This recipe is inspired by an amazing meal we had at La Colombe in Contantia Uitsig. La Colombe has always been very special to us ever since the first time we visited about five years ago. We had such a great time that we both agreed that it was the best restaurant we had ever been to.
The thing is that it had reached such an iconic status in our memory that I was secretly worried that it wasn’t going to live up to our very high expectations this time. I was actually preparing myself for disappointment. Silly me, this time actually exceeded my expectations by quite a long way.
The food is, well you can work it out for yourself. This was how it went….
Amuse Bouche: caramelised onion tart with goat cheese, parsnip soup (in an egg-shell), pea salsa
Starter: Beetroot Cannelloni, beetroot mousse wrapped in pickled beetroot, toasted olive brioche, roasted golden baby beets, fromage blanc, poached raisins, 12 yr old balsamic drizzle
Palate Cleanser: Granny Smith Sorbet, pimms foam, cucumber, mint
Main Course: Wild Mushroom Risotto Spring Roll, butternut puree, sous vide butternut, caramelised onion, smoked garlic veloute, thyme foam.
Desserts: Coconut & Rosewater Panna Cotta, rose meringue, rose foam, turkish delight, cashew nut streusel
Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine, candied cranberries, apricots, peanuts, chocolate, pistachio nut dust
And if that is not enough for you, they bring around a wooden trough filled with petits fours. Okay it’s not a trough but that’s what we called it. Bring me the trough!!!
Petits Fours: Rose Turkish Delight, mini citrus madeleines, maple meringues, cinnamon marshmallows and espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel.
Yes, that was espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel. They didn’t last very long, someone at our table may have stuffed his face with them before I could stuff mine. Not mentioning any names but you know who you are…
I don’t think I need to say that the food was outstanding do I? The beetroot cannelloni was light, elegant, sweet and exquisitely made. The mushroom spring rolls were rich with truffle butter and earthy morels, the pastry was perfectly crisp, I didn’t want it to end.
The desserts were a complete triumph. Everything a dessert should be, playful, sweet and nostalgic with a grown up twist. The attention to detail is what makes this an unforgettable dining experience. From the amuse bouche (very amusing), the palate cleanser (I mean Pimms!!), all the way through to the petits fours (bring me the trough and leave it please).
Speaking of attention to detail I have to mention that the level of service we received was actually on another level to anything I have ever experienced before. Jennifer and her highly knowledgable team made our evening a complete joy from start to finish. The waiter actually explained each dish on the menu FROM MEMORY! All those foams, purees and veloutes without reading from a notepad. That deserves a mention by itself. And it is not at all stuffy, that’s what makes it so enjoyable, it is proper fine dining without the squeaky chairs and pretension.
Can you tell that I loved it?
I managed to acquire the recipe for the Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls from the very talented chef, Scot Kirton. Mine is a simplified version as you can see from the description. I don’t have a syphon thingy to make foams but I wouldn’t mind if anyone out there wants to send me one. I made some Manchego Thyme Crisps instead.
You could use spring roll wrappers to make these, I used a double layer of filo and Scot uses a special Asian pastry that I am desperate to get hold of. Either way you roll them like this:
I couldn’t get any truffle butter or morels so I used a mix of dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes and some fresh chestnut or cremini mushrooms. The advantage of using dried mushrooms is that you can use the mushroomy soaking liquid with the stock to give the risotto a deeper colour and flavour.
Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls
Makes about 12 rolls, vegetarian. Adapted from the La Colombe recipe
The risotto needs to be chilled before you roll it so it is best to make it the night before and refrigerate overnight.
Prep time: 45 -60 mins (not including chilling time) Cooking time: 15-25 mins
- 150-200 gr fresh mushrooms, chestnut/cremini/portobello/morels roughly diced
- 25 gr dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 mins (reserve soaking liquid) then chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- salt & black pepper
- 30 gr white truffle butter (optional)
- a bunch sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
- 250 gr risotto rice
- 250 ml white wine
- about 1 litre veg stock plus the mushroom soaking liquid
- 50 gr parmesan/manchego, finely grated
- 1 packet filo pastry/spring roll wrappers defrosted
- olive oil for brushing
In a large pan, fry the chopped fresh mushrooms and thyme in a tablespoon of hot oil until nicely browned. Tip them into a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium heat and cook the onions for about 4 mins until translucent then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat in the onions for a minute.
Put the stock and mushroom soaking liquid in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.
Add the wine and soaked mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid has disappeared. Add a ladle full of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle full swirl until it is absorbed and continue on like this until the rice is cooked.
Stir through the cooked mushrooms and truffle butter (if using). Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir through the grated cheese, remove from the heat. Leave to cool then chill in the fridge, overnight if possible. What I did was make the risotto for dinner, reserved about half for spring rolls for lunch the next day.
Cut a double layer 20 cm square of filo pastry (or use spring roll wrappers) and lay in a diamond shape on a board in front of you. Mound 2 or 3 tbsp of risotto onto the pastry and roll up following the pictures above brushing with olive oil to make them stick.
Preheat the oven to 190 C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the spring rolls on the tray, brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes depending on size. You can also deep-fry them.
Roasted Garlic, Watercress Mayonnaise
Enough for 2 people, vegetarian
- 2 tbsp good mayonnaise
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- a handful of fresh watercress (or parsley)
- 1 large garlic clove (unpeeled)
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- salt & pepper
Roast the garlic clove in its skin in a hot oven for about 15 minutes (I did it with the spring rolls). Put the peeled roasted clove with the rest of the ingredients in a measuring jug and puree with a stick (immersion) blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning/lemon.
Manchego Thyme Crisps
Makes about 6, vegetarian
- 50 gr manchego or parmesan, finely grated
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mix together the cheese & thyme. Put a heaped tablespoon of the cheese on to the baking tray and flatten & spread out slightly. Leave about 1/2 inch between each circle.
Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Leave to cool if you want flat discs and remove carefully with a metal spatula.
If you want you can mould them gently around a rolling-pin while still hot to make them curved.
For more information on La Colombe and Constantia Uitsig visit their website here.
Thanks to everyone at La Colombe who made our evening so special. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next time…..