Easy lamb chop bouguignon (French-style stew in red wine)

20 Apr

This hearty lamb chop stew in red wine is based on the classic French beef bourguignon, perfect for colder evenings. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Beef bourguignon is probably one of the best-known classic French dishes, also famously featured in the movie Julie & Julia. This fuss-free version is made with delicious lamb chops – a hearty, upgraded “plan B” for when the weather is not ideal for a braai. Yes, there’s more than one way to enjoy a chop. Bring on winter, please!

This recipe is also perfect for making in a cast iron potjie over the fire, if you prefer.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

45 ml olive oil
1,2 kg lamb chops
salt & pepper
250 g streaky bacon, chopped
2 large onions, peeled & quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
5 sprigs thyme, woody stalks removed
30 ml tomato paste
10 ml cake flour
750 ml dry red wine (a Bordeaux-style blend works well)
250 g small mushrooms (or halved if bigger)
500 g tagliatelle, cooked & buttered, for serving
a handful fresh parsley, chopped, for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy based large pot (that has a lid) over high heat. Fry the chops in batched, browning them on both sides and seasoning with salt & pepper. Remove from the pot and turn down the heat to low.
  3. Add the bacon, onions, garlic & thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring.
  4. Add the tomato paste & flour, stirring.
  5. Add the red wine and stir to loosen any sticky bits on the bottom of the pot. Now add the browned meat and juices back to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and braise for about 2,5-3 hours or until the meat is just starting to fall from the bone. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 10-15 minutes (covered), then remove from the oven.
    Serve hot with freshly cooked tagliatelle (or rice or potatoes) and scattered parsley.

Note: This tagine can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving as the flavours improve on standing (store in the refigerator overnight). Freezes very well.

This is the third recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipes for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & preserved lemon and Italian-style lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi.

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How to make great pizza: from scratch, at home, without a pizza oven

17 Apr

After many requests, here it is! My essential guide to making exceptionally tasty pizza at home, from scratch, without a pizza oven.

We’ve been making pizza at home for many years, at least once a week. Pizza is obviously a popular item all over the world because it’s tasty, but making it at home is also a great way to spend time together and get people excited about midweek dinner. You won’t be able to serve 6 pizzas at once, but it will be a sharing-kinda-evening with everyone choosing their favourite toppings. My 7 year old daughter has always loved pizza, but now that she’s gotten used to my homemade version over the past few years, she’s turning her nose up at restaurant pizza (which is becoming a problem when we do eat out!).

So let’s talk pizza: this is almost a New York-style pizza with a thin crust (but not the thick outer rim), freshly made with Italian whole peeled tomatoes, grated mozzarella cheese (not fior di latte), salami and fresh basil leaves – you can leave the salami and add whatever you want. New York-style pizzas have a signature way of cooking where the tomato sauce and grated cheese integrate in the oven to form an almost “orange” top with a slight release of oil from the cheese, resulting in a look very different from the Italian (Neopolitan) classic made essentially with white blotches of fior di latte (fresh mozzarella) and a wood fired oven which results in spotty, blackened crusts.

Of course I also enjoy a proper wood fired Italian pizza made with fior di latte, but I’ve found that this semi-New York-style satisfies a much wider audience in my house.  There’s no pizza oven at my place, so I’ve learnt how to use my regular oven (a Bertazzoni La Germania Americana) with a few tips and tricks to reach incredible temperatures, straight onto a pizza stone (using a regular sheet of baking paper) without extra flour or a baking shovel. The results are just this: you’ll want more.

Here are my top 10 tips for making great pizza at your home. Once you try it, you might never order in again.

