Banana Skin and Peanut Curry

During the initial lockdown in 2020 I played around with a lot of wasted food items, from carrot tops to leek tops, onion skins and swiss chard stalks. I wanted to test as many options as possible, establish limits and how long it takes to breakdown when cooked to an acceptable product. Not everything was successful, I failed many times making vegetarian burgers using scraps as in my mind it made sense making it into a patty where it would be easy to hide an unwanted item.  One of the more successful experiments was using banana skin, I made banana skin bacon, savoury banana skin mince, savoury fried balls and even smoked pulled banana skin. It must be said that this is not going to impress everyone as banana has a very strong flavour and so doe its skin.

Banana skin curry is not a new recipe and many versions are available. I found that if the curry was left for a day to infuse it developed nicely soaking up all the flavours and spices. We collect the skins at home in the freezer for later use.

Spicy with a hint of sour sweetness, change it up by using chickpeas instead of the peanuts
I have added a spoonful of peanut butter before and that makes it even more nutty.

banana skin

Banana Skin & Peanut Curry

Prep Time: 30min

Cooking Time: 60min
Serving: 4
4 banana skins cut into small pieces about 1cm x 1cm
½ – 1 cup peanut
¼ cup red lentils
20 ml coconut oil
1-2 Tomatoes grated
2 tsp Curry powder
¼ tsp Cumin seeds
¼ tsp Coriander seeds
¼ tsp Mustard seeds
¼ tsp Fenugreek (optional)
2 ea cardamom pods (optional)
4 ea green chili sliced
3 small red chilies
1-2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp chopped or grated ginger
10 – 12 curry leaves
1 tbsp chopped mint and coriander
juice from one lemon or 25ml tamarind
1 tsp grated palm sugar or brown sugar
130ml coconut milk
water as needed

1. Toast all the dry seeds and spices
2. Add coconut oil
3. Add onion and sauté until soft
4. Add peanuts and lentils
5. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes
6. Add curry powder cook for about a minute
7. Add grated tomato
8. Add coconut milk and cook until lentils are tender
9. Add water as need
10. Add banana skins a cook for 30 – 40 minutes, if it cooks dry add some more water
11. Add curry leaves and mint adjust seasoning
12. Serve with steamed rice/roti and favourite sambal

I prefer cooking a lot of the moisture away making the curry slightly dryer


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Chả Cá Lã Vọng with Jacopever

Chả Cá

Chả Cá Lã Vọng at home

If I can not travel, my mind will, memories of Vietnamese food is driving me mad. I will happily travel to Vietnam just to have dinner at a homestay to have a portion of cơm lam (rice steamed in bamboo over a fire).
Somethings are just so damn good that it makes it easy to return time and time again. A number of years ago before going to Hanoi for the first time I had done a lot of research of where and what to eat, and at the top of my list with Pho, Bánh mì, Bun bo nam bo, Banh cuon, Bún chả bunca was Chả Cá.

The food in Vietnam is pretty healthy with so much herbs, loads of greens with the focus on freshness, balance of sweet, sour and salt.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng

Chả Cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi cooked table side

In the old quarter many restaurants specialise in one dish, I love this about eateries in Hanoi, they do not have restaurants with long menus, instead they focus on one, and do that dish very well, in the old quarter many restaurants specialise in cooking the tumeric spiced fish at your table, admittedly sometimes it does feel a little touristy, so finding the right spot is important.
We make this at home often, especially on those hot summer nights this is a very light refreshing dinner option. I often place the marinated fish like Jacopever in the weber on a used oak wine barrel plank and roast. It gives it a little smokiness which works so well with the combination of turmeric, ginger, garlic, dill, spring onion, peanut and fish sauce. Traditionally made with snakehead or catfish, any firm white fleshed fish will work.

