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.”
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’.”
- To find out more about the Victoria Manor Hotel and Tuishuise in Cradock, visit http://www.tuishuise.co.za.
HEYLA’S CROISSANT AND BUTTER PUDDING
(A sinful variation on bread and butter pudding)
4 to 6 medium croissants
60 ml butter and a little extra to grease the dish
750 ml milk
400 g sugar
250 ml butter
5ml vanilla essence
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.