White chocolate & pecan nut blondies

9 Dec

Blondies – one of my favourite indulgent treats.

 

During this time of the year, all I really want to do is bake. I whip out all of my favourite baking books and I page through them for festive inspiration. Yesterday, I was looking through my Food 52 Genius Desserts book when I saw a marker for this blondie recipe – one that I haven’t had time to make since putting that marker there exactly one year ago.

I absolutely adore brownies. If you don’t know what a blondie is, it’s the “blonder” version of a brownie – a sweet and fudgey square made from flour, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla (no cocoa powder) that is very close in taste to a chocolate chip cookie with a butterscotch edge. Chocolate chips and nuts are optional, but you’ll find a wide array of variations online from all over the world. This specific recipe was originally developed by America’s Test Kitchen for Cook’s Illustrated (the Americans are wonderfully obsessed by chocolate brownies and any dense baked sweet square) and they did everything to take the “fluffiness of cake” out of the recipe, resulting in an almost crackly top, a comforting chew and a welcome medium density – all marks of a great blondie. I’ve gone a little further by swopping the cake flour for white bread flour, using XL eggs instead of large and reducing the brown sugar from 300 g to 250 g (using relatively sweet white chocolate only instead of white and milk, to keep it “blonder”). Although white chocolate isn’t technically a chocolate, it provides a great creamy textural element and added richness. The toasted pecans are the bomb, as well as their choice of adding 4 whole teaspoons of vanilla extract (!). Quoting from Food 52 Genius Desserts: “Once you stop putting a single teaspoon into baking recipes because it’s what you’ve always done, you can embrace vanilla as a flavor all on its own – complex, haunting, memorable.” I couldn’t have said it better!

Here’s their recipe, lightly adjusted. You’ll find the original on Food 52’s website.

Toasted pecan nuts adds the necessary crunch and a deep nutty flavour to these blondies.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (100 g) pecan or walnut halves
  • 1,5 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour (I used stone ground white bread flour)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled (I used salted)
  • 1,5 cups (300 g) light brown sugar
  • 2 XL eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150 g white chocolate chips, or a mixture of white and milk chocolate chips (or just chop a slab of chocolate by hand)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 175 C with rack in the centre. Spread the nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Let them cool, then transfer to a cutting board and coarsley chop them.
  2. While the nuts toast, line a 23-33 cm (or 27 x 27 cm) metal baking tin with non-stick baking paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts and scrape the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing out the surface and edging it into the corners.
  4. Bake until the top is shiny, cracked and lightly golden at the edges, about 22 minutes – err on the side of underbaking so they won’t dry out. Let cool in the pan on a rack.
  5. Lift out the lined slab of blondies tugging on the paper onto a cutting board, then cut into squares or bars. Store airtight at room temp or keep them a bit longer in the fridge or freezer (they taste great when cold!).

Although your edges will turn a litter darker than the middle, never overbake a blondie. You want that soft chew magic.

 

They cut easily – if you use a sharp non-serrated knife – with very few crumbs.

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Lunch at Foxcroft

26 Nov

Chef Proprietor Glen Foxcroft Williams. Photography by Claire Gunn.

 

I was recently invited to experience the spring set menu at Foxcroft in Constantia, that was recently extended to mid December 2019. Having never been there before, I jumped at the opportunity to take a bite out of this Eat Out Top 30 restaurant.

It’s been three years since Foxcroft burst onto the Cape Town restaurant scene and it has since become a regular favourite with locals and international guests alike. Chef Proprietor Glen Foxcroft Williams has crafted out a more casual approach than fine dining, but with the same intensity and thoughtfulness. He believes in a carefully structured farm to table offering, utilising the freshest seasonal ingredients and showcasing them on the plate to deliver an experience with finesse and exceptional flavour.

Foxcroft’s interior, as photographed by Claire Gunn.

 

The menu reflects this philosophy and is constantly renewed. “Our menu has become a lot more streamlined in terms of choice, and varied in inspiration, with a greater focus on sustainability than we have ever put forward.” says Chef Glen. “It reflects the most hyper-seasonal, fleeting produce that usually wouldn’t be put on the menu because they have such short seasons. Our menu reflects global inspiration and a commitment to sustainable, local produce,” explains Chef Glen. “We feel that we’re cooking the best food we ever have, and are glad to still be on a path of growth and evolution that we feel will stand the test of time.”

Foxcroft is a must-visit destination for serious wine lovers, now also showcasing rare and unique hand-picked wine pairings for all of their menus. The team’s love of wine is also reflected in their successful winemaker’s dinner series collaborations, where diners enjoy a five-course chef’s menu paired with a first-class cellar’s hand-picked wines.

The open kitchen at Foxcroft. Photography by Claire Gunn.

