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Blueberry pecan picnic cake

24 Feb

Gooey, pillowey, crunchy – all in one. One of the best picnic cakes I’ve ever tasted. The large black round plate is from Hertex HAUS.

 

This recipe comes from Food52’s Genius DessertsBlueberry Snack Cake with Toasted Pecans. Since I’ve bought the book, I’ve had this page bookmarked as one of the (copious) recipes I knew I needed to try. The cake came out exactly as it looks in the picture, and it is so incredibly good that I finished four slices before even writing this post.

I decided to bake it after picking a batch of blueberries from some of the wild trees that grow adjacent to the cultivated blueberry orchards on the farm that we live on. They’re the last few berries of the season, and most of the trees only carry a few shriveled little fruits. But if you look closely, here and there, a few hidden gems remain – perfect, small, plump, matte blueberries that would otherwise just fall from the tree in a few days.

A snack cake, or picnic cake, is a cake without icing that is easy to transport for enjoying elsewhere (like a picnic, camp, the office or school). Originally written by Brooke Dojny, this recipe is “a study in textures” according to Food 52’s Kristen Miglore. “There’s just enough cornmeal to give it structure and a yellow tint, without weighing down the batter. It bakes up airy and tender, with a crackly sheen and a top dotted with pecans.” I have to tell you, I cannot agree more. It’s moist en gooey because of the fruit, yet light and airy in the cake department, with a crunchy top that is a delight in itself. Kristen says that smaller blueberries will stay suspended in the cake, while larger berries tend to sink to the bottom – “neither could possibly be bad”.

I’m going to keep this one in my repertoire for good. It’s an absolute winner – my tweaks are minimal, you’ll see if you compare it to the original. I’m confident that you’ll love it just as much as I do. Happy baking!

A 23 cm square cake tin is a very versatile vessel for baking. I only recently bought one (November 2019), and I’ve used it very often since.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

  • 1 cup (125 g) stone ground white bread flour (or cake flour)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) polenta / maize meal (medium or fine)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar, plus about 1 teaspoon extra for sprinkling
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) milk
  • 1,5 teaspoons (7,5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups (300 g) blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup (100 g) pecan nuts, coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180 C with rack in the center. Grease and line a 23 cm square deep baking tin (I left some overhang on the baking paper so that the cake is easy to lift out afterwards).
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, use a whisk to stir the flour, polenta, baking powder and salt together.
  3. In a food processor (or bowl with electric whisk), cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, milk, vanilla and lemon zest. Process (or whisk) until it is well combined – it might look a little curdled, that’s fine! Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until just incorporated.
  4. Gently fold in the berries until just combined, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Sprinkle evenly with the nuts, then use your finger tips to sprinkle evenly all over with about 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  5. Bake at 180 C for 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and just cooked (test with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean). Remove from the oven and let it cool complete on a rack.
  6. Once cool, remove from the tin (use the baking paper flaps to lift it out) and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in a cool place – best eaten within a day. (Can be frozen for up to a month.)
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Smokey baked ratatouille

13 Feb

These days I cannot get enough of roasted vegetables – whether it’s in a salad, on a pizza, in a curry or just on its own. I think our bodies go through phases, needing different things, and mine is telling me that I need vegetables. It’s probably also to counteract the countless croissants and almond pastries that I consume every morning, so it’s only a good thing!

If you are not familiar with ratatouille, it is a popular French vegetable stew mostly made with tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, onions, garlic and bell peppers. There are many different ways of making ratatouille, varying from stewing the cubed vegetables to a very soft and marrow-like consistency, to a fresher version that will allow some texture. The purists even say that you need to cook all the vegetables separately before cooking them together, so that every vegetable truly tastes of itself.

The other day we visited my sister for a lazy, chilled-out dinner. They cooked steak on the fire and served it with a beautiful fanned-out baked ratatouille – simple perfection.  I decided to make my own version at home after they gifted me an enormous courgette from their garden. After buying tomatoes and aubergines, I found the giant courgette to be a bit tough on the skin-side for this dish, so I left it out completely (it did however turn out to make an incredible courgette coconut curry soup, though!) – you can definitely add some courgette slices if you want to. Starting with a rich tomato sauce at the bottom of the baking dish, I layered thinly sliced vegetables on top – I promise it’s a lot easier than it looks. I added a generous amount of smoked paprika to the sauce and over the top of the vegetables, which certainly isn’t traditionally French, but it lends a great smokey flavour and a deep red colour. Fresh thyme and lots of extra virgin olive oil completed the picture. I baked it for an hour and 20 minutes, but you can up the baking time to 2 hours for an even softer result.

