Book Review: The South African Milk Tart Collection

Callie Maritz and Mari-Louis Guy

Human & Rousseau

Review: Brian Joss

Most people I know enjoy milk tart (melktert). In fact this popular dish has a place of honour on the calendar:  South African National Milk Tart Day on February 25, every year, should be marked in red. Although we like to claim the milk tart is a South African icon, that’s not strictly true. It is known throughout the world, although by different names.

Flaky puff pastry was invented by a French apprentice cook, Claudius Gele in 1645. But the pastry has its roots in Egypt and Central Asia. According to Maritz and Guy our milk tart can be traced back to the earliest printed Dutch cookbook (1514) by  Thomas van der Noot, which is why the book starts with his recipe for Mattentaart – a Belgian “curd cake” wrapped in crunchy pastry. The recipe seems straight forward but the curd needs to be started at least 12 hours before baking. The book also includes C Louis Leipoldt’s version of the milk tart. He was a paediatrician, artist, novelist and poet but is known for his “Kos Vir Die Kenner”, first published in 1933, which today is still the most comprehensive history of food and methods in South Africa.

There are milk tarts for every occasion and taste: Slinger-om-die-Smoel, the closest translation is “milk soup” but it is much more than that, it’s better than the insipid soup an old uncle used to slurp up when he came home for lunch. This one has custard powder and cake flour as some of ingredients which are blended in to two litres of milk.

If you thought a milk tart was a milk tart,  think again. They can be made with home-made puff pastry; crumbly shortcrust; cereal flakes, flavoured with naartjie peel, cinnamon, rum or brandy, to give it an extra kick. They can be served unbaked as a dessert, a smoothie or a milkshake. Or as shooters with Vodka. You can also try your hand at Pasteis de Nata, the popular Portuguese custard pie, which is a kind of milk tart, there is a recipe for a milk tart from China, and one for people who are “Banting”. You can make a milk tart in a mug or in a microwave.  The South African Milk Tart Collection gets a five star rating and the brother-and-sister team of Maritz and Guy have done cooks everywhere a great service by producing this colourful and mouth-watering volume.

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