 

Until mid December 2019, Foxcroft’s spring lunch special is running from Monday to Sunday (R345 for four courses or R595 with wine pairing). The menu consists of bread, two tapas courses, a main course and a dessert (each course having an option of three items to choose from). See my pictures below (a few photos also supplied by Foxcroft’s management – credit given to Claire Gunn where applicable) with comments on the items that I had. The restaurant is casually high end – informal but premium, with contemporary masculine wooden furniture and rich leather accents. The outside seating area is a lush reflection of leafy Constantia. With a really cool playlist, a bustling lunch vibe and fantastic food revealing punchy flavours and skilful plating, this is a place that I’d love to frequent way more often. The open kitchen reveals a calm and professional team, and front of house service is immaculate. I cannot recommend the wine pairings highly enough – they were an absolute highlight.

Note: Menu might change according to seasonality and availability.

 

SPRING SPECIAL SAMPLE MENU from Foxcroft’s website:
Foxcroft bread, 2 tapas, 1 main course, 1 dessert
***
Foxcroft Oyster
R30 each

First
Yellowfin Tuna
Salsa macha, whipped avocado, jalapeno, tostada
~ Silvervis Smiley Chenin N.V. ~

Guinea Fowl Ballotine
Chicken skin, dill, beats, sage sable
~ Spiderpig Grenache Noir 2018 ~

Carrot hummus
Roasted feta, shaved carrot, Baharat, lavash
~ Oldenburg Viognier 2018 ~

Second
West Coast Mussels
Pickled squid, succotash, mayu oil, chowder
~ Arendsig Chardonnay 2018 ~

Braised Beef Shin
Polenta, burnt rosemary velouté
~ Mullineux Kloof Street Rouge 2017 ~

Tandoori Turnips
Lemon pickle, curry leaf, goats labneh, chickpea crisp
~ City on a Hill Muscat 2018 ~

Main
Sustainable Linefish
Sweet potato, fennel, chorizo, smoked tomato
~ Luddite Saboteur 2017 ~

Oak Valley Pork
Kimchi, charred cabbage, spicy peanuts
~ Thorne & Daughters Copper Pot 2018 ~

Karoo Lamb
Sunchoke, spiced apricot, burnt onion, buckwheat
~ Fable Mountain Night Sky 2014 ~

Dessert
Malt Cake
Caramel banana, Kidavoa 50%, malted milk
~ Thelema Vin de Hel 2014 ~

Pear
Poached & roasted, Bostock, honey, rooibos, crème fraiche
~ Miles Mossop Kika 2017 ~

Aged Boerenkaas
Forest Phantom, mushroom, quince, oat biscuits
~ Catherine Marshall Myriad 2009 ~

Foxcroft bread course – baked in cast iron mini-pans and filled with a delightful middle layer of melted herbed butter.

 

My first course: Carrot hummus, roasted feta, shaved carrot, Baharat, lavash. Paired with Oldenburg Viognier 2018. A bold and spicy dish, rich in textures.

 

Schalk’s first course: Yellowfin Tuna, salsa macha, whipped avocado, jalapeno, tostada. Paired with Silvervis Smiley Chenin N.V. (Photography by Claire Gunn.)

 

Our first class waitress, Amelia, as photographed by Claire Gunn.

 

Schalk’s second course: Tandoori Turnips, lemon pickle, curry leaf, goats labneh, chickpea crisp. Paired with City on a Hill Muscat 2018.

 

My second course: West Coast Mussels, pickled squid, succotash, mayu oil, chowder. Paired with Arendsig Chardonnay 2018. This dish blew me away completely, and was my highlight of the day. Sweet and roasted flavours of the mielies underneath, creamy delicate seafood flavours, incredibly comforting and delicious. Immaculate wine pairing too.

 

My main course: Sustainable Linefish, wweet potato, fennel, chorizo, smoked tomato. Paired with Luddite Saboteur 2017. This is a great example of seasonal produce being cooked with integrity and finesse. The smoked tomato sauce was a fantastic addition, and I now want it all summer long instead of ketchup or mayo on everything.

 

Schalk’s main course: Karoo Lamb, sunchoke, spiced apricot, burnt onion, buckwheat. Paired with Fable Mountain Night Sky 2014. Again, a spot-on pairing of a fantastic wine that we discovered for the first time, and one that we’ll certainly look up in future.

 

My dessert: Malt Cake Caramel banana, Kidavoa 50%, malted milk. Paired with the incredible Thelema Vin de Hel 2014. This is a heavenly dessert, perfect for lovers of dense, silky textures and deep, caramelized flavours. Also one of my favourite courses of the day.

 

Schalk’s dessert: Karoo Blue, preserved figs, walnuts. Paired with Eikendal Classique. A phenomenal cheese-course dessert, and again a very successful pairing.

 

Thank you to Chef Glen and the team of Foxcroft for one of our most memorable meals and wine pairings of 2019. We cannot wait to be back soon. Constantia is once again proving to be a hot spot for incredible food, service and hospitality. Book online and make sure you don’t miss out this summer.

Foxcroft is a reservation-driven restaurant serving lunch and dinner daily.