You can serve ratatouille as a main dish, or as a side with grilled meat/chicken/fish, or even with pasta or rice. It’s also great at room temperature served as antipasti, or top it with a grilled egg over toast for breakfast. Leftovers can also be used as a pizza topping – absolutely delicious. It is a relatively inexpensive dish that really goes a long way, and it only improves in flavour the next day (and the next).

 

Ingredients: (serves 6)

For the sauce:

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped/grated
  • 2 x 400 g cans whole tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • about 10 ml (2 teaspoons) fresh thyme leaves (woody stalks discarded)
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper

In a medium size pot over medium heat, add the oil and fry the garlic for about a minute, stirring. Add the pureed tomatoes, thyme, sugar, paprika and season generously with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cook uncovered over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a wide casserole or baking dish (I used a 30 cm Le Creuset casserole) for assembling the ratatouille.

To assemble:

  • 1 very large or 2 medium aubergines, sliced thinly into rounds of about 3 mm thick (I use a knife, but you can also use a mandoline cutter)
  • about 6-8 ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly into rounds of about 3 mm thick
  • about 30 ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • about 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) smoked paprika
  • about 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful fresh basil leaves, for serving
  • grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Arrange the sliced aubergines and tomatoes in a circular row (or just in rows) on top of the sauce, making sure the tomatoes peep out behind the larger slices of aubergine – use two slices of tomato to match the width of the aubergines slices if necessary. Continue until the full surface of the dish is covered, then drizzle all over with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and thyme. Season generously with salt & pepper, then bake for 1,5 – 2 hours until very soft and roasted on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before serving (if you have the patience). Top with basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Chocolate berry cake

3 Feb

Chocolate cake drenched in mulberry coulis, topped with dark chocolate buttercream and fresh raspberries. Not perfect by a long shot, but incredibly satisfying – just like my blogging journey.

 

This is a celebratory post: The Food Fox blog is officially nine years old! Happy birthday to my digital baby!

Nine years is a long time, friends. The Food Fox was the start of a crazy ride in 2011, one that I jumped into with blind faith in the hope of carving out a way to create a sustainable income while being surrounded by food and writing. I learned that you can figure out almost anything via Google, made incredible connections online and in real life and actually found my tribe (coming from someone that’s fiercely independent, it was quite a revelation). Although the hustle is still very real – you’ll know what I mean if you’re a self-employed creative in a niche industry – I couldn’t have dreamt of a life that would reward me with this amount of freedom: creative freedom, freedom to schedule when and where and with whom I work, freedom to spend time with my family. Freedom, it might seem, turned out to be one of my most valued fundamental needs in life – something that I only realized over the past few years.

Although this blog probably won’t live forever, it has already opened so many doors of new possibilities. To celebrate this 9 year milestone, I baked a cake that resembles my journey over the past few years: far from perfect and certainly not as smooth on the surface as I’d hoped it to be, but rich, multi-layered and very rewarding. It’s a slight adaptation of a recipe from the book The Italian Baker by Melissa Forti, that I bought in December 2019 before embarking on a two-week catering marathon for an extended Italian family. I bookmarked the recipe for “Torta al cioccolate e lamponi” (chocolate and raspberry cake) because when anyone touts a chocolate cake to be the best they’ve ever eaten, you’ve got my attention.

The cake-part is one of the most deliciously moist chocolate cakes I’ve ever tasted, and I’ll definitely keep it in my repertoire. It includes buttermilk, oil and bicarb, and it’s very easy to put together. It also features a strained berry coulis made from raspberries blended with a simple sugar syrup and a dash of raspberry eau de vie (which I substituted with mulberries from our tree that I froze in December for a special occasion like this, and a little dash of aged brandy). The coulis makes the cake a little more expensive and time consuming, but it adds even more moistness and some stunning berry flavours that work incredibly well with the dark chocolate. Then, the chocolate frosting was quite a find: Melissa uses less butter than a normal buttercream (I would usually use 1 part butter to 2 parts icing sugar, or in this case 250 g butter for 500 g icing sugar), but she uses 170g butter with 560 g icing sugar, adds a whopping full cup of cocoa powder, and mixes it with 80 ml milk to soften it. This results in a very soft and creamy buttercream that can be refrigerated after you’ve frosted the cake, without turning brick hard (because with the February heat in Stellenbosch, and a cake topped with fresh berries, you’re going to want to store it in the fridge).

A slice of cake – it slices beautifully when refrigerated. Thank you Tasha for the use of your beautiful plate that stayed behind from a previous shoot!

