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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How to make soft flour tortillas

31 Aug

Toast your freshly rolled-out tortillas in a hot dry skillet, for best results, then cover with a tea towel. Towel cloth by Cotton Company.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of “wraps”. I’ve always found them to be slightly dry, and I’m more of a fan of the filling than the vehicle. More recently though, I’ve been exposed to freshly made flour tortillas. They are not only “pancakes”, they are the fluffy flattened floury cousins of great bread. It’s like they’re the brothers of roti’s. The nieces to flatbreads.

Once you’ve tasted a good, freshly made tortilla, you’ll simply be hooked.

These tortillas will stay soft as long as you leave them to steam under a tea towel, and cover for storage afterwards.

 

With a recipe that doesn’t use yeast, these beautiful staples are dependent on the quality of the flour and the working of the dough. I’ve make the decision to switch to local stone ground flour a few weeks ago, and with it came an awareness of what natural wheat flour can become. Gideon Milling is a producer with a passion for biological farming and natural flour, and I support their cause.

Flour tortillas are excellent for stuffings like spicy shredded meat, avocado (or guacamole), mayonnaise, sour cream, sliced red onion, fresh tomato, lemon/lime juice, fresh coriander and much more. Such a fresh, stunning lunch/dinner. Also doubles as a pizza base. Freezes well.

 

Here’s a simple way of using your Gideon Milling Stone Ground White Bread Flour (apart from bread, pizza etc.). With a few very simple ingredients, you can have a stack of 15 tortillas on your table, in your fridge or freezer, easy to reheat and use in so many different ways.

Kids love tortillas, and my daughter would much rather eat one of these than a store-bought slice pf bread. They contain the good proteins, the good fats, and the good carbs for growing bodies (and the healthy balanced adults). And for me who isn’t necessarily growing in height anymore, it’s just the natural, sustainable, delicious, local choice.

Try your hand at making these tortillas and let me know your thoughts and results. The original recipe is from The Cafe Sucre Farine via my good friend Tasha Seccombe – her girls were so in love with these that they now have a standing weekly tortilla dinner date at home. I suspect it will be the same in our home.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (about 450-480 g) stone ground white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil, but I prefer EVOO)
  • 1 cup luke-warm/warm water

Method:

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (using your hands or a spoon or an electric mixer). Add the oil and water and mix to a sticky dough, then continue to mix and knead to a smooth dough – it shouldn’t take too long. Divide the dough into roughly 15 equal pieces, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes. The roll each piece out on a flour surface to a sircle of about 20cm in diameter, and toast it in a hot skillet on both sides until charry & cooked. Remove from heat, stack, and cover with a dry tea towel to keep it soft.

To serve: serve warm with your choice of fillings, like shredded slow cooked meat, tomato salsa, beans, sour cream, guacamole, fresh leaves, herbs, red onion etc.

Note: These tortillas freeze very well.

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A weekend at the Robertson Slow Festival, in pictures

20 Aug

The beautiful facade of Bon Courage Estate – one of the estates that we visited as part of the Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival 2019.

 

On the weekend of 9-11 August this year, we were invited to visit the 13th annual Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival – a celebration of the many experiences that the Robertson Wine Valley and Route 62 has to offer. Receiving a tailor-made itinerary, our weekend experience included visits to Rooiberg, Springfield, Esona, Arendsig, De Wetshof, Jan Harmsgat, Bon Courage, Excelsior, Viljoensdrift and Rietvallei, as well as two nights accommodation at Arendsig Family Cottages.

Two years ago, we visited the same festival and was absolutely blown away by the quality of the wines, the authentic country-style hospitality, and our discovery of hidden gems in the area. This year was no different – the Robertson Wine Valley remains one of our favourite destinations in the Western Cape. This “slow” festival offers unique experiences for small groups at a time at various estates where the owners, wine makers and chefs show off their best. It is a valley filled with so much to explore and I urge you to do the same. Take a look at our weekend in pictures with some comments as captions. Our 8 year-old daughter came along on this trip, proving that it is indeed a family friendly adventure for everybody.

