WIN 5 double tickets to the Franschhoek MCC & Champagne Festival, presented by Mastercard

24 Nov

A panoramic view of the champagne festival in Franschhoek (image supplied by Tribeca PR)

A panoramic view of the champagne festival in Franschhoek (image supplied by Tribeca PR)

This weekend I’ll be attending the Franschhoek “Magic of Bubbles” MCC & Champagne Festival, presented by Mastercard, for the third time. The festival is taking place on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 November 2014, from 12h00-17h00 in the grand marquee situated on the lawns surrounding Franschhoek’s iconic Huguenot Monument.

I’ll be giving away 5 sets of double tickets valued at R2000 in total to attend the festival on Sunday the 30th of November 2014 – theme: Parasols & Panama Hats. Stand a chance to win double tickets by sharing this post via Twitter or Facebook, tagging me (@the_foodfox / and tagging #FHKbubbly & @MastercardMEA.

The Magic of Bubbles festival is one of the highlights on the yearly calendar of wine events (image supplied by Tribeca PR)

The Magic of Bubbles festival is one of the highlights on the yearly calendar of wine events (image supplied by Tribeca PR)

Tickets are valued at R200 per person, including access to the festival, a complementary tasting glass and tasting coupons (extra coupons can be purchased at the festival). Tickets can also be bought online at, with a 10% discount if they are purchased using a MasterCard card.

I’ve been privileged enough to attend this festival for the past 2 years as a guest, and it was my absolute highlight on the wine calendar in the Western Cape. The atmosphere, setting, quality of offering and general festive vibe is unrivaled, and a total must for any wine/MCC lover in South Africa. Make the effort to dress the part – it adds to the fabulous spirit of drinking and enjoying MCC.
Me and Schalk in front of the Mastercard Goumet Theatre at last year's MCC fest.

Me and Schalk in front of the Mastercard Goumet Theatre at last year’s MCC fest.

Well-known local MCC producers at the Festival include Pierre Jourdan, Morena, Môreson, La Motte, Boschendal, Leopard’s Leap, Noble Hill, Plaisir de Merle, Anthonij Rupert Wines, JC le Roux, Krone, Pongracz, Steenberg and Villiera. Some of France’s best Champagnes will be represented by brands such as Piper Heidsieck, Champagne Guy Charbaut and Veuve Clicquot. Bread & Wine, The SalmonBar, Haute Cabrière, Le Franschhoek, L’Ermitage, Restaurant at Grande Provence and Mont Rochelle are a few of the restaurants showcasing their menus during the festival. The theme for this year’s festival is black and white, with an emphasis on Parasols and Panamas hats. Like every year, a prize will be awarded to the best-dressed couple on each day.

Thank you to Mastercard and Tribeca PR for the generous give-away. Winners will be notified by Friday morning the 28th of November 2014.
Your tasting glass, courtesy of Mastercard (image supplied by Tribeca PR)

Your tasting glass, courtesy of Mastercard (image supplied by Tribeca PR)

Dinner at the Kitchen Table, Makaron Restaurant, Majeka House

17 Nov

With chef Tanja Kruger at the Kitchen Table, Macaron Restaurant

With chef Tanja Kruger at the Kitchen Table, Macaron Restaurant

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to experience the newly renovated “Kitchen Table” at Makaron Restaurant, Majeka House, Stellenbosch. I was over the moon, because for years I have been supplying these guys with trout via my brother-in-law’s trout farm on Lourensford. I’ve seen their hotel and restaurant, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to experience their newly renovated kitchen and exclusive Kitchen Table. The invitation also included accommodation at Majeka House and breakfast the next morning, so I grabbed my husband and fellow food enthusiast Schalk to join me on this journey on the 2nd of November. It was his birthday two days after, so we had a big reason to celebrate.

The beautiful view from our balcony.

The beautiful view from our balcony.The kitchen table at Makaron Restaurant is a brand new experience: after recently renovating the kitchen at Majeka house, two guests at a time can now experience an exclusive food and wine adventure every night directly from the head chef Tanja Kruger and sommelier ……. inside the kitchen. Yes, inside the actual working kitchen. For food novices this might be a foreign concept, but for food lovers it is an absolute must food adventure.