 

I iced and photographed the cake when it was still a little luke warm, which you shouldn’t do. I was just being hasty because I’m a total glutton and couldn’t resist tasting the cake. After eating three messy but super delicious slices and then refrigerating the cake, it turned out to be much more stable for slicing (I then photographed the neat slice above). Do refrigerate it in warm weather for a beautiful result when cutting.

I’m feeling ready for renewal and growth in 2020 (definitely still involving a lot of writing, recipes, photographs and videography) and I look forward to sharing the changes and exciting new additions with you as we go along. In the meantime, I’ll be honing my photography skills with my new (well, second hand) 100 mm Canon lens – something that I’ve been yearning to own for years, and finally got to do so end of 2019. I’ve also enrolled in learning Italian on a nifty little phone app – quite fun, and a sure way of finding inspiration for saving up to FINALLY visit Italy.

I wish you all a year of finding freedom, creative inspiration and the courage to follow your true path.

 

Ingredients (recipe adapted from Melissa Forti‘s The Italian Baker)

For the cake:

  • 250 g cake flour
  • 400 g (2 cups) caster sugar
  • 80 g (3/4 cup) good quality cocoa powder
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 5 ml (2 teaspoons) baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 3 XL eggs
  • 250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
  • 250 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 5 ml vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease 2 x 20 cm loose bottom cake tins and line the bases with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, sift the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb and salt together. In a second large bowl, add the eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and vanilla and whisk together using an electric whisk (or stand mixer with whisk attachment). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined, scraping the bowl. Divide the batter into the two tins, then bake for 35 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely on wire racks.

For the berry coulis:

  • 100 g caster sugar (use less if your berries are very sweet)
  • 45 ml water
  • 340 g frozen berries, thawed (raspberry or mulberry or mixed red berries)
  • 5 ml raspberry liqueur, optional (or brandy)

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the sugar has completely dissolved, then remove from the heat to cool for 15 minutes. Add the syrup and berries to a blender, process to a puree, then strain to remove the seeds, then stir in the liqueur or brandy (optional). Refrigerate the strained coulis until ready to use.

For the chocolate frosting:

  • 180 g butter, softened
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 105 g (1 cup) cocoa powder
  • 80-100 ml milk, at room temperature
  • 500 g icing sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and vanilla until creamy. Add the cocoa powder and mix for about 15 seconds, then add a little milk and mix. Continue by adding a little icing sugar, then milk, then icing sugar, beating until it is very smooth and creamy and a soft spreadable consistency (if the mixture is too stiff, add a little more milk, if it is too runny, add a little more icing sugar).

To assemble:

  • about 125 g fresh berries, for topping (or more, if you want to cover the full top surface of the cake)

Slice the rounded tops off both cake layers if you want a neat, flat result (I always ice the off-cuts and eat them while icing the rest!). Place the first layer on a cake plate and top generously with the coulis (it will continue to penetrate the cake on standing). Top with a generous layer of frosting, then place the second cake layer on top. Use the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake, using a spatula to neatly scrape the sides to form a smooth-ish surface. Cover and refrigerate for best slicing results; best eaten at moderate room temperature.

Note: Melissa spreads the coulis only on one cake layer, before topping it with the other half, but I cut each layer horizontally to spread it with more coulis – it’s not necessary but the choice is yours. The cake is very soft when freshly baked, so handle with care.

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Lunch at Monneaux Restaurant

14 Jan

Some of the dishes on Monneaux Restaurant’s summer menu 2019/2020. Photograph courtesy of Franschhoek Country House (FCH).

 

At the beginning of December 2019, I was invited to visit Franschhoek Country House & Villas for a first hand experience of their recently reimagined Monneaux Restaurant. We stayed for a night in one of the hotel suites suitable for a small family – a spacious king size bedroom with separate sitting room (including sleeper couch) and large bathroom with window views of the lawn and swimming pools.

Boutique hotel and pool view. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

Hotel suite interior. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

Beautiful gardens all over the property. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

At first sight, the property is inspired by the charming French countryside – cobbled walkways, quaint window shutters, various water features, lemon installations, lush lawns and manicured gardens, incredible mountain & vineyard views. Monneaux Restaurant is set adjacent to the luxurious five-star Franschhoek Country House & Villas boutique hotel. The restaurant has recently reconceptualised its dining offering “from pass to plate”, as well as introducing self-sustainable initiatives and a hyper-local focus at every stage of the culinary chain. The driving force behind these inspired changes is chef Calvin Metior, who was appointed as Executive Chef in September 2019.  After working with renowned chef Eric Bulpitt at La Motte, his most recent position, Calvin says his mind and perspective were opened to a new world of cooking.

