We have been working for some time now developing our own little personality. Now this would not be possible if we did not have a great team in the scene, we have become more established. Dishes have developed that are a very part of our soul. These dishes are important as it is very much what we enjoy eating and sharing.
I cannot remember when last I saw a group of young chefs so inspired, creative and proud. As we progressed through the year we have established some dishes that keep on returning, some the same, some rearranged and reincarnated as something new or polished. It is not uncommon to find menu items true to our own heritage from curry to springbok, konfyt to samp and beans.
Nothing has really changed in the last year except the confidence with witch each young chef approaches the table. The pride they show. Dion has converted the team into a great tour de force.
One of these dishes that is a true reflection of our kitchen and our process, is a beautiful compilation of things we enjoy, not only from a visual point of view but rather from a process. The beauty is in the beef from Angus, a true friend from the start. With smoked marrow, homemade shiraz drenched bresaola and crispy fried biltong dusted beef tendons served with most luxurious beef oxtail croquettes. With some crispy bits of onion and celeriac puree.
It does taste like more, it is not anything new. But when you sit inside the kitchen and you look up at the big red wall with all the quotes and you read “a carrot is not just a carrot” We are reminded that the ingredient is the master.
Serves: 4 – 6 people
Preparation time: Quick
Cooking time: Quick
This is the simplest of pasta dishes and, if you like garlic, it makes it even better. As simple Aglio e Olio is, it is also easy to make a mess of it, the most important thing is the spaghetti – use only the best, pay a little more, it is worth it. This recipe I did for crush online a couple of years ago and we used a home- made linguini. For the best results, use only the best olive oil and fresh garlic.
Cheese is not a requirement and is best if kept simple. As I am not a fan of take ways, this makes up for those really lazy Sundays, Fridays and Saturdays. Some purist believe that the garlic is removed, strained from the oil before the pasta is cooked. If you are not going burn the garlic, it would not matter too much.
500 g fresh home-made linguini
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed
1/2 C (125 ml) olive oil
1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (I prefer using red pepper flakes)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 C (60 ml) chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 C (250 ml) finely grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large saucepan filled with salted water to the boil. Add the linguini and cook until al dente. Drain quickly and place in bowl (if some of the cooking liquid is retained, this will help to ensure that the dish remains moist.)
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the the garlic and cook slowly until the garlic starts to change colour, if it burns strain it off. Remove from heat and add the chilli (or red pepper flakes), salt and black pepper.
Add the parsley, pasta and cooking liquid.
Sprinkle with Parmesan over the pasta before serving.
It is essential to have a little bit of smoke on the beef patty when grilling, this is why it is essential to use a charcoal grill with open flames, the juices and fat run off onto the exposed coals causing puffs of smoke that is essential in creating a taste profile that is true. So, is it all about baste? Or can we leave it off completely? In the past we have always added a little basting. Our thinking was based on trying add an extra dimension and the rest based on nostalgia of when we were young and we frequented our favourite burger shop. What we were ultimately after was an umami burst to lift everything. What we ended up with, was a dirty grill!
We found that the basting we used, almost like a monkey gland sauce would burn almost caramelise slightly which in its own is pleasant…..but to sweet.
We have always said that we do not garnish imperfection, putting a basting on the patty is in a way hiding perfection. We need to steer clear of adding sugar, it messes with the brain. The tomato chutney is sweet, caramelised onion is sweet and so is the basting.
So just like that, it was gone. But it has still left a void. So now Sven is working on a more savoury approach juts short of emptying a bottle of soya over the burger. Perhaps the answer lies with caramelised onions.
This time of the year we do not see a lot of trout on our menu’s. I went to go investigate. Through the Huguenot Tunnel all the way to Fizantakraal, nestled beautifully between the Du Toits Kloof mountains.
With the most spectacular views next to the trout raceways we inspect the facility. What struck me at first was the amount of fish in the raceways, or rather the freedom to move around. Often I have this picture with the fish tucked in fin to fin in a race way with hardly enough water to swim. Farming fish has got some pro’s and cons. What is the ratio of feed to final weight, what feed is used? Where is the feed from. But this is for another post.
All the water used at this facility come straight out of the mountain and flow through the trout facility and then back into the stream.
So what is the deal, the trout eggs get milked or rather harvested this time of the year, a process that needs to be gentle with the trout as the eggs get massaged gently out of the fish. The fish is then returned unharmed back into the ponds. This is seasonal and happens normally May to June every year as it is farm these eggs need to be kept for the nursery and for the years production as well as for the sale of trout roe.
I was given an opportunity to harvest roe from one fish, which looks a lot easier than what it really is. Tendency is to be very gentle with the fish, this does not exactly pay off, the trout is strong and requires a very form grip without harming the fish. Holding the fish in my left hand and securing the grip against my leg, I gently message the belly with my right hand, until the roe runs freely into a bucket. It is not uncommon that one fish can yield up to 700g of roe. The roe is cured lightly after the milking process and we head home to sample our own.
So until the end of the month when all colour has returned we can put trout back on the menu.
There is also a lodge if you need to breakaway from city living nestled in the valley. Sleeps eight people with all necessary luxuries. You will need these after a day out in the cold mountains.