Majeka House is situated on the edge of Stellenbosch’s residential Paradyskloof suburb, almost hidden beneath the lush trees with a strong feeling of privacy. We were ushered to our “mountain view room” which was situated on the first floor and had a magnificent view of the majestic Stellenbosch mountain. The room was spacious and luxurious with the most beautiful wall paper, free wi-fi, private balcony and a freestanding victorian bath. We opted for a swim in one of the private pools with sundowner drinks to soak up the tranquility and the beautiful weather. After a quick freshening up we were ready to clock in at the Kitchen Table at the restaurant.

A selection of cookbooks next to the Kitchen Table.

Chef Tanja Kruger’s photo album from her recent trip to Spain where she walked the legendary Camino.

In the middle of the action: a view from our table.

There is only one two-seater table inside the kitchen, which makes this experience quite unique and exclusive. We were greeted by head chef Tanja Kruger and sommelier Esmé Groenewald, who proceeded to tell us more about what we could expect on the evening. We were in for a 5-course tasting menu that came with many surprises – a night of excitement, laughter and loads of food fun.

Chef Tanja Kruger and sommelier Esmé Groenewald.

Chef Tanja Kruger and sommelier Esmé Groenewald.

Chef Tanja explains her elaborate bread board with different butters.

Chef Tanja explains her elaborate bread board with different butters.

Tanja and Esmé make a great team in letting the food and wine shine along one another, and Tanja’s inventive mind along with her well-traveled soul makes for some very creative and forward-thinking dishes. We were taken on a journey that included “ancient grains”, pink vienna sausages, chicken and corn, sea bass  and even dried milk skins. There was no red meat to be seen – such a fresh take on the usual fine dining menu. Here’s a look at our 5-course menu with wine pairings that evening:

2010 Villiera “Natural”

Ancient grains, cauliflower velouté, courgette, romanesco (2012 Nivo van der Merwe White)

Mauritian Seabass, Laksa Foam, Carrots, Cashew, Coconut (2014 Paul Cluver “Close Encounter” Riesling)

Pork Belly and fillet, jewel sweet potato, apple, mebos (2014 Neetholingshof Gewurztraminer)

Free range chicken, dumplings, corn, buttermilk, chive (2011 Vriesenhof Grenache)

Milk mousse, salted caramel popcorn (2010 Lammershoek “Cellarfoot”)

(PS: After our first course, we were served a surprise extra course that was not on our menu. It was a small tin filled with something pink, and next to it a bite of real pink vienna on a fork. Around the tin, there was a printed label that read: “Everyone has a guilty pleasure. Mine is viennas, the nasty pink ones just to clarify if there were any confusion. My grandfather used to call them “gwapse” because of the sounds they make when you bite into them. I think I like them so much because of the memories of going to the butcher as a big shopping day once a month. We would buy loads of these viennas and sit around the table and eat them as a simple supper the same evening – just like that, no mustard of bread or tomato sauce. So I hope tonight you feel like you are sitting around my table and enjoying a meal with my Makaron family.” What a joy!)

Ancient grains (quinoa ring) cauliflower velouté, courgette, romanesco)

Mauritian seabass, laksa foam, carrots, cashew, coconut

Free range chicken, dumplings, corn, buttermilk, chive.

Pork belly and fillet, jewel sweet potato, apple, mebos.

The "surprise" second course of pink viennas.

The “surprise” second course of pink viennas.

Milk mousse, salted caramel popcorn.

The experience as a whole was one of my favourites of 2014 so far – a total must if you consider yourself a fine dining lover and an adventurous eater. The service was impeccable, yet friendly and relaxed.

Our king size bed for the night, inside a mountain view room.

Our king size bed for the night, inside a mountain view room.

The breakfast buffet spread at Majeka House.

The pastry section at breakfast.