Address: Shop 8, High Constantia Centre, Constantia.

Tel: (021) 202 3304

reservations@foxcroft.co.za

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Festive beef tongue with sweet mustard sauce – #myfoodstory with La Motte Wines

18 Nov

Pickled beef tongue served at room temperature with a sweet mustard sauce and your choice of salads. Paired with La Motte Pierneef Collection 2016 Syrah Viognier. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

La Motte Wines are all about celebrating South African food traditions, whether they are old traditions or new. The team at La Motte asked me to contribute a story of my own, starting with memories about festive entertaining during the summer holiday seasons as a child. I knew exactly what I wanted to share, so here is #myfoodstory.

As a young child, we spent most of our summer festive holidays camping in Keurboomstrand. We were a large family of six, so we sometimes drove with a station wagon connected to a rented caravan connected to a jam-packed trailor, driving during the night so the kids would sleep (and probably cause less havoc). Every second year, we drove from Keurbooms to Buffels Bay on Christmas day to spend time with my father’s parents, ouma Naomi and oupa David Uys. Back then, they still resided in Blue Water Bay (PE) and spent their festive holidays camping in Buffels. My grandparents were super stylish, especially my ouma Naomi. She was well traveled and an exceptional cook that introduced me to many exotic dishes as a child, and she still is one of my main food icons. They had a stunning large new caravan complete with flushing toilet and real kitchen – kitted out to the max. In the adjacent tent, she poured bitter gin and tonics (no-one at our house drank anything but muscadel or beer shandy) while my Kalahari-born oupa carved biltong with his pocket knife. From this tented kitchen ouma Naomi generated the most incredible cold meat spread for Christmas that I’d ever seen: stuffed leg of springbok, turkey, various hams and beef tongue – all served at room temperature with an array of sauces and salads. It was the first time I’d ever seen beef tongue and I was fascinated by the dark pink rounds with the peculiar texture. I remember returning for seconds and thirds of these meaty rounds, proud of myself for really liking something that most other kids would cringe at.

I’ve since cooked quite a few tongues for Christmas – mostly getting the same “either you hate it or you love it” reaction from guests. Those who love it, usually swoon with special memories of their own. Served with a sweet and tangy mustard sauce, this is food fit for kings. Although I prefer serving tongue cold, you can definitely also serve it warm, smothered in a slightly creamier warm mustard sauce.

I am so grateful for a gran like ouma Naomi for teaching me to discover new ingredients, flavours and cuts. She would have been so proud of my food journey – something that I only seriously started cultivating years after she passed. I know the rest of our family feel that a part of her is living on in what I’m doing today, and I couldn’t be more honoured.

La Motte‘s cellar master Edmund Terblanche suggested two different pairings for my recipe – La Motte’s double platinum Pierneef Collection 2016 Syrah Viognier red blend, and La Motte’s  Pierneef Collection 2018 Sauvignon Blanc. Both work really well, but I’ve chosen to go with the red blend for the photograph.

May your own food stories also be a reason to celebrate this festive season!

WIN:

WIN La Motte wine for your festive table! Some of our most memorable food stories are from festive times and family holidays. Share your favourite food memory in the comment section on a La Motte #myfoodstory Facebook or Instagram post and you can win big! https://www.la-motte.com/blogs/news/my-food-story 

Beef tongue ingredients:

  • 1,2 – 1,4 kg pickled beef/ox tongue
  • cold water
  • 5 ml whole black peppercorns
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 2 large carrots, cut into chunks

Place the tongue in a large pot and cover with cold water. Leave to stand for 1 hour, then drain. Cover again with cold water in the pot, then add the peppercorns, star anise, bay leaves, onion and carrots. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook slowly for 2 hours. Remove from the heat, then remove the tongue from the liquid (don’t discard the liquid yet). Let it cool for 15 minutes, then remove the outer skin of the tongue. Return the tongue to the liquid and leave to cool completely. Cut into slices and serve at room temperature, with a sweet mustard sauce, pickles and salad. (Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.)

For the sweet mustard sauce: (makes about 1 cup)

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 30 ml Dijon mustard
  • 15 ml wholegrain mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) corn flour dissolved in 60 ml cold water

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and whisk vigorously to mix. Place over medium heat, stirring often until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Refrigerate in a glass jar, covered.

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Mussels, the Duinhuis way

24 Oct

Over the past year, I’ve been in the privileged position to become acquainted with one of the doyennes of the Western Cape food scene, Isabella Niehaus. After being a magazine fashion editor for many years, Isabella gave up the glitz and buzz of the city for a quieter life on her Langebaan dune, and turned it into a space where she could discover, remember and share. Being a self-taught cook with an exceptional flavour memory, Isabella cooks generously from the heart and from remembering her travels around the world, these days entertaining groups of guests at her long table events.

