South Africa & the Dutch: The First Sosaties
The Dutch East India Company was responsible for bringing the first Dutch settlers into the country and, in time, they evolved into that most curious of creature, the Afrikaner. So who were they actually and how did they happen? Despite the fact that so many of my tribe like to believe they come from pure Dutch stock, it isn’t the case – on the contrary. We, the Afrikaners, are a hodge podge of nationalities, cultures & colours that were thrown into one ‘pot’ by the Brits at the Cape.
When the Brits arrived at the Cape they wanted everything to functions smoothly but that was an impossible task on this wild country at the southernmost tip of an equally wild continent. Nothing worked they way they wanted it to work so they came up with a brilliant plan. Everyone born in Britain was British and everyone else was Afrikaans because that was the language that was being spoken, anyway. They didn’t give a hoot about origin and they had a point: new country, new rules.Today Afrikaners form a very small part of the South African population but their food has accepted by a good many and it has become part of the culinary tradition of the whole country.
So this is, more or less, what the Brits did.
- It’s uncertain exactly when the name ‘Afrikaner’ was given to the children of the early settlers. In ‘Afrikaner Political Thought‘, the comment puts the mindset of English in a nutshell: “…… we include all settled colonists and locally born officials, except those of the very highest rank such as Governor Swellengrebel, as Afrikaners“.
- Hendrik Biebouw was the first person to call to himself an Afrikaner when he said he “had no intention of leaving Africa because he was an Afrikaner” (and possibly because he tried to prevent a magistrate from expelling him from the Cape Colony).
Most South Africans believe that sosaties were brought to the Cape by the Indonesian slaves but this is not true. Spices were already used by the Dutch who created the refreshment station at the Cape in order to service their spice route. Sosaties (as we know them) weren’t Indonesian but sate (or sisati) were and these were spiced minced meat dishes that originated in Persia (known as Iraq today). Kabâb kardan is Persian for barbecued kababs and a kabab consists of cubes of meat that has been threaded onto a skewer, marinated in yoghurt or sour milk and spices and cooked on a grid over an open fire. Chefs at the Cape in 1652 prepared this dish from skewered lamb, marinated in curry spices from a recipe they had brought from Holland. Sosaties play a huge role in the braai culture of South Africa and real sosaties should be made two pegs knocked into the ground over a wood fire.
- 4 legs of lamb, de boned and cut into cubes
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 500 ml hot fruit chutney
- 4 tablespoons hot masala for lamb (Atlas Trading in Cape Town make the best in the city if you feel too lazy to make your own curry mixture)
- 40 g turmeric
- 90 g brown sugar
- 125 ml brandy
- 125 ml dry sherry
- 700 ml white wine vinegar
- 500 ml water
- 30 g Maizena (cornflour)
- Butter for frying
- Heat the butter in a saucepan until it froths and then add the onions, cooking them until just soft and translucent.
- Stir in the masala, the turmeric, the sugar and the corn flour until everything is combined well, at which point you add the water, vinegar and chutney and simmer for five minutes.
- Add the sherry & brandy, stir and set aside so that it cools right down.
- Immerse the cubes of lamb completely in the marinade and cover well.
- Refrigerate for three days, at least, checking to see that everything is coverd with the marinade on a daily basis.
- On the third day, thread the meat onto the skewers.
- Barbecue the sosaties over hot coals until the meat is done – it does not take long at all.