Tag Archives: south Africa

Tomato and Saffron Risotto with Basil, Pine Nuts and Parmesan

24 Aug

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe inspired by our trip to Cape Town. This one is a version of the Tomato Risotto I had at Sand at The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay.

Sand is one of the restaurants in the Liz Mcgrath Collection of three hotels overseen by the Grand Chef, Peter Tempelhoff. I have been lucky enough to have eaten at all three. I had an unforgettable passionfruit souffle at The Marine, Hermanus a few years ago that I must remember to have a go at with my next  lot of passionfruit.

I had one of the best meals of my life, a 7 Course Vegetarian Tasting Menu at The Greenhouse , Cellars Hohenort, awarded restaurant of the year and number 1 in South Africa, this year. More of that in a future post, I am still trying to get close to replicating one of the recipes from that memorable meal, but failing miserably at the moment. I can see why he is a multi award-winning Grand Chef.

Above are some pictures of the beautiful meal I had at Sand prepared by the very capable sous-chef , Tronnette. We were presented first of all with some Baked Rosemary & Sea Salt Lavash with Aubergine Puree and a Melon Shot with Cucumber Salsa Bruschetta. For a starter I chose the Double Baked Underberg Cheese Souffle with Chive & Parmesan Veloute which was light, fluffy and creamy, the best  savoury souffle I have ever had. A Tomato & Artichoke Risotto was prepared especially for me (being vegetarian). It had an intense tomato flavour (from the stock I think) that made it particularly special. The dessert was a Madagascan Vanilla Creme Brulee, Coconut Foam, Marshmallow Compresse and Pineapple Almond Biscotti, this was totally amazing!

They very kindly sent me the recipes for both the souffle and the risotto. So, with it being summer here now and with tomatoes being at their cheapest and best at the moment, I had to make the risotto first.  I added some saffron for colour and for that extra Spanish touch and topped it with my favourite tomato friends: basil, pine nuts and parmesan. They were meant for each other.

The first part of this recipe is making a tomato fondue (or sauce) to add into the risotto when it is cooked. You could skip this part if short on time and replace it with some shop-bought tomato pasta/marinara sauce.

Tomato & Saffron Risotto with Basil Pine Nuts & Parmesan

Serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Sand at The Plettenberg recipe

For the tomato fondue (sauce)

  • 2-4 ripe tomatoes, I used 2 huge Spanish ones that hardly have any seeds
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • salt & pepper

Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds, drain and remove the skins, seeds and chop the tomato flesh. Cook the onion in olive oil for a few minutes with a pinch of salt then add the garlic & oregano and cook for another minute. add the tomatoes and cook until softened. Add the ketchup, sugar and season with salt & black pepper. Cook until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust sugar/salt as required. Set aside.

For the Risotto:

  • 350 g risotto rice
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I made my own recipe here using lots of tomato to intensify the tomato flavour)
  • a big pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 150 ml sherry or white wine
  • about 120 ml (1/2 cup) tomato fondue/pasta sauce (see recipe above)
  • 200 g cherry/baby tomatoes (on the vine if possible)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 30 gr grated parmesan or manchego (vegetarian) plus shaved for garnish
  •  a hand ful of basil leaves juliennned, plus leaves to garnish
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 40 gr toasted pine nuts

Put the veg stock and saffron in pan over a medium low heat to warm up but not boil.

Meanwhile, cook the onion in the olive oil with a pinch of salt over a medium heat for 3 minutes then add the garlic, oregano & chilli flakes and cook for another 2 mins.  Add in the rice stirring to coat in the oil and cook for 2 minutes before adding the sherry/wine and cook until it is dry.

Start by adding 2 ladles of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add another ladle of stock, wait for it to be absorbed, swirling  and continue like this until the rice is cooked and you have used all of the stock. If you run out of stock you can add hot water. Then stir in the tomato fondue/sauce.