Our stay at Majeka House was top quality and I can certainly recommend the hotel to anyone who loves a luxury boutique accommodation experience. Their attention to detail is commendable. The next morning, we were treated to probably the best breakfast spread in town –  French pastries (I think I had about 8), homemade yoghurt, beautiufl charcuterie and smoked fish, fresh fruit, veggie juice to nurse the indulgence of the night before, great coffee and a great selection of hot breakfast options.

Majeka House is a great example of how a hotel should be run in a highly competitive environment like Stellenbosch. The owners are hands-on, their staff have a strong sense of “family”, and they do everything properly. The restaurant can hold its own against any of the best restaurants in South Africa, and there is a reason why they currently feature on the top 20 nominated restaurants for the Eat Out Awards 2014.

Thank you Majeka House and Manley Communications for the opportunity to experience this.

Contact Majeka House:

Tel: 021-8801549


26-32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch

Baked fish with harissa

12 Nov

Baked hake with harissa on caulirice (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Baked hake with harissa on caulirice (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This whole food revolution (banting diet, paleo, whatever you want to call it) hasn’t exactly caught my attention. Maybe it’s because I’m a sugar loving pastry addict, to be honest.

To me, healthy eating involves balance and care when it comes to choosing ingredients. I don’t eat salad all day, but I also don’t cook with over-processed goods. Still, I do admire the fact that butter, cream and bacon fat has become such popular items in househoulds all over the world. Those three have been on my list of favourites for years.

I bought Tim Noakes’s book a few months ago, and to my surprise I was delighted by the content. The recipes were simple, full of flavour and very much the stuff that I love to cook at home. Of course some ingredients were slightly different (like the wheat flour substitutes), but the dishes were beautifully photographed, had great variety and looked delicious.

At The Demo Kitchen people often ask me for low-carb menus, so I was forced to start paying attention. This recipe is inspired by Dr Noaks’s book – fresh hake fillets baked in a spicy tomato sauce that include home-made harissa paste. The harissa keeps for weeks in the fridge and is great on almost anything. I especially also tried his cauli-rice, as so many of my friends love eating it.

This is a great, flavourful dish for anyone – banter or non-banter. Serve with couscous or rice if you don’t like cauliflower.

Harissa paste (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Harissa paste (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for harissa paste:

  • 40g dried smoked red chillies, soaked in 125 ml boiling water for 10 minutes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 15 ml ground coriander
  • 15 ml ground cumin
  • 15 ml fennel seeds
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 60 ml olive oil


In a small food processor bowl, process all the ingredients together to get a slightly chunky paste. Place in a glass jar, cover with a little extra olive oil, then cover and refrigerate until needed. Will keep for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

Ingredients for spicy tomato sauce:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) smoked paprika
  • 2 cans whole tomatoes, diced, or processed to a pulp
  • 2 tablespoons (60 ml) harissa paste
  • rind of a small lemon, finely grated
  • salt & pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and butter, then fry onions over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add garlic and fry for a minute. Now add spices and fry for another minute.
  3. Add tomatoes and harissa paste, then bring to a slow simmer and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add lemon rind and season to taste with salt & pepper. Set aside.

For the baked hake:

  • 1.5 kg white fish fillets, portioned into individual pieces
  • 1 batch spicy tomato sauce (see above)
  • fresh coriander leaves, to serve
  • cauli-rice or cous-cous or rice, to serve (optional)


  1. Grease or line a large baking tray, then lay the fish portions out without them touching one another. Cover with a generous layer of sauce, then baking at 200 C for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the fish. Do not overbake.
  2. Serve hot topped with fresh coriander leaves.
Hake fillets with a spicy tomato sauce, ready to to into the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Hake fillets with a spicy tomato sauce, ready to to into the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronje

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN


Classic mojitos

10 Nov

Mojitos with white rum, lime, mint & soda (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Mojitos with white rum, lime, mint & soda (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Silly season is upon us. I can feel it in the warm air here in Stellenbosch, and smell it on the slight breeze that is blowing through the bright green oak trees. It’s a feeling of “the year is almost over and it’s time to let your hair down”.

