There are many dishes I feel deeply nostalgic about. Sunday leg of lamb, invariably followed by souskluitjies. Tongue in a sweet mustard sauce, mum’s dinner party ol’ faithful. Gran’s chicken pie and Ideal Milk ice cream. This is the food of my childhood and, as much as I like cooking lighter, more modern for everyday, it’s still the food I long for when the weather turns foul or life a bit tricky.
What is top of my childhood comfort food list? No prizes for guessing. Melkkos of course. For my foreign readers, literally translated ‘melkkos’ means milk food. That sounds pretty appalling and in no way does justice to this nursery favourite.
What is melkkos? Well it’s a porridge-like dish of milk thickened with butter and flour ‘crumbs’ (known as frummels), or with a pasta-like dough (known as snysels) or with sago. It’s served in soup bowls with truckloads of cinnamon sugar. And we eat it for lunch or dinner, not breakfast. Though I’ve been known to do that too. I’m sharing the one with sago first. Because it’s the easiest. And it’s the one my mum made.
All you need is…
1 litre full cream milk
4 tbs sugar
2 sticks of cinnamon
2 strips orange peel (Dried is better but, if you don’t have, two strips of fresh orange peel would be fine. Use your veggie peeler, super easy.)
1 cup of sago
⅛ tsp salt
2 tbs butter (NOT margarine)
butter for serving
cinnamon sugar for serving (see TIPS below)
Place sago in a bowl and cover generously with water. Allow to stand for 30 minutes.
Place milk, sugar, orange peel and cinnamon sticks in a heavy-based saucepan and heat. (HINT: I love this just as is to drink before bedtime on a cold winter night. Sweet warm milk heady with the perfume of orange and cinnamon, what could be better!)
Drain the sago and add to the warm milk. Cook over a low heat while stirring. As the sago cooks, it will thicken the milk. (If the melkkos is too thick for your liking once cooked, simply stir in another half to full cup of warm milk.) Once the sago is cooked – i.e. the beads are transparent (it takes about 20 minutes), add the butter and salt and stir through.
Remove from the heat and remove the orange peel and cinnamon. Serve immediately in soup bowls with tonnes of cinnamon sugar and (if the devil is sitting on your shoulder) a small knob of butter too. If you really want to push out the boat, melt some apricot jam in the micro and give it a small drizzle of that as well.