There is something deeply satisfying about transforming something into something else. It is an act of creativity – whether it’s kneading dough or churning cream – that recalls a way of life we once all had.
According to an old Arabic saying, the soul travels at the pace of a camel. In contrast to our restless minds and active limbs, the soul lingers on its course: it takes time, it relishes the hands-on, leisurely act of crafting something, of indulging in both preparing it and then, afterwards, in savouring the result. At DECO, we are deliberately slowing down the pace. We are championing the home-made. And for good reason. We’re looking to reduce our collective footprint: Local, seasonal and artisanal are the catchwords of this new eco-consciousness. But we’re also welcoming ways to produce and enjoy soul food. Perhaps the best purchase you can make – the sign of true wealth – is to have time, time for leisure, time for DIY, time to nurture the soul.
What better, then, than to make a loaf of bread from a handful of basic ingredients? Or to patiently turn cream into butter, as our ancestors did some 5 000 years ago? Not only was regarded in ancient times as a food t for the gods, the world’s most popular fat has simple goodness, endless versatility and health benefits.
Karen Pretorius, chef at the rustic Babylonstoren farm in the Cape winelands, says: ‘Butter is high in conjugated linoleic acid, a beneficial fatty acid that protects against some forms of cancer and has been shown to lower total cholesterol.
‘Butter from grass-fed cows contains high levels of vitamin E and beta-carotene, which are both important in promoting health.’
And so, with the nurturing of the soul in mind, here is our collection of bread and butter recipes for you to try. All of them are ‘simple’, but they are, in their way, and in the best sense of the word, sensational.
How To Make Butter
Making butter is actually really simple. All you will need is a hand-crank butter churn – this is what we used, with lots of elbow grease, for an authentic experience – or a food processor. You will also need a butter paddle or potato masher to squash out residual buttermilk, greaseproof paper and any mould you fancy.
Makes about two cups and keeps for three months in the fridge
1l fresh cream · salt to taste
Allow the cream to come to room temperature. Start churning at a medium speed and then turn the food processor to high until the cream divides into butter and buttermilk (it should take about 8 minutes). Remove the butter from the machine and place in bowl. Press the butter repeatedly, allowing any extra liquid to drain off, and add salt to taste.
Bacon, Honey and Thyme Butter
200g smoked bacon · honey · thyme · 400g butter
Bake 200g of good quality smoked bacon until it is crispy. Drizzle with a very generous amount of honey and sprinkle with freshly picked thyme. Roughly chop and mix with 400g butter, adding salt to taste. This gives your butter crispy bites of salty, smoky texture.
Sweet Shiraz Butter
300g butter · shiraz preserve · red wine · shallots · salt · pepper
Mix together 300g softened butter and 4 tablespoons shiraz preserve. This is then ready to use for scones, toast or on venison steaks. For a salty version, reduce red wine with shallots, salt and pepper until all the alcohol is cooked off. Then add to the butter and enjoy with biltong bread or cheesy focaccia.
Spiced Pumpkin Butter
400g butter – 250g cooked pumpkin – cinnamon – 1 tsp sugar
Soften 400g butter and add 250g cooked pumpkin, cinnamon and 1 tsp of sugar. Mix well. Sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon and sugar onto greaseproof paper and then place the butter on it, rapping the greaseproof paper around the butter. Twist or fold the ends to secure the butter inside.
Passion Fruit and Blackened Sweetcorn Butter
3 corn on the cobs · 4 large passion fruit · 300g butter · lime juice · salt
Place 3 corn on the cobs onto a hot griddle pan and grill until blackened, smoky and sweet. Remove the flesh from 4 large passion fruit, reserving the empty shells, and mix with 300g butter. Add the corn, a dash of lime juice and salt. Return the butter to the empty fruit shells and serve with freshly baked bread.
Salted Caramel and Almond Butter
1 cup sugar · water · 400g butter · 1⁄2 cup toasted almonds · coarse sea salt
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 cup sugar and 1⁄2 cup water over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring the syrup to the boil, and continue to boil, without stirring, until it begins to turn golden around the edges. It is important not to stir, as the syrup may crystallise. Add 400g cold butter to the food processor and churn, adding the golden syrup and 1⁄2 cup toasted almonds. When smooth, transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Photographs: Adel Ferreira. Recipes: Karen Pretorius. Text: Deborah Rudman.