Stir in the grated parmesan, sliced basil, lemon juice and season with salt & pepper. Remove from the heat and put the lid on.

Preheat a griddle pan (or frying pan if you don’t have one), season the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat. Cook them on the griddle pan until you get black marks and they start to soften.

Taste the risotto for seasoning and serve topped with a pile of  cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, toasted pine nuts and basil leaves.

Buen Provecho!

 Sand at The Plettenberg

Look-out Rocks, 40 Church Street
P. O. Box 719
Plettenberg Bay 6600
South Africa

+27 44 533 2030
 
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15 on Orange Blossom and Strawberry Custard Slices

22 May

Following on from yesterday’s post about inspiration and where I get my ideas from, this recipe illustrates perfectly the combination of factors that come together to create something nice to eat. Because that is what we are talking about here. Food that you (and I) want to eat. And you want to eat these, I can tell. You’re dribbling.

Strawberries are at the peak of their season here at the moment, so they are cheap and bursting with flavour. Well these ones are anyway, so they need to star in a recipe.

Every morning for the past month or so I have been running with the dog surrounded by the intoxicating scent of orange blossom. I know, I’m lucky. It is such a beautiful smell that hits you as soon as you walk out of the front door. Well I do live in Andalucia. Anyway the past couple of days it has been noticeable in its absence. We are coming to the end of the orange blossom season and I realised that I haven’t used its aromatic orange blossom water in a recipe this year.

On our last day in Cape Town we went for Sunday lunch at the 15 on Orange Hotel. Every Sunday they have a buffet lunch for 265 Rand that includes endless bubbly. Yes, endless bubbly. Are you mad? Have you met my Dad? And me come to that if you’re talking about bubbly. It’s not cheap stuff either, we really enjoyed quite a few glasses of the Graham Beck Brut Rose.

The hotel is elegant, modern, luxury designer chic . An enormous Murano glass chandelier with a staircase inside leading to a private lounge dominates the luxurious bar area. The lighting is actually really impressive throughout the hotel.

Now when you talk about buffets in hotels what springs to my mind is elbowing your way around a table filled with wilting salad, crusty under the lights sandwiches, dried up slices of meat hidden by a slimy gravy and suspect piles of defrosted prawns. Not my thing, at all. This couldn’t be more different. The restaurant is bright, modern and in no way does it smell of boiled meat.

The standard of the food is unbelievable. It’s the best looking buffet I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful feta salads, mozzarella & tomato Caprese with basil pesto, roasted vegetable terrine, beetroot tian, a cheese selection with chutneys. That’s just the veggie starters by the way. For main course I had an excellent Eggplant Parmigiana but it was the desserts that impressed me the most.

The selection was mind-blowing. Chocolate cherry tortes, blueberries & cream violet syrup shots, cape gooseberry madeleines.

A cake stand full of chewy meringues, chocolate or caramel & cinnamon, white chocolate sacher torte, and enormous pink marshmallows. The keep bringing out new things too. It’s amazing.

It is seriously worth coming here just for the desserts and bubbly. You want to try them all because they look so good. They are all quite dainty so you don’t feel like such a pig for eating more than one. I had the cinnamon caramel meringue, the chocolate cherry torte and one of these strawberry custard slices.

So when I got home and strawberries came into season here, I started badgering them for the recipe. And here it is. The only thing did differently was add some orange blossom water to my custard. I cut my puff pastry into fairly small rectangles 3 x 9 cm so they are quite ladylike and afternoon tea-ish. You can make yours bigger if you like.

