Review: The Germanicum Arminius by Sternsteiger

15 Apr

A year ago, I reviewed the Achilles chef’s knife by Sternsteiger of Solingen, Germany. I’ve been using the knife almost daily, and it is still one of the top performing knives in my kitchen. Now meet the brand new addition to Sternsteiger’s stable: the Germanicum Arminius, a new generation Damascus chef’s knife.

If you are unfamiliar with Damascus steel: it is named after the forged steel comprising the blades of swords smithed in the Near East from ingots of wootz steel imported from India and Sri Lanka (3rd – 17th century). These swords were characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water, and were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge. It appears that the original method of making Damascus steel blades had been lost over time (ceased around 1750), but has regained popularity in recent modern knife making with new techniques.

The steel is named after Damascus, the capital city of Syria and one of the largest cities in the ancient Levant. The Germanicum Arminius knife was named after a famous German warrior of the mid century. The knife has 440 layers of steel (15N20 and 1084). A special coating is applied to the knife to keep it sharp and more rigid. Designed by the award winning knife designer UBUTT DESIGN GERMANY, the Germanicum has a Spanish walnut wood handle and a HRC hardness of 58-59.

The knife is lighter than most of my other chef’s knives (188 g, compared to around 220 g), which makes it unintimidating and easy to handle. The round wooden handle feels warm and comfortable.
As this knife is not made of stainless steel, it must be hand washed only, dried and oiled after each usage. This is a spectacular, hand forged steel & natural wood item made with the utmost precision and skill, and it deserves special care.
This is a stunning addition to my kitchen knife range and I cannot wait to spend more time with this knife. Purchase your Germanicum Arminius chef’s knife here (via Kickstarter), for the price of €92. Paring knife and bread knife also available. Have a look at Sternsteiger’s video for more info:

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Plum tarte tatin

5 Apr

Simple, seasonal plum tarte tatin with creme fraiche.

 

Last week we had a “sibling dinner” at my sister’s place. I am the second oldest of 4 siblings, my sister being a year older and two brothers younger than me (4 years and 6 years younger). Between the four of us, we have 3 kids. Each of us has a partner too. So that makes for a loud, lovely bunch together!

My sister and her husband cooked homemade gnocchi with flame grilled steak and mushroom sauce for dinner – just incredible. We’re all huge food lovers and we all love cooking, so no effort is spared. For dessert, my sister asked to help her put a quick tarte tatin together, using some of the last plums of the season left on the trees across the road. I haven’t made a tarte tatin for years, because in June 2015 I had a dangerous mishap in the kitchen while demonstrating a party-size tarte tatin to a crowd: I flipped the bubbling hot caramel pan over using a plate that didn’t quite fit the pan, and the hot caramel landed all over my chest. Needless to say, I still bare the scars.

It was a reminder that one should always take time and care while cooking, never to rush things when you’re tired or overworked, and pausing to rethink situations that might be potentially dangerous. Yet, making this simple tarte tatin with my sister again, reminded me of how four simple ingredients can be turned into the most delicious dessert imaginable – so simple, so elegant, so celebratory of the season.

Isn’t that what life is about? Pausing, learning, overcoming fears, being present, enjoying life’s simple pleasures. I went home with a bag of freshly picked plums and cooked another plum tarte tatin a day later, wrapping the hot pan and plate in an old towel before carefully flipping it over. A little spillage (not on my skin this time), but so much delight! I’ll be making this tart again and again this year.

A slice of plum tarte tatin with creme fraiche. Linens from Design Team / Peppertree Bags: Runner – Succulent, charcoal on parchment. Napkin: Stilo – sage on parchment.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

  • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
  • 90 g butter
  • roughly 800 g ripe yet firm plums, halved, pits removed
  • 500 g frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • creme fraiche of vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. Using a 23-28 cm wide x 5cm deep round pan that is oven-safe (choose a suitably sized turning-out-plate for your pan before you go ahead with the cooking – test it to see if it fits, and set it aside for later), melt the butter slowly and add the sugar. Bring to a slow boil, then quickly arrange the plum halves tightly in the pan, cut sides down.
  2. Turn the heat up, and boil until the sugar and butter for about 5 minutes to form a golden caramel, carefully shaking the pan now and then. Watch it closely and remove from heat to prevent it from boiling over. Remove from heat to cool completely in the pan – about 30 minutes is fine, but can be left longer.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 200 C. Roll out puff pastry and cut into a circle that is slightly larger than the pan (cut and paste your sheet of rectangular pastry to first form a square, if necessary). Cover the plums with the pastry, tucking in the edges so that the fruit is contained. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits for the steam to escape, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
  4. Remove from oven, then place a serving dish on top of the pan and carefully turn upside down (work quickly, but be very careful!). Remove the pan. If any fruit has moved out of place, now is the time to carefully put them back in place if necessary.
  5. Slice and serve warm, with or without cream / creme fraiche / ice cream.

