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Tannie Poppie’s lentil soup starter is to die for

Unfortunately,” said our hostess at Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve just north of Oudtshoorn last week, “our head chef has taken the night off to cater for a major function in town but we don’t think you will be disappointed with your meal.

You see, Tannie Poppie is in the kitchen.” What followed was a three course feast with a rich, super tendereland potjie, followed by a baked chocolate pudding with fresh berries. Top-billing for the night, though, was Tannie Poppie’s lentil soup starter.

DELICIOUS. Tannie Poppie Ewerts in the kitchen. Picture: Jim Freeman
DELICIOUS. Tannie Poppie Ewerts in the kitchen. Picture: Jim Freeman

Poppie Ewerts’ expertise in the kitchen

Have you ever regretted getting to the bottom of a soup bowl… wishing the exquisite taste sensations could go on forever? This was one such occasion. We asked her to dish up another bowl; purely, we said, because we’d forgotten to take a picture of the first helping. She gave us an amused glance and filled it to the brim.

“I will wait a few minutes before I bring in the venison potjie,” she said. Poppie Ewerts knows her way around a kitchen, having been “born to cook” more than 70 years ago. When not taking the reins at Wildehondekloof, she can be found helping to run the culinary show at the reserve’s “sister” establishment, De Zeekoe Guest Farm, in the heart of the ostrich capital of the Great Karoo.

Both are members of the Cape Country Routes (www.capecoun portfolio of owner run and managed properties. “Poppie’s been working for my husband’s family on the farm since she was 15 years old,” says owner Paula Potgieter, “and came into my life when we were married 42 years ago. “You could say I ‘inherited’ her from my mother-in-law, who was the person who taught Poppie to cook. Hers was about the only cooking my children knew while growing up.”

Picture: Jim Freeman
Picture: Jim Freeman

A culinary legacy at De Zeekoe and beyond

When the last Potgieter chick flew the coop two decades ago, Mrs Ewerts made the move from family hearth to De Zeekoe. “She’s been here since day one,” says Potgieter, “making breakfasts and dinners for thousands of guests over the years. Her lentil soup is one of our most popular dishes.” Tannie Poppie refuses to re tire and the only concession she makes to her age is working fewer days a week, She will spend a few days at the 4 000 hectare reserve when needed but will otherwise focus on specialist preparations and dishes at De Zeekoe.

The Potgieter family bought her a house registered in her name in Oudtshoorn several years ago, which she shares with one of her sisters. Her siblings are academics and teachers. What is Poppie’s “real” name? I ask Potgieter. She gives an embarrassed giggle: “I will have to ask her.” How good is the recipe? Just two days after returning home from Oudtshoorn, my girlfriend tried it out for herself. “I don’t think it will ever be quite the same as the soup that came from Tannie Poppie’s pot but it was delicious nonetheless.”

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