A Journey with Chef D
Starting this week on our new autumn menu, is an adaptation from a previous duck starter, with the addition of a beautiful pistachio, duck liver and pear parfait with confit leg, pistachio nuts, duck pancetta, charred and charred poached pears. Initially when Dion proposed the dish I thought it was going to be heavy, but it turned out that the parfait is so light, eating well with the new season poached pears that have been charred on the grill.
We often forget how nature and climate effect our decisions and our menu choices. One of our long standing suppliers make like magic Steve has been supplying us with beautiful tomatoes for years, every year as we hit the height of summer we can not wait for the tomatoes. Things were slow.
Dion investigated the current supply and effect of drought with the effect on produce grown and supplied.
In the past Steve used to supply us with the most amazing heirloom tomatoes, this was not even 3 years ago and now they struggling to grow which is sad knowing that those full flavoured tomatoes might never see our kitchen this year, so during the conversation Steve tells Dion that he has green heirlooms and that no one wants to buy them, so Dion immediately demands a delivery. “As ideas start racing through my head of the many possibilities of this insane product: chutneys, pickles, preserves and just keeping the damn product natural as it has such a complex raw flavour, so it was decided at that moment, raw would be its destiny, hence the tomato Carpaccio”
In this week’s dish Dion presented a sundried tomato crusted kingklip with a seaweed dust, poached tomatoes, tomato dressing, spekboom salsa verde with dried olives. Dion has been playing around with seaweed a lot experimenting with many combinations and variations. In this dish the kingklip was cooked a low temperature then rolled in tomato powder, this just brought it to another level, with intense tomato flavours. The tomato and seaweed combination was a surprise, both packed with umami which was well suited for the kingklip that loves to be the vessel that carries and bring together flavours.
We change the dishes up on a weekly basis depending on the fresh seafood we have to work with. A lot of the inspiration from this compilation comes from Dion’s time spent in Florida with a friend from Peru.”I will never forget the lobster ceviche she made for us during the intensely hot summers that we experienced in Fort Myers, the lobster was simply cooked with lime, olive oil, cilantro, salt and shallots rings she would place it on top of this rustic mushed avocado and ripe vine tomatoes”
We use multiple elements on the Taste of Peru that is shared at the table with some influences from across the world. On this selection we have, Marinated calamari with chorizo, basil and chili, Prawn carpaccio with crispy head salads and prawn crackers, Oyster explosion with curry oil and lime atchar salsa, Tuna tartare with seaweed puffed corn and a sea trout ceviche with fennel, radish and avocado.
Featured is a roasted quail breast, served with a saffron and chorizo Israeli couscous, tempura confit leg and crispy tapioca crackers
Vusi and Dion decided to play around with Israeli couscous, not something we find on a regular basis, but those large pearls give us endless options. In this versions they cooked it with a vegetables stock, saffron and chorizo oil. Just this alone with a spoon will do for me.
“All the flavours just made sense with quail especial after we added roasted quail carcase to the base of the couscous, the infusion of the game roasted bones just took the balance to another level, the soft textures with the crunchy elements made for a pleasant tasting dish”
Roast quail breast, poached tomatoes, pecan nut praline shards, confit leg, Gorgonzola, quince apple jam, green sorrel
Quail is a firm favourite in the kitchen and one of Chef “D” favourites to eat as he points out.
“We decided to pair the quail with tomatoes as they are entering into season and they have the most amazing natural flavours imaginable, sweet, tangy, sour, bitter, sharp, natural MSG as I say, I literally walk into the vegetable fridge and eat them like apples”
‘For this dish at the chefs table we added our favourite blue cheese from cremalat and some quince jam as an unexpected combination that actually works.
While travelling to London visiting an old friend whom Dion cooked with many years ago during his junior stages in the kitchen, she decided to take Dion to the Borough Market. “we bought tons and ate like pigs but what stood out the most was the insane prosciutto that was sliced paper thin and simply melted once it touched you tongue, we had it with burrata which was literally made in front of us and asparagus which was cooked on this open charcoal grill. Those flavours still cannot be erased from my memory and its the simplicity of having a few great products which simply speak for itself”
Dion fell in love with laksa the first time during the early stages of working with me at the Saxon Hotel as a junior CDP, we had a crocodile and prawn laksa where we skewered the crocodile with lemon grass.
Through the years Dion mastered the complexity, bringing together all the flavours. Enter Marcus a talented young chef who has an undying love for Asian flavours, having travelled to Asia as youngster on numerous occasions he always has a great understanding with the complex flavours. So when he made a laksa Dion of course got excited, “I hope you know I’m the king of laksa, so please blow my mind.” An hour or so late he did just that, blew my mind and socks off, It was at that moment that I could not leave it of the chefs table menu for that night, so we took the base and worked it into a pretty looking dish but of course giving homage and respect to the all glory full laksa.”
Charred cauliflower puree, confit liver ravioli, pickled cauliflower leaves, duck pancetta
Inspired by the beautiful free range duck we have been getting and the insane flavour we get out of curing them smoking and hanging, to transform into duck pancetta ”it cannot me compared to any duck ham I have ever tasted due to the superb quality of duck we have been receiving. It was inevitable that cauliflower would be its lifelong partner for this dish after tasting the wild flavour of the breast it needed that creamy earthy flavour that the cauliflower brings to the relationship”