When it comes to stews, I believe us South Africans have a firm upper hand. We are the kings (and queens) of a wide array of comforting bredies (Afrikaans for stew - say brear-dee) that will warm the coldest of hearts.
From Tamatie Bredie (tomato stew), Boontjie Bredie (bean stew - much tastier than it sounds, promise!), to the somewhat more quirky ones like Waterblommetjie Bredie, you name it, and we've probably added it to the pot.
But what is waterblommetjies (say - vah-tir-blohm-mee-keys) you ask?
Well, it's an aquatic flower, indigenous to South Africa, and literally means "small water flower". Yup, just like the peppadews I told you about, this is another proudly South African ingredient. The taste is rather similar to green beans, with a hint of lemon. Unfortunately, the waterblommetjie season is very short, so when I see them for sale I don't even think twice before grabbing a bag. Or two. Hey, don't judge.
The traditional waterblommetjie stew has very little in the way of spices, consisting of mutton or lamb - preferably on the bone, with generous bits of fat attached to the meat - paired with potatoes and the star of the show, waterblommetjies. The meat, through long slow cooking, becomes meltingly tender and together with the earthy potatoes and uniquely flavourful waterblommetjies, you've got a meal fit for a king.
My rendition is somewhat less traditional. A little bit fusion if you will. It's not my fault, really. I fully intended to do a traditional bredie, but that wasn't how the stars aligned. You see, I came across some gleaming black dried olives and once I got the idea into my head, it wouldn't accept no for an answer. I'm Marisa and I'm a slave to my (foodie) emotions. It's a cross I have to bear. Salty dried olives practically begged for another Moroccan flavour and, as the stew normally contains lemon juice, I thought a touch of preserved lemon wouldn't go amiss either.
I am happy to report that my mad fusion skills paid off - the flavours worked fantastically well together. Those waterblommetjies are real diplomats too. They didn't even mind some foreigners muscling in on their hallowed territory. To be fair, with foreigners as tasty as these two, I doubt anyone would mind...
Serves 4 - 6
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
800g stewing lamb or mutton on the bone, cut into smaller pieces if necessary
salt and pepper, to taste
3 large potatoes, cut into bite-size cubes
1/4 cup quartered dried olives
1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
3 cups waterblommetjies, thoroughly rinsed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 - 1/2 cup water
2 fresh lemons, quartered to serve
1. Heat half the oil in a large pot, add onion and saute briefly until starting to soften. Remove and set aside.
2. Add rest of oil and half of the lamb, searing on both sides. Remove and repeat with rest of the lamb. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Now start layering in your slowcooker (crockpot) - first add the onions, followed by the lamb, potatoes, olives, preserved lemon and waterblommetjies.
4. Pour in lemon juice, red wine and 1/4 cup water, cover and cook on highest setting for approximately 6 hours, adding more water if necessary. Alternatively the stew can be cooked in a large pot on the stove top, in which case it'll take approximately 2 hours on low heat.
Serve warm with rice and fresh lemon quarters to squeeze over. Sucking on the bones to get to the last little bits of meat is highly encouraged.