The Women of Imhoff Farm

Celebrating the women who shaped our history

Through the centuries Imhoff Farm has been home to influential  women who left their mark on the farm and its history.  It started in 1743 with Christina Rousseau (née Diemer), a widow whose entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic impressed then Governor at the Cape, Baron Gustav Wilhelm van Imhoff so much that he gifted her a large tract of land in the South Peninsula. She started a farm growing fresh produce to supply passing ships and it became known as Imhoff’s Gift.

A fitting way to end our feature this Women’s Month is to celebrate another founding mother and visionary woman who has shaped the farm we love. 

In the summer of 1993 Denise Van der Horst (née du Toit) started a tea garden in the courtyard (werf) of Imhoff Farm. Operating from a small kitchen in the old silo, Denise put her Cordon Bleu training from Silwood School of Cookery to great use. Word spread and ‘Under the Pines’ became a popular destination for locals and visitors wishing to enjoy tea or a meal in the calm countryside atmosphere of the farm. 

It became famous for its carrot cake (a closely guarded family recipe), scones and milktart (melktert), which Denise sometimes made with goats  milk from the farm. (We share the cows milk recipe later in this blog).

The tea garden became the catalyst for the revival of the farm. Attracting  artists, small businesses and local entrepreneurs as tenants the farm became a hub of creative and commercial activity. 

Thanks to Denise’s can-do energy and vision  soon there was a monthly farmer’s market, donkey and horse rides, a petting farm, snakes and the camels for which Imhoff Farm became famous. Growing organically and spanning three decades,  Denise and husband EJ van der Horst became custodians  of one of the Cape’s most loved tourism and leisure destinations. 

Today Denise and EJ are retired and live in Kommetjie, but most days you will meet them on the farm where they shop for daily provisions or pop in to see old and new tenants. 

Denise's Milktart recipe

Yield: This recipe makes a large Milktart

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 75g butter
  • 100g cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Salt
  • Little water to combine

Rub butter into sifted flour, baking powder and salt until mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Add a little cold water to combine and roll into a ball.  Chill for about an hour and roll out to line a round 28 cm baking dish.

Custard filling:

  • 6 extra large eggs, separated
  • Half cup cornflour
  • Half cup cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 litre milk
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 120 g butter

Heat 750 ml milk in large pot with cinnamon stick and butter till melted.  Beat together yolks, 250 ml milk, cornflour, cake flour and sugar till smooth.  Slowly pour into heated milk mixture, keep on heat and stir until thick (spoon can stand up in mixture). Beat egg whites till soft peaks form and fold into mixture. Pour into pastry lined dish and bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.  Best eaten when cooled with a cup of tea.

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