The winter set menu at Cavalli

11 Jun

Welcome drink offerend on arrival: Cavalli Capriole MCC (100% Chardonnay).

 

I was recently invited to experience the winter set menu with wine pairings at Cavalli Estate on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. Cavalli is a pristine destination for dining, but also for tasting and buying wine, viewing their equestrian facilities, or taking a stroll through their contemporary art gallery and remarkable collection of rugby & sporting memorabilia.

A sample 2019 winter set menu (with vegetarian option) at Cavalli looks like this (subject to change, according to the seasonality/availability of produce):

WINTER SET MENU R350
with Cavalli wine pairing R425

AMUSE BOUCHE

FIRST COURSE
Slow- cooked local octopus, fermented black garlic
aioli, apple, squid ink crisp, radish, fynbos dressing
Cavalli ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015

SECOND COURSE
Barley & mushrooms, parmesan custard
Cavalli ‘Vendetta’ Viognier/Verdelho 2016

THIRD COURSE
Confit duck leg, orange, fennel marmalade,
mustard pommes mousseline, black kale
Cavalli ‘Nightmare’ Shiraz/Grenache 2015

FOURTH COURSE
Tonka bean crème caramel, palmier
Coffee/Tea

PETIT FOURS

VEGETARIAN WINTER SET MENU R300
with Cavalli wine pairing R375

AMUSE BOUCHE

FIRST COURSE
Parsnip, truffle & honey velouté, 65°c free range egg,
mushroom ragout, crispy enoki, smoked crème fraiche
Cavalli ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015

SECOND COURSE
Barley & mushrooms, parmesan custard
Cavalli ‘Vendetta’ Viognier/Verdelho 2016

THIRD COURSE
Pearl couscous risotto, red pepper, homemade
almond yoghurt, pickled naartjies, kale crisp
Cavalli ‘Nightmare’ Shiraz/Grenache 2015

FOURTH COURSE
Tonka bean crème caramel, palmier
Coffee/Tea

PETIT FOURS

Cavalli Restaurant takes full advantage of their remarkable setting. It’s a space bathed in natural light, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening out to a spacious terrace. Beyond the tables the views spill out across the farm dam, vineyards and paddocks; a scene framed by views of the distant Helderberg Mountains. 

Looking out from the restaurant terrace towards the equestrian facilities and the Helderberg mountains.

 

Head Chef Michael Deg has held the reins of the Cavalli kitchen since 2017, cementing the restaurant’s reputation for seasonal, sustainable cuisine. It is refined food without pretence, served within a world class setting.  For his winter menu this year, Chef Michael has created an enticing, affordable, 4-course food and wine pairing menu that will have you coming back for more. Considering the extras included in this menu (multiple amuse bouche, palate cleanser and petit fours) coupled with the service excellence and delicious wine pairings, this is one of the best fine dining winter deals the Winelands has to offer this winter.

Note: Althought chef Michael was on leave the day that we visited, his capable, talentede kitchen team provided all guests with a seamless dining experience.

I chose the vegetarian set menu, while my husband had the regular set menu (he opted for the international wine pairing too, an option that cost slightly more, but totally worth it – a wine lover’s adventure). Take a look at my photographs of our experience:

We sat outside on the terrace, overlooking the pristine pond.

 

Amuse bouche: crispy carrots on marinated tofu, pickled vegetables and garden greens, fresh flour tortillas, fried black beans.

 

Another amuse bouche: I didn’t make a note of what this delightful mouthful was, but if I remember correctly, it was smoked beetroot on goatscheese and a cheese biscuit.

 

More amuse bouche: Corn & cheese croquette.

 

Yet another extra treat from the kitchen, this was a type of crispy dome that covered a mushroom mousse (if I remember correctly!).

 

Last of the surprising bites coming from the kitchen: cauliflower fritter with pineapple salsa.

 

Wine pairings with our first course.

 

FIRST COURSE: Slow- cooked local octopus, fermented black garlic aioli, apple, squid ink crisp, radish, fynbos dressing. Served with Cavalli ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015. One of my favourite dishes of the day (not on the vegetarian menu).

 

FIRST COURSE (veg): Parsnip, truffle & honey velouté, 65°c free range egg,mushroom ragout, crispy enoki, smoked crème fraiche. Served with Cavalli ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015.

 

SECOND COURSE (regular & veg): Barley & mushrooms, parmesan custard. Served with Cavalli Cremello.

 

A closer look of the barley risotto (second course).

 

Palate cleanser: raspberry & pineapple sorbet, white chocolate, lemon curd.

