Traditional and tasty Wentelteefjes – the perfect Mother’s Day breakfast

One of the characteristics of traditional Cape Winelands Cuisine is the combination of sweet and savoury in one dish. Another is using fruit in traditional savoury dishes. This recipe for Wentelteefjes (or French Toast) with flavoured dried fruit compôte from our Cape Winelands Cuisine cookbook (p 27) combines all these elements.

The dish can be traced back more than 2000 years to a Roman chef called Apicius, who cooked for the aristocracy during the time of Christ. Where and when the name French toast was created is uncertain; however, it was definitely part of Cape cuisine from the very beginning. The Dutch word for French toast is wentelteefjes. A recipe for French toast under the name wenteljefies can still be found in Hildagonda Duckitt’s cape cookbook.

Dried fruit compôte was a breakfast dish or an accompaniment to meat, and was also served as dessert with custard.

French toast ingredients

3 eggs

1/2 cup (125 ml) milk

1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt

rosemary or kapokbos (wild rosemary), finely chopped

4 slices day-old bread

2 Tbsp (30 ml) butter or oil

3 rashers crisp-fried belly bacon per person (optional)


Beat the eggs, milk, spices, salt and herbs together.

Soak the bread in the egg mixture for 1 minute.

Heat a mineral (stainless steel) pan, melt the butter or oil and add the soaked bread. Fry on both sides over moderate heat until golden brown and the egg in the centre of the bread is cooked through. (You can also sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if it is to be eaten on its own.)

Dried fruit compôte ingredients

1 cup (250 ml) sugar or honey, or according to taste

4 cups (1 litre) boiling water

2 orange leaves (optional)

juice and zest of 2 oranges

juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 rooibos teabags

3 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

3 cardamom pods

400 g mixed dried fruit


Dissolve the sugar or honey in the boiling water in a saucepan. Add the orange leaves, if using, the orange and lemon juices and zests, rooibos teabags and the spices. Boil for 5 minutes until syrupy.

Pour the boiling syrup over the fruit and leave overnight to infuse.

Reheat the soaked and infused fruit compôte and serve with the warm French toast and bacon.

The stewed fruit can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks and is an excellent breakfast dish, accompanied with yoghurt and muesli.

Plate up with the French toast at the bottom, then the dried fruit compôte and finish with the crispy bacon rashers on top. You can also add some fresh seasonal fruit such as figs or grapes.

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