Chả Cá Marinating

Chả Cá Marinating

Served with cold rice vermicelli noodles, handfuls of dill and spring onion with roasted peanuts with vietnamese mint, coriander and for me the part that brings it together – nuoc cham (combination of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and red chili). If you want to be more traditional make a shrimp paste sauce – Mam Ruoc Cham.
So weather you call it Chả Cá Thăng Long, Chả Cá Lã Vọng, Chả Cá Hà Nội, or just Chả Cá do not wait for your next trip, make it at home and pretend you hear the noise of a thousand scooters outside

Prep Time:40 min
Cooking Time:20 min
600g Jacopever fillets
Oil for cooking
Fish Marinade
2 tbsp Oil
2 tsp Sugar White
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
¼ Onion Red Chopped Very Fine
2 tsp Turmeric Ground
1 tbsp Ginger Fresh & Grated Fine
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Bunch Of Dill
10 Spring Onions, Cut 2 cm Lengths With the White Parts Sliced in Half Again in Length.
½ Cup Roasted Peanuts, Whole or Chopped

Garnish Sides
Extra Peanuts toasted as needed
300 g Rice Vermicelli dried
Handful of Mint Roughly Torn
Handful of Vietnamese Mint Roughly Torn
Bunch of Coriander Roughly Chopped or Picked
Red Chilies Red Chopped
250ml Nuoc Cham
1 ea Lime cut into Wedges

Nuoc Cham Sauce
4 tbsp Water
2 tbsp Sugar White
4 tbsp Lime Juice Fresh
2 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 Clove Garlic Minced
2 ea Birds eye Chili finely sliced
1. Combine all ingredients for fish marinade and add cut Jacopever chunks, leave for +/- 45 min.
2. Make the nuoc cham dressing by combining sugar with lime juice add the fish sauce, chili, garlic and water. It must be sour, sweet and salty.
3. Cut spring into 2.5 cm long pieces with white of spring onion split in length in half.
4. Place rice vermicelli noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or according to cooking instructions. Cool and place one side.
5. Heat pan and add oil, add the fish and cook until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pan. Repeat the second and third batch. Best part is the golden crispy bits.
6. Cook Spring and dill with leftover marinade from fish until wilted. Add fish on top.
7. To serve, place cold rice vermicelli in bowl, add fish with dill, add fresh greens with peanuts and top with nuoc cham dressing.

Try the dill and the spring onion in the weber

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You Make A Difference!

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He takes everything in his stride, as the saying goes “if you want something done, ask a busy person” this is the chef that controls our kitchen and maintains the rhythm.

This month we celebrate our hotel’s Senior Chef de Partie in the kitchen: Cebisa “Shakes” Manyela (45) winner of the coveted title: You Make A Difference.

Shakes started working in the kitchens of the Mount Nelson in April 2011 and over the past ten years he has worked his way up to the position of Senior Chef de Partie. Last year, after a significant staff restructuring due to the Covid pandemic, Shakes was faced with one of his career’s biggest challenges: with a reduced staff compliment, he had the opportunity to rewrite the way we had done things, this would not be possible if he was not super organized
Shakes takes charge of market list and orders ensuring everyone gets butcher orders, cold sauces and any hot production item needed for the day.

It is a formidable task, but then Nelson Mandela’s quote came to his mind: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”, and so he took it on, and magnificently.

We have worked together for a long time and he knows exactly how everything fits together. Shakes has been the rock on which we rely daily, he is the backbone of the kitchen. This month he excelled even further, as we asked more and more of him. Shakes will make sure everyone has whatever they need to make each kitchen function on time, consistently and accurately. He will not go home until every task is complete. But then we do not expect anything less from such a great gentleman who is an example to everyone wearing a white jacket.”

Congratulations Shakes, the team at The Nellie are proud of you.

image courtesy of Devon Labuschagne


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Finding Burger Part 18, Mushrooms!

