Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Putu 'bout the Pap!

As so often seems to be the case when you're a mother to a fantastically (it's always a matter of perspective!) busy toddler, time vanishes into thin air along with any plans you had diarised with hope bordering on desperation! And so, my cooking date with Eunie the Samp Queen was thrown in like the proverbial wet towel and replaced with fingerpainting my mom's pool room's sliding doors, depicting - apparently - a scubadiver! (Layla (25 months old) has some rather unusual fixations: robots, a passion for tiny little toys, Ben10 (urrrggghhhh), ballerinas and tutus and... scubadivers!)
Anyway, in lieu of my broken samp & beans promise, I'll jot down the recipe for mielie pap, which we ate the other night in Grabouw in an unintionally patriotic celebration of my and Melanie's at-long-last reunion on South African soil! Her mom made 'pap en sous' with perfectly braaied, juicy wors. What's interested about pap, is that you can really take your time cooking it - or it can be done chop-chop on the stove. (I think it's actually available in an instant, microwaveable version now - but I always prefer the authentic process of cooking over an instantaneous nuking in the microwave!)

Pap is traditionally cooked in one of those cast-iron pots called a 'potjie'. It is an Afrikaans word, pronounded "poi-ki" - and I'm struggling to find the Xhosa/Sotho/Zulu etc word for it... I've always known potjiekos to be an originally Afrikaans phenomenon, but from the looks of the photos I pulled up in Google, it seems to be a cross-cultural thing! What's lekker about pap is that it is real, South African soul food. Dense, with the almost imperceptible sweetness of manna and with an inherent simplicity about it that is found in so many other staple starches around the world: the sticky, glutinous rice of the Japanese, North African cous-cous, Italian pastas... (Besides being incredibly satisfying and sustaining in terms of energy, the hips also adore it, clinging onto those calories with great affection!)

Quirkily, there is apparently a restaurant in Joburg that has replaced the rice in sushi with pap! And, I think that instead of the traditional raw salmon and tuna, they use carpaccio (though this is merely another wild assumption of mine! Googled the 'pap johannesburg restaurant sushi' but found nada - so if you know the name of the restaurant, please jot it down in the 'Comments' box below! *wink*)

Here follows an infallible recipe for pap: serves 4 hungry tums!

• 2½ cups boiling water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2½ cups maize meal ... And, a naughty dollop of butter!

1. Pour boiling water (plus ) salt into your potjie or a heavy-based pan. Bring to a rapid boil.
2. Add the maize meal.
3. Put the lid on the pot - and do NOT stir!
4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 or so minutes.
5. Remove the lid, stirring well (with a wooden spoon).
6. Close the lid again, reducing the heat so the pap can steam for 30min. (It can easily burn at this stage, so keep a close eye on the heat level!! You can check it's not burning when you 'fluff' the mixture with a fork every now and again.)

Melanie's mom mixed in a tin of creamed sweetcorn - and then served a dish of cooked onions and tomatoes alongside it. If you are camping, savour simplicity or you're merely a little lazy in the kitchen department: you can get it in canned format at the shops! I however, garlic addict that I am, would:
a) coarsely slice and dice an onion : saute in happy lashings of the most virgin of olive oils.
b) ditto for 2 x ripe tomatoes per person and gooi in with the onions.
c) sprinkle in some dried basil at this point (or fresh basil just before serving!) And salt and pepper! Maybe even a dash of paprika - and if you're brave: a dash of cayenne pepper!
d) last but definitely not least: as much garlic as you'd like to indulge in!
(If you're running out of time, tumble all the above ingredients together (sommer in a lasagne dish: 220deg in the oven, tumbling around every now and again.)
And, voila! Gourmet pap en sous, ek sê!

{ PS. Just discovered the Xhosa word for pap is 'putu pap'. Afrikaners call is 'krummelpap' : i.e. 'crumble' pap. }

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