Lekker Brekker Monday: The Hantam Breakfast

Lekker Brekker Monday: The Hantam Breakfast
Hantam breakfast: The famous Hantam Huis breakfast fry-up, photographed in Calvinia. 20 April 2024. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Skilpadjies and fried onions, cooked in the same pan, turn what might seem like an ordinary fry-up into something special. But even the bacon and boerewors somehow seem to taste better in the Hantam.

In the Hantam region of the Karoo, on the brink of the flower region neighbouring Namaqualand and with the West Coast to the west, there are tortoises everywhere. Even on your breakfast plate.

This generally has to be explained to the tourists who stop by Calvinia’s Hantam Huis for breakfast. They’re not real tortoises of course, but a speciality called by its Afrikaans name, skilpadjie: lamb’s liver wrapped in caul fat, also known as netvet. And in the Hantam, skilpadjies are just as common as bacon and boerewors. And the latter is also on your breakfast plate.

But the skilpadjie world has broadened of late. Calvinia Vleis/ Meat has no fewer than four kinds: chicken, minced lamb kidney, whole lamb kidney (that is, a square of it, intact, not minced), and a product called Ninja Turtle, which I was told has red pepper in the mix. This butchery sends trucks of their meat to butcheries far and wide these days, so ask around and see if you can find their range of skilpadjies.

You’ll need two pans for the wors, bacon, skilpadjies and onions, and a third smaller one for the fried eggs. Unless you do the bacon rashers under a grill, which is another option.

(Serves 2)


1 large onion, peeled and sliced into narrow wedges

4 bacon rashers of back bacon or streaky bacon

4 extra large eggs

2 pieces of boerewors

2 skilpadjies

Butter for the eggs

Cooking oil or butter for the meaty ingredients

Lavender sprigs for garnish


Peel the onions, cut in half, and slice into thin wedges, as it were. Alternatively (or in addition), use a warmer drawer to keep some elements warm while you cook others.

Heat a little cooking oil or butter in a pan on a moderate heat, enough oil just to form a film all over the base of the pan. Put your sliced onions in and start to cook them, then push them to the edges and place the skilpadjies in the centre with the fattiest side down. Let the fat start to render nicely before turning them over carefully to cook the other side. Turn them over again so that the fat side is once again in the pan, and use a sharp knife to make one incision across the top of the skilpadjie. 

Turn a couple of times more. While this is happening, keep the onions cooking, tossing and turning them as needed. They should all be done at the same time. The value of this is that the onions get some of the skilpadjie flavour, while the skilpadjies also benefit from the onion flavour. Remove and keep warm.

Fry the bacon in a touch of oil the way you prefer your bacon to be. Keep warm.

Fry the boerewors in the same pan until just done; wors is best not overcooked. Browned on the skin is good though.

I always fry eggs in a separate pan as I don’t like them to have the flavour of anything else that has been cooked in the pan first. I have what I call “my egg pan” which is a smallish nonstick pan, a bit curvy, which is useful for spooning fat over the top of the eggs at the curvaceous edge of the pan. I find that eggs fry better and are easier to control if the pan is not too big.

Serve the skilpadjie surrounded by the fried onions, the boerie alongside that, and the … oh look, you know how to plate up your breakfast… 😂. Garnish with a succulent flower or a sprig of lavender, like they do at the Hantam Huis in Calvinia. Daar’s hy. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    That is a breakfast of champions for sure. Tony Jackman’s recipes are rapidly becoming my favourite feature on the the Maverick. Unlike most of what I read here they always make me feel happier and more hopeful for the future when I’m done.

  • Charl Engelbrecht says:

    I would really like to see more breakfast recipies without the almost unavoidable bacon, other processed meats or organ meats. Gout is not a joke. The oily onions will ensure that you will have to spend a considerable of time not in the company of other humans.

  • Robert de Vos says:

    Thank goodness I’ve had breakfast already, As a vegetarian, this is simply disgusting. But hey, carry on with this breakfast every day and you won’t be around for much longer, or be a drain on the health system with your heart meds.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      Sounds like a win win for the carnivores if you’re right. The idea of living a long life while having to listen to sanctimonious vegetarians bleating on about lentils in the background is hellish unappealing. What health system are you referring to btw?

    • Chris Brand says:

      Robert, I beg to differ from you. Every time I have a braai with lost of ribs, steak, chops, skilpaadjies (all nice with the burning fat dripping), my mouth starts watering. Even this picture above made my mouth water – nice, nice and very nice. Just a quick question to you: “Does your mouth water each time you mow your lawn?”
      Just asking but then maybe you have garden services, so you miss out on the mouth-watering experience – grab your lawn mower and mow your lawn yourself to find out if you get the mouth-watering feeling or not. ‘ Nuff said.

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