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Isabella Niehaus’s book Duinhuis – Smake, Geure (available here). I’ve never been able to attend one of her long table events due to clashing schedules, but I plan to visit her soon! Having heard of Isabella’s moreish mussels, the “Duinhuis” way, I was happy to discover the recipe in her book. As expected, it is as simple as the West Coast itself, and I can only imagine the magic of these mussels being slurped up with the sound and smell of the beautifully stripped West Coast ocean as a backdrop.

Here is Isabella’s recipe. Be sure to get your copy of Duinhuis – available in most book stored and online at around R400.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used EV olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 kg fresh black mussels, rinsed and bearded (find them online at Blue Ocean Mussels)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • optional: I’ve added 1/2 cup fresh cream, just because I love a creamy sauce

Method:

Heat a large pot on the stove, then add the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion, garlic and thyme. Stir until the onions are translucent, then add the fresh mussels and cover with a lid. Remove the lid after about 5-7 minutes. Most of the mussels should now be open. Add the wine and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from the stove (add the cream, if using, and stir through) and serve at once with crusty bread or freshly made vetkoek to mop up the sauce.

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Lunch at Gåte Restaurant, Quoin Rock

11 Oct

One of the lunch courses at Gåte Restaurant, Quoin Rock.

 

A few weeks ago I was invited to visit Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock on the Knorhoek Road outside Stellenbosch. I’ve heard quite a bit about this upmarket, modern estate – the Ukranian Gayduk family bought the property in 2012, and reopened it in 2018 after 6 years of careful renovation and restoration. The estate now boasts a very modern wine lounge, function venue, restaurant and revamped manor house accommodation facilities.

Gåte Restaurant is headed by chef Nicole Loubser who gained experience at JAN Restaurant in Nice, France. We sat down for lunch in their impressive space, and what followed can be described as a premium culinary adventure filled with surprises, paired with fabulous wines. The 6-course set lunch experience is called “Journey around the world” (R800, or R1100 with wine pairing – pairing highly recommended). Take a look at the menu:

Here’s our experience in pictures. Chef Nicole and her team certainly lives up to the “dialogue between art, tradition and technical craft” that they’ve set out to deliver. Service is efficient, smooth and friendly and diners can be sure of an all round luxurious, premium experience. This is certainly not an everyday eatery, but for special occasions and those in search of the best new offerings it will impress and delight.

 

The entrance to Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock.

 

The partly shaded restaurant terrace, also used for wine tastings.

 

Cream leather chairs and modern wooden accents coupled with large glass window-walls provide a modern, comfortable environment with incredible vineyard & mountain views.

 

 

Caffe Macchiato with Gate Cigar. The “macchiato” is a tomato soup with basil foam, the “cigar” is a cleverly made potato bread stick, and the “ash tray” is a delicious edible mousse with flavoured powders and paprika.

 

The potato flour “cigar” bread stick steals the show. Beautiful!

 

 

Gate`s signature Saldanha Bay Oysters – beautifully presented on fresh sea grass and delicious served with their MCC.

 

 

Gate`s signature Caprese Salad: fior di latte disguised as tomatoes, a frozen milky mozzarella dome, tomato flavoured meringue, basil oil – what a clever spin on a traditional Italian favourite. Served with spongy bright green basil bread.

 

 

 

Lamb croquette, cranberry and smoked cheese tuile.

 

 

Oryx meat with smoked potato pure and veggies – my favourite dish of the day. Stunning flavours, expertly prepared and plated.

 

Pina Colada dessert with coconut – a light, delicate ending to the journey.

 

We took a quick tour through the kitchen to meet chef Nicole and her young team. The vibe in the kitchen was very calm and tranquil, and the facilities were impressive, spacious and modern.

 

 

A quick visit to the cigar lounge (without having cigars) to admire the views. Schalk has a special affinity for a Chesterfield couch.

 

The Helderberg mountains and surrounding vineyards provides an awe inspiring backdrop to the experience at Quoin Rock.

 

Contact Gåte Restaurant: Tel: +27 21 888 4750 / gate@quoinrock.co.za

Address: Quoin Rock Wine Estate, Knorhoek Road, Knorhoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 7600

Lunch: Tues – Sun, 12:00 – 14:00 (6-course at R800 excl. wine pairing)
Dinner: Tues – Sat, 18:00 till late (7-course at R1000/person excl. wine pairing, or 14 course/person at R1600 excl. wine pairing)

Thank you to the Gåte team for hosting us.

 

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Best cocoa brownies from Food52 Genius Desserts

30 Sep

 

Last year December, I bought Food52‘s incredible book, Genius Desserts. To say that this book is an inspiration, is an understatement. It is one of the best baking books out there for people with a serious sweet tooth that want to explore decadent, professionally tested, winning recipes. It also specifically resonates with me, because it is written in a language that speaks to my word-obsessed, food-adoring, recipe-focused brain.

