The Chef @ The Vic Manor, Cradock

Heyla Meyer giving a food demonstration at Cradock's Karoo Food Festival, 2014.

Heyla Meyer giving a food demonstration at a Cradock Karoo Food Festival.

By Julienne du Toit

Pictures by Chris Marais

One of Heyla Meyer’s earliest memories was of her grandmother’s pantry in De Aar, the rows and rows of colourful bottles with preserved fruit, vegetables and jam.

“Both my grandmothers were excellent cooks and all I ever wanted was to become a chef. So after school I enrolled for a degree in Home Economics at Stellenbosch University and was horrified.

“I called home and said Mom, they want me to do physics and chemistry. And I just want to cook!”

So she changed her degree to a BA, and considered other career options.

Heyla ended up in a Molteno bank where she met the farmer she would marry. Twenty years and three children later, she was an accomplished cook herself, with a pantry just like her grandmothers’.

She used her cooking talents to cater for weddings and events around Molteno before her husband decided to give up farming and found a job in Cradock.

After marketing lucerne and starting an antiques shop, Heyla found herself at a loose end just as the Victoria Manor Hotel was casting about for a new chef in 2012.

“Now I am where I always wanted to be, doing what I always wanted to do. I’m cooking traditional Karoo food that people can enjoy. I cook with my senses and my heart. I very seldom use a recipe.”

Heyla's world - Karoo food being prepared in the Victoria Manor kitchen.

Heyla’s world – Karoo food being prepared in the Victoria Manor kitchen.

On any given day, Heyla will be found in the kitchen with assistants Mieta Blaauw and Valerie Smith, preparing typical Karoo meals for the legendary nightly buffet – typically roast leg of lamb, venison casserole, bobotie, roast pork, cinnamon pumpkin, roast potatoes, creamed spinach and onion.

Everything, including the quince preserves and mint sauces, is made from scratch.

“My absolute best compliment is when people tell me ‘My granny used to cook like this’.”

HEYLA’S CROISSANT AND BUTTER PUDDING

(A sinful variation on bread and butter pudding)

Ingredients:

4 to 6 medium croissants

60 ml butter and a little extra to grease the dish

750 ml milk

250ml cream

4 eggs

100g sugar

 

For Topping:

400 g sugar

250 ml butter

2 eggs

5ml vanilla essence

Method:

Heat oven to 180 deg C. Grease dish well. Slice croissants to about 25mm and pack in layers.

Melt butter and add milk and cream. Beat eggs and sugar and mix with butter, milk and cream.

Pour over the croissants and leave for an hour to absorb mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Now for the topping. Beat all ingredients together and pour over the hot croissant mixture. Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Add chocolate chips or chopped pecan nuts if you have them. Serve warm with ice cream or custard.

You could also substitute croissants with stale mosbolletjies.

You could also substitute croissants with stale mosbolletjies.

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2 Responses to The Chef @ The Vic Manor, Cradock

  1. Lucille Cooper November 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    Looks delish! I have tasted Heyla’s meal at the writer’s fest! So tasty and most importantly, home made!!!!

  2. Geoff Holt March 7, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    Highly recommended! I ate in the Victoria Manor in 1996 (staying at Leticia’s ‘Palm House as Die Tuishuise was full) and had a fabulous meal. In 2015 we returned, staying at ‘Out of Africa’ Die Tuishuise and had a further two fantastic meals.The waiter was also excellent. We live in the UK and wish we lived a lot nearer to Cradock. Amazing accommodation, sumptuous food and friendly people. We are looking forward to seeing you again, hopefully, in 2017.

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