Rooiberg Winery is well known for their landmark massive red chair displayed next to the road – the “biggest red chair in Africa”.

 

My favourite white wine of the day at Rooiberg – their Reserve Chardonnay 2016. A full bodied, complex wine with bright fruit flavours. Splendid!

 

A tasting of all five Pinotages available at Rooiberg. They produce quite a large range of wines – there’s something for everyone.

 

 

Purchase your “love lock” from Rooiberg and fasten it to their grid for a cheeky romantic moment (or just some family fun!).

 

Next up, a stop at Springfield Estate. This is their wine tasting deck overlooking a beautiful pond and lush lawns.

 

One of my favourite wines of the day from Springfield, their unfiltered Méthode Ancienne Chardonnay 2016. Nuances of lime, Cointreau and oranges – a big wine with classical character.

 

All tastings at Springfield come with a complimentary tray of bread, olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The perfect way to unwind and enjoy the beautiful views. Thank you Lana!

 

The cellar walls and doors at Springfield are incredibly beautiful – probably the most picturesque facility in the Robertson Wine Valley.

 

 

Eating a quick bite at Esona before doing another tasting – their cheese & meat platters are generous and delicious (I asked for a very small bite to eat, the bistro platter menu items are lot bigger and more varied).

 

The “Taste the Difference” experience at Esona‘s underground cellar facility, where you will experience wine, preserves, art and music. Thank you Hirchill!

 

Booking into one of the self catering family cottages at Arendsig. This rustic cottage has a built-in braai in the kitchen, two bedrooms (one twin, one double), two bathrooms and a living area. Beautiful tranquil setting right between the vineyards. Thank you Lizelle & Lourens!

 

This is the late afternoon view to the left from the cottage stoep at Arendsig Family Cottages.

 

Arriving at the spectacular De Wetshof Wine Estate for a special wine maker’s dinner. Thank you Johann & team!

 

Long table dinner preparations – waiting eagerly for the guests to be seated at De Wetshof. Food by Mimosa.

 

One of the most impressive wines of the Robertson Slow weekend: the De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2016. Simply spectacular.

 

Starter at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Teriyaki & ginger salmon tartare, zesty daikon & grilled pak choy salad, lemon grass & lime drizzle. Served with De Wetshof Lilya Dry Rosé.

 

Entrée at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Butternut squash raviola, gorgonzola, fresh herbs & sherry reduction, toasted almonds. Served with the De Wetshof Finesse/Lesca Chardonnay 2018 and 2015.

 

Main course at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Rolled leg of lamb with garlic, thyme & lime, braised honeyed baby carrots & fennel with salsa verde, golden baby potatoes. Served with De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2016 and De Wetshof Naissance Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.

 

Dessert at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Rooibos pannacotta, strawberries, caramel twirl, wild malva anglaise. Served with De Wetshof MCC 2009.

 

Welcoming the new day on a crisp Saturday morning at Jan Harmsgat Country House’s restaurant outside Swellendam.

Dishing up from the generous breakfast buffet spread at Jan Harmsgat Country House. What a great way to start the day.

 

Getting a special “breakfast dessert” from the kitchen at Jan Harmsgat – chocolate quince tart with homemade pomegranate syrup & pomegranate ice cream (leftovers from the previous evening’s special dinner). Thank you Francois, it was spectacular!

 

The beautiful wintry pecan nut groves at Jan Harmsgat. This is definitely a destination where I’d like to spend more time. Stunning accommodation facilities too.

 

Next stop: Bon Courage for some epic vintage MCC. This is their Jacques Bruére Blanc de Blanc 2011.

 

My friend Elmarie Berry tasting some limited release red wines by Bon Courage at a table next to us. Thank you Lee-Irvine for the great tasting presentation.

 

The iconic teal blue velvet interior at Bon Courage.

 

Winemaker/owner Lourens van der Westhuizen, personally presenting a tasting of his single vineyard boutique wines at Arendsig‘s tasting area. What an exceptional range of wines. Thank you Lourens!

