A taste of South Africa


April 01, 2007|By SANDRA PINCKNEY

My daughter and I were among the many celebrities and friends of Oprah Winfrey invited to January's opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It was a week of adventure that began in late December and was full of surprises. Our senses were treated to a feast, literally and figuratively.

Oprah planned high teas, cocktail parties, a safari, dining in the bush, an out-of-this-world New Year's Eve party and the moment we all waited for -- the inauguration of her new school.

At each extraordinary event, we were treated to incredible food and drink.

On safari, we dined in silk-lined tents and enjoyed a South African-style barbecue called a braii.

On New Year's Eve, we were served an elegant five-course dinner with quail as the main dish.

At the closing cocktail party, waiters served the most delicious lobster tails I have ever had. On my own, I discovered klappertert, the South African version of a family favorite.

It's a coconut pie made with fresh coconut, which elevates this decadent dessert to a whole new level.

I was astounded at the variety and range of tastes -- the reds, whites and dessert wines were simply superb.

South Africa's wine-growing region has produced a number of award-winning and affordable favorites like merlots, chardonnays and cabernets.

There was one I had never heard of, Pinotage, a fruity red wine that smells a bit of blueberries. It was love at first sip.

South African winemakers created the Pinotage grape by crossing pinot noir grapes with other varieties.

If you'd like to taste South African wines, look for these labels: House of Lindiwe, Cape Indabe, Sibeko and New Beginnings.

If your wine shop doesn't stock them, try Harlem Vintage wine store in Harlem, N.Y. At its Web site, harlemvintage.com, it offers a "Winemakers of Color Collection," which includes South African wineries.

If you'd like to make the coconut pie, here's the recipe. If you can't find fresh coconut, try unsweetened frozen or the dry variety. Serve the pie with a South African muscat dessert wine for a perfect finish.


Klappertert (Coconut Pie)

Serves 12

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups finely grated fresh coconut

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons apricot jam

1 baked pastry pie shell

8 strips candied citron, about 1 inch long by 1/8 inch wide, or dried fruit such as apricot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Then cook briskly, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add coconut and butter. Stir until butter is completely melted. Cool to room temperature, then vigorously beat in eggs, the yolk and vanilla.

Melt the jam in microwave. Rub the jam through a fine sieve, and brush it evenly over the bottom of baked pie shell.

Pour the coconut mixture into the pie shell, spreading it smoothly. Bake for 40 minutes. Filling should be firm and golden brown.

Before serving pie, arrange strips of citron or dried fruit of your choice in a sunburst pattern in the center of the pie.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving: 298 calories, 17 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, 67 grams cholesterol, 87 grams sodium

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