SWEET TOOTH PARADISE

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The name Yotam Ottolenghi is well known to lovers of international cookbooks. He is chef-patron of the Ottolenghi delis and NOPI restaurant in London and has published five bestselling cookbooks: Plenty, Plenty More, Ottolenghi The Cookbook, Jerusalem, and Nopi: The Cookbook.

Fans old and new will find much to delight in his latest book, Sweet, which he co-authored with Helen Goh.

Goh was born in Malaysia but started her cooking career in Australia, where she had migrated with her family as a girl. After 7 years as head pastry chef at Donovans, a landmark Melbourne restaurant, she moved to London and soon joined Ottolenghi. She has worked closely with Yotam as the lead product developer for the past ten years. Helen draws widely on Asian, Western and Middle Eastern influences in her cooking – and of course, on her love of sweets.

Not holding back from the truth, they confess in the book’s Preface:

“There’s so much sugar in this book that we thought about calling it, well, Sugar. Here we are celebrating the sweet things in life. We say this not to be irreverent or flippant – we are completely aware of the current concerns about the adverse effects of sugar – but we want to make it clear that this is a recipe book full of over 110 sweet things…..there is nothing wrong with treats, as long as we know what they are and enjoy them as such.”
“The Ottolenghi way has always been about abundance, inclusion and celebration. It’s the way we’ve always cooked and it’s the way we’ve always baked. It’s the way we’ve always eaten and the way we’ve always lived.”

As a person that looks at the desserts menu first when visiting a restaurant for the first time, I can only say, hear hear!

Sweet is divided into seven sections and in listing them I have included with each a couple that have caught my sweet tooth’s eye:

Cookies and biscuits – Almond, pistachio and sour cherry wafers; Gevulde Speculaas.

Mini-cakes – Tahini and halva brownies; Blackberry and star anise friands.

Cakes – Parsnip and pecan cake with aniseed and orange; Grappa fruit cake

Cheesecakes – Fig, orange and marscapone cheesecake; Chocolate banana ripple cheesecake

Tarts and pies – Walnuts and black treacle tarts with crystalized sage; Schiacciata with grapes and fennel seeds

Desserts – Ricotta crepes with figs, honey and pistachio; Sticky fig pudding

Confectionery – Pecan and Prosecco truffles; Almond and aniseed nougat

Sweet’s recipes are mostly very doable and finding the ingredients locally should not be a problem. Their diversity of flavours and textures make for divine indulgence.

I suggest you indulge your sweet tooth to your heart’s content and then go for some intense sessions at your local gym…

 

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LUBBLY BUBBLY AND LUBBLY LUNCH TOO

A bubbly lunch may sound to some that I am on the drinking man’s diet …..I most definitely am not.

The title refers to a lunch I recently enoyed at which each course was paired with a different bubbly from Simonsig – home of the original Méthode Cap Classique.

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Our genial and effervescent hosts were Simonsig supremos Johan and Diane Malan.

Malans

 

Now by any criteria this was no ordinary lunch. Firstly Simonsig and in particular their Kaapse Vonkel, have led the way in South African bubblies for over 45 years. The lunch was held at one of this country’s leading restaurants, Harald Bresselschmidt’s Aubergine in Cape Town.

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Now that the wine and restaurant credentials are on the table, there is another hugely significant element to join them – many rate Bresselschmidt supreme amongst South African chefs when it comes to pairing food with wine.

So upfront it was likely that a huge treat was I store, and boy did it deliver and then some!

 

Here’s the majestic Simonsig/Aubergine menu:

Ocean Kabeljou marinated and sous-vide nettle and green apple shoots

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel 2015

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Calves Liver with fava beans, lemon balsamic-glazed white grapes

Simonsig Cuvée Royale 2012

Simonsig Cuvée Royale

Quail Breasts filled with mousseline, prawn reduction, pistachio, cherry-quinoa dressing

Simonsig Pinot Noir Brut Rosé 2015

Simonsig Pinot Noir Rose 2015 HR

Ivory Chocolate Dome with MCC soft centre, almond streusel and angelica ice cream, white flower espuma

Simonsig Demi Sec 2015

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True confession. I am an avid wine drinker and food eater, but when it comes to doing both at the same time, I am severely handicapped. So enjoying food and wine pairings is usually somewhat of a challenge.