As I’ve declared before: I. LOVE. BROWNIES. I dream about them. I search for them. I inhale them. I have long conversations about them. I sometimes bake them, but I more often test other people’s offerings. I’ve eaten some incredible versions in my life, but I don’t have a go-to version recently, to be honest. This post will rectify that, I assure you. So let’s start with the facts: brownies should be decadently chocolatey, fudgy and squidgy, not overly dominated by nuts, but with the addition of a soft walnut/pecan crunch here and there for texture. It should be cakey only in the way that it’s not completely dense like a no-bake chocolate fudge square. But dense enough to be considered almost underbaked, like a flourless chocolate cake, but less fragile. There’s that fine line between a great brownie and a perfect brownie, and I think I’ve just found the recipe (written by Alice Medrich) that allows you to create simple perfection. As the book states: “Alice knows chocolate. It speaks to her. We’re lucky to have her as a translator.”

 

The incredible thing is this: the best brownies are usually made with good quality (expensive) chocolate, but this recipe only uses cocoa powder and a few other simple ingredients – butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, salt, walnuts. The magic is in the way it is mixed and heated, starting over a water bath and later vigorously beaten for an exact “40 strokes”, leaving you slightly breathless yet exhilarated with your bowl of rich, thick, oozing, dark treasure. It is baked for a mere 25 minutes at 165 C, resulting in something that you might consider under-baked at first. But when it sets to room temperature, it is just perfect: intensely chocolatey, so moist that it will actually be spreadable if you try, but holds together just barely enough to be cut and held. Lastly, the added salt flakes provide lyrical depth.

Here it is – apart from the slightly finicky water bath, the rest is straight forward wooden spoon stirring. If you’re prepared to follow the recipe to a T, you will be richly (ahem) rewarded . For brownie connoisseurs, this recipe is an incredible find, and a must-try.

 

Ingredients: makes 24 square brownies (recipe slightly adapted* from Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies via Food 52 Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore)

*Notes: I don’t own a square 20 x 20 cm pan, so I made a batch that’s 1,5 times the original to fit a more commonly found baking tin size in South Africa, namely 20 x 30 cm. I also used salted butter instead of unsalted, upped the added salt and vanilla ratios slightly and used XL eggs instead of large. I chose to bake with Gideon Milling’s stone ground cake wheat flour, which is in my experience the best substitute for American recipes calling for all purpose flour.

  • 230 g salted butter
  • 375 g sugar
  • 125 g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ml vanilla extract
  • 3 XL eggs
  • 100 g cake flour (see notes above)
  • about 100 g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • salt flakes, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 165 C. Line the bottom and sides of a 20 x 30 cm rectangular baking pan/tin with non-stick baking paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (the bowl can touch the water directly, in this case, but should “sit” on the edges of the pot and not on the bottom). Stir with a wooden spoon from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. (It might look gritty here but don’t worry, it will smooth out later.) Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts. Spread evenly in the lined pan, edging it into the corners.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. Let cool completely on a rack in the tin.
  5. Lift up the ends of the lined paper, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares. If your room temperature is very warm, refrigerate the brownies before cutting for a more neat, even edge. Serve at room temperature, optionally sprinkled with salt flakes just before serving (can be stored in a covered container for a few days, without the salt flakes as they will draw water and “melt” into the brownies).
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Babylonstoren launches 12-year-old balsamic vinegar (video)

26 Sep

My favourite way of enjoying aged balsamic vinegar is with a classic caprese salad – fresh tomato, fior di latte (or bocconcini, in this case), fresh basil, salt flakes, the very best extra virgin olive olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Food from the heavens.

 

I had the privilege of recently visiting Babylonstoren for an up-close look at the bottling of their newly released balsamic vinegar. The team at Babylonstoren have invested in importing traditional Italian barrels (cherry, acasia, chestnut, oak, mulberry and ash wood) for their vinegar battery, made by F.Rensi of Modena. To get going, they imported genuine 12-year-old DOP balsamic vinegar from Modena, then started their own run using Babylonstoren’s shiraz grapes. To taste this, they’ll have to wait another 12 years!

In Italy, real Aceto Balsamic Tradizionale DOP is made only in Modena or neighbouring Emilia (“protected designation of origin”). This unique style of vinegar must be experienced first hand to appreciate the difference in taste (and price) to an everyday young balsamic vinegar that are commonly found in most supermarkets. It is rich, thick and intensely flavoured with complex yet softer notes, and can be easily enjoyed as is (a few drops in a spoon), a few drops over your favourite cheeses or charcuterie, salad or even over ice-cream. A small bottle will last you a very long time as it is used sparingly – perfect for really special occasions.

The process in a nutshell: grapes are picked, berries de-stemmed & pressed, must is boiled & pumped into a tank to ferment, 15% (maximum) wine vinegar is added, then the mixture is aged in barrels, each year being transferred to smaller barrels as it loses volume. After 12 years maturation, a small portion is drawn from the smallest (oldest) barrel and bottled each year. Babylonstoren limits bottle volume to 100 ml to comply with traditional regulations.

This product is available from Babylonstoren’s Farm Shop at R450/100 ml.