Mushroom Burger

Mushroom Burger

I never thought I would admit it, but lately we have been selling more mushroom burgers than beef burgers, I would like to take credit but it most likely it has a lot more to do with people wanting healthier options and many are looking at plant based diets and it is here to stay. We thought we would make 15 every two weeks, now we are making 15 every 4 days. Admittedly it is slightly cheaper on the menu, but only marginally.
Before lockdown we had started developing a vegetarian burger that was doing well but needed some further development, in the end we then outsourced the burger due to some consistency issues. During lockdown I spent weeks making batch after batch of vegetarian burgers until we settled on a mushroom and black bean burger that worked and was the right texture that was not dry, that was not made up of only beans and had the right amount of softness and moisture.
The challenge is always making sure everything binds well without adding loads of flour or bread. We managed to make the mushroom burger gluten free which ended up a being a bonus.
The biggest issue was that we did not want a vegetarian burger that reminded us of meat, but rather celebrate the vegetable.
We use a sunflower dressing and hummus in the final assembly and use cider glazed onion and a sweet and sour basting sauce. What we did find is that many guests still ask for a mature cheddar instead of the vegan cheese.

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Warm Pickled Fish with Jacopever

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Easter and pickled fish always bring back old memories as a trainee working buckets and buckets of pickled fish. Previously I had shared a pickled fish recipe . The recipe is simple, coating the fish in flour then egg wash and straight into the deep fryer. Then into sweet and sour slightly spicy pickling sauce. I had received some Jacopever and was experimenting a couple of dishes from ceviche to whole roasted Jacopever served on tacos, these recipes will be published later. But I simply had to eat a favourite and the pickled fish still had to be warm on a warm toasted bun with lettuce and tomato. Warm and comforting.

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Wasted lockdown

For thirty years I learnt how to read lips from across the kitchen, it is a necessity. Try communicating with a mask in a busy kitchen in between banging pots, humming extractor, ticking docket machine and the manager mumbling something about a last order at 20:30.

December 2020 felt like an eternity, we were cooking food for the first time since March 2020. It was like opening a new hotel. But this was a new world, a world where we had no prior experience, literature or books to reference. We had no idea how to plan our next steps, fear and uncertainty was everywhere. No patterns or trends to reference.
We had visions to reboot and reinvent, as this was the first time we had a perfectly good opportunity to do so, but one cannot help feeling guilty using this pandemic as the force behind the change and at what expense. Many hotels will not reopen and the others are looking at the end of this year. Leaving many people without a source of income.

As it is the hospitality industry has been on crutches for many years, pretending that it was OK.
With many restaurants, catering facilities, canteens and hotels already closed one can only hope that the remainder can hang in and open even stronger.
Most likely for every restaurant that has closed a potential new restaurant will open, competitive competition will continue with paying excessive rent and neglecting the well-being of staff, the system must change. Something has to give and it is not going to be the paper thin margins.

During the initial lockdown at the start of people in the culinary world, from caterers, restaurants, hotels, industrial and canteens all had to reinvented themselves in order to survive, from making sauces to cakes, elaborate and simple home cooked meals, the public could and are still enjoying fantastic selection of takeaways from home cooked chef meals for curbside collections.
Most do not have a second skill set to rely on, so we do what we can do best, cook or serve. It has become clear that a second skill will become a requirement in order to survive, this is only the start.

What we can agree on is the fact that people have lost jobs and families are in need of immediate support.
Late in March a call for help went out from chefs who immediately identified an urgent need to feed marginalized families affected by the virus. This is still ongoing with selfless farmers donating supplies and selfless chefs contributing to feeding people every day. It is not like they have businesses that need to survive or have anything else to do, these people continue to fight long queues of hunger.

A number of years ago we started a journey at the hotel, we had a vision and I was hell-bent in achieving our vision, working less, having quality time, accountability, transparency, ownership became our buzz words. Our careers and focus became more about the people and relationships than serving a pretty plate of food, we were so close. Then the ship went into lockdown.
As leave was the only option, it was the first time in my career that I had more time to reflect than my mandatory holiday reflection.
The uncertainty of where to next when we went into the first lockdown is nothing to what followed, the continuous nauseating roller coaster ride has become unbearable to watch and I still have a job.

The hospitality industry keeps on fighting an unfair one sided battle as chairs remain empty. The ripple effect is real as it is not just the restaurants and the people in it who suffer. Farmers, wine producers, bottle producers, pot washer, tour guides, hawkers, brewers, butcher, taxi drivers, printers, designers, content creators, fishing communities, delivery drivers, parking guard, waste collectors, they all suffer and so will their families and the suppliers they support, this is a second pandemic that we will be facing, and it is coming very fast.