Strawberry & Orange Blossom Custard Slice

Makes 30 -36 3 x 9cm slices. Adapted from the 15 on Orange recipe

Remember to defrost the puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 10-15 mins Assembly time: 15 mins

  • 1 block/roll puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • about 500 gr fresh strawberries
  • 2 or 3 tbsp clear seedless fruit jam/jelly for glazing (I used apricot)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp water

For the Creme Patissiere (custard or pastry cream)

  • 200 ml milk
  • 55 gr sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 gr cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1+1/2 tsp orange blossom water (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk to finish

Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 2 mm thick and trim the edges so they are straight. My rectangle was 27 x 36 cm so I cut it into 36 mini rectangles 3 x 9 cm. (9 columns 4 rows). But you can cut them whatever size you like.  Put them on the lined baking sheet, dock them well with a fork (this stops them rising too much) and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Bake  for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed, golden and cooked all the way through. Some will rise a bit wonky or too much but you can ignore those there’s still loads left. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the creme patissiere.

Carefully bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla extract and orange blossom water, then turn it off before it boils properly.

Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the sieved cornflour and sugar to a smooth paste. Add a splash of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to loosen. Add this back into the pan on a medium high heat and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat when it is thick and taste it. If it still tastes of flour or needs loosening up add a splash of milk, return to heat and whisk it in. When it is ready cover the top of the custard directly with cling film to stop a skin forming.

Hull the strawberries by pulling out the green stalks and removing the stalk area with a small knife. Thinly slice them from top to bottom.

To assemble: pipe  or spoon a small amount of creme patissiere along the pastry rectangles from front to back. Then top with three (or more if bigger rectangles) slices of strawberry, start at the back and position the pointy end up.

To glaze: heat the jam/jelly in a small pan with the water until it is a liquid. Brush the glaze over the positioned strawberries.

You will now realise that you have quite a few custard slices. Obviously you will have to eat a few just to see how they taste but beware, they are addictive. My suggestion is to do what I did and donate them to friends (thanks Rhian & Jeanne) because they will love them and so will their husbands.

And you won’t end up the size of a house and blame it all on me. Hopefully.

For more information about 15 on Orange Hotel and their menus visit their website here.

Overture’s Mushroom Vol au Vent, Cream Sherry, Shaved Truffle and Parsley

17 May

This is my interpretation of the Mushroom Vol au Vent main course I had in Overture restaurant at the Hidden Valley Wine Estate in Stellenbosch.

I must point out first of all that this Vol au Vent is as far removed from the Seventies buffet staple filled with some dubious looking prawn cocktail as it is possible to be.

The Chef at Overture, Bertus Basson, has elevated the humble pre-bought classic to fine dining status and I managed to get the recipe. Result.

As you drive into Hidden Valley you are surrounded by stunning scenery that is the contrasting backdrop to an architectural, modern building that houses the wine tasting area and Overture restaurant with its beautiful dining terrace taking full advantage of those spectacular views.

We opted for the 4 course Chef’s Menu with wine pairings, there are also 5 and 8 course options and the menu changes daily.

After ordering our food the professional waitress (who also had a personality, very rare) brought us the bread (below bottom). Not just any bread basket though, the ciabatta and bricohe were accompanied by a smoked aubergine puree, red salt, confit garlic, aioli and a selection of olives all served on a slate tile, my new favourite thing. Everything looks good on a slate tile.

My starter (above top) was Variations of Beetroot, Buffalo Ridge feta, balsamic onion. The contrast of the sweet roasted and pureed beets with the sharp salty feta was wonderful along with the finely sliced lacey, crisp toasts. The Washer Up had the Chicken liver parfait, smoked raisin, verjus jelly, raisin jus (below) which was light and creamy. It was followed by a Peach Sorbet palate cleanser.

My main course: Vol au Vent, mushroom, brandy cream, celeriac, Brussel sprouts was the standout dish for me.  Beautifully crisp and light pastry with an intensely rich and creamy mushroom sauce that was perfectly seasoned and totally moreish. The roasted Brussel sprouts and celeriac gave the dish amazing flavour and I don’t usually like them at all. All topped off with some slivered truffle, you can’t go wrong with truffle and mushrooms can you. This dish was heavenly.