Tip: Only use a tin or a pan that is completely made from metal/iron – plastic handles will melt in the oven. Always remember to use a heat-proof cloth to handle the hot pan.

The simplicity of this dish is the key to its success.

Crispy pastry soaked with fruity caramel syrup, against soft, sweet and tart fruit.

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Crispy roasted pork belly with orange, ginger & soy

1 Apr

This is an updated version of a hit recipe that I posted quite a few years ago (a slow braised pork belly in a fragrant broth of soy sauce, ginger, orange, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom etc.). I’ve made that recipe countless times and the flavours are truly fantastic. It works especially well if you choose a belly that’s not too fatty. BUT, if you do love a slightly more fatty belly, this updated version with a crispy top layer of crackling ticks all of the texture boxes, yet still has all of those lovely intense Asian flavours in the juicy braised lower half. Simply put: it’s the best of both worlds.

I serve this belly sliced on a bed of silky cauliflower puree (or buttery mashed potatoes) with some flash fried greens (like baby spinach) and a generous drizzle of the dark, salty and sweet pan sauces. It’s crunchy, juicy, silky and soft – a fantastic dish for entertaining.

The striking linen with local fynbos/protea vector drawings (table runner: garden bloom, ocean on lime & napkins: small line protea, parchment on charcoal) are from Design Team Fabrics.

 

Top 3 tips for a really crunchy layer of crackling:

  1. Pat the skin side of the belly dry with kitchen paper, then leave the belly uncovered in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to dry out.*
  2. Score the belly with an NT cutter (it’s quite a heavy job, so ask your butcher to score it for you if you’re not sure about it) and salt it generously with salt flakes before roasting. Oil is not necessary, but you can brush it with a thin layer if you want to.
  3. Always start on high heat (230 C) for about 30 minutes on a rack in the top half of the oven to crisp/puff up the crackling layer, then turn down the heat to cook the belly until it is tender. See more directions below for cooking.

Ingredients: (serves 4 generously)

  • 2kg boneless pork belly
  • oil, for brushing the roasting tray
  • 15 ml salt flakes
  • for the sauce:
    • 125 ml soy sauce
    • juice & 3 strips peeled rind of 1 large orange
    • 45 ml soft brown sugar (like demerara/muscavado)
    • 1 cup mutton/chicken stock
    • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) finely grated ginger
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 2 whole star anise
    • 6 cardamom pods

Method: (*see tips for preparing crispy crackling above)

  1. Preheat the oven to 230 C.
  2. Brush a medium size roasting tin (just bigger than the belly roast) with oil and place the belly inside, skin side up. Salt the skin side generously. Roast the belly uncovered in the top half of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the skin side has puffed up and is golden brown (not too dark, as it still needs to spend a few hours in the oven.)
  3. While the skin side is roasting, prepare the sauce: mix all the ingredients for the sauce together in a jug and set aside.
  4. When the skin side of the belly is puffed up and golden, remove it from the oven and turn the temperature down to 160 C. The belly would have shrunken a bit from the sides, but would have thickened in height, because of the heat. Pour the sauce all around the belly, taking care not to cover the crispy skin (if the sauce is too much, leave some for topping up the roasting dish later – it will evaporate quite a bit). Return the dish to the oven and continue to roast at 160 C for another 3 hours until the belly is very tender.
  5. Remove the belly from the oven and leave to stand for about 10 minutes. Transfer the belly carefully to a cutting board and slice into portions with a sharp long-bladed serrated knife. Pour the pan juices into a small sauce jug.
  6. Serve the belly with mashed potatoes or cauliflower puree, crisp pan-fried / steamed greens and a drizzle of pan sauce.

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Dinner at VADAS, Spier

21 Mar

The glass paneled area at VADAS, where we were seated for dinner.

 

November 2018 marked the opening of VADAS Smokehouse & Bakery at Spier outside Stellenbosch. This eatery replaced its predecessor, a local branch of The Hoghouse – a much loved destination of my family and circle of friends. We were happy to learn that PJ Vadas, previous head chef at The Hoghouse at Spier, was also the new chef/ower of VADAS Smokehouse & Bakery. This hopefully meant that the greatness of the place as a whole would be continued at some level!

Little did we know just how great it would be.

We were recently invited to experience dinner at VADAS, where I had the opportunity to order a good selection of items from their informal tick-box menu. Although we’ve been to VADAS quite a few times since it’s opening, this dinner was the best experience yet. The team has settled into a groove with very good service too. So what can you expect? In PJ’s words: “VADAS Smokehouse & Bakery is run by a group of long-time friends and colleagues with a shared passion for food and great service. The vision for the new restaurant is to create a place where families and friends can join together and eat food that is carefully, ethically and healthily sourced and prepared. VADAS believes in supporting local, quality-driven businesses and practices farm-to-plate dining where simple dishes embrace and showcase the quality of produce.”

In food terms, it is lip-smackingly tasty food, prepared simply but with the utmost attention to detail and a fine know-how that will show off their skills and unique smokehouse offerings to the next level.

