Newlands Cooks

by john van der linde

We occasionally refer to a little cookbook, Hilda Gerber’s “Traditional Cookery of the Cape Malays”. The author (Mrs. H. Herxheimer), completed the manuscript back in 1949 and the book was published sometime after her death in 1954 – so it has been around for a long time.

It contains recipes for mouth-watering dishes such as buriyanis, kerries, sosaties, bredies, a variety of mango and other atjars, hoender pastei,gesmoorde vis, roti, geelrys, gestoofde patats and a host of konfyts. Hilda Gerber collected these from Malay ladies from all over the Cape peninsula. In most case the lady’s name and her address are both given and the recipes are recorded verbatim.

While looking up a recipe for pumpkin bredie I noticed that it had been provided by Mrs Lackay of 89 Kildare Road. A page or two later I found a recipe from her next door neighbour, Mrs Slaman of 91 Kildare Road. In fact, both of these ladies were responsible for several of the recipes in this book. I wondered what had become of them and their families over the years, the effect on them and on Newlands Village life of the forced removals of the late 1960s.

Those two addresses and their occupants were simply not listed in my old 1948 and 1967/8 Cape Times Peninsula Directories. There are many street numbers in Kildare Road, and in other streets in Cape Town, that were not listed – perhaps occupants had to pay a fee to be mentioned in those old directories. The closest place listed in the latter directory was the Noor Supply Store at 87 Kildare Road. So maybe there was a little group of Malay families living towards the top of Kildare Road in those days. Possibly some long-time Newlands residents may remember them.

On one of our walks we went to look at those addresses, on the right hand side of Kildare Road, walking up the hill: No. 87 has its entrance facing diagonally onto the corner of Kildare Road and Oak Avenue, and is part of the “Kabbelende Waters” complex of restored cottages. I tried to imagine what it must have looked like back in the days when it was the “Noor Supply Store” and very handy to the ladies next door to nip into quickly when they had run out of rice! It and the adjoining cottages at 89, 91 and 93 Kildare Road have dazzling white walls under black corrugated iron roofs, all with doors, windows and shutters painted an attractive greenish grey, surely a credit to the owners and assets to Newlands Village.

After all that buildup, what about the recipe you may ask? Here it is: Mrs Lackay’s pumpkin bredie, a mix of braised mutton, vegetables and seasonings, just the thing for a cold winter’s day. As I read the words I can hear her reading it out to Hilda Gerber:

“Brown your onions in fat. Wash your meat and cut it up into small pieces. Put it wet on the onions. Peel your pumpkin and cut it into rather large squares. When you buy the pumpkin make sure it is nice and dry. Not everyone knows how to buy a pumpkin, but a watery pumpkin can’t make a good bredie. Flavour this bredie only with a little salt and a few chillies, but put in a potato or two. Cook the rice separately and serve it with the bredie”.

According to Hilda Gerber, the word bredie was originally brought to the Cape from Madagascar. There are a whole variety of bredies in this little book. Instead of pumpkin, the main vegetable ingredient could be cauliflower, peas, beans, cabbage, carrots or turnips, spinach, or tomatoes, or more exotic ones, like kohlrabi or purslane. Waterblommetjie bredie is a particularly well-known and very tasty bredie. Woolworths stocks waterblommetjies in mid-winter, so for something a little different why not try them in a bredie? As you do, spare a thought for these former Kildare Road residents and their recipes which live on after them for us Newlands residents to try today.