 

Five of Arendsig‘s unique single varietal wines (separate batches individually bottled). For serious wine lovers, this tasting is a must.

 

Starter at Excelsior Estate‘s 5-course winemaker’s dinner: Smoked snoek risotto. Thank you Peter de Wet & team!

 

Main course: Lamb shank with sweet potato mash & seasonal vegetables. Part of Excelsior Estate’s 5-course winemaker’s dinner.

 

Our Sunday morning started with an adventure on the water: a tranquil boat cruise on the Breede River with Viljoensdrift River Cruises. Thank you skipper Johan!

 

A river view from the boat with Viljoensdrift River Cruises.

 

The welcoming fire place at Viljoensdrift‘s wine tasting area.

 

One of our favourite wines of the day, and perhaps best value for money at R100 per bottle: the Viljoensdrift River Gradeur Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

 

Our last stop: visiting the pristine Rietvallei Wine Estate for a lazy lunch. Thank you Kobus, Elizabeth & team!

 

One of Rietvallei’s well-known premium white wines from their heritage collection, the JMB Chardonnay 2017. We also tasted the Cabernet Franc 2014 and it was incredible.

 

On the menu: various platters, boeries & bowls for lunch at Rietvallei. It may seem like a humble chalkboard menu, but it was probably our most delicious meal of the weekend. Absolutely scrumptious!

 

Rietvallei‘s cheese & charcuterie platter at the Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival 2019: toasted bread, various artisanal cheeses, salami & cured sausages, cole slaw, beetroot, pickles, olives and green figs.

 

Rietvallei‘s Crazy Karoo Braai platter: Pork belly, brisket, braaied mielies, toasted bread, crispy carrots, pickles, sauces, cole slaw – an absolute delight!

 

The pristine lawns at Rietvallei, with wooden seating and umbrellas, and beautiful views. One can seriously get stuck here, in a great way!

 

Art exhibition at Rietvallei.

 

Live art happening at Rietvallei.

 

Make sure to follow the Robertson Wine Valley on Facebook for updates on their festival in 2020 – you wouldn’t want to miss out. Thank you to everyone in the valley for a fantastic weekend, we’ll be back for sure.

Contact the Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival:

Tel: 023 626 3167

Event Enquiries: admin@robertsonwinevalley.com

Media / PR Inquiries: media@robertsonwinevalley.com

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Mussel & tomato stew

8 Aug

Dish these beautiful fresh mussels up in a pot/pan straight on your table. Photography by Tasha Seccombe, from my book Cape Mediterranean. Cutlery by Hertex HAUS.

 

This is a recipe from my recently released cookbook, Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat (published by Penguin Random House / Struik Lifestyle). I’m publishing it here, because if you have bought the book already, you might have noticed the misprint on page 86: the full ingredients list is missing – a peculiar mistake that has baffled our team of publishers, proof readers and layout artists as it was very much present in the final pdf before going to print. These things do happen, and the best way I know to tackle it is to share it with everyone, pour a glass of wine and celebrate the book even more!

It is indeed a delightful recipe, so now you have a digital reference on the web, for life. The recipe has its roots in the beginnings of a Spanish paella. One of the secrets to making a great paella is to take your time with frying the onions, tomatoes and red pepper (and chorizo, in the case of a paella) until it intensifies in colour and becomes really soft and dark. Although chorizo is a fantastic ingredient, it can be pricy. Using smoked paprika in its place for this stew will bring even more deep red tones to it, you’ll only use a tablespoon and the stew will have a fantastic smoky undertone. Smoked paprika is such a stunning versatile ingredient, I never go without it in my kitchen.

Note: This recipe needs fresh live black mussels – frozen just won’t do. Order yours from Blue Ocean Mussels. Also, if tomatoes aren’t in season, you’re welcome to use 1–2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, chopped (not the canned chopped tomatoes – they
sometimes taste artificial).