Although we live in wine country, my friends and I just love a good cocktail to start a relaxed dinner party. Some cocktails have a reputation for being “chick drinks”, but not a mojito. Classic mojitos are loved by pretty much everyone. They are just so intensely fresh tasting with all the mint and lime muddled in there, and I love the way that they’re mostly served in whiskey glasses. You can make yours as strong or as sweet as you want, or add a little more soda and it’s a light and refreshing spritzer.

When limes aren’t available, we just substitute them with lemons. Cheers to the summer season everyone!

Ingredients (makes 1 mojito, adjust according to taste):

  • about half a lime, cut into small wedges
  • about 4 mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 25-50 ml white rum
  • ice cubes
  • soda water


  1. Add the lime wedges, mint leaves and sugar in a short glass. Use a muddler (or back of a wooden spoon) to crush the mixture slightly and release the lime juice.
  2. Add a few blocks of ice, then add the rum and top with a little soda water. Mix with a spoon or straw, and serve at once.


This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Text, recipe & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Baked caramel cookie sandwiches (alfajores)

27 Oct

Butter biscuits with baked caramel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Butter biscuits with baked caramel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The South Americans have a dessert called “alfajores” – crumbly biscuits sandwiched together with thick and creamy caramel. A few years ago, I tasted this for the first time in a Peruvian retaurant in Cape Town. It was absolutely heavenly.

Thanks to my Donna Hay fixation, I recently came across her recipe for homemade dulche de leche. In South Africa, we know it as “caramel treat”, or boiled condensed milk. Donna bakes her condensed milk in the oven, then whisks the mixture afterwards to form a delicious and beautiful caramel that is even tastier than the boiled version. We made easy butter cookies to use as sandwiches, and the result was totally out of the world.

This is a great dessert for your summer braai this season. Make the cookies and the caramel a few hours ahead, then just quickly assemble when it’s time for the sweet stuff. Even the most hardened braai kings will weep for this one, trust me.

Ingredients for the caramel: (makes 2 cups)

  • 2 x cans condensed milk  (about 400g each)


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Place the condensed milk in an ovenproof baking dish and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Place the baking dish in a larger deep-sided baking tray and fill with boiling water until it reaches ²⁄³ of the way up the sides of the dish. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until caramel in colour.
  3. Spoon the caramel into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon into sterilized glass jars and cover with lids. Keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Ingredients for butter cookies:

  • 250 g butter, cubed
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup corn flour (corn starch / Maizena)
  • 5 ml vanilla essense
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons cold water


  1. Place all the ingredients except water in a food processor. Process until it forms “crumbs”.
  2. Add the water a little at a time until the mixtures just comes together in a ball. Remove from the processor.
  3. Divide into 4, then roll out each part between 2 grease proof baking sheets to prevent it from sticking. Roll out to a thickness of about 5mm, then remove top layer of baking paper and cut into rounds.
  4. Place rounds on a lined baking tray, then bake for about 12 minutes at 180 C until just lightly straw coloured, not too dark. Remove and cool on a rack.
  5. When completely cool, sandwich together with the caramel.


Text: Ilse van der Merwe

Recipe for baked caramel: Donna Hay

Recipe for butter cookies: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant & food preparation: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Lemon curd swiss roll

22 Oct

Lemon curd swiss roll (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Lemon curd swiss roll (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

As mentioned before, I just adore South African food icon Phillippa Cheifitz and her recipes. She’s probably the reason that I want to write my own recipe book (and will, soon – watch this space). Her recipes are so stylish, simple, classic, doable and beautiful.

Lazy DaysPhillippa’s popular book “Lazy Days – Contemporary Country-style Cooking” was recently revised. I attended Phillippa’s book launch a week ago, and finally had the privilege of meeting this iconic and stylish woman. I still have the original version of Lazy Days and it remains one of my absolute favourites on my shelf. It’s a collection of recipes that you’d want to cook over and over again, containing classic staples like whole-egg mayonnaise, anchovy butter, onion confit and buttermilk pancakes. Phillippa writes about the food that she cooks on their West Coast weekends – the type of food that totally speaks to my heart.

