THERE’S MORE TO DARLING THAN EVITA, SWEETHEART

Wine, yes, food yes, but toffees? I never ever expected that the latter would be a savourite, but here we are.

I recently had the pleasure and indulgence of tasting some of the range of toffees from Darling Sweet and they were absolutely divine, darling.

Darling Sweet started a little over four years ago, and has become the town’s second icon.

Its founders and confectioners are Hentie van der Merwe and Frits van Ryneveld . at the time, Hentie was working at Stellenbosch University and Frits had an antique shop in Darling and was also a medical rep.

It all started when Frits mentioned that he wanted to find someone to provide him with toffee to sell in his  shop. Hentie (being a foodie and loving to cook) created a toffee recipe for Frits – Darling Sweet was born.

 

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In my beautiful box of Darling Sweet Assorted Toffee were six different flavours: Tannie Evita’s Classic, Liquorice, Honey & Salt (my favourite, by far!), and my Runner-up is Bird’s Eye Chili. I really liked the fact that the toffees were firm rather than hard.

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And if that wasn’t enough yumminess, my breakfasts enjoyed dollops of their Honey and Salt Spread and Tannie Evita’s Classic Toffee Spread on toast.

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Thanks to you Frits and Hentie, I had to work harder at gym…but it was worth it!

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ENJOY SOUTH AFRICAN BLISS THIS WEEKEND – PINOTAGE AND BILTONG

Pinotage.

Biltong.

On their own, the one an iconic South African wine and the other an iconic South African foodstuff, but together a match made in pleasure heaven.

I recently thoroughly enjoyed a preview of this year’s Pinotage and Biltong Festival which takes place this weekend on Saturday 14 April and Sunday 15 April, 2018 at Perdeberg Cellar.

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This year, eighteen wineries will offer nearly 50 Pinotages for tasting and for sale, some of which are paired with specific biltong flavours, each chosen to highlight the best qualities of both. The wines range from traditional red Pinotage right up to Rosés, sparkling wine, MCC, blends and even a white Pinotage.

Also at the Festival, there will be food trucks, an Oyster & MCC bar, Perdeberg’s own craft beer range, a kiddies play area and music by the popular Guy Feldman and his band.

And the Perdeberg Tapas Picnic, which we enjoyed at the preview, is enough for 2 people and includes a bottle of their Dryland Collection Pioneer Pinot Noir/Chardonnay 2017.  Another very worthwhile and fun Perdeberg experience at the Festival is the opportunity to bottle your own Cape Blend of wines, mine was delicious.

Participating wineries at this year’s Pinotage & Biltong Festival are: Badsberg Winery, Beyerskloof, Boland Cellar, Bonnievale Wines, Delheim Wines,  Flagstone Winery, Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate, Idiom Collection, Knorhoek  Wines, Lanzerac Wines, Mellasat Vineyards, Overhex Wines International,  Perdeberg Cellar , Rhebokskloof  Wine Estate,  Simonsvlei Winery,  Stellenbosch Hills Wines,  Van Loveren Vineyards and Wellington Wines.

My first experience of pairing a variety of biltongs with a variety of pinotage styles was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. With each combination, I sipped the pinotage, then nibbled the biltong, then sipped again and if I hadn’t had to drive home afterwards, I would happily have overindulged on both…..

Pinotage and Biltong Festival promises to be lots of fun. Tickets are R200 pp at www.plankton.mobi or www.computicket.com or R230 at the gate. This includes access to the venue, a branded wine glass, a curated selection of 18 Pinotage and Biltong pairings and free tastings of the other Pinotages on show.  Perdeberg Winery is between Paarl and Durbanville and easily accessible from the N1.

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.

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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!

 

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.

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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

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.

 

MOST EVERYBODY REMEMBERS THEIR FIRST TIME

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The iconic main building at Dewetshof Estate in Robertson


I remember the first time I tasted chardonnay.

It was in the mid-1980s and at the time, I was living in Johannesburg. A visiting family member brought me a bottle up from Cape Town.