Chef PJ Vadas has a colourful and decorated background in high end fine dining kitchens around the world, including holding the reigns at local jewels like The Roundhouse (has since reopened at Salsify at The Roundhouse) in Camps Bay and Camphors at Vergelegen a few years ago. He has now settled in as the rightful king of relaxed, authentic smokehouse dining the the Cape Winelands.

Take a look at my pictures below, with comments. We visited on a gloomy (cool, overcast and windy) evening and were seated at a cosy table in their glass paneled indoor area with open air vents at the top, making you feel like you’re still in nature. During the colder months, this will most probably where you’ll be seated as opposed to the outdoor seating next to the lawn – which is great during the warmer months, especially for families with young kids.

This area at VADAS is perfect for cooler weather, but it can also be opened up completely during warmer months. You are surrounded by massive oak trees, cobbled walkways, trimmed hedges and beautiful lawns.

The seating area next to the service station indoors.

At the front: Smoked pork belly with apple ketchup (100g portion).

Clockwise from the top: Smoked brisket and BBQ sauce, pickles, special of the day (meaty croquettes with cheese and ham, served with a herby green dipping sauce), Fried chicken with garlic aioli.

Closeup of the beef brisket (100g). Super smokey and really tender.

Beets with feta, grapes, pistachio dukkha and pickled fennel flowers.

Sourdough bread and butter with hummus.

Smoked harissa chicken wings with pomegranate and yoghurt dressing.

Pork fat fried chips and truffle aioli (at the back), Fire roasted broccoli, mustard cider vinaigrette and macadamia & smoked cheddar. The broccoli is my favourite item on the menu. It is HUGE, and it is so incredibly satisfying.

A closeup of the broccoli (see full description above) with the reveal of the hidden treasures underneath the cheese. A sublime vegetarian dish.

The must-have chocolate gelato. Don’t miss it.

View from the outside of the glass paneled area where we were seated. This is situated on the opposite side from the front lawn, where kids usually roam free on a beautiful summers day.

Gloomy outside, cosy inside. VADAS is a great place for lunch and dinner, any time of the year.

 

VADAS is one of my favourite eateries in the Stellenbosch region, simply because the food is that good. They’re consistent too. It’s a destination type of place, so plan to spend a few hours there and don’t be rushed. The Moro gelato is a múst – probably the best chocolate ice cream in the Winelands. At R50 per scoop it might seem pricey, but it is made the original Italian way, incredibly silky in texture, and enough for one person. I never leave without having some.

PS: Also, take some freshly baked bread and pastries home after dinner – they make the BEST pasteis de nata you’ll ever have outside of Portugal.

VADAS Kitchen operation hours:

Monday – Saturday: 12h00 – 15h00 & 18h00 – 21h00

Sundays: 12h00 – 15h00

Friday evening pizzas: 18h00-21h00

See a sample menu here. Tapas-style dishes range between R45-180, some charged per 100g portions.

Contact: +27 (21) 809 1137 or visit www.vadas.co.za to book.

Location: VADAS is situated on Spier Farm, Baden Powell Drive, outside Stellenbosch.

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Fig frangipane tart

4 Mar

Buttery, flaky pastry on the outside, squishy sweet almond filling on the inside. (Table runner & napkins by Design Team Fabrics & Peppertree Bags. Plate & bowl by Hertex HAUS. Photography & styling by Ilse van der Merwe.)

 

I recently bought a 10kg crate of beautiful, purple figs for making preserves. After processing the ripest fruit into jars of soft set conserves, spiced sweet pickles and two large racks of dried figs, a bowl full of firmer figs were set aside for making a tart or two.

Squidgy almond pastries are the stuff my dreams are made of, and this fig frangipane tart ticks all the boxes. The pastry base is buttery and flaky (no blind baking required), the frangipane filling is moist and gooey, and the beautiful figs bake to a soft consistency that showcases their natural jammy goodness.

This tart is best served at room temperature, with or without a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Linen by Design Team | Napkins: Garden Bloom, parchment on sky. Table Runner: Small Line Protea, prime parchment OP on charcoal.

For the pastry base: (enough for 2 tart bases, recipe adapted from The Ultimate Snowflake Collection by Heilie Pienaar)

  • 500 ml (280 g) cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 15 ml caster sugar
  • 200 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 XL egg yolk
  • about 20 ml ice-cold water
  • 5 ml fresh lemon juice

Method:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and process to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the yolk, water and lemon juice together, then add it to the flour/butter mixture. Process until it comes together in a ball, then transfer to a sheet of cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.

Spray a 23 cm fluted loose bottom tart tin with non-stick baking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pastry dough to a thickness of about 3 mm. The pastry will easily tear, but don’t worry – you can patch it easily by pressing excess dough into the cracks. Transfer the rolled out dough carefully into the tin and press it neatly into the corners. Cut the excess pastry neatly off on the edges. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the tart all over. Now it is ready for the filling (see below).

Note: The second half of the pastry can be frozen for another time, otherwise refrigerate and use within 3 days.