Phillippa’s recipe for a lemon curd Swiss roll is so effortless and delightful, so I decided to feature it as a tribute. We also loved photographing this cake, as it was the first time that we worked inside my new kitchen. The natural lighting was just fantastic and we are so happy with the results. Looking forward to many more shoots in here.

Thank you Phillippa for the endless inspiration – you rock my world.

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 4 XL eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt


  1. Beat the eggs with the sugar until very light & foamy.
  2. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt, then sift over the beaten egg mixture and fold in gently but evenly.
  3. Turn into a buttered baking Swiss-roll pan lined with nonstick baking paper. Bake one shelf above the middle at 200 C for about 12 minutes or until nicely risen.
  4. Turn out and pull off the paper carefully. Place a clean sheet of baking paper on top, then roll up, lengthways, in a tea towel.

Ingredients for the lemon curd:

  • 2 XL eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup strained lemon juice
  • grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 125 g chilled butter


  1. Beat the whole eggs and yolks until frothy, then gradually beat in the sugar until thick and pale.
  2. Mix in the lemon juice and rind. Turn into a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking in the butter bit by bit. Cook for about 5 minutes, until thickened, but take care not to allow it to boil and curdle.
  3. Once thickened, remove from the stove and place a piece of nonstick paper direcly on the surface. Leave to cool completely. Refrigerate for a few hours until it is a good spreading consistency.
  4. To assemble: carefully unroll the sponge cake, spread with the lemon-curd fulling and roll up again. Dust with icing sugar, if you want to.


Recipe: Phillippa Cheifits (Lazy Days: Easy Summer Cooking – Quivertree Publications)

Text: Ilse van der Merwe

Food preparation: Elsebé Cronje

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: The Demo Kitchen, Stellenbosch

Thank you to Catalyst Communications for the copy of Phillippa’s revised book. I will treasure it.

Pear & blue cheese quiche with rocket & pecans

18 Oct

Pear and blue cheese quiche with rocket & pecans (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Pear and blue cheese quiche with rocket & pecans (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There are few things as underrated as a good quiche. It’s so easy to make and one of the best options for a light lunch or a tea table during Spring time.

I love the combination of pears, blue cheese, rocket and pecan nuts in a salad. I’ve decided to combine the quiche and the salad to create a fresh and vibrant meal-in-one. A festive salad on top of a beautiful quiche – what could be better than this?

Goats cheese also works very well in this combination, so use whatever you prefer.


  • 4-6 sheets filo pastry
  • 100 ml butter, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 ml full cream milk
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small pear, coarsely grated (no seeds)
  • 125 g blue cheese
  • a bunch of rocket leaves (toss in a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice)
  • a handful of pecan nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 1 small pear, thinly sliced


  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Lay the pastry sheets out on a flat surface, then use a pastry brush to cover them with melted butter. Place the sheets on top of each other inside a greased loose bottom tart tin (about 23 cm). Trim the edges if you prefer, or leave them hanging over the edge. Place the lined tart tin inside a bigger rectangular baking tray.
  3. Beat the eggs & milk and season with salt & pepper. Pour the mixture into the lined tart tin, then add the grated pear and crumbled blue cheese (save about 1/3 of the cheese for later). Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and the middle just set.
  4. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Top with rocket leaves, the rest of the blue cheese, the pecan nuts  and some sliced pear.


This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Nutty seed brittle

8 Oct

Chards of beautiful nutty seed brittle (photography & styling by Tasha Seccombe)

Chards of beautiful nutty seed brittle (photography & styling by Tasha Seccombe)

After Nicola and Tasha suggested that we shoot a type of brittle, I did some research and put a recipe together from my previous experience with sugar caramel. Nut brittle makes such a beautiful gift, and everyone loves the seductive crack of nuts and hard caramel. When it was time to test it, I learned  the hard way that a brittle is not always as simple as it seems.

Tasha also tested it at home, and after batch number three she got some beautiful results. With her husband John’s help, they used a sugar thermometer to determine the exact stage of when to take the sugar from the heat and added a few handy tips which will make your first try a big success.

