IMAGINE dining on zebra steaks and sipping a fine Pinotage while overlooking a game reserve in South Africa. Each year, Matilda Scarfe, Maleny resident and hostess of The African Cottage guest house, takes 12 guests to her home-land to experience a hands-on South African gourmet cooking safari. Maleny grandmother Maltilda Scarfe emigrated from South Africa to Australia in 1983 and settled in Maleny in 1992.
Matilda has energy to burn – she runs the African Cottage and The Rondawel – a charming South African cottage and self contained accommodation for one. She’s also just produced her second easy recipes cook book called Cooking for pleasure, and her product range of chutneys, spices, marinades and sauces are sold Australia- wide under the Figtree Cottage label.
After the Hinterland’s Real Food Festival in September, Matilda takes off on her Gourmet Culinary Tour around South Africa.
The tour starts with a bang at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve where you’ll experience lions, buffalo, rhino, hippo and leopards before retiring back each night to your rondawel (hut) to experience a Boma (pronounced Borma) – traditional cooking over open fires in large black pots. Over the three weeks Matilda takes her guests through the wine regions of Stellenbosh, Franschhoek and Montague, where many of the vineyards are over 400 years old. Guests can prepare food at an African cooking school built to help local underprivileged children gain the skills needed to get a cooking job.
There’s a day of bliss listening to the “Maggie Beer of French South African food, Topsy Venter. Matilda says you can listen to this 85 year-old for days. “She loves to tell stories and often forgets what she is cooking as she gets engrossed in her wonderful tales to the hilarity of her guests and staff, who take over the cooking as the stories continue.”
Following the food trail of the many South African cultures, the next stop is a Malay cooking class in the BoKaap before heading on to Cape Point and Table Mountain.
The West Coast is a highlight as guests wait for local fishermen jammed into a very very small boat to bring back lobsters for Matilda and her guests. They can take them up to their house on the beach where Niel, the tour guide, cooks them alongside “snoek” (a local fish) on an open fire.
Before heading back to Cape Town for the final three days, there’s a stay in the Kagga Kamma nature reserve. Sleeping in caves, this is the Bushmen area and where, says Matilda, “you are so high up in the mountains you can just about touch the milky way, bright overhead.”
“I will be selling my cook books and some of my more popular products,” says Matilda. “People can take them home and make dishes with simple, local products that will give a great taste of Africa here on the hinterland.”
Matilda says that the main stay of all South African meals is a combination of spices and dried fruits. Aromatics like cardomon, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and garlic marry alongside locally dried apricots and peaches to name a few.
One of the most traditional meals is Bobotie – A mince dish with onion, turmeric, ginger, bread soaked in milk and drained, tomatoes and dried raisins. It’s all poured into a lasagna dish, baked and then a glaze of apricot jam put over the top.
Another simple, but tasty dish is Lamb Skewers – lamb and baby onions marinated in a mix of apricot jam, curry, garlic, ginger, turmeric and vinegar, then skewered alternating with dried apricots and grilled.
“Simple, aromatic and tasty, rather than hot” is how Matilda would describe South African Food from locally grown or produced ingredients.