Chef Calvin Metior. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

“Having the freedom to dream, to make my concepts a reality and to produce my own food is incredible. To be able to do so in this beautiful country-style setting and surrounded by so much natural inspiration and superb produce in the Cape Winelands, is a dream come true,” says chef Calvin.

He’s also fiercely passionate about supporting local producers, thus keeping the restaurant’s carbon footprint to a minimum and improving self-sustainability. Micro gardens have been established throughout the property, which will produce a rotating supply of fresh herbs and vegetables. In the kitchen, Calvin and his team has started making their own miso, fermented mustard, hot sauces and fish sauce, smoking and curing their own meat and fish, making charcuterie from scratch, and dry and wet ageing of fish and meat.

Chef Calvin Metior in the kitchen, plating artfully. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

Restaurant interior opening up to a leafy courtyard. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

The dappled courtyard at Monneaux Restaurant. Photograph courtesy of FCH.

 

Ready for our lunch experience at Monneaux Restaurant.

 

Monneaux Restaurant’s variety of beautiful seating areas provides choices to suit all preferences. The outdoor fountain terrace, beneath the dappled shade of a spreading pepper tree, is ideal for lazy summer lunches and sundowners, and al fresco dinners beneath twinkling fairy lights on balmy evenings. The restaurant’s interior is discretely divided into three individual dining rooms, creating an intimate atmosphere.

“Calvin brings along impressive skill, passion and limitless creativity, and shares our vision of elevating Monneaux to an exciting new level,” says Franschhoek Country House & Villas owner Jean-Pierre Snyman. “In the culinary hub of Franschhoek, it’s important to differentiate and develop, whilst continuing to offer quality and authenticity. We believe that our new offering truly sets the Monneaux Restaurant apart as a must-visit dining destination and we look forward to welcoming guests to enjoy the transformation with us.”

Take a look at our lunch experience in images below. Chef Calvin’s starters were the absolute highlight of our day: aged beef tartare and local caught skipjack – both dishes leaving you bowled over with punchy flavour; delightfully inspired food that will set him apart in his new role at Monneaux. His plating is playful yet considered. Service is seamless with a deep sense of authentic Franschhoek county-style hospitality. Pricing is reasonable considering the setting, and portions are generous. A varied local & international wine list with many options by the glass is available, with pricing options to suit most diner’s pockets.

Monneaux Restaurant – with chef Calvin Metior at the helm – promises to be a dining destination to discover and revisit in 2020.

For reservations and enquiries, contact: (+27)21-876 3386 or email info@fch.co.za.

Trading hours: Open 7 days a week for lunch (12h00-14h30) and dinner (18h30-21h30).

(Please take note that menus change regularly as Monneaux Restaurant only use the freshest seasonal produce. The most recent menu can be e-mailed by their management on request.)

Note: Photographs credited as supplied, where applicable. All others were taken by me during our visit, on location.

To start with, from the “snacks” menu: chicken liver parfait, butter and ciabatta.

 

From the “small plates” menu (also available as a main course): aged beef tartar coal emulsion, fermented mustard, burnt onion paste.

 

From the “small plates” menu: local caught skipjack, sesame, lime, wasabi, avo.

 

From the “mains” menu: hay smoked oak valley beef short rib, carrot, dukkha, dill.

 

From the “desserts” menu: valrhona dark chocolate, passionfruit, coconut, honeycomb.

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White chocolate & pecan nut blondies

9 Dec

Blondies – one of my favourite indulgent treats.

 

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

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

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

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

 

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

 

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

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Lunch at Foxcroft

26 Nov

Chef Proprietor Glen Foxcroft Williams. Photography by Claire Gunn.

 

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

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

Foxcroft’s interior, as photographed by Claire Gunn.

 

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

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

The open kitchen at Foxcroft. Photography by Claire Gunn.

 

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

Note: Menu might change according to seasonality and availability.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Address: Shop 8, High Constantia Centre, Constantia.

Tel: (021) 202 3304

reservations@foxcroft.co.za

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

18 Nov

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

WIN:

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

Beef tongue ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

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Mussels, the Duinhuis way

24 Oct

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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Lunch at Gåte Restaurant, Quoin Rock

11 Oct

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

 

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

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

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

 

The entrance to Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock.

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Lamb croquette, cranberry and smoked cheese tuile.

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Thank you to the Gåte team for hosting us.

 

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Best cocoa brownies from Food52 Genius Desserts

30 Sep

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Method:

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