South Africans love a bit of sweet with their meat. Think chutney with bobotie, fruity sambals with curry or breyani, braaied snoek basted with apricot jam, and stewed fruit to glam up a roast of note.
During a recent trip to the platteland of Namaqualand we supped at a host of simple wayside restaurants, and cheap-and-cheerful stewed dried fruit was spooned alongside every meaty main dish you can think of, including hoenderpastei (chicken pie), kerrie-afal (curried offal) and mammoth, slow-cooked legs of Karoo lamb. But while country cooks may have time to conjure up meals that take many hours to prepare, chops are first choice for cooks-in-a-hurry who must have meat without too much fussing about.
The comely looks in this composition come from the colour (of the nectarines) and crunch (of the fries), both of which may be prepared ahead to avoid last-minute kitchen stress. The nectarines will be fine in the fridge for a week, and the potatoes can be boiled, peeled and sliced several hours before being sizzled in hot oil. And if you’re in the mood for a braai, do the chops over hot coals and crisp the potatoes in a pan at the same time.
Lamb Chops with Nectarines in Spiced Rooibos Syrup
250g dried nectarines
1 cups water
3 T sugar
4 rooibos teabags
2 star anise
Place the nectarines in a small saucepan with the water, sugar, rooibos teabags and star anise. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then cover and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the fruit is lusciously plump. The cooking time will depend on whether the fruit is completely dried or (even better), semi-dried (sometimes called “soft-dried”).
Uncover and simmer briskly until the syrup reduces and thickens a little. Discard the teabags and cool to room temperature. Note: if you can’t find nectarines, dried peaches will do just as well.
12 Lamb rib loin chops
Butter & olive oil
Salt & milled black pepper
Trim the chops of excess fat and grizzly bits. Heat a block of butter and a splash of olive oil in a heavy frying pan until sizzling hot. Fry the chops, turning often, until done; this should only take 5 to 6 minutes depending on thickness, as they should still be pink inside. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to rest for a few minutes.
Boil 6 medium potatoes in their jackets in a saucepan of boiling water. Drain and cool, then remove and discard the skins, and cut the potatoes into chunks. Shallow-fry in hot olive oil until crisp and crunchy. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve pronto.
Arrange the chops artfully on warm plates with a pile of fried potatoes and a couple of nectarines alongside, with the syrup drizzled generously all about.
Pinotage works well with this dish – wines from this variety tend to be rich and fruity and therefore will complement the exotic flavours on the plate handsomely.