It's kinder really not to mention my cooking over this holiday period. My ability to cook pretty much left and didn't leave a forwarding address. I was all fingers and thumbs and nothing worked out like I wanted it to. Still - by leaving it in the hands of other people we managed to eat pretty well!
Our meals at home were mainly centred on the braai, as South Africans call the barbecue. Paul's parents have this very nifty built-in arrangement, with adjustable racks, a good-sized grate for building your fire (because Real Men cook on wood, don't you know) and an arm that extends to hang your potjie.
We had lamb chops, boerwors, spatchcocked chickens and loads of vegetables. I've had Paul's barbecued lamb chops and spatchcocks before, obviously, and it is always a treat - especially the karoo lamb we were eating. Like Australian saltbush lamb, or the British saltmarsh lamb, the animals graze on wild plants and herbs and end up getting a herbal, seasoned flavour from the fodder. It is particularly succulent and delicious, and Paul's dad had stocked the freezer with it before we arrived. And his prodigious wine cellar is very well stocked with lovely wines that go very well with barbecued lamb. Lucky me!
The one thing that was new to me, in the field of barbecued meat, was the ribbetjie - which is not, as you may guess, frogs legs; the -jie suffix is pronounced "key" and is a diminutive so ribbetjie are "little ribs". Lamb ribs, in fact. Now, I have eaten beef ribs and pork ribs many times, but I can't remember ever even seeing a lamb rib. Which is a crying shame because they are delicious. There is much more meat on them than I would have expected, and for the sort of people who like picking food up in their hands and gnawing on bones they are just superb. We'll have to try to work on our butcher to get us some over here.
There were a couple more traditional dishes that I was pretty keen to try.
Koeksisters are a little cake that seems to polarise South Africans - you either think they are utterly ambrosial or tooth-achingly sweet and cloying. I still haven't formed an opinion, because apparently these ones were stale and not at all as they should be. They should be crisp and dripping with syrup. These weren't. Better luck next time!
Bobotie is a spiced minced beef dish, covered in an egg topping, and Paul has often told me how nice his mum's version is. He's right - it is! It sort of has a meatloaf texture, and you serve it with rice and Mrs Ball's chutney. Very tasty!