  1. Make a pizza base sauce from scratch: This is probably the biggest contributor to the flavour of your pizza. Most store-bought sauces just don’t hit the spot. If you think you can use tomato puree straight out of a can as a base sauce, you are horribly mistaken! Please don’t do it. My recipe includes no tomato puree (I find it too concentrated), but rather canned whole Italian tomatoes, pureed. Use a little more olive oil (than you think is adquate) to fry your garlic in, this way the garlic won’t burn easily. I add salt, pepper, sugar and dried origanum. My secret ingredient, smoked paprika, is optional, but adds phenomenal smokiness. Simmer and reduce the sauce for about 25-30 min over low heat, with a lid partially on so it doesn’t splatter all over your stove top. You’re looking for a hearty, bright red tomato puree that is slightly chunky.
  2. Use a good quality flour for your dough: For me there’s only one option, and that is stone ground white bread flour. Not only is it a more natural choice, but the texture result is far superior to processed and bleached commercial cake flour (there are scientific reasons for that, like the strength of the gluten etc. – I won’t go into it here). I’ve recently converted from making dough in my stand mixer to making dough in my food processor, after reading about it on Serious Eat’s Pizza Lab (a great read, by the way). It’s so much faster to make, and results in a really smooth dough that rises a little faster too.
  3. Be choosy about cheese: Not all mozzarellas are equal. Choose a good quality mozzarella and grate it coarsely, by yourself (ready-grated mozzarella are usually coated with a floury substance that prevents it from sticking together, and when that melts the result is just not the same). And don’t be tempted to use too much – it makes the pizza heavy and the base will be soggy.  If you are using fior di latte, tear it into chunks and arrange it with some space inbetween, as it will melt and “pool” to the sides. For this option, you won’t want to cover the full base, you’d still want some red spots inbetween.
  4. With toppings, less is more: This is a rookie mistake I see over and over again. A Margherita with salami, bacon, mushrooms, onion, red pepper, feta, artichokes and extra garlic WILL be a soggy mess. Choose 2 of your favourite toppings, if you must, and add it sparingly. That way, you’ll enjoy a much better end result with proper crunch. Lastly, remember to put the toppings on top of the cheese, not under (otherwise nothing gets cooked, it only gets horribly mushy).
  5. Properly preheat your oven: That means at least 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll be surprised how much it changes your game. Pizzas need exceptionally high temperatures to bake from scratch and cook through all the lovely layers. A moderate hot oven just won’t win the game.
  6. Choose the right oven setting and rack position: In my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana, I’ve found that the convection oven gets hotter quickly, but it doesn’t give enough directional heat from below – which is what you specifically want for a crispy base. The regular baking setting, using the top and bottom elements at the same time without convection, works fantastic for me. To make the most of the bottom heat, the pizza should definitely be baked on the lowest rack.
  7. Choosing between a pizza stone or a baking tray: I’ve had great results with both options, but the pizza stone still wins. I recently bought a nice cheap-ish one from Agrimark for only R220,00 (it even includes a pizza slicer!). The cool thing about the stone is that it absorbs and radiates heat, which means that it contributes to raising the heat even more with proper preheating. Remember to place it in the oven BEFORE you turn it on, otherwise it might crack (and only remove it after the stove has cooled properly). Another option is to buy untreated terracotta tiles from a tiling company – I’ve used it many times with phenomenal results. This way you can also pack them tightly together to create a larger baking area on your bottom tray for baking more than one pizza at a time – great for entertaining larger crowds. Last note about using baking trays: assemble the pizza on the BACK of the tray, that way it will slide off easier without having to go over a lip (see next point about using baking paper for sliding). These days you can also find lipless baking trays that work perfectly.
  8. You don’t need a shovel: Cooking the pizza directly on the hot pizza stone is what you’re aiming for. If you had a proper pizza oven, you’d use a shovel to get it in and out – it looks great, but it’s quite a technique to master, using just the right amount of flour/semolina underneath the fully assembled pizza to slide it onto and off again – believe me, it can be a disaster. In your kitchen, you probably won’t have the space for it anyway. So make your life easier by just using sheets of regular, non-stick baking paper (NOT wax paper). Transfer the rolled dough onto it, then assemble from there. This way, you’re left with an easily sliding device: sliding it onto a tray, onto the stone, off the stone, onto a board – you’ll easily get the hang of it. You can tug on the edges because it never really becomes too hot to touch (just be careful not to touch the actual stone or the oven). The paper will turn a little brown, but it won’t catch fire (unless you forget it in the oven…).
  9. Serve it on wood: Slice and serve the pizza immediately after cooking, on a flat wooden board. Hot pizza on regular ceramic plates turn sweaty quite quickly – not nice. Top with fresh herbs for extra flavour and texture.
  10. Condiments, anyone?: Many people love a little extra salt and freshly ground pepper on a pizza, but if your base and sauce is properly seasoned it shouldn’t even be necessary. I do like the crunch of a few salt flakes on top, so I always add that. Hot sauces like Tobasco or Sriracha are also crowd pleasers, so make a little condiment station in the middle of the table if you want to – totally optional.