But I think a corner has been turned for me. Savouring the glorious range and different vintages of Simonsig bubblies before the lunch was pleasure enough. But then, my personal food and wine-pairing sea change…..

The superb Harald Bresselschmidt dishes and the Simonsig’s always excellent Cap Classiques were so magnificently complementary that my taste-buds finally got the food/wine pairing message. Food, wine, food, wine, food, wine , left right left right, whichever way I turned the balance and harmony were perfect.

Although Simonsig are the Cap Classique pioneers, they continue to strive for excellence and regularly receive industry accolades.

At the recent 2017 Amorim Méthode Cap Classique Challenge, they won: Best Rosé: Simonsig Woolworths Pinot Noir Rosé No Sulphur Added 2015: Best Blanc de Blanc and Best Overall: Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012 and Best Producer:
So seek out the Simonsig bubblies, dine at Aubergine, enjoy sensory excellence.

Long may they vonkel!

 

WE CAN BE OUR OWN JAILOR, BUT ALSO OUR OWN LIBERATOR

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I recently said to my wife that with all the books that I have reviewed for the Cape Times this year, I was still hoping to read one that “blew my mind”, then “The Choice” landed on my desk. It is my personal choice as my Read of 2017, what a book!

Here’s my review of it:

In 1944, when she was sixteen, Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz, where she was made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. Over the coming months, her courage helped her sister to survive and led to her won rescue during a death march. When their camp was finally liberated, Edith was pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive.

Today, Hungarian-born Clinical psychologist, Dr. Edith Eger maintains a busy clinical practice in La Jolla, California, holds a faculty appointment at the University of California—San Diego, and also serves as a consultant for the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy in resiliency training and the treatment of PTSD. She regularly gives lectures around the country and abroad.

In her memoir, The Choice, she draws on her experience of the Holocaust and the remarkable stories of those she has helped ever since, she shows how true freedom becomes possible once we confront our suffering.

There have been many excellent Holocaust memoirs and on that criterion alone, The Choice would easily stand up there with the best. But there is so much more to this particular memoir.

For decades since their liberation, many survivors were emotionally unable to share their stories. Dr Eger has been able to go a considerable distance further than just sharing her Holocaust story, she has used her experiences and story to help others, with the aim of “helping each of us escape the prisons of our own minds.”

The Auschwitz part of her story is a harrowing, emotional, uplifting account of the trauma she endured during and after the war. There were passages in the narrative with such emotional impact that I had to pause before being able to continue reading.

The choices Eger made that contributed to her ultimate survival are many. “The more choices you have the more doors that are open for you.”

Just one example: When she was made to dance for Josef Mengele, she discovered a piece of wisdom that she has never forgotten:

“I will never know what miracle of grace allows me this insight. It will save my life many times, even after the horror is over. I can see that Dr Mengele, the seasoned killer who just this morning murdered my mother, is more pitiful than me. I am free in my mind, which he can never be. He will always have to live with what he has done. He is more prisoner than I am. As I close my routine with a final, graceful split. I pray, but it isn’t myself I pray for. I pray for him. I pray for his sake, that he won’t have the need to kill me.”

After liberation, she understands that there will be doctors to help the survivors repair their physical health. But no one will explain the psychological dimension of recovery. It will be many years before she begins to understand that.

In 1966, Eger is handed a copy of Viktor Frankl’s “’Man’s Search for Meaning” and one particular passage has a profound impact on her:

“Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Every moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how to respond. And finally I begin to understand that too have a choice. This realization will change my life.

But Eger’s post-war interaction with the subject of the Holocaust is extraordinary. In particular, the chapters, Then Hitler Won and Leave a Stone, deal with such immense issues and personal choices, they literally stopped me in my tracks and gasping for breath and I had to stop reading and reflect on things about which I had strong personal convictions, before being able to continue reading.   .

“If we are stuck in the past, we are living in a prison of our own making. Freedom is about choice, about choosing compassion, humor, optimism, intuition, curiosity, and self-expression. And to be free is to live in the present”.

An interviewer noted that she had been able to overcome her past. She said that she hadn’t but she that she had learned to come to terms with it.

The second part of The Choice features stories of Dr Eger’s patients’ transformations through therapy. These too make for engrossing reading and it is fascinating to see how she draws on the knowledge gained through her own experiences, to benefit her patients.

