Our beautiful Secret Dinner table, courtesy of The Pretty Blog, The Culinary Equipment Company, Flowers in the Foyer, Poetry and The Cater Club (picture: Ilse van der Merwe)

On Saturday the 27th of October, I had the honor of hosting one of the Secret Dinners as part of the Spier Secret Festival – a food and wine celebration in the heart of the Winelands. I felt quite intimidated at first, when I looked at the list of other hosts (including Abigail Donelli: editor of Taste Magazine and Eat Out Magazine, and Cara Brink: one of SA’s most loved creative food consultants and queen of pop-up food stalls). I knew I wanted to create something really memorable, but I knew I had to stay true to my style.

I decided to cook the food that I love most: inspired by my favourite fine dining experiences, but still celebrating my love of rustic, comforting dishes that is simply packed with flavour. I also wanted to showcase a variety of different techniques and textures, so I decided on a 5 course tomato-themed dinner. Why tomatoes? Tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients to cook with. They are so versatile: fresh, tinned, preserved, poached, processed, pulped – the possibilities were endless!

After agreeing to play host to a maximum of 8 guests, I decided on the following menu:

  • First Course: Oil bread soldiers with tomato butter
  • Second Course: “24 hour caprese” – olive oil poached tomatoes set in a clear tomato jelly, served with fior di latte and basil puree
  • Third Course: Slow roasted organic tomato soup
  • Fourth Course: Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni or Beef Cannelloni, both served in a tomato and garlic sauce
  • Fifth Course: Pavlova with tomato fruit salad and tomato jam ice cream

Thank you to Anelia Loubser of www.flugelcreative.co.za who agreed to join the table with her camera in hand, and my husband Schalk who played sommelier for the evening. The amazing team from The Pretty Blog beautified my table (thank you so much Nicola and Carla!), and with the help of some of their best suppliers they created such a stunningly decorated space. Thank you so much to the following contributors who helped make this night such a beautiful success:

Thank you also to the wonderful guests that joined our table for the evening: Lee (HR manager), Lucie (French architect and artist), Joshin (CEO and integrated communications expert), Adelene (part time baker) and Gerda (film school teacher). It was an honour to have been your host!

Our first course of oil bread soldiers with wrapped tomato butter went down well with our second course of slow roasted organic tomato soup. Anelia’s view from her seat at the table (pictures: Anelia Loubser)
Putting some micro herbs on the third course: “24 hour tomato terrine”. A view of the menu. (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)
Olive oil poached tomatoes in a clear tomato jelly, with fior di latte and basil puree. A closer look. (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)
Our fourth course of spinach and ricotta cannelloni or beef cannelloni was served buffet-style. Comfort food at its best! (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)
Dessert: Individual pavlovas with fresh cream and tomato fruit salad, served with tomato jam ice cream. The sweet ending to a delightful night. (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)




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  1. congrats Ilse 🙂
    well done!

    it looked beautiful and sounds so delicious

    Betty Bake

  2. Goeie werk Ilse!
    Dit lyk omtrent na ‘n FEES!

    1. Dankie Suné!! Dit was heerlik!

  3. […] more than a week ago, I hosted a “secret dinner” at my home. I served a 5-course tomato-inspired dinner, and the evening was a huge success! […]

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