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The History of Eggs in the Cape

It is hard to cook without eggs. Much more than the breakfast variations, eggs are essential in baking and many other classic recipes. Luckily, eggs are easy to find. Not only are some of us lucky enough to have a chicken run from which we can get fresh eggs daily, but supermarkets offer a selection of sizes and choices.

In the time of the early Cape, however, poultry was scare and therefore the eggs of various wild birds and sea birds, especially seagulls and penguins, were used. Penguin eggs were commercially available until as recently as the mid-1960’s! These eggs have a slight greenish tinge, with a light salty flavour. Another striking feature of penguin eggs is that the egg white remains transparent, even when cooked and set. Today the only eggs still used in food preparation in South Africa, are chicken, duck, goose and ostrich eggs.

In the past, fried, boiled, scrambled and curried eggs were served for breakfast, along with fried and smoked pork or hippopotamus bacon or meat. Eggs were even baked and served inside small green pumpkins (maranka), melons and oranges.

Cumin is indigenous to the eastern areas surrounding the Mediterranean and sconsequently the Dutch were very familiar with its uses. Recipes for eggs served with cumin sauce appear in old Dutch cookbooks. Omelettes with various fillings, such as oyster, ham and bacon were also popular. A true South African omelette was made from ostrich egg with a biltong (dried meat) filling. An ostrich egg is equivalent to 22 – 24 chicken eggs and was therefore popular with large households.

Jan van Riebeeck’s Company Gardens provided a wonderful selection of fruit and vegetables and therefore vegetable side dishes and salads were common on the tables of the Old Cape.

Try this easy recipe for a Cape Mixed Salad and enjoy with a glass of 2016 La Motte Chardonnay! Fresh, but with the added complexity of well-integrated elegant oak, the 2016 La Motte Chardonnay will complement the freshness of the vegetables and the richness of the eggs.

Cape Mixed Salad (Cape Winelands Cuisine Cookbook)

Serves: 6

Ingredients

500 g mixed salad leaves

½ cup (125 ml) baby green beans, blanched

3 hard-boiled eggs, halved or cut into wedges

4 radishes, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup (60 ml) thinly sliced fennel bulb

¼ cup (60 ml) vinegar

8 Tbsp (120 ml) olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Arrange the salad leaves on a large salad platter.

Layer the beans, boiled eggs, radishes, onion and fennel on top.

Mix the vinegar and olive oil together, season to taste and sprinkle over the salad just before serving.


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