Of course, the chardonnay was from the pioneering Dewetshof Estate in Robertson-what else?

What are my memories of that first taste?

Unfortunately I can’t share with you my nose/palate memory of it, I remember downing so much of it, and enjoying very last drop, but 500ml is a lot of wine on an empty stomach………

Fast forward a few decades – I recently attended a luncheon to launch Dewetshof’s Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2017 held La Tệte Restaurant in Cape Town’s super-trendy Bree Street.

DWH Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2017

 

Now La Tệte has quickly earned a reputation for delivering its Head to Tail philosophy and also offering diners wondrous offal dishes…..

On arrival, my brain clicked in and the inappropriateness of pairing offal with chardonnay….so what dishes would we be served?

I tried a sip of the Limestone Hill before our first course was served. It is unwooded and offered some citrus and nuttiness.

Not being that knowledgeable on matters food and wine pairing, I found it amazing how different the wine tasted with each dish.

We started with a pork dish, which for me (apologies for my lack of sophisticated descriptive words) made the wine taste very very chardonnayish.

Our main was a gloriously crusty and juicy Hake Pie which made the Limestone Hill Chardonnay taste sweeter than it did on its own or with the pork.

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A truly versatile wine from the pioneers of South African Chardonnay, one that works well on its own or with food.

 

FOOTNOTE

 

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Dear La Tệte, it won’t be offaly long before you see me again!

 

ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER

Over the past 20 years or so, our visits to Somerset West have largely been to take part in running races on the Lourensford and Vergelegen wine farms. To get there from Cape Town, one takes the Somerset-West turn-off from the N2, turn right onto the Main Road and then left into Lourensford Road.

But recently (and happily) my wife and I strayed off course. Instead of turning left into Lourensford, we turned right into Bright Street and headed for lunch at Imibala Restaurant.

Trying a restaurant “on the other side of the main road” appeals to my inbred passion for things new, so when a colleague suggested giving Imibala a try….

Often one approaches a new restaurant experience with a fair degree of expectation and maybe even some apprehension…….

We were pleasantly surprised!

The first thing we noticed on entering the restaurant was its homely but elegant decor and we had a corner table which afforded us a view of the whole room. Although it was mid-week, the place was busy, which immediately said something positive.

 

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Imibala’s Daytime Menu at first glance seems quite large. Chatting to the Executive Chef Nicola Dupper afterwards, she agreed but said she had an excellent team in the kitchen and that they coped well with the size of the menu.

Let me break the Lunch options down into manageable portion size for you: Under Tapas there are 10 items ranging from Gnocchi to Baked Camembert to Braised beef short ribs.

Then there’s a selection of 10 Mains including Oxtail risotto, Karoo lamb cutlets, and a Pork sausage, fennel and bean cassoulet.

You’ll also be able to choose from the Daily Roast: which could either be beef, chicken, lamb or pork, each with a selection of vegetables or salad.

But for me, Imibala’s Harvest Table is the section I’d suggest you head for. The array is impressive, one selects  from a wide variety of freshly prepared dishes including soup, pies, tray bakes, curry, salads, vegetables and freshly baked breads. The day we were there, the salads included a tabbouleh, which is one of all-time my favourites.

So, with that plethora of palate pleasers, what did we eat?

I started with a dish from the Tapas selection: Duck 3 Ways – poached egg with crispy duck crackling; duck liver with cherries; and crispy duck croquette with roasted garlic aioli. A duck feast with a range of textures and flavours to delight. A yummy yummy yummy duck duck duck dish!

To follow that, from the Harvest Table, I tried a beautifully seasoned plate of lamb ribs.

My wife had the Beer battered kingklip, the fish was perfectly cooked and the batter light and tasty.

We then hit the salad table, my wife diversely, while I tabboulehed like there was no tomorrow and was reminded of my Lebanese neighbours of yore.

The service was efficient and friendly and the menu pricing reasonable. The food is beautifully seasoned and cooked, the variety is extraordinary, and the portion sizes very decent.

We will definitely make a good turn again soon.