In her own words: “I began to formulate a new relationship with my own trauma. It wasn’t something to silence, suppress, avoid, negate. It was a well I could draw on, a deep source of understanding and intuition about my patients, their pain, and the path to healing.”

“If I understand the whole of my life, it is that sometimes the worst moments in our lives, the moments that set us spinning with ugly desires, that threaten to engulf us with the sheer impossibility of the pain we must endure, are in fact the moments that bring us to understand our worth. It is as if we become aware of ourselves as a bridge between all that has been and all that will be. We become aware of all we have received and what we can choose – or choose not – to perpetuate. Our painful experiences aren’t a liability, they are a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.”

As psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes in his Foreword to The Choice: “Her book is a universal message of hope and possibility to all who are trying to free themselves from pain and suffering. Whether imprisoned by bad marriages, destructive families, or jobs they hate, or imprisoned within the barbed wire of self-limiting beliefs that trap them in their own minds, readers will learn from this book that they can choose to embrace joy and freedom regardless of their circumstances.”

The Choice is a tour de force of non-fiction writing, an important book whose content should in some way or another resonate with everyone who reads it. It is a book that demands to be read more than once.

 

THE GASTRONOMIC JOYS OF SPRING

I recently made my third visit to La Motte in Franschhoek, this year. Each visit was more enjoyable than the one before and each offered something extra.

My first visit was to try the La Motte Food& Wine Pairing and then lunch; the second was to celebrate a new Pierneef Exhibition followed by a Pierneef inspired lunch.

The third visit was titled “The Splendour of Spring” and was for lunch in the form of a fynbos-inspired menu of modern Cape Winelands Cuisine at Pierneef a la Motte. With each meal I have become more and more a fan of Chef Michelle Theron’s cooking.

The something extra this time was that Michelle collaborated with Sarah Graham, the food writer, cook and the host of two food TV programmes on the Menu and the execution of it.

Fybos-inspired luncheon (63)

Sarah Graham and Chef Michelle Theron collaborating

The Splendour of Spring menu and the pairing with the fine La Motte wines made for a very special four-course lunch indeed. For me, I was glad not to know the micro-detail of the partnership and be free to enjoy each dish on its own merits.

Here’s the menu and the wines that went with each item:

ODE TO BREAD

Mosbolletjies with farm butter, quince spread and buchu salt

FIRST

Tomato, honey bush and goat’s cheese “roosterkoek”

2016 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc

SECOND

Fragrant Cape seafood curry with lavender, lightly smoked mussels and banana chutney

2016 La Motte Chardonnay

Fybos-inspired luncheon (83)

Cape Seafood Curry

THIRD

Waterblommetjie and samp risotto, Karoo lamb “sout ribbetjie”, pulled lamb belly, bone marrow, red wine jus

2015 La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon

FOURTH

Poached citrus salad with rosemary salted caramel, brandy milk pinch blanc mange, milk tart semi-freddo

NV La Motte Straw Wine

 

Each course was a joy and the wine pairings were spot on, but one dish and one wine were my personal favourites: my Dish of 2017 – the Cape seafood curry and I really enjoyed the La Motte Straw Wine that ended the meal.

Congratulations and thanks Michelle and Sarah!

I wonder what my next La Motte visit will bring……

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All photos were supplied by La Motte

MERCI – I WISH I COULD RECIPROCATE

I recently had the enormous pleasure and privilege of attending an intimate lunch at Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel. The occasion was a food and wine pairing of some of the wines of French House, Domaines Ott.

 

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Domaines Ott was founded in 1912 by Marcel Ott, an agricultural engineer from Alsace who dreamed of establishing a great wine estate near the Mediterranean in France. Today, the wineries are owned and managed by Champagne Louis Roederer and produce some of the world’s most prestigious wines. These wines are made at three distinctively different estates in the Bandol and Côtes de Provence appellations: Château Romassan, Clos Mireille and Château de Selle

During the course of the year, I have enjoyed many pairings. Some where the food outshone the wines, others where the balance was more even. With Domaine Ott/Vineyard Hotel lunch, the balance was such that the wines were Roi and the food complementary.

I am able to taste mostly South African wines as a rule, and prefer when tasting wines from another country, I prefer to do so without making any comparisons to our local wines.

