Archives for August 2014

The Mount Nelson Lunch, Saturday 29th. August 1964

menu 1964

Lunch menu R1.50

…..Fifty years ago, add a carafe of wine and it will set you back R2.00.

In 1964 lunch was served in the main dining room, this was a large room with black and white floor tiles. The room extended from the now garden room all the way to the Bay room where the conservatory in Planet Restaurant is situated. It must have been a grand affair where  guests would have been in a hat a suite & tie and lots of fur. I always picture potted palm trees and ferns propped up against the wall with visions of Monty Python restaurant skit.

In 1964 the kitchen had seen four different head chefs the last being Hans Kuhnel who stayed at the hotel for 26 years until 1990.  When Albert Helms took over as the head chef. Chef Helms was in charge of the famous Grill room first in 1989, before he took over the whole operation.


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Caesar, contentious king of salads


Anchovy or Worcestershire sauce?

Originally the salad contained no anchovies, but it did contain Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovy essence). Chefs all argue about this. Does it really matter? No, it is about personal taste. If you dislike anchovies, use a few drops of Worcestershire sauce instead. Beware of cheap anchovy-type fillets. Every chef has his own personal twist, I believe in having some pieces of the egg still visible in the dressing.
I use baby gem lettuce instead of cos lettuce, as it is more robust with lots of flavour. Cos lettuce tends to wilt very quickly. I keep the lettuce leaves whole so you can eat the salad by hand, picking the leaves up at the stem.
As for the egg, traditionally a coddled egg is only put in the water for a minute and some recipes use only the yolk. I cook it for longer so that I can use the whole egg in the dressing for more texture and flavour. I use a blend of canola and olive oil, as olive oil can be overpowering. The croutons can be deep-fried but I find this a little oily. There are variations with poached egg, whole anchovies, prawns, biltong, bacon or chicken. All that really matters is that you use good-quality fresh produce.


Serves 4

3-4 heads baby gem lettuce or cos lettuce Croutons:
4 slices white bread, crusts removed and cubed
15ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed

2 eggs
3-4 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, crushed (if you find raw garlic too strong, use roasted garlic)
Pinch of salt
10ml (2 tsp) Dijon mustard (optional)
40g parmesan cheese, grated
30ml (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice
180ml mixed olive and canola oil (half-half blend)
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash the lettuce in cold water, dry and refrigerate until required. It is important that the lettuce is crispy.
For the croutons, arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and toast under the oven grill until golden brown. Rub the inside of a stainless-steel bowl with the garlic and place the croutons in the bowl while still warm. Cover with plastic wrap, toss and set aside until needed.
For the dressing, cook the eggs in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and place in iced water. Peel when cool enough to handle.
In a large bowl, crush the anchovies with the back of a spoon until minced, add garlic and continue to mix. Add the mustard and half the parmesan, then the coddled eggs. Mix with a whisk or stick blender until well combined. Add lemon juice, then slowly add the oil mixture, whisking continuously to form an emulsion. If the dressing is too thick, add a little warm water to thin.
Toss the dressing through the lettuce with the croutons and the remaining parmesan (use top-quality cheese and add extra if desired). Grind over some black pepper and toss gently. Serve immediately.

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Finding burger heaven! (Part 4)


Layers and layers of goodness is what we wanted, this is where it becomes critical. As the patty is simple, the rest will make it superb! What sauces, what cheese, sesame or no sesame, gherkins, mayo, chutney, basting, what lettuce?

Lets start with the cheese should it be melted or not? This is something we are still working on as we have some conflict in the kitchen as to what it should be, personally it must just start to melt.  The cheese must be real cheese and it must have loads of flavour. So we have selected a Healeys cheddar, 6 months. Every now and then we have something a little younger.
Then the fresh salad stuff a burger just does not taste good without it, helps hide the guilt, tomato slices and crispy iceberg lettuce is a must. We are still toiling with the idea of adding a mayonnaise.

Then the burger basting, the recipe we use is slightly sweet, with a good sour and spice component. It is essential that the basting is used while the burger is being flame grilled. Something about smokey basting sauces on a burger.