 

IMIBALA RESTAURANT

18 Bright Street

Somerset-West

Tel: 021 851 2364

Hours: 08:00 – 22:00

Any profits from the Imibala Restaurant support the Imibala Trust.

The Imibala Trust works with school-age children deeply affected by impoverished circumstances, and offers programmes that make a substantial and measurable difference to the children’s present and future lives.

WE’LL MEAT AGAIN SOON, ANDY

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Andy Fenner, with a background in property development advertising, brand consultancy, restaurant critic and public relations, is now a self-taught butcher and the owner of Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants (FFMM).

Doing some ‘brand engagement’ work for a major food retailer, he was exposed to the meat industry and investigating industry labels such as ‘free range’ and ‘organic’. The murkiness of those labels confused him at first, then it made him uncomfortable and then angry. Butchers he spoke to couldn’t or wouldn’t tell him where their meat came from.

Andy and his wife Nicole decided to only eat meat if they could be certain that it came from an ethically reared animal…and this commitment led to them giving up their respective careers and dedicating themselves to being conscientious butchers and starting FFMM.

The dictionary defines the word manifesto as: the beliefs, aims, and policies of an organization. Andy’s new book, Meat Manifesto, is both for the average meat eater and those who would like to elevate their appreciation of meat by looking deeper into the subject. This is no ordinary cookbook.

The book was borne out of Fenner’s belief that there is middle ground between eating any and all meat that is put in front of you and being strictly vegetarian. Throughout the book, he explains the difference between commercial animal farming and old-school, traditional farming. That significant difference is in the quality of meat produced.

FFMM only sell meat sourced from small, independent farmers who raise their animals humanely and where the animals are free-range and grass-fed.

 

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Andy Fenner butchering.                                                                     Photography Craig Fraser

In Meat Manifesto, one will learn how to interact with a butcher and how to recognize good meat; a guide to meat cuts and how to cook them. For the more ambitious home cook, there’s a section on being your own butcher: in it you’ll learn about the knives you would need, some basic butchering and even how to make your own sausages

The book’s recipes are diverse and tempting and come from far and wide, They are dealt with in separate chapters on: Beef, Pork; Lamb, Mutton and Hogget; Poultry, Goat and Venison; and Biltong. Each recipe starts with an informative introduction from Andy.

The first page I opened had me salivating MasterChef Australia-style, it was a recipe for Lamb rump with deep fried capers and anchovy aioli. They say the first few lines of a book need to attract a reader’s interest, this particular recipe had me reading all the others in a “couldn’t put it down” mode. Another eye-catcher was: How to make a better-than-average roast chicken. The recipes are all tempting vehicles for you to use what Andy calls Proper and Delicious meat. Irresistible.

Fittingly, Meat Manifesto’s closing chapter is called The Conscious Carnivore, it is the story behind Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and its credo.

The largest category devoted to non-fiction books in bookshops is to Food and Cooking and there are many tremendous cookbooks available. Each has a style and reason for being and most all provide a feast for the eyes as well.

But, on closer examination lurking among these, one occasionally finds a book that in addition to great recipes and beautiful photography, offers something special. Something that warrants adding the word important to one’s description of it.

Meat Manifesto ticks all the boxes as to what one would expect from a really good cookbook. But it is the unpacking of the manifesto and the added value of its message that elevates the book to being an important work.

“My name is Julian, and I am now a conscious carnivore.”

DISCOVER THE JOYS OF SIMPLE HOME-COOKED TOWNSHIP MEALS

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It isn’t often that one reads a cookbook that has one smiling from ear to ear. But that was my reaction from reading Hope Malau’s book, Johanne 14.

Hope grew up in Klerksdorp eating traditional Sotho food prepared by his Dad, who worked in a mine kitchen. Instilled with a deep love for cooking from an early age, Hope went on to study at the Professional Cooking Academy in Rustenburg before garnering experience at various restaurants in Cape Town. Hope is currently the food editor for DRUM magazine.

In the townships of South Africa, Johanne 14 is another name for cabbage, because cabbage is second only to maize meal as a staple food.