 

THIRD COURSE: Confit duck leg, orange, fennel marmalade,mustard pommes mousseline, black kale. Served with Cavalli Warlord.

 

THIRD COURSE (veg): Bean puree, charred broccoli, homemade coconut yoghurt, toasted nuts, kale crisp. Served with Cavalli Warlord. This was one of my favourite dishes of the day. I’ll eat vegetarian forever if it tastes like this!

 

Cavalli’s Cremello white blend was one of my favourite wines of the day.

 

One of the international pairings of the day, in Schalk’s glass, from the Nappa Valley in California. Look at that colour!

 

FOURTH COURSE: Tonka bean crème caramel, palmiers.

 

After the dessert, we also enjoyed two petit fours each, served with coffee. This winter set menu is exceptional value and a must on your winter calendar. Sit back and enjoy premium Winelands hospitality at an affordable rate.

The winter menu is available from 1 May – 30 of September 2019 for lunch/dinner at R350 for the 4-course menu, R425 with Cavalli wine pairing and the 4-course vegetarian menu at R300 or R375 paired with Cavalli wine. Bookings are limited to a maximum of 15 guests.Cavalli Restaurant is open from Wednesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, as well as Sundays for lunch only. For bookings email the reservation team on restaurant@cavalliestate.com

Cavalli Estate is situated at R44 Highway (Strand Road), Somerset West.

Tel: 021 855 3218

Email: info@cavalliestate.com

Wine tasting is offered from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. Tasting fee of R60 for five premium wines, R40 for ‘Passions’ wines. For bookings or further information send a mail to wines@cavalliestate.com.

High Tea is offered in The Conservatory from Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm – 3pm. R220 per person, with a minimum of 10 guests. 

Stable tours are offered on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 11am – 12pm. 

Carriage rides (one hour) across the estate are available on request, and can carry up to four passengers. R2000 per carriage, including a bottle of Cavalli Estate wine. For bookings send a mail to stables@cavalliestate.com or call 021 855 3218.

The Cavalli Private Collection of South African Masters is frequently rotated in the portico situated within the main gallery and two memorabilia rooms allocated in close proximity showcase a remarkable collection of rugby and sporting memorabilia.

The gallery at Cavalli is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.​ For all enquiries or a catalogue of available artwork, please contact gallery@cavalliestate.com or call 021 855 3218.

 

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Stephanie Alexander’s “best-ever cheesecake”

3 Jun

A silky, creamy cheesecake with an almost custard-like consistency. Served with fresh passion fruit pulp.

 

My friend Tasha Seccombe and I share a love for baking, and for all things sweet and indulgent. Over the years, she has told me numerously about one of her favourite cookbooks, The Cook’s Companion, by Stephanie Alexander. It’s an Australian “food bible” of sorts and has sold more than 500 000 copies since it’s first print in 1996. In this book, Tasha said, is a recipe for a cheesecake that is the silkiest she had ever tasted, with a texture that barely holds together as it wobbles from the oven and finally sets in the fridge. I was more than a little intrigued and finally asked her to send me the recipe last week.

I’ve published a few cheesecake recipes on my blog before, and I feel that all of them have a specific place in the world of cheesecakes. Whether it’s a more crumbly crustless ricotta cheesecake, or a classic cheesecake, a pecan cheesecake, a white chocolate cheesecake, or even a freezer cheesecake, I love them all. It’s weird though, because in my mind, I associate cheesecake with coffee chops in the 1990’s. Classic as it is, it surely isn’t currently trending in any way and has kind of slipped my mind as an option to make at home or order in a restaurant.

In Stephanie Alexander’s book, she had taken the bold step to actually call it “Best-Ever Cheesecake”. For a woman of her stature and expertise, this should surely mean something! As with many other baked cheesecake recipes, this recipe calls for digestive biscuits and butter in the base. The difference comes in with the cheesecake being baked in a water bath, with quite a runny filling (lining the pan with foil over the base is imperative – just follow the instructions). It spends 1 hour at 180 C (Stephanie says 50 min, but I found that 1 hour is better for my oven), then another hour with the oven turned off. It is still very wobbly when it is taken from the oven to cool on the counter, and only really sets in the fridge after a few hours. The result is a truly silky, smooth and creamy cheesecake with no grainy or crumbly texture, not too sweet, just the essence of cool, comforting, dairy indulgence with a classic cookie base that holds everything together.