Pizza base sauce recipe: (serves 6-8 – recipe can also be halved)

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 x regular cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 10 ml sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml dried origanum
  • 2,5 ml smoked paprika

Heat the oil over medium heat, then fry the garlic until fragrant but not brown. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, origanum and paprika, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes until almost reduced by half (keep partially covered to prevent splattering).

Pizza dough recipe: (makes 8 medium or 6 large – recipe can also be halved)

  • 600 g (4 cups) stone ground white bread flour
  • 10 g (15 ml) instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
  • 1,5 teaspoons (7,5 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) luke warm water
  • 15 ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for oiling hands and bowl)

Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the water and olive oil and mix for 15-20 seconds or until it forms a ball. With oiled hands, remove the dough and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let if proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.

To make your pizza:

  • flour, for rolling out dough
  • about 125 g mozzarella per medium pizza, roughly grated (about 1 kg for 8 medium pizzas)
  • toppings of your choice (optional, like sliced salami, ham, mushrooms, crumbled feta, wilted spinach, etc.)
  • fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • condiments like hot sauces (optional)
  • salt flakes & freshly ground pepper (for serving)

When you place your dough in the bowl for proofing, then is a good time to start pre-heating your oven, with shelf on bottom position (if using a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf before turning the oven on). When the oven is hot (more than 240 C) and the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough into 8 portions (for medium pizza). On a floured surface, roll out the dough into thin circles (about 27-28 cm for medium), then transfer to a square sheet of non-stick baking paper on the back of a baking tray or on a lipless baking tray. Use the back of a spoon to cover all over with the cooked tomato pizza base sauce (see above), then top with mozzarella and your choice of topping, used sparingly. Carefully slide directly onto the hot pizza stone (or if you don’t have a stone, just place the baking tray in the oven). Bake for 4-7 minutes until golden brown on the edges and bubbly on top. Remove by carefully tugging on the baking paper and sliding the pizza onto a tray again. Transfer to a wooden serving board and remove the baking paper. Slice, top with fresh basil and serve at once.

Find more info about my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana stove on www.chefspride.co.za.

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Lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi

5 Apr

Lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi, basil and parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

This is hands-down one of the most comforting dishes I’ve ever eaten. It is made with boneless lamb that’s been cubed into 1 x 1 cm blocks – don’t stress about the labour, it goes quickly and it’s actually quite therapeutic (read: pour yourself a glass of wine while you do it). You can use chops, leg or even stewing meat, just remove the bones and chop-chop-chop. The result is a chunkier ragu than those made with ground meat, very tender with an incredible mouth-feel and packed with simple, robust flavours. Just the way the Italians intended.

I love serving this ragu with gnocchi, but it also works well with pasta – homemade is best. Fresh basil and grated parmigiano is compulsory. Bellissima!

Ingredients: (serves 6)

45 ml olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
1-2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, woody stems removed & finely chopped
1 kg boneless lamb/mutton, cubed into 1 x 1 cm pieces
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped, with juice
salt & pepper
5 ml sugar
about 750g-1 kg fresh gnocchi, cooked, to serve (or 500 g dried pasta, cooked)
a handful fresh basil leaves, to serve
grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

  1. In a heavy based large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onion, celery, carrot and rosemary until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the cubed meat and turn up the heat. Fry until it starts to catch (get brown and sticky) on the bottom stirring often – this is important, so be patient. It takes about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Add the chopped tomatoes with juice, season with salt & pepper, add the sugar and stir. Bring so a simmer, then turn the heat down low, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until very soft. Stir every now and then.
  4. Serve with cooked gnocchi or pasta, with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.

Note: Store-bought gnocchi don’t pan-fry well and should rather be boiled briefly in salted water until they pop to the surface. Freshly made gnocchi can be directly pan-fried in butter until golden, it only take a few minutes over medium heat and it is most definitely my preference.

This is the second recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipe for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & preserved lemon.