Travel demands will fall, flights will decrease, tourists will disappear, the industry will have to change as we need tourists to survive and grow. We continue to see bookings move to later dates, putting occupancies in single digits, this has an unsettling effect on all our futures.
Nothing prepared us for the hurt in saying goodbye to friends, we shared ideas, visions, struggles, sweat and tears. We lost three quarters of our kitchen family, it was a devastating year! Dreams and visions were shattered. There simply was no alternative, many have moved on and reinvented themselves.

Selfishly I used the initial lockdown as an opportunity to reflect on my own needs, to reinvent myself and look at what makes me happy, what is my passion, did I have any passion left. I could not just go into a depression after all I still had my job, even if I felt a certain amount of guilt.
Pencil, acrylic, charcoal, paper and canvas became good companions and allowed me to focus a little, but it was getting back into the kitchen even if it was at home experimenting making cheese, tofu and fermenting everything that made me happy and somewhat content.

As operations opened up and we looked forward to a bright future, albeit a different one to what we imagined, nothing could have prepared us further for the stench as the roller coaster ride did not want to end. Everyone was just patching together their lives and their businesses and some light was visible, rules were implemented with no thought of consequences past sandy beaches.
It was supposed to be a joyful festive celebration as we were supposed to see the tail end of a virus. We should have known better as the virus keeps bouncing around causing havoc. Continued travel restrictions keep on putting doubt in the future of the industry. Another announcement and more legends relook at the landscape and the future, pockets are only so deep, then you are left with no choice but to cut the apron strings.

Some still have their strings attached, but for how long before they too must face the reality of financial ruin as they leave behind empty seats, empty spaces and empty dreams.
We have lost so many professionals in our industry, we just hope they have the strength to return and continue to provide great food and service.
There are many establishments who followed the rules during lockdown and even more who choose to rather remain closed as it was simply not viable. There are many establishments out of desperation who continued to trade even if it meant breaking the law, serving alcohol and not enforcing protocols from social distancing, wearing masks to maximizing capacity. It is a paper thin line to cross.

We want to continue our journey, we want to support our small suppliers, we want to invest in our employees, and we would like to remain optimistic about the world of hospitality and travel.

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Gourmet Guide 2020 – Haute Property Award


At the time we had not operated for long enough under the Lord Nelson name to receive a plate award. But we have managed to make some noise and got noticed. We received this beautiful Haute Property Award based on potential. People come to celebrate a true sense of occasion with table side service and a reawakening of some classics. Congratulations to a wonderful team.

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Fedhasa Cape Sustainable Restaurant Cook-off Champion 2019

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) recently challenged members to a cook off in partnership with WWF-SASSI in a mystery box cook-off that was held at Cape Town Hotel School in Granger Bay.

We have championed sustainable fish choices for years, it has been a challenge we have had with ourselves, at one point I asked SASSI to remove me form their trailblazer list, as we could not follow the list 100%. We made mistakes, not often, but we felt guilty. After discussions with SASSI our minds were put to rest, as it is not following the list 100%, but rather working at making better choices over all, educating others in making better choices. We are still saddened when we see all the crayfish leave or shores to foreign destinations, tourism suffers from this.

In our kitchen we have adopted the same traffic light system used by SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) instead of following the guidelines by SASSI our policy and guidelines provide guidance in terms of how much green, orange or red listed species we are allowed to buy in a calendar year. It also gives us guidance in how much fish may be imported. We have included the importance of buying only MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) approved suppliers if we buy from abroad.

Within our guidelines we have given ourselves room for mistakes, as species are sometimes mistakenly labelled, we have also in the past used fish when we have had no other choices from the red list, but we have within our policy allowed for less than one percent of our yearly purchases for this.

