Waterblommetjies are strange-looking creatures, aren’t they? Also known as water hyacinth, these water-dwelling blooms are found in dams and lakes all around the Western Cape province, and feature famously in what the Cape Malay refer to as ‘bredie’ which describes a dish of meat and vegetables layered together and stewed on the stovetop so that the flavours intermingle nicely.
Bredie has to be one of the simplest yet tastiest meals that you can make. Here’s my version, which shies away from tradition ever so slightly with the use of deboned lamb leg and the inclusion of white wine & lemon thyme.
This is how it goes… (Serves 4)
800g deboned lamb from the leg, trimmed to 3cm cubes
3 tbsp well-seasoned flour
4 tbsp canola oil
3 onions, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 cup white wine (I used a Louis Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend – the tropical fruit that the Semillon lent to this dish was truly spectacular)
1-2 tbsp lemon thyme, thick stalks removed
1 punnet (1kg) waterblommetjies, stalks trimmed, flowers removed, soaked in salty water for 3 hours, then rinsed 3-4 times with cold, running water (this part is really important and your efforts will affect the end product)
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped up roughly into large pieces
300ml hot lamb stock (I’ll say it again, NoMU‘s fonds are the only option if you’re not using homemade stock)
Combine the lamb cubes and the seasoned flour together in a plastic bag and dust the lamb well with the flour. Heat a heavy cast-iron casserole pot and pour in 1 tbsp of the oil. Fry half the lamb cubes very quickly so that they just brown. Remove and set aside, and repeat with 1 more tbsp of oil and the remaining lamb cubes.
Clean out the casserole if there are any burnt bits remaining from the lamb, and heat the last 2 tbsp of canola oil. Throw in the onions, and fry these gently until they start to soften. The pot should still be fairly hot, but make sure you’re stirring the onions all the time so that they don’t darken too much. Deglaze with a tablespoon or two of the wine until it’s evaporated, and repeat until finished. Turn the heat down to low during this process. Add the garlic just before you add the last of the wine. Don’t be nervous about the quantity of wine in this recipe, friends. The alcohol will cook off, and the subtle grassy notes from the Sauvignon Blanc and the tropical fruits from the Semillon will take your dish to new heights. Interestingly, this wine made by Louis Nel contains only 3% Semillon – a very bold wine indeed
Toss the browned meat and thyme in with the onions and garlic and stir together. Place the prepared waterblommetjies on top of the lamb & onions. Then place the potatoes on top of the waterblommetjies. Pour over the lamb stock, pop the casserole lid on & leave this to simmer very gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Do not stir your bredie during cooking, as the waterblommetjies will break up.
Check the doneness of the potatoes and waterblommetjies towards the end of the cooking time – they should be just soft, and not mushy. Serve with rice of your choice. I served mine with brown rice, that had been dressed with freshly squeezed orange juice & zest, toasted cumin and seasoned with a smokey BBQ spice mix; it added a really great wholesome, zesty element but you could serve fluffly white rice with this dish and it will still be an absolute winner.