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Product review: Achilles Chef’s Knife by Sternsteiger

4 Apr

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A weekend in the Elgin Valley

31 Mar

The most incredible view of Elgin Wine Valley from the stoep at Almenkerk Wine Estate, Elgin.

 

Last week I spent two days in the Elgin wine valley with my husband and daughter, visiting a few wine estates and restaurants for a taste of their characteristic cool climate region.

This post is a photographic journey of our experience. The valley is so breathtakingly beautiful that you cannot even try to communicate it via pictures. It sometimes felt like we were in another country, perhaps Italy or France, enrobed by the rolling green hills, pristine vineyards and gardens, luscious fruit orchards and fading blue mountains in the distance. It was a feeling of discovering a gem that’s been right under our noses, still unpolluted by the commercialized machine of mass tourism. This valley is generous in all of its glory – unprecedented cool climate wines, honest and personal countryside hospitality, robust flavours and an earthy tranquility that transcends time and space.

We started our trip with a wine tasting at the picturesque Almenkerk Wine Estate followed by lunch at the newly launched Rojaal Eatery (already proving to be a favourite among the Elgin locals). After a laid back night in (watching cricket next to the fire place with a few glasses of wine) and stayover at the plush manor house at Elgin Vintners, we enjoyed breakfast and took a stroll around the vast gardens and surrounding grounds. A generous wine tasting of Elgin Vintners followed, after which we took a drive to Oak Valley for an indulgent lunch at The Pool Room, balming in the most perfect Autumn weather. My 7 year-old daughter found her own magic along the way by making friends with the winemaker’s kids at Almenkerk, playing in their cellar, riding a horse with the very friendly local farm girls and taking a swim in the rain at Elgin Vintners, watching tv in her huge bed, eating freshly picked pears from the surrounding orchards and playing in the puddles at The Pool Room.

Elgin is situated off the N2 just 45 minutes outside Stellenbosch and there are so much more to explore. We’ll certainly be back soon to sip, savour and see more. This is a weekend getaway that almost feels like a trip to the most beautiful countryside of Europe, only much better, because it is right here on our doorstep and costs a fraction of traveling abroad.

Thank you to Yolandi de Wet PR for putting our itinerary together, and a special thank you to Almenkerk, Rojaal Eatery, Elgin Vintners and The Pool Room for hosting us so generously. We absolutely loved our stay.

Tasting the Lace range by Almenkerk, starting with a cool climate sauvignon blanc. Elgin is also well known for producing excellent apples and pears.

The Almenkerk Estate range, featuring their premium sauvignon blanc.

The cake table at Rojaal Eatery. This place is situated in a warehouse-type building with a fun, eclectic, colourful style of decor.

Old and new meets at Rojaal Eatery. Housed in a former flower-packing shed overlooking one of the fruit region’s many valleys, Rojaal (the Afrikaans word for abundance) was established in 2016 by enterprising apple farmer Arno Reuvers.

Pork belly with slaw and baked pears at Rojaal Eatery. Portions are generous and the style of cooking is “abundant”, just like the name suggests.

Fish cake with guacamole on a squid ink bun, onion rings and potato wedges. This was really delicious! Rojaal Eatery is now also open for dinner on Fridays and they are very popular with the local Elgin community – a great testament to their establishment.

Happiness is… crispy house-made chicken strips! At Rojaal.

The recently renovated manor house at Elgin Vintners. The house has four rooms, three with on-suite bathrooms. The house is also suitable for larger functions like weddings and can be rented out as a whole. We stayed in the Denniston and Browne rooms, both with king size beds and on-suite bathrooms.

The majestic garden view from the stoep at Elgin Vintners.

The wine tasting room with wine display, also doubling up as a tv room with fire place and wine tasting bar. At Elgin Vintners.

Exploring the garden at Elgin Vintners. Spot the squirrel…

Ready to go for a stroll to find the horses! At Elgin Vintners.

Some pretty magical pathways in the garden at Elgin Vintners.

On our way to the horses at Elgin Vintners.

One of the local farm girls showing us how cool life can be around horses. They were all so friendly! At Elgin Vintners.

One of my favourite farm views of our stay at Elgin Vintners, on our way back to the manor house.

