Wednesday, April 27, 2016

South African Melktert

April 27 is South African Freedom Day and the last of my year of celebrating countries days as a way of increasing my knowledge about the foodways of all the countries of the world. It's been a fun trip. Luckily Houston has gained several South African restaurants including, Peli Peli, Peli Peli Galleria, and Springbok. After moving to my new house I discovered that a nearby gourmet grocery store was actually run by a South African family and they have several South African specialities, borewors sausages, bobotie, Durban bunny chow, chicken curry, etc. A traditional dessert in South Africa is the melktert or milk tart. Apparently Feb 27 is also National Milk Tart Day.

"Melktert stems from the Dutch settlers in the Cape in the 1600s. The origin of Mattentaart is credited to a recipe listed in Thomas van der Noot's book, "Een notabel boexcken van cokeryen" (A Notable Book of Cookery) and it's possible that melktert developed from the same recipe. The large proportion of milk in the filling is evidence that melktert was introduced to us by the Dutch dairy farmers who settled the Cape of Good Hope in the middle of the century. The custard filling is made from milk, sugar and eggs, thickened with flour or cornflour. Cinnamon could be used to infuse the milk with flavour during preparation. Some recipes call for whole eggs, others require the eggs to be separated. The filling can vary in consistency from firm to wobbly."
Peli Peli Melktert
The melktert at Peli Peli is distinct from the typical in that they use a cheesecake type of graham cracker crust to surround the milky center. Unlike other custard tarts that add a large proportion of eggs, the melktert is probably closest to a crusted panna cotta due to its cornstarch thickener but uses milk and condensed milk rather than cream. This gives the dessert a lighter taste that allows you to focus on the taste of milk than cream in panna cotta or eggs in a flan.

While you are at Peli Peli I encourage you to try their other South African foods, particularly the babotie (best version of shepherd's pie with addition of apricot chutney and cilantro), carrot bredie, butter poached kingclip, peppadew peppers, the lamb chops, and the sticky toffee pudding. Very few dishes at Peli Peli don't sing with flavor. Even the side dishes force the eater to take notice of the flavor of corn, tomato, and carrot. Most dishes are executed consistently well. New Zealand lamb is perfectly grilled medium rare, and eggs are poached to perfect runnyness on the brunch menu. The restaurant built their early clientele based on them trying their sticky toffee pudding or their money back. No one seems to be taking back their money. The sticky toffee is approximately 90% dates, and the vanilla ice cream is super cooled in liquid nitrogen so there is a nice contrast between the heat of the cooked pudding and the icy vanilla. Lots of people just come for the desserts alone.


butter poached kingclip

lamb chops in three sauces
sticky toffee pudding with liquid nitrogen cooled vanilla ice cream

This recipe claims to be
The Best Milk Tart To Ever Come Out of South Africa


1 Packet of Tennis Biscuits (These are ordinary plain tea type biscuits that you would normally use for a crumb base.)
Sufficient butter melted to make your crumbs wet enough to press into a dish
Crush the biscuits finely, and mix with the melted butter. Press firmly into a pie dish and place in the fridge whilst you make the rest of the recipe.


1 Tin sweetened condensed milk (385 grams)
2 tins of full cream milk measured in the empty condensed milk can (so don't throw it away)

Put these ingredients into a large heavy based pot and bring to the boil stirring continuously with a metal whisk. The secret: The longer it takes to boil the nicer the end result, so slowly does it on a lowish flame. Once boiling, remove from the heat, and add the following mixture before once again returning to your low heat. Prepare this mixture before starting to boil the milk, so that it is ready as soon as you need it. 

1 Egg (extra large - see note at the end)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) custard powder
1 tsp vanilla essence (5 ml)
2 Tbsp Maizena (corn flour) (30 ml)
1 tin of milk (using that empty condensed milk tin to measure)

Mix the above very well with a wire whisk or hand beater. It must be lump free. Add this to your boiled milk and put back onto a very low heat. It is vitally important to constantly stir this mixture with your whisk, as you do not want lumps, and you don't want it to burn either. Keep scraping the bottom of the pot with the whisk. At the first sign of boiling bubbles turn the stove off, and immediately pour the mixture into your refrigerated crumb base. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and sugar whilst still hot. Leave to cool completely before covering with foil, and putting into the fridge again for at least 24 hours before serving. 

Make a double recipe (you will see why once you serve it!). If you do make a double, make the following changes: Use 2 heaped tablespoons plus 1 level one of custard powder, and 4 heaped tablespoons plus one level on of the Maizena (corn flour) 

The secret to this recipe is to boil everything very slowly, so don't rush it.

Every country has it’s own standards and regulations how eggs are sized and packed, and in South Africa these things are regulated by the agricultural product standards act: Jumbo eggs >66 grams, X-large eggs >59 grams, Large eggs >51 grams, Medium eggs >43 grams, and Small eggs >33 grams.

A few other versions of the recipe 
Crustless Amarula milk tart (Amarula is a liquor made from a South African fruit related to mangoes)

South African flag

South African plants belong to their own phyla

Recipe for Durban Bunny Chow

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