The objective for the cook off that was to create awareness around sustainable food choices and to cook creatively with using basic ingredients supplied. Chefs are the driving force in making the decision on what is placed on menus, these choices ultimately influence consumers. If consumers are informed, then chefs will make better choices.
With this cook off each captain was given a team of chefs they have never worked with before and a challenging selection of fish to work with, frozen hake, frozen half shell mussels, frozen calamari rings, frozen sliced smoked salmon. Initially we were thrown by the frozen selection, but then the thought downed on me, what if this is the only choices we have in the future…
With only 45min we were given the task of coming up with a great dish showcasing our talents but also highlighting sustainable choices.
As we did not know each other, you do not know the strengths of the members, we were lucky as our team quickly established duties and tasks, we clicked and we could decide on a basic menu and strategy.
As the items were previously frozen we had to come up with a dish that would mask the frozen fish.
For the hake we made a flavoured brine with fennel, pepper corns and ginger. The hake was left to brine for 10 minutes before dusting the skin in flour and sesame and pan frying in butter with garlic, ginger and chili.
The mussels were removed from the shells and added to a curry sauce with calamari and offcuts of hake. The smoked salmon was mixed with spinach, cream cheese and put into a tortellini and tossed in butter to finish.TEAM SASSI FEDHASASASSI FEDHASA COOK OFF

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WASTED 9 – Smoked Trout Cheese Cake


I have previously touched on the waste of fish as well as trout. This is an extension of some further investigation with a lot of trials. We have some beautiful farmed seatrout from the west coast, as we have a fair amount of flesh left after filleting. We started looking at different options, previously we used the meat we scraped of the bones for a tartare.

We have smoked the fish of cuts before but needed an idea where the fish could be used not in small amounts, but all of it. We needed an application where the demand would be greater than the waste produced. In this recipe we cured the fish on the bone then smoked it on the bone, removing the meat after it has cooled. 

At the same time we were working different ideas for afternoon tea, we were looking at adding a second fish item to the savoury selection. As the marriage between cream cheese and smoked salmon works well, the idea for a savoury cheeses cake started. Not something new as there are many recipes using the prime cut of hot smoked salmon or cold smoked salmon. The application of using off cuts off hot smoked trout pieces made a lot of sense, nice looking pieces are not required as it would be flaked into the mix before baking.

Hot smoked trout and dill cheesecake was introduced onto the savoury tea selection!

In the picture we I also looked at the possibility for a starter in the future with fennel, capers and dune spinach.


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The Golden Vine Award at De Wetshof and the Celebration of Chardonnay, 9 November 2018.

Every second year we look forward to a day of chardonnay, it is not an ordinary day because everything else gets cancelled to ensure attendance, and only a hand full of people get invited from the food and wine industry.

The day is filled with celebration, and for good reason, chardonnay of course.

Two years ago I had one of the best tasting experiences ever, as the part of that day older vintages were celebrated. With a 1997 Thelema Chardonnay and a 1993 De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay, these did not only stand out, they were notable because these wines aged beautifully and tasted far beyond my expectation. These wines still showed freshness and complexity.

I could not wait to return.


Tanya Liebenberg, Danie De Wet, Louise Jardine, Wine Fairy, Rudi Liebenberg and George Jardine

This year was no different as the panel of wine makers each shared stories about the vine, the soil and chardonnay. We tasted fantastic chardonnays with the panel going through four flights for breakfast. With stories of the Judgement of Paris from key note speaker Steven Spurrier, this was a highlight, the man is a legend. We then continued with the remaining 28 chardonnay choices for lunch. The problem is that one never gets to taste all.

This year was made even more special as I was the recipient of the 2018 Golden Vine Award, an honour bestowed on a leading South African chef during the De Wetshof Celebration of Chardonnay. Awarded to a chef for his or her contribution to the country’s cuisine in the food and wine legacy.

I am humbled by this award and being associated with the De Wetshof family as well as the celebration of chardonnay with good food.

Johann De Wet with Rudi Liebenberg

Johann De Wet with Rudi Liebenberg

“Since the advent of the Celebration of Chardonnay 14 years ago, the Golden Vine Award has become known as one of the industry’s leading honours. To have it bestowed on at one of the country’s leading wine events is a highlight in my career.”

Previous recipients of the Golden Vine include Garth Stroebel, Luke Dale-Roberts, Peter Veldsman and Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.


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