Morning dew in the rose garden at Elgin Vintners manor house.

The swimming pool next to the manor house at Elgin Vintners. Although it was slightly rainy, my daughter took a dip and it was surprisingly warm!

Freshly picked pears on the wine tasting counter at Elgin Vintners.

Tasting The Century, a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon at Elgin Vintners.

An incredible wooded chardonnay by Elgin Vintners.

So this is why it’s called “The Pool Room”! Surely an iconic view, surrounded by beautiful, painted sculptures.

Our table could not have been more in the center of this restaurant – almost like a dream, so picturesque. At The Pool Room.

The interior of The Pool Room at Oak Valley. The restaurant is independently run to the rest of the estate.

The service area at The Pool Room, with host Emma Gordon in the middle. Her husband, Gordon Manuel, is the chef. Together, they run the restaurant as partners.

Amouse bouche: mole with chargrilled veg and crispy poppadoms. So robust in flavour!

Starter: citrus cured hake with garden salad and flowers. So fresh!

Trout, avocado mousse, citrus dressing, garden greens.

Our choice of wine with our lunch: a shiraz from Oak Valley, the larger estate where The Pool Room is situated on.

Grass-fed beef rump steak with thrice fried chips. This was Schalk’s main course. The flavour of the meat was intense and earthy – such a privilege to eat beautifully prepared produce from the estate itself!

Acorn-fed pork cutlet with caulflower puree, baked apples, and crackling. This was my main course and it was superb.

Pannacotta with candied orange and raspberry sorbet. Such a great combination of textures and flavours.

Peach frangipane with honey and ice cream. This was my dessert and the PERFECT end to an incredible meal. We were there for 2 and a half hours and we could have stayed for much longer – so tranquil!

A perfect Autumn day in the Elgin wine valley, having  a dreamy lunch at The Pool Room while my daughter played around the pool. We had a few drops of rain, but no wind. Cool and slightly overcast. I could have stayed there forever.

 

Contact details:

Almenkerk Wine Estate: 021 848 9844, ruth@almenkerk.co.za

Rojaal Eatery: 021 204 1085, bestuurder@rojaal.co.za

Elgin Vintners:  021 848 9587, info@elginvintners.co.za

The Pool Room: 021 859 4111, poolroom@oak-valley.co.za

Yolandi de Wet PR: 082-772 7519, yolandi@yolandidewetpr.co.za

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Greek-style 8 hour leg of lamb with lemon & origanum

29 Mar

The most lemony leg of lamb, slow braised for 8 hours, Greek-style. (Photography & co-styling by Tasha Seccombe. Food preparation and co-styling by Ilse van der Merwe.)

 

Easter weekend is here and many of us are getting ready to feast generously with friends and family. To me, entertaining a crowd is all about fuss-free choices so that you can cut back on the stress of catering and actually enjoy the feast as much as everyone else.

One of my choices for a low effort / big result showstopping roast is this Greek-style lemony leg of lamb. In Greek cooking, simplicity reigns supreme. There are very few ingredients in this recipe, making sure the flavour of the meat remains the most important: only lemon, dried origanum, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a touch of water. The meat releases so much of its own juices, so you actually braise the meat and potatoes slowly in a lemony lamb broth. The result is just magnificent, because although the meat falls apart completely, it is still pink in colour and super juicy.

Use leftovers to make the most incredible lemony lamb sandwiches the next day. A generous dollop of tzatziki won’t hurt either.

Happy Easter everybody!

Note: Remember to start this dish very early in the morning if you’re having it for lunch, or late morning if you’re having it for dinner. You can even cook it overnight (without the potatoes) and reheat before serving.

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

  • 2-2,5 kg leg of lamb (ask your butcher to hack the shank bone so it will be able to bend and fit in your tray)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 4-6 lemons)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 15 ml dried origanum
  • 10 ml salt
  • 5 ml ground black pepper
  • about 1,5 kg small-medium potatoes, peeled (and halved, if big)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 120 C.
  2. Place the leg of lamb in a large non-corrosive (stainless steel or ceramic) deep roasting tray, fat side up. Pour over the lemon juice, water and olive oil, then sprinkle all over with origanum. Season generously with salt & pepper. (I like to also add some of the juiced lemon halves to the tray, but it is optional.)
  3. Cover with a layer of non-stick baking paper, tucking the sides in around the leg. Cover tightly with 2 layers of foil. Place in the oven and roast for 4 hours at 120 C, then add the potatoes and return to the oven for 4 more hours.
  4. Remove the foil and baking paper. Crank the heat up to 220 C, then roast uncovered for 15 minutes.
  5. To serve, press the meat here and there to gently fall apart and suck up more of the lemony broth. Serve with the potatoes, a Greek salad, perhaps some tzatziki and optionally some toasted pita bread to soak up the runny juices.