The Washer Up ordered the Pickled Ox Tongue, gnocchi, mustard, roots (below) and really enjoyed it. He was trying to overcome his fear of eating tongue and did. Something about being made to eat tongue out of a tin when he was little apparently. The palate cleanser was a Berry Thyme Sorbet, fresh raspberries, milk jelly.

The desserts were huge, surprisingly so, but we managed to force them down. Coffee Souffle, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce served with a Chocolate Grappa shot. And a Deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie, cinnamon crumble, lemon ice cream.

Overture restaurant is consistently awarded and in the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa which is a lot to live up to. I’m pleased to say that this place doesn’t disappoint, the excellent food and service is definitely up there with the best.

The secret to a light and very well risen Vol au Vent is (I now know) piling three layers of puff pastry on top of each other, glazing with egg wash in between each layer, cutting a circle in the middle of the square half way through the pastry and, very importantly, trimming the edges so that it can rise evenly.

 Following these steps, and making sure you chill your pastry before you put it in the oven, should result in perfectly puffed up pastry. Well if it worked for me….

You then leave them to cool before removing the circle from the top of the vol au vents.

And then hollowing out the inside so you can fill it with gorgeous creamy mushrooms.

In my version I used Greek yoghurt rather than cream (those chefs love a bit of butter and cream) and I used a sweet sherry rather than brandy because that’s what I had. Mushrooms and sherry are a classic combination anyway, oh and I added a bit of fresh parsley.

*Remember to defrost your puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it*

Mushroom Vol au Vent Recipe

Makes 3, vegetarian. Adapted from Bertus Basson

Prep time: 30 mins (not including defrosting) Cooking time: 20-25 mins

  • 1 roll/block puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 100 ml milk
  • 500 gr mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • a big splosh or 2 of sweet sherry or brandy
  • 3 sml pots (375 ml) Greek yoghurt
  • salt & black pepper
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  •  a big handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • milk to thin sauce if necessary
  • a couple of thin slices of black truffle, finely julienned (optional)

Whisk together, the egg, sugar and milk with a fork for the glaze and set aside. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured board to a 12 x 12 inch square about 2-3 mm thick. With a sharp knife cut into 9 equal squares 4 x 4 inches each. Three rows of three (see picture above).

Stack three squares on top of each other, brushing with glaze in between each layer. Repeat so you have three stacks of three.  Put these in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill. Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Remove from the fridge and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Brush the top with the glaze (if you haven’t already) and use a round cutter or glass to cut a circle in the centre of each square about half way through the pastry. Place on the lined baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Leave to cool then remove the circle from the top of each one. I kept mine  to top each one off, like a little hat. Now hollow them out by removing as much of the pastry as possible from inside.

For the filling, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion and a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened and starting to brown, then add the garlic & thyme and cook for a further minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until nicely browned.

Add a couple of sploshes of sherry and cook out for a minute then add the yoghurt, stirring to combine. Season well with salt & black pepper and cook to reduce the sauce slightly and intensify the flavour. Turn off the heat and stir through the cream cheese and chopped parsley.  Taste for seasoning.

I wanted my filling quite thick and creamy, if you would like it more like a sauce, just add some milk at the end until you are happy with the consistency.

To serve: Heat the vol au vent for a few minutes in a warm oven, place on  your serving plate, fill with the mushrooms, top with the pastry circle and garnish with the slivered truffle and parsley leaves. I served this with a simple green salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice. Roasted Brussel sprouts and celeriac are lovely too if they are in season where you are.

For more information about Hidden Valley wines and Overture Restaurant visit their website here.

Piccolo Tesoro Goat’s Cheese, Fig and Rocket Spelt Pizza

29 Apr

This is my adaptation of a really excellent pizza we had at Piccolo Tesoro in Montagu. Montagu is a picturesque village  about 200 km outside Cape Town on Route 62. We stayed in a pretty little hotel called Four Oaks Guest House.

We had an excellent evening meal there and the breakfasts were lovely too. Piccolo was also the name of  the really cute chihuahua who stole the show at the hotel.

