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.

 

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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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Call 021 876 3772

 

 

A TASTE IS BUT THE START….

 

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Helderberg Mountains

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Last night I attended my first Taste the Helderberg. Billed as the annual sip-and-snack institution of warm company, levity and gastronomic delight, and it certainly delivered on that promise.

This annual event, held at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset-West, brings together a pairing of Helderberg wineries and eateries and provides for a delightful sensory experience in jovial company.

The place was abuzz with people having a fun time and it was not difficult to catch the vive.

Striking a comfortable balance between sipping and savouring and with the maxim ‘you can’t have it all, I made a very moderate dip into my tasting from the Helderberg.

With 20 wineries and 8 eateries, making a choice wasn’t easy.

For wine, I looked to sip something I hadn’t tried before….Kings Kloof Syrah 2014 proved to be a fine cold climate syrah and a good reason to put a visit to the winery on my list of to do’s.

To eat, a Lamb Rogan Josh from Mistress of Spices and Indian Foods won it by a nose from something from Ghenwa’s Lebanese Cooking Club. The curry was really, really good. My craving for a fattoush dripping in garlic will have to wait, I guess.

My first Taste the Helderberg will certainly lead to some exploring of the area and I look forward to next year’s event.

 

NOT CELEBRATING AN ICONIC CHEF!

I spent this past Saturday morning at the Good Food & Wine Show at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

This year’s show was the fifth that I have attended and I must admit that my previous experiences were a combination of delight and disappointment. The former – mostly in reaction to seeing Celebrity Chefs in the flesh, the latter – a reaction to the lack of surprises in the exhibition section of the Show.

So it was with a hint of trepidation, that I visited this year’s show. My prime attractor was seeing Marco Pierre White in action in the Chefs Open Theatre.

 

Good Food and Wine Show 2017 - Marco Pierre White .

Now part of my upbringing is to have respect for those that deserve it and to show suitable reaction when they ‘come on stage’. I was first in the queue for Yes Marco and headed for centre of the front row of the raised section of the seating. The house was full. I was ready and excited.

The two MCs did their bit, and the great man entered the spotlight show kitchen. I stood up at the entry of Marco Pierre White, and although the audience were enthusiastic in their welcome, I stood alone, flabbergasted.

Within the limitations of Chef Open Theatre genre, Yes Marco was superb. Excellent at interacting with his audience, expert and efficient at delivering the Lobster and Pasta dish. He offered tasty morsels of insight, and answered audience questions with panache.

When Yes Marco! was done, his exit was very low key. My instinct to stand up was quelled. Maybe if Bieber could cook, the audience would have got off their seats. Marco Pierre White deserved better!!

Afterwards I headed for the superbly layed-out and conceived exhibition area. There was plenty to eat and drink, even an avenue of food trucks!

Demonstration areas were divided into: Cooking with Chefs, Eat Well Live Well, Baking Theatre, and a Wine Theatre and each seemed to be very popular.

The stalls were varied and plentiful, but I saw little that I had not seen before.

 

2017 OLD MUTUAL TROPHY WINE AWARDS DELIVER A FINE SPREAD

 

One of the most prestigious wine competitions in South Africa, the Old Mutual Trophy Wine show, is always a class act.

From the privilege of listening to the Judges’ feedback to the excitement of the Awards lunch – its superbly organised all the way and the tone set is unpretentious and elegantly relaxed.

The 2017 awards climaxed yesterday at a lunch at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. The late May day delivered balmy warmth as we arrived to welcoming drinks and canapes.

It was tempting to over-indulge on the canapes – Marinated calamari on tapioca cracker; Seared springbok loin with crispy beef tendon and pickled cucumber; Mushroom and baby marrow terrine; and Crispy fried potato skin with salmon mousse and watercress – but in anticipation of the lunch, I bravely held back……a bit!

Lunch was at the Nellie’s famous Planet Restaurant and without going into the menu in detail, we enjoyed a superb spread: Seabass ceviche, Roast beef fillet and slow-cooked beef short rib, and a waistline endangering dessert.

Michael Fridjhon with his charm and tongue-in-cheek delivery-style announced the Gold winners first and then the Trophy Winners. The geographic breadthof ht winners speaks volumes for how our quality wine industry has grown.

