Melktert

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Looking through our collection of books yesterday I found one that i were unaware we had. It was a book given to my husband by his sister years ago. Cooking the South African Way – Two hundred traditional recipes by Magdaleen Van Wyk.

There are times when my husband feels deeply homesick, usually around Christmas or on the rare occasions when he’s feeling down at the mouth. I don’t know why he feels homesick for South Africa as when he goes back he feels like a stranger, with people commenting how Anglicised he sounds yet when he is in England people comment on his ‘not from round here accent’, yet his home is here. He feels like he belongs to neither. That for me is an alien concept having never lived anywhere other than England.

Browsing this book there were many recipes i had no desire to try ; Curried Snoek Soup (indigenous fish), waterblommetjie bredie (not a clue) and Pofadder (using all major organs & the small intestines of a sheep) to name but a few.

Most of the recipes in the book will come into their own during the braai season but until the sun starts to shine i moved on to the dessert section where i found a recipe for Melktert. Melktert in Afrikaans easily translates to Milk Tart. A sweet puff pastry dessert containing a creamy filling made from milk.

This is a dessert that is wholly loved by South Africans and one which is most usually remembered as comfort food from their childhoods. On one of my first visits to South Africa we were touring the Winelands of Franschoek, an area to the north of Cape Town when after our lunch we stopped off at a local delicatessen to get some refreshments for the journey back. My husband spotted a freshly baked Melktert on the counter and having not been to South Africa for sometime he pounced on the opportunity to have one.

As he was driving he made me carry it all the way back to where we were staying.  When we arrived there he made himself a cup of Rooibos (African bush tea) and devoured most of it. He was in heaven. I tried some and liken it to that of a custard tart but milkier. It is rather moorish.

Finding a recipe for Melktert in his book was a great opportunity to try my hand at making one and to bring a little bit of South Africa into our home. I try to do this often, so that he feels connected with his Mother country. This morning I intended to make a start with my gardening project as it showed such promise of a fine Spring day. It wasn’t to be and as the heavy rain fell we once again remained inside. Melktert was made for a day like today. Home and comfort.

Recipe.

1kg – Puff Pastry or flaky pastry

15ml (3 tsp) Butter

Salt

1 cinnamon stick

1.5l Boiling milk

20ml (4 tsp) Custard Powder

20ml (4 tsp) cornflower

30ml (6 tsp) Cake flour – I used self raising

50ml Cold milk

250ml (1 cup) sugar

7 eggs, separated

5ml (1 tsp) almond essence – I used finely ground almonds

The recipe is to make 4 pie plates. This is where i went wrong, not understanding what 4 pie plates were. Now i realise they are the standard 20cm pies and not 4 small pies which  I initially thought. Why would anyone want to make 4 normal pie sized desserts at once I’m not sure so would definitely recommend you halving the ingredients to make one giant pie or just two.

Line your pie plates with the pastry and make a raised edge for each. Add butter, salt & cinnamon to boiling milk. Mix custard powder, cornflower and flour to a paste with cold milk. Stir in a little hot milk mixture. Stir this into hot milk, add 1/2 cup of sugar and bring to the boil, stirring. Removed from the stove when thickened and discard the cinnamon stick. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually beat in remaining sugar. Beat egg yolks lightly and stir in a little custard mixture. Stir yolks into custard mixture then add almond essence. Fold in egg whites. Pour into pastry cases and bake at 200 oC (400 oF) for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 180 oC (350 oF)  and bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Having realised i had far too much mixture for my pastry laden pie (yes singular)  i ended up pouring left over mixture into any baking dish i could find. I had ramekins, bowls & ovenware pots on the go, all minus pastry as i didn’t have enough. Once the cooking time was up I was a little confused by their appearance as they seemed to have raised and were still very wobbly but my husband assured me they would deflate & set when cooled. Which they did.

He tried some and was wholly impressed by my effort and a little confused by the plethora of pots containing Melktert. He laughed when he realised my quantity misinterpretation in the recipe. South African’s he said like to eat and this pie usually doesn’t last long in most houses hence the amount that is made.

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