For the filling:

  • 90 g soft butter
  • 1/2 cup (105 g) caster sugar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 5 ml almond essence
  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 15 ml cake flour
  • about 10 medium or 15 small figs, halved
  • 10 ml smooth apricot/fig jam, heated, for brushing

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the butter and caster sugar in a food processor and mix until creamy (you can also use electric beaters). Add the eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping the sides. Add the essence, ground almonds and flour and mix well. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin lined with pastry, and tilt it to evenly fill the bottom. Arrange the fig halves cut sides up in the tin (the filling will rise a little inbetween, so don’t be alarmed if it seems to be a little “shallow”).

Bake at 200 C for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180 C and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the filling has puffed up and is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven, then gently brush all over with the heated jam, taking care not to break up the tender surface. Let it cool completely, then remove the tin casing and serve in slices.

This fig frangipane tart makes an elegant tea time treat, and can also be served as a dessert.

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Instant Pot clear roast chicken broth

8 Feb

A clear chicken broth made in my Instant Pot with leftover roast chicken carcass, some vegetables and spices. Easy and affordable.

 

I received an Instant Pot last year, to test and review and perhaps post one of my favourite recipes. After missing the deadline for posting a recipe as part of the festive season (my schedule at the end of 2018 was just a mess), I decided to keep on using this fantastic machine and see what my favourite way of using it really is.

As you might know, the Instant Pot has revolutionized the way many people cook and has instigated a global fan-community of note. It’s a 7-in-1 smart-cooker: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker, steamer, sauté pan, warmer and yoghurt maker. I’ve never owned a pressure cooked or a slow cooker, but I know how to make rice, how to steam and the rest. My biggest mission was to make bone broths and stocks that would truly unlock the most flavour possible out of very simple, humble ingredients.

The Instant Pot.

 

I’ve made quite a few bone broths since – beef, mutton, chicken and a combination of all 3. Although the Instant Pot has a setting for broths and soups, I’ve found that I got really incredible, crystal clear results with the slow cooker function over 12 hours. I’ve used raw bones and I’ve used roasted bones, and both yielded fantastic results with deep flavour.

My motto this year is to buy less and not to waste anything. A broth is an excellent way of utilizing “older” vegetables and leftover roast chicken bones (or a shop bought rotisserie chicken carcass, after you’re cut the meat from it) that might have otherwise landed in the bin. Use whatever you have on hand and try it out – this recipe makes around 2,5 liters and it freezes really well. It can also be utilized as a great stock, just season the end result with less salt.

This broth can easily and safely be made overnight with no stress about anything boiling over on your stovetop. You can of course also pressure cook the broth if you want it to be ready faster, and by using the ‘Delay start’ timer, you can run it during the day while you’re at work and come home to either a bone broth or stock ready to use.

I love serving my broth in a drinking cup, with a small drizzle of soy sauce and a piece of fresh or preserved ginger – so light, yet hearty in taste and rich in nutrients. I’ve also added a sprinkle of seaweed and dried blossoms on the broth in the photograph as a colourful suggestion of serving it to guests.

This Instant Pot is a great addition to my kitchen and I cannot wait to try more recipes like silky cheese cake and homemade yoghurt. You can buy it online from Yuppiechef for R2199.00.

Note: You can also use a whole raw chicken for this recipe, and shred the tender slow-cooked meat afterwards for a bulked up meaty alternative. Sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley.

Crystal clear broth results using the Instant Pot’s slow cook setting over 12 hours.

 

Ingredients:

1 deboned rotisserie/roast chicken carcass, with pan juices

2 onions, peeled & halved

2 celery sticks, cut into large chunks

1 large carrot, cut into large chunks

1 kale leaf (optional)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large knob fresh ginger, peeled and halved lengthways

1 slice of lemon

10 whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

3 liters water

salt, to taste

soy sauce and fresh sliced ginger, for serving (optional)

fresh herbs or edible flowers, for serving (optional)

Method:

Place the chicken bones, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, lemon, peppercorns, bay, star anise, cinnamon on the Instant Pot and add 3 liters of water. Cover with the lid, select the “slow cook” function and set the time for 12 hours. Wait for a few seconds, you’ll hear a soft beep and the timer will start. Leave to cook until the timer is up, then leave to cool in the pot. Strain through a regular fine metal sieve, then season generously with salt. You’ll see that the broth can do with a lot of salt. If you’re using preserved ginger for serving, you an also add a few teaspoons of the preserving ginger liquid for some added sweetness. Serve warm in cups or bowls with a dash of soy sauce and more ginger.

Store any leftover broth covered in the fridge for up to 5 days (freezes well too).

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The story behind “Klankbord”, my new tv series on VIA (DSTV channel 147)

4 Feb

Catch me on #Klankbord every Wednesday from the 6th of Feb, on VIA, DSTV 147, at 21h30. Thank you BMW for the use of your X4.

