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The South African story of Pasta & “Snysels”

Although the popular story goes that Marco Polo introduced Europe to pasta when he first brought it from China, there are evidence of pasta long before his travels. And while the jury is still out on whether it was the Chinese or Persians who first made pasta, what we do know is that it is in Italy that pasta made its name. It was also the Italians with their honest and true flavours who introduced pasta to Europe to become a popular dish. In fact, the fork might have been developed in the 1700’s because they needed a tool to eat pasta with…

When Jan van Riebeeck came to South Africa, an European culinary culture was established at the Cape and that included pasta. Today the only real heritage of this original pasta can be found in the way we make ‘snysels’.

To make these ‘snysels’, pasta dough was formed and rolled out very thinly on a tea towel before being cut in very fine slivers (almost like angle hair) with a very sharp knife. These were then cooked in milk or even water or stock.

After the Second World War, many Italians were brought to South Africa as prisoners of war and in this way the culture of pasta in South Africa was reaffirmed.

Pierneef à La Motte gives traditional Cape Winelands Cuisine a modern interpretation and one such dish is a Savoury mushroom scented “snysels”. Serve it as a side to braised short ribs or enjoy as a light meal on its own. Enjoy with the 2014 La Motte Millennium.

Savoury mushroom scented “Snysels” Recipe

Serves 4 main portions

For the dough:

350 g “00” flour or Cake flour

75 g butter, browned to a light nutty colour and flavour

2 whole eggs

1 egg yolk

140 g full cream milk

2 g ground nutmeg

Good pinch of salt

2 L water

1 L milk

350 g Mixed mushrooms of your choice (Porcini mushrooms or Field mushrooms are ideal)

Butter for frying

20 ml oil for frying

2 tblsp good quality aged balsamic vinegar and red wine

30 g lightly toasted almond flakes

2 tblsp chopped parsley

375 ml fresh cream

Salt to season

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Pre heat the 2 L of water and 1 L of milk, season and bring to a slow rolling simmer. (have a bowl of ice water ready for the cooked snysels)

For the “Snysels”:

Mix together all the dry ingredients e.g. flour, nutmeg and salt. Whisk together the eggs and 140g milk, mix with the dry ingredients and add the browned butter. Mix to form a soft manageable dough.

Divide into small balls, tennis ball size and roll out into 2mm thickness. Flour the dough discs well and start cutting into thin strips. Once you have all your strips, divide into 3 parts and cook in 3 batches. Once the float to the top of the milk/water mixture they are cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice water. (this is to not overcook them). Strain the snysels and toss with a little bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Set aside.

For the Mushrooms:

Heat the butter and oil for frying the mushrooms, when the butter goes slightly brown add the mushrooms and fry until browned. Add the balsamic vinegar and dash of Red wine, season to taste At this stage add the snysels and heat through, add the almonds and cream and check seasoning. Lastly add the fresh chopped parsley.

To serve:

Dish into bowls and top with a poached egg (optional) and drizzle with olive oil and some extra almonds.


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