This recipe is part of a Mediterranean-inspired series for Lamb & Mutton South Africa. To learn more about South African lamb and mutton and to find more recipes, go to www.cookingwithlamb.co.za.

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Launch: Mynhardt’s Kitchen at Cathedral Cellar, KWV

16 Mar

The remarkable Cathedral Cellar at KWV is now the home of Mynhardt’s Kitchen.

Yesterday, I attended the launch of Mynhardt’s Kitchen at Cathedral Cellar, KWV Wine Emporium. Chef Mynhardt Joubert is no stranger to the Paarl community and he’s been acting as brand ambassador for iconic Paarl wine producer KWV for numerous years. He has just fitted the breathtaking Cathedral Cellar at KWV with a state of the art kitchen and the venue is now open for functions.

In celebration of KWV’s 100 year celebrations in 2018, from today onwards anyone will be able to book a memorable dining experience in Cathedral Cellar, for groups of 20 up to a 100. Guests will be seated at long tables, flanked by imposing, 12000 ℓ stuk-vats, some showing historical wine making scenes carved by father and son, Karl and Karl-Heinz Wilhelm in 1969 and 1970. On either side of the impressive hall are large coloured windows – in tones of blue and green on the one side, and red and orange tones on the others side, resembling the Paarl mountain in the east and the setting sun in the west.

To celebrate the launch of this unique facility, Mynhardt treated us to a vegetarian menu with a “roots” theme, serving a visually striking, colourful starter course of root vegetables on paper (which was rolled up after – no washing up, very water wise). For mains we enjoyed deep fried risotto balls (arancini) on a creamy mushroom sauce made with a rich root vegetable stock, and for dessert he served cheesecake mousse with fig ice cream. All plates were made of paper and thus compostible. The food was accompanied by impeccable wines by KWV and Laborie.

The drama of this space is just unrivaled, and I can only imagine what evenings in this space must look and feel like with the added lighting that they’ve installed to make the most of the cathedral’s vaulted ceiling and massive wooden vats all around.

Enquire about Mynhardt’s Kitchen at Cathedral Cellar for your next dinner or function at chef@mynhardt.co.za or 076-033 1839. Thank you Jeanri Tine van Zyl of Feed That Bird Communication for the invitation. Thank you to Chef Mynhardt, KWV, Laborie, Montagu and XTN Family Farm for the fabulous lunch and the beautiful gift box.

Chef Mynhardt places the finishing touches on his root vegetable starters.

Bubbles all around, courtesy of Laborie.

A series of iconic KWV wines were served as part of the lunch.

Our colourful starters, plated on paper.

Lots of wine glasses (and beautiful fresh flowers, roots attached) ready for various wines to pair with our multi-course lunch.

Red, yellow and green food art – almost too beautiful to eat!

Fig, rosemary and pine nut focaccia. This was dreamy!

The red section of the starter – roasted baby beets, fresh candy beets, goats cheese balls, raspberries, pomegranates, cranberries, microherbs, strawberries, beetroot mayonnaise.

A long table of colours and flavours.

Arancini, creamy mushroom sauce made with root veg stock, pan fried mushrooms, lattice pastry crust.

Cheesecake mousse, fig ice cream and fresh figs.

Back home, I unpacked this gift box, courtesy of Laborie, Montagu and XTN Family Farm. I now have a little vine in my home!

 

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Review: Coffee, cold brews and pastries at Coco Safar

12 Mar

The entrance to Coco Safar Café in Sea Point, Cape Town.

 

On Saturday I visited Coco Safar, a unique luxury café, espresso bar, (compostible) capsule emporium, couture pâtisserie and brand new cold brew facility. After relocating their flagship store from Claremont to Sea Point in January 2018, they are also proud to announce the opening of another store in New York later this year.

