We got a new South African book by foodie couple Emilia le Roux and Francois Smuts in our Christmas stocking last month. But ‘A Farm in My Heart’, published by Tafelberg, is so much more than a cookbook; rather, it’s an invaluable guide to anyone with a the slightest desire to ‘live off the land’ even if just on a small scale, and regardless of whether your ‘land’ is a bountiful farm, a compact urban garden, or a bed or two in a kitchen courtyard. Le Roux was one of seven children raised on Doornkraal, a farm near De Rust, and ‘A Farm in My Heart’ was inspired by all she learnt about cooking and food production while growing up. De Rust is also where Salvelio’s father was born, so it’s always been a place close to our hearts.
Recipe: Sweet peppers stuffed with aubergines
The recipe we tested from ‘A Farm in My Heart’ is for sweet peppers stuffed with aubergines – a dish that turned out every bit as colourful in our own kitchen (see picture above) as in the photograph in the book. Le Roux and Smuts write the recipe was from an old family friend, Andre van der Merwe, who’d written a cookbook years before. They recommend using peppers of different colours, for greater visual appeal, and serving the dish either on its own or alongside a Sunday roast.
Ingredients and method
Peel and cube 3 large aubergines (about 750g). Place in a saucepan with 2 finely chopped medium-sized onions and add just enough boiling water to cover. Add a heaped teaspoon of salt and simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour off the water and add 2 beaten egggs, 2 tablespoons (30ml) melted butter, 1/2 cup (125ml) grated cheese (use a strongly flavoured cheese like Parmesan) and salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare the peppers, slice off the tops, remove the seeds and boil the peppers briefly in salted water – not too long; they should retain their shape! Drain and stuff with the aubergine mixture.
Now arrange them snugly in a baking dish and add a cup of beef or chicken stock. Sprinkle a mixture of 1/3 cup (80ml) breadcrumbs and 2 teaspooons (10ml) melted butter over the stuffing. Bake at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, basting with the stock every now and then.
The Global Table verdict
This was indeed a delicious recipe which would make a colourful side dish to any meaty meal; it could also give you an attractive option as a main course for vegetarian guests. The recipe did not state how many peppers to use, but we took six medium-sized ones, which turned out perfect for the amount of aubergine stuffing. We would advise you though to choose ones that are all of similar size, and have a flattish base so they don’t topple over. It also did not say how long to boil the peppers for, but 5 minutes seemed to do the trick.
Salvelio loved the stuffing but felt the peppers would have had more flavour if they’d been roasted prior to stuffing, rather than being boiled, as some olive oil nuttiness could have really complimented the dish. Also, watch out when you’re basting the peppers not to get too much liquid into the stuffing, as this will make it too watery. Lastly, to save time, don’t forget to preheat the oven when you’re almost done boiling the aubergines.