WEST COAST ROAMING
Farm fare far from the frantic crowds
Die Rooi Granaat has recently been transported from the seaside resort of Yzerfontein which Evert Smit and Marais Ziervogel found ‘just too frantic’. In Aurora they have found a place where frantic has never been seen.
There is something slightly downhearted about a Sunday drive up the West Coast, all that pollen and someone always saying, “Oh aren’t the flowers lovely”. I am sick of flowers. I want food – poached oysters, tiny snippets of succulent pork in a peppery sauce, bright salads with jewelled vegetables and foamy potatoes.
While everyone else is looking at the scenery, I am imagining what I will have for lunch.
But where to lunch? We pass laminated pictures in crayon colours of hamburgers and fast food, heart attack grills. We pass McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the flowers look brighter.
Where to eat on the West Coast with its technicolour vistas on a hot Sunday with the gypsy coloured surroundings, blue mountains, lots of orange flowers and bright blue sky? We veer off the coastal road and find the aptly named village of Aurora and just when we’re thinking, sod this for a lark, let’s go down the arcade and get ourselves tattooed (I am a city girl) we discover Die Rooi Granaat manned by owners Evert Smit and Marais Ziervogel, both slightly crackers, wrapped in huge aprons and drinking huge drinks.
They appeared not to be talking to each other, so conversation was a bit of mime. Evert wordlessly dumps photographs in front of me, his Afrikaans ancestors, in posed portraits of the time (reminds me: whatever happened to the family portrait to show our descendants?). Marais is chatty and shows us the guest quarters set in a pretty garden with a pool and does a lot of nimbling about with drinks.
The food is home cooking at its best, unadventurous. Look, I am not saying it might not become adventurous, there is something quirky about the whole place, the old organ, the portraits of ancestors, that makes anything possible.
Die Rooi Granaat has recently been transported from the seaside resort of Yzerfontein which Smit and Ziervogel found “just too frantic”. In Aurora they have found a place where frantic has never been seen. They took over the premises of L’Aurore owned by an Austrian with a limp and resurrected their homely eatery and pub.
Open from Wednesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, Evert serves a real “bord kos” or what is called more prosaically, “seasonal country cuisine” or better, trad South African with a quirky twist. The small blackboard menus change daily, soups, fresh fish from the nearby seaside towns and my absolute favourite, tripe and onions.
Evert is the tsar of soups, favourite is Hereboontjie, South Africa’s very own heirloom bean, brought to the country by Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 and grown right here in the sandveld. Louis Leipolt famously said: “It would be hard to find something more genuinely Afrikaans in a vegetable garden than the Hereboontjie (the Lord’s bean).
Here’s Evert’s Hereboontjie soup recipe: soak beans overnight. Fry onions in the pot, add fried bacon to the beans and a kettle of boiling water, white pepper and salt, stir regularly. “That’s where the love comes in,” says Evert. When the beans are soft, takes about two hours, blitz, garnish with garlic, butter, cream and chopped parsley.
We start with one of Evert’s famous salads. “I just use the crown of the lettuce cut into rough pieces, dressed with traditional oil and balsamic vinegar and dripped over crumbled feta and strawberries or any berries in season. We have a strawberry farm nearby, small and sweet, not those monstrous tasteless ones that are commercially sold.” Parsley with everything. But the piece de resistance is the foamy mayonnaise, made with half Hellmann’s and half Greek yoghurt and some fresh grated garlic. My love of homemade mayonnaise erases my critical faculties and after the salad everything tastes sublime.
Today there is lamb, garnered from a neighbouring farm and reared, so we are told, without feedlots, and beef. There is a casserole and a fricassee but really we’re talking old-fashioned stew (a very underused word). Vegetables vary according to what’s around and might include grilled fennel and six varieties of squash. Products are tagged with local legends: “potatoes provided by Giel Smit, whose sons are farming potatoes at Modderfontein – highest quality on the West Coast; lamb from the local land, fresh and organic, a small farm just outside Aurora provided by Farmer Wilhelm’s wife. Kokerboom cheese made right next door in Velddrif”.
My friend has a classic surf n turf spliced carpet bag steak filled with a garlic and mushroom mash that was fiery.
The pud is killingly rich. A sponge cake with rough-cut edges just slightly burnt and soaked in fresh lemon juice and a stewed pear in its own juice that soaks into the foamy innards of the old-fashioned sponge cake. The hot sweetness was cooled by shards of ice cream. I am not a dessert fan, but boy did this go down.
In a world where social contact is on the wane, we need places like Die Rooi Grenaat where the Metropolitan elite can go off their vegan diets and let their hair down. DM/TGIFood
Lin Sampson stayed at Cuvaloup Guest Home in Hopefield, restored by Laurent Bayard.
The writer supports The Hope Exchange, a group of people who provide food for the homeless in Cape Town. Please help them here.
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