 

On Wednesday 6 February 2019 at 21h30, the first episode of my brand new tv series #Klankbord will air on VIA (DSTV channel 147). If you haven’t seen the promo video, watch it here. To many people’s surprise, this is not a cooking show! It is, however, a multi-sensory showcase of incredible food, beautiful music, breathtaking destinations, and the people and stories behind it.

I’d love to tell you more about this journey and how it came about. As many of you know, at the end of 2010 I realized that I wanted to change careers from the music industry as a booking agency owner and event organizer, to something in the food world. At that time, I was hooked on watching food television, and while watching another few hours of Bill Granger, Ina Garten and Jamie Oliver on BBC Food (now BBC Lifestyle), I suddenly knew that I had found my calling: food tv. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to approach it or precisely where I would fit within this industry. I decided to start a food blog in January 2011 to get a foot in the door, meet some people in the industry and build up a decent online audience. Early in 2011, I set up a meeting with a friend and tv producer, Carien Loubser (now the producer of the award winning Republiek van Zoid Afrika on kykNET), and shared my vision for a tv series. She agreed to help me put together a concept and produce a pilot. We didn’t manage to get it commissioned by a channel, so I started the difficult journey of trying to find a sponsor for the show. Time passed as we received many “sorry, not at this time of the year” or “our marketing budget just won’t allow for a production of this scale” or “we’ve just committed to another project – maybe next time”.

I continued to write my blog, met some incredible people on the way and became quite good at networking. People started respecting my opinion on food and I got a few opportunities to do short tv cooking inserts on SABC2’s Expresso & Pasella, SABC3’s Top Billing and kykNET’s breakfast show. My blog won the Fair Lady Consumer Awards for Best Food Blog in 2014. I served on the Eat Out review panel twice. I even started to film, produce and edit short cooking videos all by myself – I loved every second, but I never lost sight of my pursuit to host a tv series.

In March 2017, with renewed vigor, I vowed to finally get the show on the road for a cooking show. I knocked on the door of local food icon, experienced PR specialist and inspirational food writer Errieda du Toit for some feedback as a friend, and as a sounding board for my ideas. At Errieda’s home, we agreed that I should be creating something that is absolutely unique to my background and set of skills. Errieda was adamant that I focus of the idea of something “multi-sensory”, and told me that she feels there is magic somewhere in my link to Schalk, my husband, who is a seasoned musician. Her words kept lingering in my mind…

At the end of 2017, I attended the launch of Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen‘s tv series, Jan, on VIA. After the screening, I bumped into Izelle Venter, channel head at VIA, who mentioned that we should “do something together”. I jumped at the opportunity and emailed her the next day to schedule a meeting. Izelle suggested that I conceptualize a cooking show for kids and young families for VIA. I saw the opportunity as another foot in the door, although I never envisioned myself within this niche environment of cooking with kids. A few weeks after, having already met with a new potential production team that Izelle introduced me to, I tore my ankle ligaments after jumping from a small flight of stairs. This stupid accident set our planning back a bit, and I was constricted to my home for quite a few weeks with loads of frustration (and a lot of time to think). A few new food shows like Chef’s Table, Mind of a Chef, Parts Unknown, Ugly Delicious and Somebody Feeds Phil made a huge impact on me during that time. By chance, I came across a short Youtube video by Bon Appetit where one of their female editors drove a vintage mustang somewhere in New York and visited a Michelin star chef in his kitchen, drinking beer with him while he made his world famous tiramisu. The chef was also a drummer in a well-known band. It was a casual conversation – there were even a few swear words, but it was so incredibly entertaining and spoke to my soul. Something clicked: I was not going to make a cooking show for kids (well, not this time). I was going do something that is 100% unique to who I am and what I’m inspired by. Strangely, I didn’t want to be the one cooking in this series. I wanted to be the host. I wanted to drive a kick-ass car. I wanted to travel with my music friends of way back to incredible restaurants and visit the chefs in their kitchens while they cooked something for us. I phoned Carien and told her my new plan. She liked my idea and immediately added that the chefs should then do a music and food pairing using one of the artist’s songs. Yes! We were on to something and the feeling was tangible. After our first intensive planning meeting where we were throwing around titles like “Rockers, Roadtrips & Resepte”, I came across the more classic-sounding Afrikaans title “Klankbord” on my way back in the car. It’s a mash-up between music and food, but also means “sounding board” – and apt name for the role that I would be playing and what we were planning to film. Carien introduced me to Hannahmi Alfredo of Whippet Films (the perfect fit for this project) as she only had the capacity for being consulting producer at the time, and she pitched the concept shortly after to VIA. It was a done deal.

As content producer and presenter, I phoned and emailed dozens of musicians and chefs, pairing them up to form a story with a theme for each episode. Many weren’t available but everybody wanted to participate. Some of the best chefs in the country opened their restaurants to our crew and hosted us with the utmost generosity. Top musicians spent their rare off days with us, all on their own time. We filmed episode 1 in September, and episodes 2-13 in October/November 2018. It felt like everything I had done in my life has led me to this project, bringing together my previous music career, my current food career, my relentless networking, my love of writing, my intense affinity for connecting with people, and the ability to work in a fantastic team where everyone had the same creative goals. It was a more rewarding experience that I could ever have asked for – I loved every single second.