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil (plus more for serving)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium-size red pepper, pith and seeds removed, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 4 ripe red tomatoes, chopped (or pulsed in a food processor)
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) smoked paprika
  • 250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 1.5 kg live black mussels, scrubbed, beards removed and rinsed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful fresh coriander or parsley, roughly chopped
  • crusty bread, to serve

Method:

In a very big, wide, heavy-bottom pot (30 cm cast-iron or enameled cast-iron works very well), heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onion, red pepper and garlic until just soft. Add the tomatoes and paprika, then turn up the heat and fry, stirring often, until the tomatoes break up and start to go darker and sticky on the bottom – 10–15 minutes. Add the wine, stir and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and steam for 8–10 minutes, or until the mussels are all open. Stir well – the mussels will release their salty sea water, so don’t season the stew until you’ve cooked the mussels and tasted for salt levels. Season with salt (if necessary) and pepper, then sprinkle with the herbs and serve immediately with some crusty bread on the side to dip into the sauce.

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Cape Mediterranean: the way we love to eat – IN STORES NOW

10 Jul

It is with the greatest pleasure that I share the arrival of my first cookbook with you! It is titled Cape Mediterranean: the way we love to eat, published by Penguin Random House / Struik Lifestyle, with photography by my dear friend Tasha Seccombe. The book is available from this week in most South African book stores as well as online (Loot.co.za, Bidorbuy.co.za, Amazon.com, ExclusiveBooks.co.za etc.) and as an e-book at a recommended retail price of R360.

Writing a cookbook (hopefully one of many to come) has been one of my biggest aspirations for many years. In June 2018 I finally approached the legendary Linda de Villiers from PRH with my concept. Apart from agreeing to publish my book, she and her team have made this process the smoothest and most pleasant that I could have ever wished for and I am so grateful for their belief in my concept. It was a privilege to produce this book with my incredibly talented friend Tasha Seccombe who photographed & styled while I cooked and co-styled – I couldn’t have done it without her. With ceramics, fabrics, background textures and props provided by our friends from Hertex, Hertex HAUS, Mervyn Gers & Southern Art Ceramics, this book has a very unique local look and feel.

A Cape Mediterranean spread, featuring green-on-green salad, loaded hummus, fennel & apple salad, pork & port terrine, trout fillets and panzanella. Photography by Tasha Seccombe. From my book, Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat.

 

So let’s talk about the book’s theme. Cape Mediterranean food/cooking is a contemporary South African hybrid cuisine strongly influenced by the broader Mediterranean basin (Southwestern Europe, Middle East and northern Africa, surrounding the Mediterranean Sea) that has developed naturally from within the Western Cape due to the inherent Mediterranean climate and the abundant occurrence of classic Mediterranean-style local produce. It is not defined by race or ethnicity. Although ‘Mediterranean cuisine’ is still a term that isn’t easily defined and varies across the wider basin, it is mostly accepted to be driven by olive oil, wheat, grapes (wine), fruit, vegetables and seafood, also including dairy and meat. The more well-known Cape Malay, Cape Dutch and indigenous African styles of cooking are well settled within South Africa.

With this book, I would like to add another Cape hybrid to our rainbow repertoire: contemporary Cape Mediterranean (Cape-Med) – a South African style of cooking and entertaining influenced by one of the oldest and arguably also the healthiest cuisines in the world.

What are the biggest differences between traditional ‘Mediterranean’ and ‘Cape Mediterranean’? In South Africa, we traditionally consume more meat than in the Mediterranean basin. Also, our exceptional local olive oil industry is still very young compared to the Mediterranean basin, which has an olive producing history dating back to 2600 BCE, according to some sources. Few of us know how to make fresh homemade pasta or gnocchi (we mostly prefer the quick and easy store-bought dried versions), although they are both very popular items on restaurant menus. However, our culture of alfresco dining because of good weather is shared, as is our love of good wine and an active outdoor lifestyle. This book focuses on contemporary South African gatherings, not heritage food nor nostalgia. You won’t find any twists on milk tart, chakalaka or bobotie. Cape Mediterranean cooking is a natural South African interpretation of classic Mediterranean-style cooking, celebrating our Western Cape-based Mediterranean climate, worldclass local produce and dedicated producers.

