What is it about boerewors that makes it one of the first things South Africans abroad would list when asked what they miss most about home? Like maple syrup, mushy peas and rice noodles, this coriander spiced sausage is one of those dishes that evokes instant images of a nation while simultaneously getting a “meh” from the rest of the world. But for us, boerewors is short winters and long summers, relaxed braais in the sunshine, friends around a fire, cheering for the Boks (or lately, crying together about them) and tapping our feet to “Spirit of the great heart” playing on a loop in our heads. It’s on our whittled down list of 100 reasons why we stay despite the crooks, crime and corruption. Like Africa, it’s in my blood and impossible to forget when I leave it behind. And weirdly, when I am away from home I even start missing things I never even liked at home! Like pap tert. I can’t stand pap tert. But suddenly I really, really wanted pap tert & wors. In China. Needless to say, it’s not big there. But I could easily get everything I needed to create a close approximation without having to try and explain pig intestines to the butcher. That would’ve been fun. This was the result: A kind of posher version of pap en wors (or at least as posh as meatballs can be). Our Tanzanian correspondent believes that this dish is an abomination. Pap should always be pap and should not be poshed up. I can only think of two reasons why she feels this way: a) she hasn’t tried it and b) her mother’s pap lasagne has ruined fusion South African cuisine for her forever. If it helps, then think of it as meatballs and cornbread. Better now, isn’t it? When done this way, the cornbread is very light and crumbly and the bottom bit soaks up the tomato and onion sauce. It’s like krummel pap en sous and that lovely little crunchy bit you get at the bottom of a pot of mieliepap that everyone fights over at the end of a meal! Personally, I thought it was genius.
Serves 4 with ease
For the Ishibo (tomato and onion sauce)
If you can get your hands on a tin of Ishibo then, well, then you’re probably in SA and your car is being stolen from the supermarket parking lot. But chin up because at least you don’t have to chop up onions! If you don’t have Ishibo, fry a chopped onion until translucent, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for thirty minutes. If the mixture become too dry, just add a little water. Set aside.
For the sausage mixture:
If you have boerewors, just remove the meat from the sausage casings and shape into meatballs. Otherwise, read on.
750g beef (“beef” is pretty much what we can get in Qingpu, but a well matured chunk would be better)
350g fatty pork
20ml ground coriander, or more to taste – this is what puts the boer in boerewors
a bit of black pepper
5ml brown sugar
45ml dark vinegar (I used Zhenjian aromatic vinegar, but brown spirit vinegar would be perfect)
2 tablespoons oil
1) In a food processor, mince the beef and pork. Don’t make it too fine – a bit of texture is good.
2) Combine the meat and the rest of the sausage ingredients well and shape into meatballs slightly bigger than golf balls.
3) Brown the meatballs in the oil and place in a single layer in a baking dish. Squish if necessary. Pour over the tomato sauce. This can be done ahead of time and the whole lot stuck in the fridge till you’re ready to bake the bread.
For the corn bread:
(This recipe doesn’t make the type of cornbread needed to satisfy the average Paula Deen fan. It’s more like a crumbly, extremely generously proportioned crust.)
80 ml butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup (190ml) flour
3/4 cup (190ml) yellow cornmeal (In China, find it in the aisle with the dried vegetables and legumes. It’s grittier than regular cornmeal, but in my opinion that improves the texture of this dish. Don’t get something too fine, as your bread will be too dense.)
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
1) Preheat oven to 180ºC.
2) Beat together the butter and sugar and add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add the cornmeal and salt.
3) Combine the egg mixture, flour mixture and milk and stir to create a thick, but pourable batter.
4) Pour the batter over the meatballs and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 35 minutes or so.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, eat up and think of home! Meanwhile, that’s exactly where I am, so I’ll be having a bit of the real thing for lunch!