If you haven’t been to Coco Safar, prepare to be dazzled by their luxury approach and impeccable attention to detail. Sit down in the plush café for great coffee ranging from espresso to syphon to iced latté, and take your pick from their selection of immaculately crafted French-style pastries and chocolates. If you’re in the mood for something savoury, try the hearty yet refined breakfast options that include bobotie croissants, pulled lamb an poached eggs on bao buns, and buttery savoury galettes.

Across the isle from the espresso bar, a chocolate & coffee laboratory is visible where they work on creating new offerings almost daily. On the other side, yet another Coco Safar facility displays cold brew infused rooibos and coffee, bottled or on tap, all alcohol-free. These brews are deliciously refreshing and a must-taste experience.

If you are serious about coffee, tea and luxury pastries, then this place will be your slice of heaven. The consistency of quality and attention to detail are truly incredible. Coco Safar is a beacon of what constant innovation and a quest for excellence can become: “a journey beyond the ordinary.”

About the founders: Wilhelm Liebenberg and Caroline Sirois are passionate food and coffee specialists having spent the best part of 20 years traveling the world in search of the finest coffee and culinary experiences. These experiences lead to many creative endeavors including opening several restaurants and café’s around the globe including Montreal, Toronto and New York.

“Coco Safar is a natural evolution of this journey and their extraordinary vision to make the luxury experience, not just the domain of the privileged few, but an everyday experience for everyone.”

Here is my experience in pictures:

The friendly espresso baristas at Coco Safar.

My flat white. The coffee was fantastic.

Couture pâtisserie section at Coco Safar.

Some of the chocolate bonbons on display at Coco Safar. I tasted four of them, my favourite was by far the truffle with lamb bacon in it! Yes, lamb bacon in chocolate (they’re the speckled ones in the middle).

More sweet indulgence at Coco Safar.

Some of the exquisite looking pastries at Coco Safar.

I’ll be back for these creations. There was a salted caramel bomb with my name on it…

One of two (world-first) coffee machines of their kind – this one located in Coco Safar’s coffee lab.

The cold brewing section at Coco Safar.

 

Tasting cold brewed teas and coffee. These were my favourite drinks of the day. I’ll take anyone, anytime. So refreshing!

Bottled sparkling citrus coffee, cold brewed by Coco Safar. Such beautiful branding. And look at the colour of the coffee!

The syphon coffee master at Coco Safar.

Watching a syphon demonstration – it’s a coffee brewing method that involves a vacuum, using two chambers where vapor pressure produce a clearer coffee with a complex taste.

Some of the coffee capsules for sale in boxes at Coco Safar. Their capsules are 100% compostible.

Taking a look at the retail offering at Coco Safar: books, coffee gadgets, ceramics, leatherware and more.

Savoury galettes with brussels sprouts & mushrooms. So buttery!

The legendary bobotie croissant – absolutely delicious!

Raspberry croissant and plum galettes. I’m a sucker for croissants and theirs are really top notch. My favourite was the plain croissant.

Sticky bun and more fruit galettes. That sticky bun will chase me in my dreams – it was incredible!

The unique wall art at the booth next to the window pane at Coco Safar – go take a selfie for Insta! So beautiful. Also, leather chairs all around. Such a pleasure to sit on.

 

The Coco Safar flagship store is accessible at street-level at Artem Centre, which is located at 277 Main Road Sea Point, Cape Town, including secure onsite parking facilities.
For more information, visit Coco Safar at http://www.cocosafar.com, email capsules@cocosafar.com or call 021-433 0490.

Thank you to owner Wilhelm Liebenberg for the personalized tour, it was an inspiration. Thank you to Natalie Jardine of Vivid Luxury for hosting me.

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Pilchard & spinach shakshuka – breakfast of champions

8 Mar

Lucky Star recently launched their fourth cookbook in a series of cookbooks published by Tamsin Snyman Publishers, Seven Colours with Fish. This book captures a sense of colourful occasion without being too fine or too fussy, and presents a variety of quick and easy dishes that are nutritious for the whole family.