For the chutney we use a tomato, once again with some sweet and sour spice notes. I suppose it is not essential to have both a basting and a chutney. But for us it is part of the whole experience and layers of flavours.
What about the pickles? We make our own pickled cucumber, initially we pickled the cucumber whole, but more recently we slice cucumber and lightly salt them before it goes into the vinegar solution.

Lastly caramalised fried onions, this is a must and there is no substitute. Sliced onions slowly fried until golden and caramelised.

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 3

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 2

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 1

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Big Bottle Festival walk about 30th August 2014

It is that time of the year again, The Big Bottle Show!

This year at the Taj hotel, The Big Bottle walk-about and tasting is on Saturday 30th August. Various wines from selected wine farms.
All the wines will be poured from big bottles during the Walk-About. This is great fun as guest walk from one room to the next to experience big wines and big personalities. Some of the chefs include: Rudi Liebenberg from the Mount Nelson, Gregory Czarnecki from Waterkloof Restaurant, Brad Ball from Steenberg’s Bistro 1682, Shyam Longani from the Taj and Christian Harbeck from Raith Gourmet.

Tickets for the Big Bottle Festival are available through Webtickets ( with the Walk-Around Day Pass priced at R450 (this includes food and wine), the Gourmand Dinner Evening priced at R2600 per person.



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Andante Olive oil

wereld geluk

Wereld Geluk

Andante Olive oil
Every now and then you find a real gem, in this case liquid gold. My friend Steve introduced me to Andante olive oil about five years ago. As I mentioned before, Steve always gets you to buy everything in his back yard, this includes liquid gold. Steve introduced me to Willie Duminy and his wonderful selection of olive oils from the foothills of the Winterhoek mountain range. We tend to forget that olive oil does not come from a bottle, great care needs to be given from start to finish. This is evident on Wêreldsgeluk (‘earthly joy’) – Having the right varietals and caring for them, harvesting at just the right time, just like with grapes!
Walking through the olive trees on Wêreldsgeluk on very rocky terrain one senses that it is a passion and a love for olives and doing things the right way that makes the oil so successful. Willie takes his oil very seriously, when I visited the farm a couple of years ago, he made me taste the leaves from about 7 varietals from Mission, Kalamata, frantoio, Nocellara del Belice, Leccino and Coratina. I was not allowed to taste the berries, first the leaves each more bitter than the next as I longed for an IPA.
We are fortunate in South Africa as we have some of the best olive oils in the world, this is why we keep at least 12 different olive oils in our kitchen, four of these come from Willie’s farm. Olive oil is a little like wine, each works differently on different applications. I like having a choice.
The Andante Standard Extra virgin olive oil Is a robust oil with a medium intense aroma laced with green spicy nutty and bitterness, we love using this when making A simple dressing for baby marrow and patty pan salad with toasted nuts and seeds (recipe next week) and when we make napolitana sauce with loads of garlic it works well.
Andante Intenso is a little more expensive, similar to the standard extra virgin olive oil but with a more nutty finish. We prefer this with a hanger steak with chili, garlic and fresh rocket. This is my personal favourite on my side plate with fresh sour dough.
Andante Forte not as strong as the other two and is a little more fruity, works well for dressing almost any salad. Partners well with lemon and is fantastic with fish.
Andante Delicate as the name suggests, is a lot more delicate with a beautiful spiced aftertaste I prefer using this one with a buffalo mozzarella and baby beetroot with toasted sunflower seeds
In addition to olive oils they also produce fantastic olives: a Green table olive – Nocellara del Belice and black table olives both Kalamata and Mission
The Andante olive oil and Wêreldsgeluk Olive Estate selection has achieved wonderful success over the years. Decorated with loads of awards locally as well as internationally.
Notable highlights:
SA Olive Award
Andante Delicate 2013 Gold
Andante Medium 2013 Gold
Andante Forte 2013 Gold
Andante Intenso 2013 Gold
Flos Olei
Andante oils and Wêreldsgeluk Olive Estate featured amongst the world’s premier olive producers
ABSA Top Five Awards 2013
Andante Intenso
Andante Forte
Note to self, don’t eat the leaves from the seven different olive trees without IPA in hand

andante olive oil

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Rooibos Souffle


This weeks menu highlight is a rooibos souffle, every week we change the menu slightly, adjusting and re inventing. Part of the change is to do a new souffle. I wanted a lemon souffle for the new menu, but Albert my young pastry chef in Planet would have none of it and insisted on a rooibos  souffle. It is light …it is gluten free and you allowed to have more than one.