In the process, we both realized that non-stick cookware is not the best thing for making sugar caramel. Rather use a stainless steel or cast iron pot/pan. Also, it is best to warm the nuts in the microwave or oven before adding them to the caramel – this ensures that the caramel doesn’t cool down too quickly after adding the nuts and will be easier to transfer from the pan to an oiled or lined tray.

Although this recipe takes a little patience, the results are well worth it!


  • 2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (Tasha used a mixture of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and linseeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes


  1. Line a regular baking tray with baking paper. Keep an oiled silicone spatula handy for later.
  2. In a medium size heavy-based pot or pan (not non-stick), carefully heat the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt – don’t stir, just tilt the pan to swirl slowly. Bring to a simmer when all has melted, then cook for about 1015 minutes until it starts to turn lightly golden in colour. Use a sugar thermometer to monitor the temperature: we’re aiming for 150-155 C.
  3. In the meantime, sprinkle the nut mixture with salt, then heat them in the oven for a few minutes on 180 C. When the caramel has reached hard crack stage (150 C), add the nuts and swirl to coat them evenly. Transfer the mixture to the lined tray, then use the oiled spatula to quickly flatten the surface. Leave to cool, then cut/break into blocks/chards.

Note: Sugar caramel is very hot and must be handled with caution.


Recipe & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, recipe adaptation, styling &  food preparation: Tasha Seccombe & John Seccombe

As seen on The Pretty Blog.

Preserved quinces in vanilla syrup

5 Oct

Preserved quinces in syrup (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

While many South African cooks and food writers often reminisce about their childhoods filled with quince memories, I only discovered these strange fruit in my adult years. At a friend’s mom’s house, she treated us to her very own preserved quinces with a swirl of canned evaporated milk. It was simply delicious.

Eighteen months ago, I read up on membrillo – a preserved fruit “cheese” made from cooked quince paste. I stored the paste in wax paper and have been maturing it since in a cool dark place in my garage, sampling the batch as it got older. Membrillo is a unique product – a thick, almost spreadable paste that can be cut with a sharp knife and enjoyed as a preserve with cheeses.

A few weeks ago, I found another tray of perfectly yellow and unblemished seasonal quinces at my local farm stall. Although quinces are a prize ingredient, they are very tough to work with. After skinning and coring them, my hands were ruined by their harsh, dry flesh (I would recommend wearing kitchen gloves if you have sensitive hands). Still, it’s such a satisfying process to see how these hard, almost inedible raw fruit can be transformed into something so delicate in flavour, colour and texture.

They are fantastic enjoyed as a dessert straight from the jar with a scoop of ice cream or cream, but they are also great to cook with (especially in venison roasts).


  •  about 16 large quinces (not too ripe)
  • water for soaking
  • a squirt of lemon juice
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, sliced open lengthways, seeds removed and set aside
  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  1. Peel and core the quinces, then place them immediately as you go into a large mixing bowl filled with water and a squirt of lemon juice. This will prevent them for discolouring while you work.
  2. In a large stock pot, place the water, sugar, vanilla pods, vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the water off the quinces, then add the fruit pieces to the hot syrup (do this in batched in order to prevent crowding). Poach each batch for 15 minutes or until tender (depending on the size of your fruit pieces), then remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Pack the warm cooked fruit tightly into sterilized glass jars, then fill up with hot syrup to cover the fruit. Cover with sterilized heat proof lids.
  5. Rinse the stock pot used for the syrup, then fill it half-way with warm water and bring to the boil (we are creating a water bath). Using tongs, place a cotton dish cloth at the bottom of the pot, then place the filled closed fruit jars on top of the cloth (to prevent the glass from touching the bottom of the pot). The water should just cover the glass jars. Bring to a slow simmer, then cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water, then set them aside to cool to room temperature. If sealed correctly, the jars will last in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.
Quinces change colour from white to a delicate pastel coral after being cooked. (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Quinces change colour from white to a delicate pastel coral after being cooked. (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)


Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

As seen on The Pretty Blog.

A dried fruit feast with Cecilia’s Farm

23 Sep

A few weeks ago I hosted 12 guests at the demo KITCHEN in Stellenbosch for a night of deliciousness in colaboration with Cecilia’s Farm. These guys make the most amazing selection of soft dried fruit and nuts, and recently also launched their online store.