Lucky Star is such an iconic South African brand and their range of canned fish is good enough to eat straight from the tins – from pilchards to middlecut, tuna, mussels and sardines. Canned fish is readily available in most supermarkets throughout the year, making it an accessible source of affordable protein on a daily basis. All Lucky Star pilchards are caught and immediately frozen at sea before being brought back to the factories to be cooked with the seal on – no preservatives or artificial colourants needed. You shouldn’t remove the soft bones either, as they’re a great source of calcium.

Seven Colours with Fish is available countrywide for only R85.50 countrywide at selected bookstores or directly from www.tamsinsnyman.com.

Here is my take on Tamsin’s fabulous cover recipe for pilchard shakshuka, omitting the beans and adding a few more spices. This is such a stunning, flavoursome, bright and bold breakfast (or anytime meal), especially after a late night! And so easy to make.

Ingredients:  serves 3-4 (adapted from Seven Colour with Fish)

  • 1 x 400 g can Lucky Star Pilchards in tomato sauce (or in hot chilli sauce)
  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled & chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) ground cumin
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) ground coriander
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) cinnamon
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) chilli powder (optional, or more if you like it hot)
  • 1 x 410 g can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped (or use a can chopped tomatoes)
  • 5 ml sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • two handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • 3-4 eggs
  • toasted bread, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Separate the pilchard fillets from their tomato sauce and set both aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a standard skillet (23 cm) and fry the onions until golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, stirring.
  3. Add the spices and stir for a few seconds, then add the canned tomatoes and sugar as well as the reserved tomato sauce, and season generously with salt & pepper. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the spinach and stir, then cover with a lid and let it simmer until spinach is wilted (about 2 minutes).
  5. Crack the eggs into the simmering tomato mix (make little wells for them), then cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for about 5-6 minutes until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny (or however you prefer your eggs).
  6. Serve hot with some fresh spinach leaves (if you want to) and toasted bread for dipping.

Note: If you are making hot shakshuka, serving it with some fresh coriander leaves work very well.

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Baked risotto with chicken, broccoli & blue cheese

7 Mar

This is the first time I’ve attempted to make a baked risotto, after being quite skeptical about a non-stir method of making one of my favourite dishes on earth – one that many people feel quite sacred about. And I have to admit: for this little effort, the results are fantastic.

I’d say the texture is more like that of a beautifully “wet” paella, than a classic risotto. It’s all in the timing, so remove this dish from the oven when it’s still slightly saucy – it will continue to thicken on standing.

For the chicken, I’ve used a packet of free-range, deboned, skinless chicken drumsticks from Woolworths – a stunning product that is economically priced compared to deboned thighs and so very versatile and convenient.

Also featured in this recipe is the brand new extra virgin cold pressed canola oil from Cape Canola – a stunning new product with the most luminous deep yellow colour that I drizzled over the risotto just before serving. It’s also fantastic on salads, dips like hummus or even over pasta. It has a buttery, nutty flavour, and I’m sure it will make killer roast potatoes and dreamy mayonnaise. It is available from Pick ‘n Pay in 1 liter glass bottles, as well as 3 liter and 5 liter tins.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 15 ml extra virgin cold pressed canola oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 700-750 g boneless skinless chicken, cut into large chunks
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cups arborio rice (or other risotto rice)
  • 125 g blue cheese, roughly crumbled
  • 125 ml cream
  • 1 liter chicken stock, warm
  • a handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C.
  2. In a large, wide, ovenproof dish (about 3 liter capacity), brush the base with oil, then arrange the chicken & broccoli in a single layer and season generously with salt & pepper.
  3. Pour the uncooked rice all over evenly, then arrange the blue cheese crumbs all over.
  4. Mix the cream and chicken stock, then pour most of it over the arranged ingredients (if your dish won’t take all of the liquid, leave some to add later when some of it has been absorbed). Gently press any ingredients down that stick out, to be covered by the liquid.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the rice is just al dente (still a gentle bite in the centre). If the top becomes too dark, cover it with foil. If it becomes too dry, add more liquid. You should remove it from the oven when it has not absorbed all of the liquid, because it will continue to absorb liquid apon standing.
  6. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve hot with a drizzle of extra virgin canola oil (or olive oil or melted butter),  scattered with parsley.
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