The first Greek and Cypriot immigrants came to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century; the first Hellenic association was formed in Cape Town in 1903. Recently I've been rereading my treasured collection of Lawrence Green books, and have loved his recollections of the food he enjoyed as a boy growing up in Cape Town in the early decades of last century. Green was a gourmand of note, and often bemoaned the disappearance of the great kitchens of Cape Town: 'Cape Town was for centuries the gastronomic capital of Southern Africa and I record with sorrow the fact that it has lost that distinction,' he lamented in his 1971 book A Taste of the South Easter. 'Cape Town has become a city of steak and chips.'
In several of his books, he reminisces at length about the artistry of the Dutch, Malay, French, Italian and German cooks who plied their trade in the city's hotels, taverns and restaurants; he had a particular fondness for Greek food. In Growing Lovely, Growing Old (1951), he devoted two pages to a glowing description of the various Greek dishes he enjoyed 'every week': pastitsio; avgolemono; local squid stuffed with rice and braised in tomato, onion and wine; roast lamb and venison; pickled octopus; mussel fritters, taramasalata; dolmades; stuffed peppers and brinjals; and shortbread and spiced cake, all washed down with ouzo, produced locally by 'Greek wine farmers in the Kuils River District'.
In A Taste of the South Easter, Green talks about a friend, Peter ('he had an unpronounceable surname like Chrystikopolous') who ran a fruit shop and cafe in Kloof Street. 'Peter used to bake bread, coarse bread, and put it in front of his fellow countrymen steaming hot. They would tear off hunks, dress it with pepper and salt and olive oil and eat it with white cheese and black olives as an appetiser. Then I watched them going into the kitchen to see what was cooking... I soon decided to abandon the steak and chips and join the Greeks.'
Peter's fish dishes were splendid, adds Green. 'Crawfish, which the Greeks call astakos, was grilled in the shell over the charcoal fire. Peter also concocted a fish stew, filling a cauldron with several varieties of fish, herbs and onions, tomatoes and olive oil. Once he dropped a whole octopus into the cauldron amid cries of approval from his Greek patrons.'
But back to the snackage. You can flavour these with anything you like: some ground cumin and coriander for a more Indian flavour, or nutmeg and a little lemon zest if you're in a Greek mood. If you don't like an oniony flavour, omit the onion juice.
Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles
5 medium potatoes, peeled
a small onion, peeled
3 T (45 ml) white yoghurt
1 cup (250 ml, loosely packed) grated Cheddar
1 cup (250 ml) crumbled feta cheese
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped [optional]
salt and milled black pepper
an egg, lightly beaten
a pack of phyllo pastry
melted butter or olive oil for brushing
paprika or chilli powder
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the potatoes into cubes and boil in plenty of salted water until quite tender. In the meantime, grate the onion on the fine teeth of a grater (this is not as painful as it sounds, if you do it very quickly and look away while you're doing it). Tip the pulp into a sieve set over a bowl, squeeze out all the onion juice and reserve. Discard the pulp (or add it to the mix later, if you want a double-oniony punch). Drain the potatoes, stir in the yoghurt and mash until smooth. Mix in the grated Cheddar and feta, while the potato is very hot. Add the onion juice and chillies, to taste, and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside to cool slightly until lukewarm, and then stir in the beaten egg.
Makes about 30.
Like this soccer snack? Try my Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hoummous, Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken and Cape-Malay-Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots Print Friendly