With a butternut, fennel and beetroot salad, we tasted: Blanc de Blancs Clos Mireille 2012 and Blanc de Blancs Mireille 2014

With Chicken Supreme, we tasted: By.Ott Rosé 2016. Chateau de Selle Rosé 2016 and Chateau Romassan Bandol Rosé

With a cheese platter, we tasted: Chateau Romassan Rouge 2012

And it didn’t stop there, with our date and brandy pudding, we enjoyed a glass of: Ramos Pinto Port LBV 2009

What a superbly delicious experience, Vive Domaines Ott, Vive la France!

 

And the sharing part of it is that you too can enjoy these wines.

They are all available from Reciprocal Wine Trading Company (www.reciprocal.co.za) at very accessible prices.

BUBBLY AND A BURGER ON THE ROCKS

I recently made my second visit to the beautifully situated Linton Park Estate near Wellington. And although the occasion was not directly a wine one….we did indeed enjoy some of their wines!

The visit was to attend a celebratory luncheon at which an amount of R120 000 was presented to the Rhinos Without Borders campaign.

For a couple of years now, Linton Park, together with the Hugo Rust Primary School, has been involved with raising money for Rhino conservation. Rhinos Without Borders was formed in order to start moving these endangered animals away from the poaching hotspots to a safer environment.

Prior to the luncheon, we enjoyed a special treat – atop a koppie with a magnificent 360 degree view, we joined by Schalk Burger Sr (of neighbouring wine farm, Welbedacht) who kept us captivated by his knowledge and passionate detailing  of  the unique terroir of the Groenberg and its positive impact on the wines produced in this area. We did so, glass of Linton Park MCC in hand.

The spectacular picture below of the rocky ‘ice bucket’ needs no caption:

 

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The always warm hospitality and a delicious lamb shank lunch was served at a long table in the wine cellar, accompanied by equally lovely Linton Park wines.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to try two more of their wines: the Linton Park Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and the novel Linton Park Café Malbec 2017.

LP Sauv Blanc 2017

I started off with their Sauvignon Blanc 2017. I am not much of a Sauvi fan, but found this one easy drinking and medium-bodied, fresh and more-ish.

LP Caf+¬ Malbec 2017

As to the Café Malbec 2017, for no rational reason, I was not expecting much of it. Happily, I really enjoyed it. A lovely, dark fruity nose and gently complex on the palate. The chocolate flavour was surprisingly pleasant and the wine for me falls into that “something different’ category.

….I’ll be back!

PASSING AWAY OF SA WINE LEGEND

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The Sperling family are sad to announce the passing of Michael Hans ‘Spatz’ Sperling, their much-loved husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather and patriarch of Delheim.

Since his arrival in South Africa as a 20-year-old from Germany in 1951 to join his uncle Hans Hoheisen and aunt Del, Spatz became a pioneering icon of the South African wine industry.

Over the next 60 years, Spatz grew this farm on the Simonsberg into one of the most enduringly popular and successful wine destinations, creating many firsts in the process. Among the most notable Delheim was the first farm to send out a newsletter and to serve cheese platters for lunch (first restaurant on a South African wine farm) – facilities today’s visitors to the Cape winelands take for granted. Spatz was ahead of the game too when it came to wines the consumer wanted. His first effort however was the famous Spatzendreck which has been loved by many since 1961. Heerenwijn, a light and dry white wine, was a first of its kind.  At the other end of the scale, in the 1970s, Spatz recognised growing demand for red wines, purchasing prime vineyard land on Klapmutskop, which he named Vera Cruz after his wife. Delheim’s flagship, the Cabernet-led Grand Reserve, first produced in 1981 and among the early Bordeaux-style blends, comes from these vineyards.

The wine industry’s ultimate recognition of Spatz’s extraordinary contribution came in 2009, when he was honoured with the 350 Celebration Scroll in the year South Africa celebrated 350 years of winemaking.

 

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EXCELLENT APARTHEID ERA DEPICTION

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The narrative is superbly and sensitively observed and crafted. It vividly captures the feel of the turbulent days in which it is set. With the focus on family drama within a difficult social setting, detailing their everyday strugglesAchmat Dangor is an award-winning poet and novelist whose titles include Kafka’s Curse (1997) and the 2004 Booker shortlisted title Bitter Fruit. He is a former Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

His fifth novel is Dikeledi, a complex and moving tale about ordinary life during the height of the Apartheid era. The story it tells follows the lives of a family and particularly the women of various generations, who are named Dikeledi, one is immediately drawn into the characters and the situations in which they find themselves.

