Four years ago, Italy was the football world champion, and summer was marked by an hypnotic chorus, beated by the joy of a completely unexpected success: po, po ro po po po pooooo po, po, po ro po po pooooo poooo . And now we are here, four years later, and we face the South African World Championship with the weight of responsibility of former winners. Do not misunderstand me, I’m not a football fan, but Meeta’s South Africa Monthly Mingle, dedicated to the country that will host this year Championship, has awakened some memories of that beautiful summer of four years ago.
The goal of this Monthly Mingle is to get to know African cuisine, an interesting cuisine, rich in traditions and influences, enhanced by spices, herbs and different scents. Browsing through many web sites of South African cuisine, an issue of Jamie – Jamie Oliver’s magazine dedicated to a fantastic barbecue in Cape Town – and Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries, with a beautiful chapter on her childhood memories in South Africa, I was totally enchanted by Melktert – the milk tart, whose texture was so impressive and delicious to win so far over all the other recipes!
Melktert is one of the most popular desserts, present in tearooms, bakeries and pastry shops in South Africa: this is what I read on internet and on Tessa Kiros’s book. From here on, I went ahead with my imagination, depicting it as one of the most appreciated desserts, especially by children, for its sweet and velvety filling, with the consistency of a milk pudding. I imagined Melktert slices wrapped in brown paper, taken home as snack after school or eaten quietly into peaceful tea rooms as pleasant afternoon break with a cup of rooibos*. My mental image was so vivid that I started to knead to have my slice of South African afternoon ready on the table!
Ingredients for pastry:
- cold butter, 100 gr diced
- sugar, 100 gr
- cake or plain flour, 230 gr
- baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon
- egg, 1 lightly beaten
- vanilla salt, 1 pinch
Ingredients for the filling:
- milk, 750 ml
- butter, 75 gr
- eggs, 3 yolks and albumens separated
- sugar, 100 gr
- vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon
- cornstarch, 30 gr
- cane sugar, 1 tablespoon
- ground cinnamon
To make pastry, whisk butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until it becomes fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, 1 pinch of salt and mix with fingers until you obtain a moist and sandy dough. Mix beaten egg, flatten the dough and wrap in clingfilm. Leave it to rest in the refrigerator for one hour.
Preheat oven to 180° C. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a well floured work surface. Line a round tart tin, 26 cm in diameter (or, as in my case, two rectangular mold of 30 cm x 10 cm), at least 3 cm deep. Prick the dough with a fork, cover with baking paper and pour over beans: blind bake for 20 minutes. When it gets golden, remove baking paper and beans and bake for 10 more minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt butter in milk over medium heat. Beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla, then incorporate the cornstarch. Add a tablespoon of hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring to avoid eggs from scrambling. Add the remaining milk, mixing until everything is smooth, then let it cool. Whip egg whites and fold them slowly into the cold egg mixture.
Pour egg misture into the tart shell, sprinkle the surface with sugar and cinnamon and bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes. Let cool completely and serve sprinkled with extra cinnamon!
Rooibos (Afrikaans for “red bush”; scientific name Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. This plant has very similar growth and flowers to the redbush. The plant is used to make a herbal tea called rooibos tea, bush tea (esp. Southern Africa), redbush tea (esp. UK), South African red tea, or red tea. The product has been popular in Southern Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries. Rooibos is grown only in a small area in the region of the Western Cape province. Generally, the leaves are oxidized, a process often, and inaccurately, referred to as fermentation by analogy with tea-processing terminology [from Wikipedia].
I accompanied the Melktert with a cup of rooibos flavored with cinnamon, cardamom and chocolate: sweet and spicy, even without adding sugar, a perfect drink to exhalt my slice of milk tart with a double sprinkling of cinnamon.