Episode one of #Klankbord is about to air on Wednesday (VIA, DSTV channel 147 at 21h30). After 8 long years, it is my turn to shine (15 minutes, as they say!). Although I really hope that viewers from all over will love this show as much as I love it, it has already been enough for me in terms of personal fulfillment. May this rodeo be the first of many – I have found my game and I’m going to keep on playing!

My vision for this series is that it will inspire people to get into their cars and make the beautiful drives to these destinations – visit the restaurants, meet the chefs and enjoy the fabulous food. Fall in love all over again with South African music and make a playlist for the road. This country has so much to offer.

Thank you Carien Loubser and the super team from Whippet Films (Hannahmi, Michelle, Johan, Geoff, Nic, Sarah, Parfait, Pieter etc.) for guiding me through this journey. Thank you VIA for giving us a chance. Thank you to all the musicians and chefs who gave their time and creative input. Thank you BMW South Africa for providing me with that fantastic X4 during the filming of the series. Thank you Albert Frost, Francious Kruger & Schalk van der Merwe for the use of your music for the theme song. Thank you Pieter Steyn from The Oculus for the awesome sunglasses. Thank you Grant Munro of Freestyle for the stunning shoes. And thank you to all my friends and family who’ve been cheering me on along the way. I truly appreciate it.

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Lunch at Pierneef à La Motte

18 Jan

A view of some of the pristine historical buildings, lush gardens and vineyards at La Motte from the driveway, with a mountain backdrop to match.

In December last year I was invited to visit Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant in Franschhoek at the esteemed La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek for lunch with my family. I’ve visited their restaurant a few times before, but not since chef Eric Bulpitt has taken up the reigns as executive chef less than a year ago.

The name “Pierneef à La Motte” is inspired by the estate’s admiration of iconic South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886 – 1957) and celebrates his exceptional creativity and artistic innovation in their culinary execution of modern South African heritage cuisine.

Chef Eric Bulpitt of Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.

Chef Eric Bulpitt recently made the move from Faber Restaurant to Pierneef à La Motte, following in the footsteps of chef Michelle Theron. Eric developed a love for farm to table cooking from an early age after spending childhood holidays on his grandparent’s self-sustained farm. Today, he shares La Motte’s passion of authentic local produce and sustainably sourced ingredients, cooking South African heritage cuisine with a modern interpretation.

The ever-changing new a-la-carte lunch menu at Pierneef à La Motte includes starters like the Cape Bokkom Salad, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Saldanha Bay Mussels and Braise Ox Tongue. Main course options are Sustainably Caught Line Fish, Kroon Duck, Butter Roasted Aubergine and Karoo Lamb Biryani. For dessert, choose between Spring Berries, Selection of South African Cheese, Dark Chocolate & Pistachio and Summer Fruit Tart.

Two-course lunch, excl. wines – R395 / Two-course lunch, incl. wines – R495

Three-course lunch, excl. wines – R425 / Three-course lunch, incl. wines – R595

(Kids menu also available.)

Take a look at our three-course lunch with wine pairing experience in pictures, with short descriptions and comments as captions. Pierneef à La Motte remains a pioneering destination for authentic South African heritage food, prepared innovatively with a contemporary take, and served within a premium, welcoming environment. Be sure to also visit the Pierneef gallery for an up-close view of Pierneef’s iconic artworks, La Motte’s Farm Shop for some beautiful produce, linen & gifts, and the wine tasting centre for a range of exquisite wines.

Contact the restaurant: pierneef@la-motte.co.za / T: +27 (0)21 876 8000

The entrance to La Motte’s restaurant, farm shop, art gallery, garden and wine tasting area.

Familiy portraits of the Rupert family against the wall inside Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant. La Motte is owned by the Rupert family.

Pierneef art printed on the lights at the serving counter at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.

Mosbolletjies and sour dough bread.

Beef fat spread, beetroot marmalade and green olives served with the bread & mosbolletjies.

La Motte’s chardonnay, served with my line fish main course. The wine pairings are highly recommended.

Cape bokkom salad, baby gem lettuce, home-made mustard, toasted organic almonds, pickles and bokkom dressing. Served with La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc. This is a stunning dish, a true SA interpretation of the popular classic Caesar salad.

This was an exceptional smoked trout starter. I didn’t get the full description, but I surely hope it will be featured again soon on the menu! One of the best dishes of the day.

Sustainably caught line fish (monk fish) two ways, onion confit. The texture of the monk fish was absolutely perfect – such a great dish! I would suggest that they drop the fish knives though, as a regular knife would make slicing much easier.

Poached apricots, almond crumble, clotted cream. Served with La Motte Straw Wine.

Selection of South African cheese and preserves. Served with La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chef Eric at work in the kitchen with a staff member.