 After breakfast we had a walk around the village. We saw ibises nesting, weaver birds’ nests hanging over the river and some beautiful flowers.

Traditional architecture, churches and quaint cottages surrounded by white roses.

 We wandered around the Saturday morning market with people selling  homemade jams, chutneys, breads, cakes, pestos and freshly made take-away foods, but we couldn’t stay long.

We were booked on a river boat cruise at Viljoensdrift before lunch. We had a lovely bottle of the Viljoensdrift rose while drifting down the river enjoying the views. You can also order a picnic but we had lunch already booked at the beautiful Reuben’s in Robertson. You can see my full review of lunch here.

We were very full after our fabulous lunch so we had a lie down and went out quite late for a light dinner. Pizza seemed like the best option as we had gone gourmet for lunch. Arriving at Piccolo Tesoro it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. It was packed, they had actually run out of chairs. My dad had to sit on a stool for the first half hour until somebody left!!

 To be honest we were only expecting a quick pizza and a beer. Isn’t it sometimes the way, that when you are least expecting it a little gem (or piccolo tesoro) turns up out of the blue.

We did have to wait a while because they were so busy and we were the last table but we didn’t mind at all. We had enjoyed an enormous lunch remember and The Washer Up discovered his new favourite beer while we were waiting thanks to our friend Paul. Jack Black is the best South African beer now according to him.

The pizzas were excellent, some of the best I have ever had actually. The “Sophia” was my favourite, it was topped with Gorgonzola, green fig preserve and rocket. The bases were thin and crispy and not overloaded with toppings, which is exactly how I like them. Green fig preserve is used a lot in South Africa, we also had it at our picinic at Bramon Wine Estate with the baked camembert. It is made with unripe figs.

My version of this fantastic pizza is made with a spelt flour dough. I have just found a new supplier of spelt flour actually in Alhaurin (where we live). El Amasadero supplies all different types of flour including spelt, quinoa, oat, wholemeal and strong bread flour. He also supplies baking accessories and utensils, including pizza stones which I could definitely do with. He ships all over Spain and Europe or you can buy from him directly in his office/warehouse in Alhaurin just in front of the Policia Local.

He can also get Teff flour, which I am really excited about because I have been trying to get hold of  it for ages. It is used to make the Ethiopian flatbread Injera.  Injera is a flatbread made with yeast and the runny batter is poured into a hot pan and cooked a bit like a thick crepe. I have made it before with spelt flour and have been quite happy with the results. Now I can try it with the proper flour I will be posting an Ethiopian recipe soon.

Unfortunately figs aren’t in season here yet and we don’t have the green fig preserve so I used dried figs soaked in boiling water to soften them up a bit. Gorgonzola is also quite difficult to get hold of here so I used goat’s cheese instead, you could also use a blue cheese if you like.

Goat’s Cheese, Fig & Rocket Spelt Flour Pizza

Makes 2-3 pizzas, vegetarian, Dough recipe adapted from vegrecipesofindia

Prep time 25 mins (plus 1-2 hours resting) Cooking time 5 -10 mins

For the dough:   

  • 375g – 450 gr (2.5 to 3 cups)  spelt flour (or plain)
  • 220 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 25gr fresh yeast, finely chopped or 1 sachet quick action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil for brushing
  • polenta/cornmeal for rolling

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes     
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a squeeze of honey
  • 1/2 tsp basil pesto
  •  1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:       

  • 100-150 gr goat’s cheese/gorgonzola/blue cheese
  • 10-12 dried figs halved (or 4-5 fresh figs, sliced) or some green fig preserve       
  • 3 handfuls of grated mozzarella or other cheese 
  •  fresh rocket leaves to garnish

Dough…

Whisk the honey into the warm water until it dissolves then add the yeast, whisk again and leave for 10-15 minutes to become frothy.