Take a look at my recent experience:

 

Shiraz grapes are used for Babylonstoren’s own batch, infusing a South African element into their imported DOP. (photo supplied by Babylonstoren)

 

The balsamic vinegar is bottled by hand in very small batches each year. (photo supplied by Babylonstoren)

 

Black gold, bottled. (photo supplied by Babylonstoren)

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A heritage of sharing: The new menu at Pierneef à La Motte

24 Sep

The entrance leading to Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.

 

Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant has always been about sharing. Sharing food stories and sharing food favourites. It is this personal concept of heritage cuisine that is the inspiration behind the restaurant’s new offering. Everything served in the restaurant shares a creative line from the South African food story.”

I was recently invited to experience this new offering at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant – a refined Franschhoek destination rich with cultural heritage. After an inspiring guided tour in the La Motte Museum of the current exhibition by MJ Lourens, titled “Land Rewoven” (as a conversation with the existing collection of Pierneef’s works), we made our way to the restaurant. Chef Eric Bulpitt’s new menu invites guests to start with shared dishes inspired by the various food cultures and stories from South Africa’s rich culinary heritage – a variety of breads, spreads, salads and meats, accompanied by condiments from “Granny’s pantry” – fruit and vegetables pickled or preserved, chakalaka or chutney, kaiings or kluitjies. It’s amazing how simple items like curried beans or pickled beetroot can conjure up clear memories from my childhood – items that I despised as a child (yet it always landed on my plate courtesy of my dear Mother) but these days adore as an adult.

Keeping with the heritage theme, Pierneef à La Motte’s à la carte menu offers a choice of individually plated main courses with Chef Eric’s signature modern approach. While this menu changes regularly according to the season, availability of ingredients and the Chef’s inspiration, options might include celeriac baked in a salt crust, lowerland grains and truffle sauce (a stunning vegetarian dish that I can highly recommend), free-range pork, slow cooked for 12 hours, broad beans from their garden and pork broth, as well as wood-fire roast spring chicken brushed with fermented chilli and creamed mielies, or aged beef rump from Bonnievale with roasted shallots and baby carrots.

All dishes are offered with La Motte Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche’s wine recommendations, available at estate prices. However, the acclaimed wine list also includes other interesting South African as well as international wine choices.

The two-course menu of a shared starter and main course costs R335 per person (wine and service fee excluded). Dessert can be ordered as an additional course at R115. The dessert menu is a trip down memory lane, revealing a legacy of nostalgic sweets in a way that charms and comforts. Decadent baked dark chocolate with chocolate biscuit and rose ice cream (reminding me of a refined combination of “bazaar pudding” and chocolate fondant), lemon meringue with lemon curd, burnt meringue and vanilla tuile, or sago pudding, honey and boerenmeisjes (probably the best sago pudding I’ve ever tasted). A selection of South African cheeses, preserves and lavash is also available.

Our lunch was the best I’ve ever experienced at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant – I was in a state of pleasure and nostalgia by the end of our desserts which I didn’t want to end. Well done to Chef Eric and his team for hitting the flavour nails on the head.

The restaurant also offers a lighter option to enjoy after a wine tasting, mountainside hike or visit to the La Motte art gallery. Choose between the Winelands Cheese Platter or a seasonal Farm Plate – both including a glass of wine at R150 per person.

In line with the principle of heritage food, menu choices are ethical and sustainable, making use of seasonal, local and artisan ingredients.

  • Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00 – 15:30.
  • Reservations are recommended and can be made online, T +27(0)21 876 8800, E pierneef@la-motte.co.za
  • The charming La Motte Farm Shop hosts an array of delicious South African-inspired baking and confectionery to be enjoyed in the estate gardens or as a take-home treat.
  • Current menu (subject to change)
  • Current wine list

High ceilings and delft plate installations dominate the elegant spaces at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.

 

A photo wall with some of the Rupert Family’s portraits provides a personal touch.

 

Plush seats and contemporary wooden tables.

 

The delightful shared starter offering at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant – an array of salads, bread, vetkoek, pickles, spreads and whipped beef fat.

 

La Motte’s range of wines are carefully paired with each course and comes highly recommended.

 

Celeriac baked in a salt crust, lowerland grains and truffle sauce – my choice of a main course (vegetarian). This was my dish of the day – a fantastic celebration of simple ingredients, varied textures and that luxurious base note of fresh truffles infused in the sauce. I’ll be back for more.

 

Schalk’s main course: Free-range pork, slow cooked for 12 hours, broad beans from their garden and pork broth. Exceptionally tender and delicious.

 

Schalk’s dessert: sago pudding, honey and boerenmeisjes. Take note of the glass bowl that reminds of your ouma’s house, as well as the paper doilie. This was the best sago pudding I’ve ever taste. A must on the menu.

 

My dessert: baked dark chocolate with chocolate biscuit and rose ice cream. The pudding is hidden underneatht the biscuit (see next photo).