 

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Discovering The Tree House at Boschendal (and much more)

2 Jan

A few weeks ago I was invited to visit Boschendal with my family for a two night stay. It was specifically a family affair, because the team at Boschendal recently launched a brand new offering for kids – The Tree House, a place where children can safely play, learn, forage, cook and have a fabulous time under the watchful eyes of Boschendal’s trained staff while parents are having dinner at The Werf Restaurant or chilling at their cottages. Sometimes pictures tell better stories than words, so I’m going to keep my words few and show you what we found.

Boschendal never fails to make me fall in love with it all over again – every time I visit the estate. It simply is a breathtaking property, with its lush gardens, fruit orchards, original Cape Dutch architecture, majestic oak trees, mountain views and tranquil atmosphere. But what seems to linger most in your mind when you’ve spent some time there is the coherent respect and commitment that the Boschendal team exudes towards their environment, their animals, their guests and each other. It’s a philosophy that might seem like a dream to many, but is indeed a reality here. I take my hat off, because it takes buckets of dedication and hard work to make this happen.

Part 1: The Tree House

I’m going to start my story here, because this is the main reason that we visited Boschendal (although we only discovered it on day 2). The Tree House is a beautiful new space at Boschendal where guests of The Werf Restaurant and the farm accommodation can take their kids (ages 4-14) to spend some quality time, supervised and free of charge, doing what kids really love doing. Kids can be “booked in” for a few hours – they even get their own locker to stash their valuables, a sun hat when necessary and all-day free popcorn. There’s a kitchen where kids learn to cook some basic foods (like quiche-in-a-mug made with free range eggs that they fetched themselves from the chicken coop, or roosterkoek on the fire), forage fresh vegetables from the vast vegetable garden, retreat to the library & movie room, or do arts and crafts in the garden under the trees. There’s also a bike “pump track” and lots of little actual tree houses where kids can ride and climb to their delight (bike hire costs not included). My 8-year old daughter loved this place to much that she wanted us to physically move to Boschendal so that she could be at The Tree House every day – a stellar testament to the success of this service.

Entrance to the reception area of The Tree House
The back door of The Tree House kitchen that leads to the garden area.
Cooking the kids’ handmade quiches in “blikbekers” over a fire.
“Foraged” rainbow carrots from the garden.
Fresh eggs from the chicken coop.
Making roosterkoek from fresh dough.
A hearty lunch of roosterkoek, quiche, homemade lemonade and fresh veggies is served.

Part 2: The Orchard Cottages

We checked in at one of The Orchard cottages (number 4) that are situated about 2km from the main werf at Boschendal against a magnificent mountain backdrop amongst fruit orchards. The self-catering cottages are incredibly well equipped and beautifully furnished – perfect for a family stay in the most scenic natural surroundings. There’s even a communal circular pool and fire pit. Rates include the services of a daily housekeeper. Our cottage had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with kitchenette and outside braai/entertainment area.

Booking enquiries:

accommodation@boschendal.co.za / Tel: +27 (0) 21 870 4271

The Orchard Cottage number 4, just before sundown.
The shaded communal circular pool at The Orchard Cottages.
Plush bed with luxurious linen.
Kitchenette with Le Creuset cookware.
Afternoon sunlight through the kitchen window.
Outside braai & entertainment area.

Part 3: Pizza at The Deli

What was once the original wagon house, has been restored into a contemporary deli & bakery. This family-friendly eatery serves breakfast and lunch daily (as well as afternoon tea) and dinner from Saturday – Tuesday. On Tuesday evenings, there are a few cool specials that attract many runners and bikers for a post-workout dinner before heading home. Pizzas are made in their wood fired oven and are really delicious.

Opening times:

Breakfast Daily 08:00 – 11:00
Lunch Daily 08:00 – 16:00
Dinner Saturday – Tuesday 18:00 – 20:30

Tel: +27 (0) 21 870 4213

The Deli at Boschendal.
A wood fired oven.
Getting cosy with a glass of Boschendal red wine while we wait for our pizzas.
Kids margerita pizza – it was a total hit with my daughter.
We also tried the gluten free pizza base with beef brisket and garden carrots – unusual but very good!
My favourite pizza combo: bacon, avo, feta. And that scorched crust was just heavenly.

Part 4: Dinner at The Werf Restaurant

We were booked for a four course food and wine pairing dinner at The Werf restaurant, starting off with a glass of wine as part of the Wine Wednesday vibe where a specific Boschendal wine is featured every week and the “first pour is on them”. Boschendal’s menu changes daily and is designed around four themes by their award-winning chef Christiaan Campbell: Garden, Ocean, Pasture and Sweet (3 plates at R450 / R685 with wine pairing, 4 plates at R550 / R845 with wine pairing, 5 plates at R650 / 1005 with wine pairing) with 2-3 options per theme. Plates are generous from start to finish – there are no “starters” or “mains” – you can choose your collection of plates as you wish and there are no prescriptions.