There are many novels in which the story line is a bit thin, but the standard of the writing makes up for it in some measure. In Dangor’s book, the writing is top notch and the narrative is brim full of incident.

The South African literary scene of today has many works both of fiction and non-fiction in which life under apartheid are key features. In Dikeledi this reality is cleverly placed in the experience of the Tau family. The effect of apartheid on much of their daily lives is interspersed among the drama of the family’s relationships and their individual struggles for identity.

Some readers might find the time-frame and geographical toing and froing between the various Dikeledis and a bit of editorial license here and there by the author a bit confusing. The story is so jam-packed with detail that at times it curbs the flow somewhat.

But these reservation aside, Dikeledi’s central threads are strong, thought-provoking and pertinent and its evocation of an era past makes for a really good read.

 

 

 

BEST BUBBLES RISE TO THE TOP

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) In the wine (in the wine) Make me happy (make me happy) Make me feel fine (make me feel fine)

 Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) Make me warm all over With a feeling that I’m gonna Love you till the end of time

Don Ho (1967)

That song was a hit 50 years ago, and we continue to enjoy and celebrate those tiny bubbles today.

Yesterday, we were wined and dined at the 12 Apostles Hotel on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard – the occasion was the awarding of the prizes in the 2017 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge.

Each of the four courses we enjoyed was paired with an appropriate MCC: Chicken or Egg with an MCC Brut; Yellowfin Tuna with an MCC Rose; Lamb Roast with an MCC Blanc de Blanc; and the Apple Custard with a Museum Class MCC. .

This annual event is hosted by the MCC Association in association with Portugal-based cork company Amorim, the world’s leading supplier of cork wine stoppers and has done much to elevate the status and popularity of South African bubbly.

In 2016, MCC sold 4,4m bottles in South Africa, a staggering growth of 24.5% compared to 2015 or nearly one million bottles. .

The major awards at the 2017 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge went to:

Best Producer, Overall Wine:

Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012

Simonsig Cuveģe Royale

Best Brut:

Domaine Des Dieux Claudia Brut MCC 2011

Best Rosé:

Woolworths Simonsig Pinot Noir Rosé 2015

Best Blanc de Blanc:

Simonsig’s Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012

Best Museum Class:

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2005

And the Frans Malan Legacy Award went to Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck

 

 

50 SHADES OF HEAT

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Ishay Govender-Ypma is a journalist, writer and cook based in Cape Town. She grew up on the ambrosial, sometimes hellfire curries of KwaZulu-Natal and quickly embraced spiced dishes of all kinds.

Her new book, CURRY – Stories & Recipes across South Africa, explores the fascinating story of South African curry. In it Ishay features almost 90 recipes from 60 cooks and food experts across the nation.

Ishay avers that “the Durban curries of her childhood, though a proud and prominent part of South African food culture, are not the defining curries of this land.” She didn’t take the easy way out in seeking recipes for inclusion in this book, instead she and her husband took to the road, travelling across the breadth of nine provinces. On the trip, both the dish and the heart of our people revealed itself to her.

“It became increasingly clear that a recipe shared without the context of a person’s life would be lost on me, the reader and the interviewee. While there are a handful of well-recognised chefs here, the majority are home cooks who were elected and suggested to me by their communities.”

CURRY is not an ordinary cookbook. For a start, Ishay’s Introduction is a marvellous and important discourse on the socio-political South African context of the history of curry and its communities. Even if you are not going to tackle any of the recipes, it will add some depth the next time you eat a curry locally. And with each provider of recipes, there is a personal back-story, adding authenticity and a setting to the dishes they share with the reader.

A plus, not common to all cookbooks, is that all the ingredients for the recipes should be readily available at your local supermarket.

Is Durban curry the real thing for you? Or maybe it’s the Cape Malay curry that gets your taste buds going? If that’s the limit of your local curry experience, you are in for a treat…

As Ishay says: “And I learned that profiling a South African curry as a single entity is a futile task. It’s as complex and interesting as the many people who make up our land”

So delve into CURRY’S   regional nuances of the delicious diversity that is South African curry – I’m sure that you will agree that in more ways than one, variety is the spice of life.