce well.
  4. About 1 hour before serving, make the saffron sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the leeks until softened. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in a little boiling water for 5 minutes. Add the parsley, brandy and soaked saffron to the pan. Add the flour to the liquid and stir briskly to make a roux. Spoon some of the tripe with the sauce from the casserole into the pan and gradually add more and more of the tripe and sauce to this mixture to create a creamy dish. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Once all the tripe from the casserole has been transferred into the large pan, cover it and simmer for another 20 minutes.
  5. Add the capers and cook for another 5 minutes.

  6. Serve with small, peeled potatoes. DM



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