Opening hours:

Lunch Wed-Sat:12:00 – 15:00. Guests to be seated by 14:30

Lunch Sunday: 12:00 – 16:00

Dinner Wed-Sat: 18:00 – 21:00. Guests to be seated by 20:30

Bar Mon-Sat: 12:00 – 21:00

Reservations are essential.

Tel: +27 (0) 21 870 4209

Email: werf@boschendal.co.za

Click here for more info and sample menu

The stunning werf area at Boschendal.
Wine Wednesday at Boschendal featuring Boschendal’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, paired with a unique canapé.
Welcoming gifts from the kitchen: carrot hummus, fresh garden produce and flour tortillas.
Garden: Flavours of roasted parsnips & ginger glazed turnips.
Garden: Grilled garden leeks, “vichysoisse”, dill, cured egg yolks. This was an exceptional dish – one of my favourites of the day.
One of our wine pairings. The pairing option is highly recommended and elevates the dining experience by far.
Some extra sides served with the Ocean dishes – the grilled courgettes with house-made ricotta was delightful.
Another surprise extra: layers of potato baked in cream with melted cheese and fresh herbs.
Ocean: Farmed kabeljou, smoked potato purée, taramasalata. This was probably my favourite dish of the day. The smoked potato went exceptionally well with the fish and the wine pairing.
Pasture: Charred pork neck, pickled cabbage and lomo, sultana. The meat comes from the Duroc pigs on Boschendal – less tender than what you might be used to but so much flavour. The jus was just incredible.
Sweet: Arlette biscuits, baked vanilla custard, roasted apricot sorbet. (By this time, it was already quite dark and difficult to take non-grainy photos.)

Part 5: Breakfast at The Deli

We ended our stay with breakfast at the deli, followed by a farm tour. I didn’t take my camera on the tour as I wanted to be as present in the moment as I possibly could. It was an experience not to be forgotten! We picked fresh herbs, visited the baby pigs, took home some fresh eggs from the coop and saw many incredible farm sights.

The story of Boschendal is neverending, and the inspiration that it brings is very real. Be sure to visit Boschendal in 2019 to see, sip and savour your way through everything they have to offer. This is by far one of the best all-round destinations in the Cape Winelands – family friendly, sustainable, premium, breathtaking, with so much to see, taste and do.

Brioche waffle with vanilla ice cream (it also comes with a berry compote which my daughter preferred to omit) – STUNNING.
Pain au chocolate – my favourite breakfast of all time.
Fresh fruit, dried fruit, coconut flakes, yoghurt – Schalk’s breakfast vibe.
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Balsamic leg of lamb with garlic & figs

21 Dec

Roast leg of lamb with garlic, figs, rosemary, balsamic vinegar and port. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Festive season is upon us and many of us are planning menus for a special celebration with family and friends. Every year, we as an extended family get together on Christmas eve for a showstopping hearty dinner, or on Christmas day for a lighter, mostly room temperature, yet elaborate festive lunch (summer days at the beach are just too hot for anything else). This lamb roast probably qualifies as a heartier dinner, served with all the trimmings and sides of your heart’s desire. Although figs are not in season at the moment, you can still find some imported ones in supermarkets here and there (I wrote this recipe right at the end of fig season when they were still on shelves everywhere). Otherwise, substitute them with beautiful firm halved plums – dark red and purple on the outside, yet golden on the inside.

A large leg of lamb or mutton in the oven smells like Christmas to me, and makes the best leftovers the next day. *Note: Ask your butcher to bend the long end of the leg bone by cutting almost through it but not all the way. This way it will fit snugly into a large roasting tray without hanging over the side.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

1 large leg of lamb* (about 3 kg)
45 ml olive oil
salt & pepper
3 sprigs rosemary, woody stems removed, chopped
2 whole heads of garlic, horizontally sliced in half
3/4 cup (180 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 cup (250 ml) port wine
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
about 8 large ripe black figs, some halved, some whole

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 160 C.
  • Place the leg of lamb inside a large deep roasting tray, fatty side down. Drizzle it all over with oil and season it generously with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary on both sides.
  • Arrange the garlic head halves around it, then pour the vinegar, port and white wine into the bottom. Cover with a lid or foil, then roast for 3 hours. Remove from the oven, then use tongs to turn the leg over with the fatty side to the top. Cover and roast for another 2 hours.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and turn the heat up to 200 C. Return the leg to the oven for 20 minutes to brown, then add the figs around the meat and roast for another 10 minutes – the figs should be just warm and soft, not falling apart.
  • Serve warm in the tray as a festive centerpiece, with a side of roast potatoes or vegetables and salad.

Note: This roast makes a hearty yet thin sauce – remove some of the fat from the top by skimming it off with a spoon at the end of the cooking process. If you prefer a thicker gravy, pour the skimmed sauce into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and thicken slightly by reducing it by 1/4 or by adding 2-3 teaspoons of corn flour (mix it to a slurry consistency with a few teaspoons of water before adding it). Stir well until thickened.

This recipe is another festive collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa.

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