This is one of those dishes that are so simple as long as if you do not have to make your own pasta. The dough contains no egg with only flour, semolina and water and originates from Puglia. It is tricky process where a quick hand is required. Dough is rolled into a long cylinder then sliced with a sharp knife and at the same time ‘little ears’ are formed with the same knife being pulled across the pieces of dough to form little dome shaped pasta. Note that not all of them will look the same, the centre is softer than the thicker edges. If all this seems like too much work, dried, store-bought orrechiette will do just fine. This combination is always going to work, pasta, broccoli, bacon and Parmesan. Some recipes use peas, sausage in its origins rapini was used which is a lot more bitter.
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
150 g bacon, diced
1 small chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
200 g broccoli florets, blanched
¼ C (60 ml) white wine
¼ tsp (1.25 ml) lemon zest (optional)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped parsley
1 tsp (5 ml) black pepper
400 g orrechiette, cooked
approximately 100 ml reserved liquid from cooking the pasta
finely grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Sauté the bacon in a sauté pan until cooked and slightly browned. Add the chilli and garlic.
Add the broccoli florets and deglaze with white wine (it’s OK if the broccoli is slightly overcooked, as this will result in small pieces breaking off and sticking to the pasta). Add the lemon zest (if using).
As soon as the orrechiette is cooked, strain (retain the cooking liquid and set aside) and add to the bacon and broccoli mix.
Move the ingredients continuously in the pan, making sure that the mixture does not stick to the pan. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to loosen. Add the parsley and the crushed black pepper.
Adjust the seasoning and finish with parmesan before serving.
The 14th & 15th saw the final two days in the Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge
The young chefs nervous and ready all started at 7:00. Nicholas never gets rattled, Tuesday morning we could see the nerves start showing as everyone started unpacking their ingredients at the kitchens at The International Hotel School. It was too late to back of now. Cooking in a strange new kitchen is not funny, nothing is familiar, fridges seem warm, gas is slow. With everyone watching, it is like being in a gold fish bowl, with everyone poking at the bowl.
By 12:00 all seven contestants presented their first six offerings, by now you could feel the excessive tension, no one was smiling, no one was laughing. In a competition like this judges generally take their time. It is exactly like cooking in a normal restaurant kitchen. All the youngsters forget this, we anticipate the curve ball every customer gives us. Yet at the competition they all seem to forget. The mains get picked up much later. By this time if your timing was out, disappointment was showing adding to the already charged environment.
Nicholas presented a great compilation that was a nice balanced meal any punter would have payed good money for, with smoked seabass starter, roulade of pork fillet and a beautiful and refreshing lemon and granadilla dessert.
Now in it’s fourth year all the results is compared from all the cook off’s. But we still have to wait for
All the work has been done, all the 21 judging sheets complete, all we can do is wait for the glamourous evening at the end of July. This year it will be held at the Belmond Mont Nelson Hotel
We will be holding thumbs for – Nicholas Loubser and for Edward Mtonga
Lastly we are rooting for the best bread section, as this title needs to stay at home.
The basic recipe
INGREDIENTS 5kg pork belly
100g black peppercorns whole
40g Juniper berries
100g garlic whole
30 bay leaves
20g thyme fresh
30g sage fresh
1kg salt coarse
1kg sugar granulated white
Toast peppercorns and juniper berries
Combine the toasted peppercorns and juniper berries with the herbs and garlic.
Pulse in a blender until coarse and combine with the salt and sugar.
Rub the cure mixture all over the pork belly.
Place in a tray and cover with a cheese cloth.
Allow to cure for 10 days. Gently remove the cure do not wash just rub off.
Damp the belly with a kitchen towel until relatively dry.
Place on a wire rack and allow to sit in the fridge for 24hrs until it dries out completely.
Portion the belly into 2 smaller pieces, tightly wrap the belly individually in cheese cloth.
Truss with butchers string. Hang for 6-8 weeks
I will be patient and experiment until we get this right. So after the last episode in making meatballs and using MSG. The words of my good friend Russel continuous to haunt me, “a true burger can only be judged if it has a bun(no sesame), well made patty, some lettuce and tomato with pickles served on the side” You see he is a bit of a purist when it comes to burgers. I understand his point, but for me there is more. Pickle and chutney needs form part of the layers of goodness. In my own personal case some chili will not hurt. It is also important to note that making it to complicated does mean that more variables are at stake.
In the next experiment we have broken down from the Beast from Ernest Hemmingway, as India Relish was used we experimented with a couple of different recipes found. Some had thickening agents others relied on the onion and tomato to aid with the thickening. All of the recipes that were made tasted similar, we enjoyed the spice elements, cinnamon, clove and mustard.
We made a burger replacing the tomato chutney and cucumber pickle with a combo recipe making our own India Relish. It tasted great on its own, but how would it taste on the Burger?
We cook the burger to perfection an omit the pickles as well as the chutney. With the first bite, some similarities….it does not taste that different from our own burger. As the Relish contains cucumber and tomato, sugar and vinegar, it was almost the same. On the second bite perhaps the vinegar taste is slightly over powering. But it is still damn good.
Sven will now start working a recipe based on the India Relish, using tomato, peppers, cucumber with the addition of brinjal.
Note to self: go hungry until after burger is tastings.