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Home made hummus

This has become a ritual in my own kitchen, the other being cashew cheese.  What we don’t eat we put in the freezer. Making our own hummus has made everything in the shop so bland and pointless. If you have a great blender you have no excuse. Some simple things can be done before making, like soaking the chickpeas, only if you have to use tinned chickpeas we roast the garlic the day before, this is a personal preference as it gives smoother garlic taste. Remember to reserve some liquid when straining chickpeas, you will need some of  for when you make the puree. Part of the reason why we keep hummus is because we eat a lot of wraps and for us this is an essential part of making any wrap.

Yield: a lot

500g dried chickpeas
Whole house garlic roasted whole
5 -7 Tablespoons tahini paste
80ml-100ml fresh lemon juice
4 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
40 -80ml olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2  cup cooking liquid (maybe more)


Soak chick peas for 12 hours
boil 2 hours until very soft
reserve a 2 cups of cooking liquid just in case
blend all measured ingredients together to a smooth paste.

Check seasoning add fresh parsley at end

If you enjoy the taste of garlic add a little raw garlic when blending. I like the add some lemon zest for that extra lemon taste. Making hummus is very personal, you need to add and change what you enjoy.

Lamb wrap

Lamb wrap with a cucumber and yoghurt salad


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Labneh is yoghurt which has been strained in a cloth or filter to remove the whey, giving it a consistency between that of yoghurt and cheese, with yoghurt’s distinctive taste.

Makes: 375–400 g
2 cups plain buffalo milk yoghurt or full fat greek yoghurt or goays milk yoghurt
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt (optional)

crushed coriander
cumin seeds
citrus zest
pinch dried chilli
fresh herbs finely chopped
sugar (optional)

Combine the yoghurt, salt and flavouring of your choice.
Wrap in a muslin cloth and hang over night. Suspended with a wooden spoon over a pot, or leave in a strainer.

Optional to place in olive oil with thyme

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Eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Inside egg mobile

In egg mobile collecting eggs

Eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Slow cooked, poached fried, custard or as a Chef Brad from Bistro 1682 referred to one of our favourite egg dishes “green eggs and ham”, slow cooked egg dish with bacon hash, and a beautiful rich spinach and watercress sauce with Parmesan. We have had egg on the dinner menu in different formats for the last couple of years. It is the perfect ingredient! No other single ingredient has so many possible applications and uses.
So why should we settle for second best, why buy just a normal egg laid by chicken who eat GMO food that are confined to the smallest of spaces with no natural sunlight.
We sneer when we have to pay more than a rand for an egg and then complain when it is a poor quality.
But then you come across a farmer who really cares and if you are prepared to pay a little more it is worth every cent. A couple of years ago I met Farmer Angus a far cry from an accounting back-ground. He brought me a chicken and 6 eggs, his sales pitch was made easy as I had just finished reading the “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” written by Michael Pollan who traced the ingredients of four different meals. The most important in my mind was the sustainable farm In Virginia called Stearns. Normally when I get shown a new product it needs really be impressive before I will change my mind. I was completely and utterly sold! It is a journey in discovering new ingredients and suppliers, to find ethical honest suppliers takes even longer. When you find them you hold on to them.
So what is it about the eggs from Angus, one thing….they are free to walk around in the pasture as they like…

everyday you should ask “where do we get our food?”

Holding Chicken

Me Holding Chicken



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“Green eggs and ham

green eggs and ham

This weeks highlight “Green eggs and ham”
This has been part of an ongoing evolutionary process that started with just a slow cooked egg and prosciutto, then came a mushroom ragout, and some smoked brioche croutons. For a while it was deep fried crispy with prosciutto again. We served it in a broth then in a garlic veloute later this became a cauliflower and Parmesan sauce, black pudding and also foie gras. Each accomapinemnt and garnish married beautifully with the egg. A partner so many wants.
The latest is toasted brioche and thyme crumbs with a bacon and pork belly hash, finished with the greenest spinach and onion sauce

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