I decided on a menu that would showcase their fruit to the fullest:


Turkish apricot delights with goat’s cheese, basil, almonds & honey


Bon Chretien pear & blue cheese salad with roasted almonds & rocket

Main course:

Fragrant lamb tagine with prunes, peaches & figs


Apple tartlets with almond paste & vanilla ice cream

Click on the images below to view:

As part of the meal, we enjoyed the most delicious wines from Koelfontein Farm – a wooded chardonnay and a bold shiraz. The guests each got to take home a goodie bag filled with vouchers for Cecilia’s Farm’s online shop, and a homemade luxury breakfast bar to enjoy the next morning.

Thank you so much Cecilia’s Farm and Hatch PR for providing me with this delightful opportunity to discover these superior products, it was such a pleasure to cook with.

Here is a short video of how we made the salad on the night:

Check out how we made the lamb tagine:

And last but not least, here’s a peek into the dessert on the night:

And here are the recipes for our three courses:

Pear & cashew salad with blue cheese & rocket (serves 6)
• a large bunch of rocket leaves
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
• Salt & pepper
• 250 g Cecilia’s Farm Bon Chretien pears, sliced
• 100 g Cecilia’s Farm cashew nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan
• 120 g blue cheese, crumbled
1. In a large mixing bowl, add the leaves, olive oil, lemon juice and toss to coat. Season with salt & pepper, then arrange on a large flat salad plate.
2. Top with sliced pears, warm nuts, and crumbled blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Lamb tagine with prunes & peaches (serves 6)
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
• 1,25 kg boneless lamb (shoulder or leg), cut into 5cm cubes
• ½ cup (125 ml) white wine (or water)
• about 2 cups water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• freshly ground pepper
• 250 g Cecilia’s Farm prunes
• 250 g Cecilia’s Farm peeled cling peaches
• 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
• cooked cous-cous, to serve
• fresh coriander, to serve (optional)
1. Pre-heat oven to 170 ˚C.
2. Add oil in a large iron pot or authentic tagine over medium-high heat, then add onions and fry until soft. Add spices and fry for another minute, stirring.
3. Increase heat to high, then add meat cubes and fry until the meat changes colour (you don’t have to brown it too much). Add wine/water, stir and bring to the boil. Cover pot with oven-proof lid, then roast for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper, then add the peaches, prunes and honey. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until the meat is completely tender and the fruit are plump and soft.
5. Serve the tagine with cous-cous, topped with toasted sesame seeds and fresh coriander leaves.
Note: Tagine can be cooked 1 day ahead and chilled (covered once cool). Reheat gently, thinning with water if needed.

Pink Lady Apple and Almond Tartlets
Makes 12 tartlets
For the almond paste:
• 100 g (250 ml) ground almonds
• 250 ml icing sugar
• ¼ teaspoon almond essence
• 1 egg white (large egg)

For the tartlet:

• 250 g Cecilia’s Farm apple rings
• 400 g all- butter puff pastry, defrosted
• 125 ml apricot jam (to glaze)
• vanilla ice cream (to serve)
1. For the almond paste: Place all the ingredients together in a food processor. Process until it comes together into a ball (add more icing sugar if your mixture is too sticky). Remove and refrigerate (for at least an hour) in an airtight plastic bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
3. Bring 1 litre water to the boil in a small sauce pan, then add the dried apple wedges and boil for 5 minutes to soften. Drain the water off and set aside.
4. Lay the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface, then cut into rectangles of 12 x 6 cm each.
5. Prick each of the rectangles carefully with a fork, leaving a border of about 1 cm around the edges, unpricked.
6. Grate the almond paste generously over each of the pastry rectangles (within the borders), then lay about 6 cooked apple wedges on top of the paste of each tartlet.
7. Place the tartlets on a baking tray lined with baking paper, then bake for 10 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and brush with fine apricot jam, then return to the oven for another 2-5 minutes to turn brown on the edges. Remove from the oven, then allow to cool slightly and serve with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream on top.

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