Maverick Life


Tannie Maria’s Advice and Recipe Column: Ouma’s Karoo Lamb Pie

Tannie Maria’s Advice and Recipe Column: Ouma’s Karoo Lamb Pie
A typical semi-arid Klein Karoo landscape, undulating rocky hills covered in fynbos and succulent plants. (Photo: Andrea Nixon)

Sally Andrew is the author of a series of Tannie Maria murder mysteries set in the Klein Karoo. In this monthly column, Daily Maverick collaborates with the (fictional) Karoo Gazette to share some of Tannie Maria’s stories, letters and recipes.

Dear Tannie Maria,

I lived for some years in Calitzdorp, but had to move to Johannesburg for work. I left my heart in the Klein Karoo. To enjoy the wide open sky. The kudu and the ostriches in the veld. The small towns and friendly people. The big yellow moon rising over a koppie.

I feel sad and miss it every day. Can you help me with my heartsickness? I visit the Karoo occasionally, and one day I may be able to return, but for now I have to stay in the big city.

Heart-Torn Lady

I made myself a cup of coffee while I thought about her heartsickness. The poor woman. I couldn’t imagine not living in the Klein Karoo. But of course, most people in the world did not. Was it possible to be happy living somewhere else? Maybe if you didn’t know what you were missing. But what if you did know? I finished my coffee, read her letter again, and then picked up my pen and wrote:

Dear Heart-Torn Lady,

You really need Ouma’s Karoo Lamb Pie, and I will give you the recipe. But there is something else you need to know.

It is your heart that you are missing. Do not leave your heart in a place. You must keep your heart inside you and keep the place you love inside your heart. You can also keep things in your stomach (like the Karoo Pie) but they do not last quite as long.

With warm wishes from the cold Karoo, Tannie Maria

I typed up the letter and the recipe for the lamb pie, then I looked out the window at the clouds gathering on the peaks of the Swartberg. Maybe we’d be lucky and get some rain. A turtledove in the thorn tree was calling cook-coo-rrrrooo. The dove’s beak was closed, the sound coming from the swelling of its chest, as if its heart itself was singing.


Ouma’s Karoo Lamb Pie

Ouma’s karoo lamb pie. Picture: Bowen Boshier

Serves 6–8

Sour-cream pastry

3 cups cake flour
1 t salt
250g cold butter, cubed, 1 cup sour cream

Sift the flour and salt three times in a large bowl and use a small knife to cut in the butter. The knobs of butter should stay pea-sized and not become as small as breadcrumbs.

Add the sour cream and cut in with a knife. When it is well mixed, knead the dough until it holds together and makes a ball. Don’t add extra liquid – just carry on kneading lightly – the dough will become manageable and start to stick together.

Leave the dough to rest for half an hour or longer – overnight is best.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface and fold it into quarters. Turn the dough parcel half a turn, so that the open side faces towards you.

Roll and fold once more in the same way. Let the dough rest for another half an hour.

Repeat the “roll and fold” twice more. The dough is now ready for use and can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Pie filling

2kg lamb on the bone (shoulder, neck or knuckles, or a mixture of the three)
2 cups water
1 whole onion, peeled and spiked with 10 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
1 t ground coriander
1 clove garlic, crushed
1⁄2 t dried red chilli flakes or cayenne pepper
2 t mustard powder
2 t white sugar
2 T vinegar
2 t salt
1⁄2 t ground black pepper
5 t cornflour or potato flour mixed with a little cold water to make a paste
1 whole onion, peeled and spiked with 5 whole cloves
1 egg, beaten for pastry

In a large saucepan, simmer the lamb very gently with the water, onion, bay leaf and peppercorns for about 2 hours until the meat is completely tender and starting to fall off the bone. (You can also leave it in a hotbox for an hour to help it soften.) Remove the pan from the heat and allow the meat to cool in the liquid. Remove all fat, bone and gristle from the cooled lamb. Flake the meat lightly and return it to the stock in the pan. Remove the onion, bay leaf and peppercorns.

Add the coriander, garlic, chilli, mustard, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper to the meat and bring it to the boil. If too watery, thicken with the cornflour paste.

Preheat the oven to 190C. Dish the meat mixture into a pie plate, about 23cm in diameter. Put the second spiked onion in the middle to stop the pastry from sagging. Leave to cool down.

Roll out the pastry until very thin and use to cover the pie. Trim and scallop the edges and brush with the beaten egg. Decorate with pastry leaves cut from the pastry offcuts. There will be pastry left over which you can store for another time.

Bake the pie for 1 hour until golden brown.


You can make your own sour cream for the pastry by adding 2 T lemon juice to fresh cream. Or you can use half fresh cream and half plain yoghurt.

This pastry can be used for savoury or sweet dishes.

The lamb pie can be prepared well in advance and frozen before baking. DM/ML/TGIF

This letter and Tannie Maria’s recipe are an excerpt from Tannie Maria and the Satanic Mechanic. You can buy Sally Andrew’s books here.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bosky Andrew says:

    This advise centers us and settles us.
    Thank you Tannie Maria, you never cease to inspire.
    The ace of cooks,
    by the queen of books!

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