Add 150 gr (1 cup) flour, salt and olive oil to a large bowl, stir together then add the frothy yeast mixture. Stir again and add another 150 gr (cup) of flour until combined.  Add another 75 gr (1/2 cup) flour and combine. It should be quite a sticky dough.

Use some of the remaining flour to dust the board and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more of the flour as necessary if it sticks. Put the dough in a bowl and rub some olive oil over it. Cover and leave in a warm place for up to 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce….

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion, herbs and chilli flakes with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Tip in the tinned tomatoes, add the tomato paste, honey and pesto. Season with salt & black pepper, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until reduced.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Leave to cool. You could puree it if you like but I left mine chunky.

To cook:

Preheat the oven to its highest setting, with the baking tray (or pizza stone) in there too. Make sure the oven is clean or you will have a smoking kitchen (just saying).

Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 or 3 equal balls. You can refrigerate it at this point if you like. Sprinkle some polenta (or flour) on your worksurface and start to roll or push out your dough to a kind of circle about 3-5 mm thick.

This stage is optional but this is what Piccolo Tesoro do to keep the dough crispy. They put it in the oven for one minute before they put the toppings on. That’s what I did and it worked, no soggy base.

Take it out after 1 minute and smear some of the tomato sauce on the pizza (not too much) then add your goat’s cheese slices (or chunks), your chopped/sliced figs and cover with a layer of grated cheese. Put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes (depending on heat of oven) but keep an eye on it and take it out when you are happy.

Scatter over some fresh rocket leaves and serve immediately, with a Jack Black if you can get one…

 Enjoy!!

Rosemary and Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear and Almonds

17 Apr

This dish was inspired by a picnic lunch we enjoyed at the Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay. Bramon Wine Estate is a boutique vineyard and it is the first and only Estate that far East of the Western Cape.

Their flagship Sauvignon Blanc wine is called The Crags which is the name of the “town” where the Wine Estate is situated. You couldn’t really call it a town though. It consists of a petrol station and a shop. Which is why it is such a pleasant surprise to find this beautiful place just off the main road. They also have two sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Cap Classiques. I went for the 2008 sparkling ” a  refreshingly clean palate with vibrant mousse and an exciting, limey, zesty lingering finish”. It was one of the best sparkling wines I have tried in a long time.

So I had another glass. As you do.

In the summer they offer a picnic lunch amongst the vines. It is a really special feeling to be drinking the wine that is growing all around you. It is a relaxed, informal dining experience (in a really good way). You order your drinks and then get a list of the foods available. You trick the boxes next to what you would like to order and then give it back to the very capable waiting staff. Sit back relax, enjoy your drink and the beautiful surroundings while your picnic is freshly prepared for you.

We chose the mini baked camembert with honey figs and nuts, a beautiful plaited bread with rosemary and sea salt, green fig preserve, avocado and parmesan crisp salad, fresh pesto with mixed herbs and almonds, sundried tomatoes and a creamy hummus.

There is a monkey park and a bird sanctuary very near to the Wine Estate, so in a very organised fashion we went to Bramon in the morning to book a nice table in the vines for lunch at 1pm and then went off to Monkeyland for the rest of the morning. You get a guided walking tour around the forest that is very informative for kids and adults. More than 450 primates live and free-roam around the forest. It is an amazing feeling to be that close to so many different types of monkeys and lemurs that are living in a natural habitat. 

After lunch we went to Birds of Eden which is the largest free flight bird aviary in the world. It is a great way to spend a a couple of hours, there are 3500 birds out in the open. You walk up wooden walkways that snake their way through ruins and waterfalls up into the canopy of the trees. It is a stunning place.

And again you get so close to them.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are next to each other so you can buy combination tickets for both, which is what we did. With an excellent lunch at Bramon in between of course. Which brings me back to the food.

I contacted Bramon to get the recipes for the baked camembert and the rosemary plaited bread. The gave me the camembert but then told me that the bread recipe was a secret! I can understand it of course, it was very good.