I lift my glass and salute:

Old Mutual Trophy for Most Successful Producer Overall

Tokara

Makro Trophy for Best Shiraz, Old Mutual Trophy for Best Red Wine Overall

Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2014

Miele Trophy for Best Chardonnay, Old Mutual Trophy for Best White Wine Overall,

Old Mutual International Judges’ Trophy

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2016

Old Mutual Trophy for Discovery of the Show / Best Value Gold Medallist

Secret Cellar Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon No. 702 2015

American Express Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon

Landzicht Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Grande Roche Trophy for Best White Blend

Cavalli Cremello 2015

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine

Constantia Uitsig Méthode Cap Classique Brut 2013

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Dessert Wine

Buitenverwachting ‘1769’ 2014

Riedel Trophy for Best Bordeaux-Style Red Blend

Buitenverwachting Meifort 2014

Harold Eedes Trophy for Best Chenin Blanc

Darling Cellars Old Bush Vines Chenin Blanc 2016

Nestlé Pure Life Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc

Stark-Condé Round Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Tony Mossop Trophy for Best Cape Port

Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve 2015

Trophy for Best Red Blend – Non-Bordeaux Style

De Krans Tritonia 2015

Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Blend

Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2015

Trophy for Best Pinotage

Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage 2014

Trophy for Best Pinot Noir

Paul Wallace Brave Heart Pinot Noir 2015

Trophy for Best Semillon

Deetlefs Familie White 2014

Trophy for Best Niche Variety

Credo Limited Release Verdelho 2015 (Stellenbosch Vineyards)

Trophy for Best Museum Class Chenin Blanc

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2012

Trophy for Best Museum Class Chardonnay

Rustenberg Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2009

Trophy for Best Museum Class Unfortified Dessert Wine

Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur Chenin Blanc Noble Late Harvest 2009

 

I not so modestly cconclude with this from my blog written in 2015: “Last, was my Shiraz 2013’s daddy, the truly splendid, fynbos-influenced Leeuwenkuil Heritage Series Syrah 2012. I am convinced much acclaim and recognition is coming this wine’s way. I shall certainly be following its track record.”

 

 

 

DIE WARE BERTUS – HOMEGROWN

South African chef Bertus Basson is best known nationally from his television appearances as host and judge on The Ultimate Braai Master and on Brood en Botter.

As a chef he has enjoyed remarkable success with his Stellenbosch restaurant Overture, which he established in 2007. Over the past 10 years, the restaurant has regularly been awarded prestigious accolades from both the Eat Out and Rossouw’s Restaurant guides. Bertus has expanded his food interests to include his own range of condiments, and establishing more restaurants: Bertus Basson at Spice Route and Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch and the revolving restaurant, Bertus Basson at the Ritz Hotel in Sea Point, Cape Town.

 

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Chef Bertus Basson’s first published cookbook

Constantly being asked when he was going to bring out a cookbook, Homegrown is that book. If you are expecting a cookbook bulging with challenging recipes, this is not it.

If you are lucky enough to have visited Overture, you will be familiar with the traditional South African inspiration that runs through its menu.

Homegrown is a largely about the many food memories that inspire Bertus and that have made him the chef he is today.

“It is about place and the past, capturing more than just a bunch of my recipes. It is about where my food journey began and how I draw on both my own memory and the strong cultural past of an Afrikaans kid to create the food in our restaurants. I do this because I love how we cook and how we eat as South Africans is such a rich fountain of inspiration.”

In it you will find some classic Overture recipes but also recipes that have stayed with Bertus wherever he has cooked.

From the ice-creams of childhood, pilchard salad, braaid snoek with apricot glaze. There are recipes for tongue, frikkadels, recipes inspired those from his mother and his aunt and even some from people in his ‘hood’. Some recipes that stand out include those for Beer Braised Pork Belly, Charred Octopus with Gnocchi and Nasturtium Paste and Milk Tart Soufflé and much more that is lekkerly local.

Along the way one gets to learn what makes Bertus tick, food wise and Homegrown. is more fine eating than fine dining. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that!

“It surprises friends to learn that I did not like food as a kid. My mother had to work hard to get me to eat anything that wasn’t sweet. That’s why my earliest memories are of sweet things and with Homegrown starts with dessert.”

The book’s food is genuinely South African and unpretentious and in it you’ll find some original twists on many familiar dishes and the gloriously delicious images taken by photographer, Claire Gunn.

Bertus Basson Homegrown, mooi so, Bertus!