We cannot begin a conversation about South African food without giving a special mention to pap. The preparation method often runs along cultural lines and are therefore enjoyed runny, soft or stiff. Even though this maize meal did not originate from South Africa, it has become a staple food due it is affordability and versatility. In the article Pap Politics written by Honour’s graduate Gina Hendrickse on 18 March 2020, she explained that maize did not dominate the South African foodscape overnight, it was the mining industry that fundamentally shifted the status of maize.
Today, you will find it as a gourmet cuisine served on the menu of the Michelin star restaurant ‘Jan’ in France. Owner and chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, grew up in South Africa and transformed the South African staple dish, pap, into something visitors from all over the world can enjoy in his restaurant.
Any time of the day is a great time to enjoy this South African favourite – breakfast, lunch or supper. Pap can be enjoyed with sugar and milk for breakfast or meat and vegetables for lunch and supper; it can even be watered down to make a tasty drink called Mageu. There are a hundred ways to eat and enjoy pap and in conversation when some discuss and even brag about their pap preparation methods, it can often lead to fun and informative pap wars!
My Momma’s Pap is Better than Yours
I asked a few friends how they love eating their pap:
“A braai needs to have pap! I normally have my pap for dinner and personally like it with braaied meat, gravy and chakalaka or coleslaw.” – Karabo Lerumo
“Being a Zulu man, pap is, was and will always be the main meal.” Wellington Shabangu. Wellington also explained that he grew up eating pap, uphuthu-style, fine crumbs also known as krummelpap. Growing up, their family enjoyed it with meat, vegetables, Amasi or as Wellington’s favourite, with fresh boiled milk. The vegetables were grown at home and was often vegetables we will not find in the shops today!
“As a child I use to eat scrambled butter pap (krummelpap) with fresh or sour milk” Amasi” at least twice a day, but now I love it with fresh cream. I also enjoy slap pap with wors and chakalaka “Whooo lekker” and stiff pap with chicken or stew, served with vegetables, marogo, spinach or cabbage for dinner. Pap is still on my menu three times a week and it varies between krummel, stiff or slap pap. Not sure if you would agree, but krummelpap is more enjoyable in warm weather. It is very rare to find people having this meal in winter.” Maria Thusi
“Soft pap, tomato and onion relish, chilli and boerewors – it’s a weekly dinner favourite in my house.” Samantha Camara van der Merwe
“We like a lekker pap tart with tomato and onion mix, corn, mushrooms and lots of cheese melted on top”. – Marion Nowak
In my case, my father-in-law, who at the time had a maize mill, taught me at age 26 to make pap. I just got married to his son and I suppose he felt it imperative to teach his new daughter-in-law the way of the pap-pot! I have perfected making either ‘slap pap’ or ‘stiff pap’ and then taught myself through the guidance of a friend to make ‘krummelpap’. My favourite pap is slap pap with cheese and boerewors mixed into the pap until the cheese is melted. My son, 7 years old, adores his with cinnamon sugar (taste like a pancake!) and would have it as often as I would make it for him.
Basic Recipes on Intuition
As we have established, there are many ways to make mielie pap, and when you ask someone, they often can’t even give you the measurements of their recipe. When they see it, they know it is too runny or too stiff for their taste and they adjust it accordingly with more water or maize. However today I will share the lessons I have learned through my pap-making and hopefully guide you on the way to making basic recipes for slap pap, stiff pap and krummelpap on intuition. Practice makes perfect!
Take a medium-size pot or large pot depending on how many people you need to feed.
For a family of four, we can easily finish a medium size pot filled with pap. You do lose some of the pap that hardened during the simmering part and therefore it looks more than what it truly is.
I prefer Super Maize meal for slap pap, it gives an extremely smooth texture that I love!
For a medium pot (3 to 4 people) – mix ¾ to 1 cup of super maize meal with 1 cup of cold water in your pot and add one teaspoon of salt to the mixture. Mix well with a balloon whisk until all the maize is wet and combined with the cold water. This is an important step as this prevents any lumps from forming.
If you start with lumps in your pap…start over.
Boil your kettle. As soon as you have a full boiled kettle ready, you may put your pap mixture on a medium temperature on either gas or electric hob.
(Now this is the part where you do not multitask…Give the pap your full attention.)
Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir this into the mixture with your balloon whisk until smooth. In the meantime, the heat will start doing its magic with the pap turning it into a stiffer mixture. After a minute or so, add a final cup of boiling water, whisk the water in until smooth. You will keep on whisking the mixture throughout this step until the whole mixture comes to a boil. At this point, you will want to start turning down your heat as low as possible. The pap might even splash up as the mixture is boiling. Be careful not to burn. Keep your lid close by to keep yourself from burning.
Now, this is where you establish the stiffness of your pap. You can either leave it as is or add more water to make it an even runnier pap.
If you would like to eat your pap on a dinner plate, you don’t necessarily want it too runny, but eating it in a porridge bowl, with no problems.
If you are happy with your pap consistency, put your lid on your pot and make sure the heat is turned low.
Now you simply wait for it to turn into smooth cooked through porridge. It is important to leave the pap to simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
Lift the lid in 5 minutes, making sure your consistency is still correct. You can still add more water at this stage. However, you cannot add maize after step 1. This will form lumps.
Check again after another 10 to 15 minutes making sure your pap is not burning and only simmering. It can easily burn, so do not forget about that pot on the stove.
Dish immediately and eat! Add butter as needed.
Tip: Cleaning your pot is super easy. Once the pot is empty, simply pour some lukewarm water in your pot and let it stand for a few hours. You will simply lift the whole piece of pap that stuck to the bottom and edge of the pot in one go and there you are!
For stiff pap, I use a similar method to slap pap. This is great for braais or dishing up on a dinner plate with other food.
For a medium pot (3 to 4 people) – mix 1 ½ to 2 cups of maize meal with 1 cup of cold water in your pot and add one teaspoon of salt to the mixture. Mix well with a balloon whisk until all the maize is wet and combined with the cold water. This is an important step as this prevents any lumps from forming.
Step 2 – Step 5: Follow the same instructions as slap pap.
With Krummelpap (how-to video), I prefer using braaipap that is slightly grainier, however super maize will also work well.
Take your medium-size pot. Fill the pot with 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of saltwater. Put your pot on the stove and let your saltwater come to a boil.
Once your water is boiling, take your maize (about 3 and a half cups of maize) and pour it in the middle of the pot making a tower of maize in the middle. Keep going until there is a lovely high tower that fits underneath your lid.
You can use slightly less maize for a finer texture and more maize for a grainier texture.
Close your lid and let this pot simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Do not stir.
After 30 minutes, take a fork and move the fork in an up and down direction, until the mixture starts to looks light and fluffy and like crumbs (krummels). Close the lid and leave the pot for another 15 minutes. Repeat this step again after 15 minutes.
Your cooking is complete.
Dish immediately and eat! Add butter and hot milk as needed.