In this very strange time when we can’t travel as we normally would, food has become a substitute to virtually transport us to far-away places through local flavours.
Like many others, I am spending more time in the kitchen to recreate some of my fondest food travel memories at home. Every now and then (read: almost always), I will also open a bottle of wine to be enjoyed with the food.
One of the places I really miss a lot currently is South Africa. It’s been over a year now that I went there last, and I still have no idea when I will finally be able to return.
With so many excellent food experiences, and so many different typical local dishes that over time have become favourites, the only difficult choice is where to start.
That said, with National Milk Tart Day (or Melktert as it is locally called) coming up on 27th February, there was no question what to go for. Especially since this favourite local dessert has become one of my most loved South African sweets as well.
Melktert was brought to the Cape by Dutch settlers during the 17th century, developing from the Dutch Mattentaard. Later, some influence from the Cape Malay kitchen also found its way into the recipe in form of the added cinnamon.
With the question about the food out of the way, there only remained to select a bottle of South African wine to go with it.
There is certainly no shortage of historic wine estates making excellent wines across the Cape Winelands but for some reason, Meerlust Wine Estate immediately crossed my mind when looking for a wine to go with the Milk Tart.
The winery makes a number of excellent wines including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the award-winning Rubicon, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. However, Chardonnay is the only white wine variety produced at Meerlust and since I was leaning to a white for the Tart, that’s what I decided to go with.
Looking for official pairing recommendations, you will not see many experts suggesting Chardonnay to be the most perfect match with dessert. On the other hand, Chardonnay is a hugely versatile wine when it comes to pairing it with food. As always, what matters most in the end is if you like the combination or not. I did, in my view, work very well.
Background: Meerlust Wine Estate
Meerlust Wine Estate is located in the wider Stellenbosch area in the Cape Winelands.
The winery got its German name (Meerlust literally means ‘joy of the see’) as from its historic manor house nestle on to top of a granite outcrop one gets the most breath-taking views over the Atlantic Ocean, with False Bay just about five kilometres away. This inspired the first owner of the estate, German immigrant Henning Huising to give his property the name in 1693.
In 1756, the Myburgh family started making wine at Meerlust and is now proudly looking back at eight generations of winemaking.
A visit to Meerlust is not just about the wines, however. Recognized as a National Monument, in addition to the beautiful manor house and the estate wine cellar, a tour will take you through a rose garden, family cemetery, dovecote and a bird sanctuary.
Tasting notes: Meerlust Chardonnay
White wine is produced at Meerlust since 1995 only and to this day Chardonnay is the only white variety that forms part of the winery’s wine portfolio.
In the glass, Meerlust Chardonnay shines in a bright light green colour.
On the nose, complex citrus and floral notes develop into aromas of lemon, oatmeal and marzipan.
On the palate, a medium bodied and balanced wine that exhibits citrus flavours and crisp acidity with a fresh, lingering finish.
A delicous make-at-home South African Milk Tart you will love
Melktert (Milk Tart) is undoubtedly one of the most favourite South African desserts.
Originally consisting of a sweet pastry crust filled with a creamy custard of milk, flour, sugar and eggs, today there are many different versions of Milk Tart. Some require you to prepare a crust which will be filled with the custard afterwards, some require the custard being baked in the crust and others oven do not have a crust at all.
This delicious version is largely based on the original Melktert but still comes with a little twist (hint: vanilla).
For the crust
2 tablespoons brown sugar
200 g all-purpose flour
100 g butter
1 egg yolk
For the custard
550 g milk
190 g cream
1 vanilla pod
1 large egg
150 g sugar
1.5 tablespoons flour
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large tablespoons of cold butter
For the topping
In a food processor, combine sugar, flour, butter in small pieces and the egg yolk. Add 3 tablespoons cold water and blend together until well combined.
Put the dough into the fridge for about 30 minutes.
On a work surface lightly dusted with flour, roll out the dough to 30×30 cm.
Press the dough into a 25 cm tart pin and put into the fridge for another 45-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Cover the dough with baking paper and place 500g of dry beans / lentils over the paper to weight down the pastry. Blind bake for about 25 minutes then remove the beans/lentils and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
Set aside and let cool.
In the meantime, prepare the custard.
In a saucepan add milk, cream and the vanilla pod pulp and bring to a light simmer over medium heat.
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg and sugar than add flour and cornstarch. Combine until smooth.
Add the egg mix to the simmering milk. Continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Take off the heat and add the cold butter. Stir until well combined.
Set aside to let cool for a few minutes than fill into the baked crust.
Put into the fridge for a few hours or better overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle with ground cinnamon.