 

Reminiscent of a dark chocolate fondant mixed with an old-school “bazaar pudding”, this dessert was exactly what I hoped it would be: warm, decadent, soft and oozing in the middle, with the delicate hit of rose water ice cream.

 

Having a quick chat to thank Chef Eric Bulpitt at the end of our meal.

 

The entrance to the charming Farm Shop at La Motte. Well worth a visit.

 

The entrance facade at La Motte.

 

Thank you to chef Eric Bulpitt and the team of La Motte for hosting us.

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Lunch at Viande with Chef Pete Goffe-Wood

12 Sep

Chef Pete Goffe-Wood at the bar counter, Viande Restaurant, Grande Roche. Photography by Charles Russel.

 

After three decades of offshore ownership, Paarl’s iconic Grande Roche Hotel is back in South African hands. The hotel has been acquired by entrepreneurs Hansie and Theresa Britz. Both born and raised in Paarl, the couple shares a life-long association with the Grande Roche as most locals do. This historic five-star property at the foot of Paarl Mountain has recently been fully transformed to return it’s status as one of the Cape’s premier destinations.

Apart from a complete overhaul for the hotel side of Grande Roche, the restaurant previously known as ‘Bosman’s’ has also been totally refreshed to become a more accessible destination: ‘Viande’ is the brainchild of Pete Goffe-Wood, a respected and loved television personality (ex-Masterchef judge), author and consultant chef. Pete wasn’t looking to start another restaurant, but when he heard the new owners’ passion for the hotel he realised it was something he could get behind. “I loved the fact that they wanted to make Grande Roche accessible to locals again, and the more their vision unfolded the more I realised I wanted to be a part of it. It’s been wonderful to see this property given the love and respect and investment it deserves.”

The contemporary new interior of Viande Restaurant at Grande Roche.

 

The culinary-themed 3D artworks by Mitch Mitchell of Scotch & Sofa by Mitch and the Machine, featuring a hog’s head here.

 

Chef Pete is now responsible for all food and beverage operations across Grande Roche. With Viande becoming a major draw card for the estate, Goffe-Wood worked with interior designer Francois du Plessis to completely re-imagine the interiors, adding a more contemporary and approachable feel to the new restaurant while acknowledging the heritage of the building. Gunmetal grey walls are offset by the landmark crystal chandeliers, bespoke monochrome wallpaper creates an eye-catching scene along one wall, while wooden floors brighten the space. Furniture is by design studio Houtlander, and there’s Goffe-Wood’s quirky humour in the culinary-themed 3D artworks by Mitch Mitchell of Scotch & Sofa by Mitch and the Machine: a hog’s head, kitchen scale and a burly pair of chef’s arms clutching cleavers.

That modern approach is mirrored on the brasserie-style menu, where meat is unashamedly the star. Viande means ‘meat’ in French – an apt title for this meat-focused restaurant offering contemporary nose-to-tail dining. On the menu you will find items like pan-fried calves liver, slow roasted pork belly, seared hangar steak, 28-day dry aged prime rib and roasted free range chicken. Chef Pete and his capable kitchen crew are even curing and smoking new delicacies, with selected cuts dry-aged on site in imported German meat-fridges.

Mobolletjies, ciabatta, beef fat and flavoured butter.

 

My choice for a glass of wine to go with my lunch: Underoaks Three Twenty 2015 – a premium white blend, lightly wooded.

 

I was invited to experience Viande for lunch, and want to share my photographs with you. I’ve been a fan of Chef Pete’s food for many years, having tasted a few of his nose-to-tail menus before, also including the best vanilla custard I’ve ever tasted (yes, he makes fabulous desserts too). Chef Pete has a knack of putting a menu together that will surely be a hit with many. Items like traditional bouillabaisse are hard to find on menus these days, and although it’s a surprise to find it on a meat driven menu like Viande’s, it was my choice for a main course. Served with a bright yellow rouille, it was the perfect cherry on top. For starters I went for a classic mushroom risotto (relatively easy to get right, difficult to get immaculate) and it delivered in every way possible. For dessert, I tried the profiteroles – something Pete added to the menu from childhood memories. I also have strong childhood memories of eating custard-filled eclairs topped with a runny chocolate icing, so having these beautiful profiteroles freshly topped with warm chocolate, filled with delicious French-style vanilla custard and grilled banana was a joyful ending to an extraordinary meal.

Viande at The Grande Roche, Paarl, is a bright new beacon on the highly competitive Winelands dining scene.

Starter: Wild mushroom risotto, parmesan & gremolata.

 

Main course: Bouillabaisse with toasted ciabatta & rouille. (The rouille only arrived after I tucked in, so I didn’t get a photograph of it. It was the highlight of this dish – absolutely delicious. This dish is not on the regular menu, but will be featuring now and then on the set menu for Sundays.)

 

Dessert: White and milk chocolate profiteroles.

 

The view from Viande’s entrance.