Is it the best-ever? That might depend on how you like your cheesecake. It sure is incredibly good – you were right, Tasha. So good that I ate half of that cheesecake myself, within a day. This recipe is a keeper and I’ll surely make it again.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 250 g wheatmeal/digestive biscuits (Stephanie uses 300g, but I’ve found that 250g is more than enough)
  • 500 g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 15 ml cornflour
  • 3 XL eggs
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (500 ml) sour cream

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Use a little melted butter to brush the sides and base of the 22 x 6 cm spring-form cake tin.
  2. Prepare the tin: Remove the base from the tin. Cut a round of baking paper the same size of the base, brush with butter and set aside. Cut 2 sheets of foil, 40 x 40 cm, and place them on top of each other on the brushed base. Place the baking paper round on top of the foils, then sit the springform tin over the stack and lock the triple-lined base firmly into place. Fold the overhanging foil sides to the top and out of the way to create a water tight container.
  3. For the base: crush the cookies in a food processor, then add the remaining butter and mix to combine. Press it firmly into the base of the prepared tin, smoothing the surface with the back of a drinking/whiskey glass.
  4. For the filling: Using an electric mixer with a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and caster sugar until smooth. Add the cornflour and then add the egg one at a time, beating until just smooth (do not beat too much air into it). Add the lemon juice, vanilla and salt, then beat until just combined, scraping the sides. Lastly, add the sour cream and beat briefly until just mixed. Pour into the prepared base, then put the tin into a larger deep baking tray and fill it with boiling water to come half way up the sides of the tin.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes at 180 C (I prefer baking it for 1 hour), then turn off the oven without opening the door and leave the cheesecake for another hour in the oven. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack (remove it from the water bath and open up the sides of the foil to release any trapped water). Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to set fully.
  6. Run a knife around the inside of the tin, then release the sides and remove the lined base. Transfer the cheesecake to a plate. Slice and serve, topped with fresh passion fruit pulp or fresh berries.

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Welcoming the new Winter set menu from Terroir

28 May

Chef Michael Broughton of Terroir. Photography by Mark Hoberman.

 

Every Winter, Terroir Restaurant at Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch announces the start of the colder season with a fresh new set menu. This year, diners will once again receive incredible value where they can choose from either a two-course option at R295 per person or three courses at R395 per person (including vegetarian options). This price also includes two glasses of Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection wines served with the starter and main courses.

I recently had the pleasure of getting a taste of the new Winter set menu alongside a table of industry friends, hosted by chef Michael Broughton, Klein Zalze cellarmaster Alastair Rimmer and Lise Manley of Manley Communications. The Winter set menu at Terroir is an annual highlight for me and for many diners in and around Stellenbosch, and this year’s menu is a must-do on the Winter calendar. Take a tour through my photographs of my lunch experience, and be sure not to miss the show-stopping pistachio soufflé when you visit Terroir.

I shared a table with some wonderful industry peers & friends, but also had the pleasure of sitting next to Kleine Zalze cellarmaster Alaistair Rimmer (left). The wine pairings are part of the success of this package – don’t miss out.

 

As always, Terroir bread boards are served with their own sour dough bread, flatbread, olives, paté and butter.

 

Coconut cooked beef cheek doughnut with paprika and apricot jam – served with Kleine Zalze MCC Brut and Rosé NV. Such a stunning savoury and sweet amuse bouche.

 

Fennel cured and smoked trout with horseradish and Vichyssoise – served with Kleine Zalze Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017. It was great to see a “fresher” starter choice as part of a winter menu.

 

Braised shoulder and grilled rack of Karoo lamb “au jus” with Fregola, pickled mustard seeds, peas and bagna cauda – served with Kleine Zalze Whole bunch Syrah 2017. Chef Michael does lamb very well, and his sauce skills are uncontested.

 

One of the side dishes as part of the main course – zucchini tempura. Stunning!

 

Poached pineapple, scented Catalan Crème with vanilla and saffron ice cream.

 

Pistachio soufflé with milk ice cream and vanilla caramel – served with Stellenrust Chenin d’ Muscat Noble Late Harvest 2015. My dish of the day. A must have.

 

And just because the pistachio soufflé was that good, here’s another view of it. One of the best soufflé’s I’ve had in years.

 

The winter special offer is valid from 2 May to 30 September 2019, for both lunch and dinner (max 10 pax per booking). Individual à la carte orders can still be made, and will be charged at the listed menu price.

Terroir is open for lunch from Tuesdays to Sundays from 12h00 – 14h30 and for dinner from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 18h30 – 21h00. Advance reservations are highly recommended. To book call 021 880-8167 or email restaurant@kleinezalze.co.za

Please note that Terroir will be closed for their annual winter break from 17th June 2019 and re-opening on the 10th of July 2019.

Kleine Zalze Wines and Terroir restaurant are situated on Strand Road (R44), Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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JAN comes home to open KLEIN JAN in the Kalahari

24 May

Jan Hendrik at a bush camp fire. (Photograph supplied.)