May this book bring many hours of joy and togetherness around your table! Please tag me with #CapeMed if you’re sharing your cooking experiences from this book on social media.

I’d like to share one of my favourite recipes from the book with you: a festive pavlova with lemon curd & passion fruit. Lemons are one of the cornerstone ingredients for Mediterranean & Cape Mediterranean cooking – they’re listed in more than 40% of the book’s recipes. This specific recipe was created in collaboration with Lemongold – the newly launched cousins of the much loved Clemengold premium citrus brand. These seedless, thin-skinned, extra juicy lemons are perfect for making lemon curd, for cooking, for squeezing, for juicing etc, without the hassle of removing seeds. Lemongolds are grown widely in SA and forms part of Woolworths’ “Farming for the Future” sustainability programme.

A classic pavlova topped with whipped cream, lemon curd and fresh passion fruit. Photography by Tasha Seccombe. From my book Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

6 XL egg whites (save the yolks and make *lemon curd)
400 g caster sugar (extra fine sugar)
10 ml (2 teaspoon) white vinegar or lemon juice
15 ml (1 tablespoon) corn flour
1 teaspoons vanilla extract (or scraped seeds of a vanilla pod)
250 ml fresh cream, whipped
about 1 cup *lemon curd, for topping (see page xxx)
pulp of about 4 fresh passion fruits

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 150 C. Whisk egg whites in a large bowl (with an electric whisk or stand mixer with whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Gradually add castor sugar to egg whites, small amounts at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Add the vinegar/lemon juice, cornstarch and vanilla and mix well.
Dot a big roasting tray with some of the mixture then place a sheet of baking paper on top (sticking like glue). Pour the pavlova mixture on the tray and shape with a spoon or spatula into a round shape with a diameter of about 23 cm, like a cake (draw a circle on the back of your baking paper, if necessary). The mixture will rise a bit to the sides, so leave enough space. Place in the oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 120 C. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave to cool (in the oven) for about 2,5 hours without opening the oven door.

To serve: Carefully remove the baking paper from the bottom of pavlova and transfer to a serving dish (it will have a few cracks, that’s 100%). Top with whipped cream and lemon curd, swirling the cream and curd together softly. Top with lashings of passion fruit pulp and serve at once, sliced.

Note: Pavlova must be assembled just before serving as it becomes soggy on standing. Store the unassembled baked pavlova on the baking tray covered with a sealed large plastic bag. Can be baked a day ahead if stored airtight.

For the lemon curd:

You only need three lemons to make 500 ml (2 cups) lemon curd. It’s a phenomenal spread for cakes, cookies and pavlova, and will last for at least a week in the refrigerator, once opened.  I usually make my lemon curd with four whole eggs, but when I’ve made a pavlova using six egg whites, I use the remaining six yolks instead of whole eggs. Use whatever you have on hand.

Ingredients: (makes 500 ml/2 cups)

peeled rind and juice of 3 medium-size lemons / Lemongolds
250 ml (1 cup) white sugar
180 g soft butter
4 XL eggs (or 6 XL egg yolks)
a pinch salt

Method:

Place the peeled rind and sugar in a food processor and process until you get a very fine, yellow, grainy mixture. Add the butter and process until light and creamy. Add the eggs and salt and mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir continuously while it heats up (take care, it burns easily). The mixture will at first become runnier as the butter starts to melt, and then it will thicken again as the eggs form a glossy custard. Never let it reach boiling point. If at any stage it looks like it’s burning, remove from the heat at once and strain to remove any brown bits. Remove from the heat and transfer to a glass jar with a lid. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use – the mixture will continue to thicken on cooling. (Note: For an ultra-silky result, strain the hot mixture before cooling.) Best served at room temperature – spread it on cakes or cookies, or serve with meringues (Eaton mess-style) and on pavlova.

Note: In this photograph, I used freshly made lemon curd that has not cooled fully – that’s why it has a more runny consistency. Your lemon curd will be thick and spreadable once refrigerated.

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