Viande is open 7 days a week for breakfast between 07h00-10h00, lunch between 12h00-15h00 and dinner from 19h00-22h00, with Sunday brunch on the cards as well. Book online (Dineplan app) or by calling Grande Roche on 021-863 5100, or emailing viande@granderoche.co.za. Starters vary from R90-R120, mains from R120-R250, and desserts from R80-R120 (click here for a menu).

The Grande Roche Hotel is located at 1 Plantasie Street, Paarl.

#Viande #GrandeRoche #GRANDgranderoche

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The new spring menu at Tokara with Chef Carolize Coetzee

6 Sep

The beautiful Tokara Restaurant, Helshoogte, Stellenbosch. (Picture from tokara.co.za.)

 

Following a three-week stint at Cosme Restaurant in New York (ranked 23rd on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019) under the watchful eye of superstar Chef Daniela Soto-Innes,  Tokara Restaurant Executive Chef Carolize Coetzee has found global inspiration for her new ingredient-driven spring menu.

Chef Carolize Coetzee with Chef Daniela Soto-Innes of Cosme in New York. Photo supplied.

 

I was invited to experience a taste of this new menu at a media luncheon a week ago, and had the pleasure of talking to Chef Carolize about her New York experience – a dream trip that was initiated because of her deep admiration for Chef Daniela Soto-Innes (at 28 years old, the youngest ever winner of Female Chef of the Year 2019). She was inspired by how Daniela manages to present traditional Mexican produce, heirloom recipes and ancient techniques in a refined and modern context.

Chef Carolize’s spring menu is filled with ingredients unique to the Simonsberg area of Stellenbosch, fresh produce growing in Tokara’s organic vegetable garden and playful flavour combinations. Fragrant Cape flavours such as nasturtium, kapokbos, renosterbos and sorrel are infused in classically prepared dishes alongside broad beans, asparagus and stone fruit.

Chef Carolize Coetzee joined us at the table, seated next to me. It was a joy to hear more about her New York adventure – a destination that I would love to visit.

 

For starters, I tried the oyster and ‘viskop’ broth with Chinese cabbage, peach & caviar, as well as the spinach, renosterbos and cured egg yolk. For mains, the smoked duck breast, parsnip, whisky
and hazelnut shitake was a feast of nutty & umami flavours. For dessert with a twist, the Spanish almond cake with hibiscus and lemon posset, hibiscus meringue, almond streusel and Spanish nougat ice-cream is utter indulgence and a combination of some of my favourite flavours all in one dish. Chef Carolize’s female touch shines through in her food, and this new spring menu is a celebration of delicate natural colours, clever textures and deep flavours.

“We often tend to shy away from finding inspiration in revisiting our own culinary history and rather try to imitate what’s going on elsewhere in the world. As Daniela and her mentor Enrique Olvera remained loyal in their pursuit of the essence of Mexican cookery, I’d like to remind our guests with each new menu of something they may have forgotten about our collective South African culinary memory.

My aim is for my food to have a real sense of place and that our guests should leave with an indelible impression of our restaurant at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain. That impression should not only concern the food, wine, views and architecture, but the joy and enthusiasm of all the people cooking, serving and cleaning behind the scenes,” says Chef Carolize.

She was particularly inspired by the family-style kitchen culture at Cosme. “Chef Daniela has a real connection with her staff from diverse backgrounds and a multitude of different countries. Every morning she takes the time to personally check in with each and every member of her team, asking about their well being and the well being of their families. To her, family is everything. The Cosme culture has changed the way in which I see the industry. You can create your own ‘vibe’ and culture within a kitchen with joy and respect right at the core,” says Chef Carolize.

With both chefs being 28 years old, Chef Carolize resonated deeply with Chef Daniela’s connection to her heritage, family recipes, and generations of woman cooking together in the kitchen. These food memories are also at the heart of Chef Carolize’s cooking. Take a look at my lunch experience in pictures:

Garden vegetables, vetkoek & dips to start with.

 

Tokara’s incredible wines complemented Chef Carolize’s menu in every way.

 

Oyster and ‘viskop’ broth with Chinese cabbage, peach & caviar.

 

Spinach, renosterbos and cured egg yolk.

 

My favourite wine of the day, Tokara’ Director’s Reserve 2015 – a premium white blend.

 

Smoked duck breast, parsnip, whisky, hazelnut & shitake.

 

Spanish almond cake with hibiscus and lemon posset, hibiscus meringue, almond streusel and Spanish nougat ice-cream.

 

Delicious petit fours to end with.

 

Tokara Restaurant & Olive Estate is a landmark destination in the Stellenbosch Winelands framed by
spectacular views and contemporary art.

Tokara Restaurant is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday (Monday to Sunday from 7
October) and for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Chef Carolize’s signature six-course dinner
menu runs from Wednesday, 4 September, with her new a la carte menu from Wednesday, 18
September.

For reservations call Tel: 021 885 2550, e-mail reservations@tokara.com or
visit www.tokararestaurant.co.za

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