 

Born and raised on a farm in Mpumalanga, South African Michelin-star Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen always knew he would one day return to the bush – to the campfires and the open skies of his home land. With a shared passion and vision for all things South African, a global partnership with the Oppenheimer family has led to this incredible new project that celebrates the unexplored culinary territory of the vast Kalahari.

KLEIN JAN will open its doors at Tswalu Kalahari, a first class unspoiled refuge that celebrates the simple, authentic splendours of this unique land. Driven by the values of local authenticity, heritage and sustainability of the environment, KLEIN JAN will become the place where this specific region’s culinary offering will be translated into world-class cuisine. Discovering this unexplored culinary territory with its unlimited potential has been a dream of Jan Hendrik’s for years.

In addition, JAN Innovation Studio will be opening its doors in Cape Town, where a team of chefs and students will continually develop and innovate South African cuisine. The Cape Town team will share their findings with their colleagues at Michelin star restaurant JAN in Nice, France, which will remain Jan Hendrik’s “mother ship”. In addition, South African diners can look forward to a series of pop-up dinners where they will be able to taste what Jan Hendrik and his teams have been up to.

JAN Innovation Studio will also be home to JAN the JOURNAL, a biannual publication that shares Jan Hendrik’s ideas, passion and curiosity about the culinary world. This collector’s book is available in both South Africa and in Europe.

I had the pleasure of talking to Jan Hendrik about his new plans a few weeks ago (see the video below), and to spend some one-on-one time with a young South African food icon and pioneer in his field. It was utterly refreshing to experience Jan Hendrik’s solid sense of self and his brilliant sense of humour. What a delightful conversation! I hope you enjoy the video – we shared a few light hearted moments that I’ll treasure forever.

#kleinjan #tswalu #JAN

 

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Pecan shortbread cookies

23 May

Freshly baked pecan shortbread cookies, dusted with icing sugar. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

This is a magnificent recipe from my very first handwritten recipe book that I compiled as a child in the early 1990’s. It reminds me of the icing sugar dusted shortbread that I saw in almost every confectionery shop while traveling in Greece in 2010 (except they mostly had a crescent shape).

Unfortunately I have no idea where this recipe came from, and thus cannot give the rightful credit to the writer. If anyone out there recognizes this exact recipe or can identify the origin, please let me know.

This cookie is like an ultimate nut-flavoured shortbread. It is luxurious, yet really easy to make. I absolutely love pecan nuts, and this cookie catches the essence of pecans in one buttery, delightful bite.

Note: These cookies were photographed in 2015, but I never posted it on my blog! Now that I’ve recently settled into a new kitchen that is much bigger than my previous one, I’ve got my baking mojo on and I’m ready to explore some of my best older recipes and definitely many new ones. Hope you love this one!

Pecans are (along with almonds) my favourite nuts to bake with. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Ingredients: (makes 20-24)

  • 125 g butter, soft
  • 250 ml (140 g) self-raising flour
  • 50 g pecan nuts, finely chopped
  • 2,5 ml vanilla extract
  • 50 ml (25 g) icing sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 20-24 whole pecan nuts

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients except for the whole pecan nuts in a food processor or stand mixer and mix until it comes together in a ball of dough. Do not overmix.
  3. Roll balls of dough about the size of a small walnut and place on the lined tray, leaving enough space in between. Use the back of a water/whiskey glass (flat surface) to flatten each cookie. Dip the flat glass surface in flour if it starts to stick.
  4. Place a whole pecan nut in the middle of each cookie and gently press to stick. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly straw coloured, not brown.
  5. Remove from the oven, then immediately dust with icing sugar using a sieve. Leave to cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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Review: The Germanicum Arminius by Sternsteiger

15 Apr

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

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

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

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

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Plum tarte tatin

5 Apr

Simple, seasonal plum tarte tatin with creme fraiche.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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Crispy roasted pork belly with orange, ginger & soy

1 Apr

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

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

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

 

Top 3 tips for a really crunchy layer of crackling:

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

Ingredients: (serves 4 generously)

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

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

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

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Dinner at VADAS, Spier

21 Mar

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

 

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

Little did we know just how great it would be.

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

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

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

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

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

The seating area next to the service station indoors.

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

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

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

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

Sourdough bread and butter with hummus.

Smoked harissa chicken wings with pomegranate and yoghurt dressing.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

VADAS Kitchen operation hours:

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

Sundays: 12h00 – 15h00

Friday evening pizzas: 18h00-21h00

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

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

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

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Fig frangipane tart

4 Mar

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

For the filling:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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