There is so much love in the book that one can’t help but to smile and enjoy. Hope shares his love of his roots and his family and the sense of “home” and comfort that food brought. It is also a glorious insight into many aspects of township life.

Hope has grouped his recipes into five categories: Snacks, spaaikos (fast food” and uniquely township fare – with recipes ranging from Chicken Livers to Cow Trotters to Flame-grilled dove; Big events and slow-cooked meals – includes Curried Tripe, Beef Stew with pot dumplings and Pulled beef with ting; in Vegetables and salads you’ll find Chakalaka, Morogo and Curried Cabbage amongst others; Favourite sweet things – there’s Potch Scones, Cremora Tart, Koeksisters and Koesisters and many more for satisfying a sweet tooth

Hope writes well and from the heart, Johanne 14 is a delightful read and an excellent window into the culture of township food.  Its photography adds much character both to the family story and to the recipes.

 

DISCLAIMER

I was the proof reader for this book, but had absolutely no influence over its content.

….BUT NO MONA LISA

If the heading confuses you, I’ll explain it at the end of this posting…

My daughter Clare and I, as we enjoy doing whenever we can, recently went on a daddy-daughter date. Clare and I are committed foodies, she with a chef’s training and a superb palate, me with years of experience and eating-out passion.

We both fulfilled a long-held ambition by choosing to have lunch at Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Not at the now-closed Reuben’s of old, but at the very recently opened, Reuben’s Restaurant &Bar.

Reuben’s Restaurant & Bar is in a prime location, it’s in Daniel Hugo Street, a few metres off Huguenot Street and parking shouldn’t be a problem on most days.

 

Reuben's interior

As you can see from the photograph, the décor is modern, elegant and understated. Centrally on the right is the bar counter and centrally on the left is a fireplace. It was a cold day when we visited, but the whole restaurant was comfortably warm.

I hate categorising but…I would label Reuben’s as ‘relaxed fine dining’. Happily, the menu is a small one with four Tasters, eight Starters, nine Mains and four desserts. There are also daily Specials advantaging the freshest of locally available ingredients.

I chose well, Reuben’s signature Starter, Tuna Tataki – yuzo (a Japanese citrus), pickled mustard, avocado, radish, lime mayo and roasted sesame. Refreshing, and a good palate opener. Clare ordered the Poke Bowl – ceviche, lemongrass, edamame and sesame. Lovely textures and Asian flavours, I tasted some and we both agreed it’s a starter we’d be happy to order again.

Choosing a main was a challenge, Clare chose one of the Specials of the day, Asian Braised Beef Cheek and I chose from the Menu, Peppered Chalmar Picanha. Two perfect meat dishes for a cold day and lovely contrasts to the light freshness of our starters.

Waistline conscientious, we dithered as to whether or not to order Desserts. Our server ended our agony by suggesting that we share a Warm Chocolate Fondant, and who were we to argue. The test of a good fondant is its ooze of liquid chocolate, and this one certainly did ooze. Clare and I don’t like overly sweet desserts, the Chocolate Fondant was just right for our palates.

All the portions of the dishes we ordered were of a very decent size. Not always that common these days

Now to the non-menu yardsticks of a good restaurant, plating and service. Not only is Reuben’s plating top-notch, but mention must also be made of his beautiful choice of plates as well. I like servers that are well-informed, warm and appropriately friendly, ours certainly was.

A faultless meal in every way – the boy from the ‘hood certainly knows how to cook up a storm.

Why did I refer to the Mona Lisa in my heading, I hear you reminding me? On my very first visit to Paris, a visit to the Louvre was top of my tourist must do list. We joined the queue, and went in. Looking at the layout guide, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa (what else?!), almost out of breath, we reached where she is hung…..except she wasn’t there!!!!! Removed for cleaning. Gasp, close to tears with huge disappointment, necessitated a three year wait before a (successful!) return visit.

Reuben was not at Reuben’s on the day we visited, so no Mona Lisa! But we definitely will not wait three years to return!

Not the Mona Lisa, but here’s Reuben:

Reuben

 

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