So I made my own version of the bread using spelt flour which I flavoured with roasted garlic and rosemary. It was lovely, especially dipped into the oozing  baked camembert.

I will give you the bread recipe in my next post but for now here’s the baked camembert. I used pears rather than figs because figs aren’t in season here yet and I had some in my fruit bowl.

 I also studded the cheese with sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs before baking it because we used to serve it like that when it was on the menu at the restaurant. It’s something I saw Jamie Oliver do somewhere that makes such a difference to the flavour.

Rosemary & Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 30-35 mins

  • 1 boxed camembert (250 gr) wooden box is best but card is fine
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • a few tops of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C, remove the paper wrapping from around the cheese and put it back in the box. Make little slits all over the top of the cheese with a sharp knife and push in the slices of garlic and rosemary tops.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes until soft and melting inside. Meanwhile make the honeyed pear and almonds.

Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 1 pear, cored and sliced into 12 wedges
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a handful of whole toasted almonds (I used salted)
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 1 tbsp honey (rosemary honey if possible)

Toss all the ingredients apart from the honey together in a small bowl until evenly coated. Heat up a small frying pan over a medium high heat and throw in the pear & almond mix. Brown/caramelise slightly on both sides before adding the honey and stir to coat the pears.

Cook until the pears are soft but not mushy and remove from the heat.

Serve the warm honey glazed pear and almonds with the baked camembert and a nice bread for dipping. Or wait for my Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Braided Spelt Loaf in my next post…

For more information about the Bramon Wine Estate visit their webste here.

Enjoy!!

Mushroom Goats Cheese Ravioli, Butternut Sauce, Confit Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, Basil

9 Apr

This recipe is inspired by a couple of dishes we tried at Reuben’s restaurants in Franschhoek and Robertson. For those of you that don’t know, Reuben Riffel is the Chef Patron of the, now very successful chain of Reuben’s restaurants in South Africa. The first restaurant opened in Franschhoek seven or eight years ago and put the town well and truly on the map as a culinary destination. Reuben’s food is all about flavour and freshness of ingredients and has a definite world influence. His consistency has kept this popular award-winning restaurant at the top of the ever-increasing number of fine-dining establishments in the town. Which is why, I presume they decided to open another one.

Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel is an oasis of calm, serenity and cool styling. I had to physically restrain myself from diving (dream on) into the pool that lies adjacent to the suites as we arrived at the restaurant. Our table overlooked the pool area but luckily the menu was enough to take my mind off of that view.

The menu is typically Reuben. For starters we chose the water, summer & sweet melon salad with poppy-seed dressing, light & refreshing. The marinated mixed tomato, artichoke salad, olive caramel, deep-fried boconccini, pesto, tomato chutney. The deep-fried boconccini mozzarella balls were beautiful (must try at home soon) and came with the best tomatoes I’ve had for a long time. The Washer Up had the double baked gruyere souffle, waldorf salad, raisin puree, vanilla citrus vinaigrette. The souffle was light and flavourful, excellent with the sweet raisin puree which I recreated to go with this tart.

The main courses that lead me to this recipe came from both restaurants. Goat’s cheese ravioli, yellow pepper essence, pine nuts, confit tomato, spinach and olives from The Robertson and Butternut Ravioli, melting goat’s cheese mousse, pine nuts, tomato, yellow pepper essence from Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Mine is a mash-up of both.

Oh, and the desserts are to die for. Bon Courage white muskadel creme brulee, poached plum, plum ice cream.  Heaven.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, lemon thyme poached peaches, apricot sorbet, enough said.

Affogato: vanilla ice cream, Klipdrift gold brandy, hazelnuts, hot espresso shot. I’m going to try this at home but with frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) next time

The thing about Reuben’s food is the flavour. Every dish has a small amount of chilli in it. You don’t really notice the heat it just enhances all the other flavours. I love it. Oh, I forgot about the side dishes they do a Parmesan Truffle Oil Mash which is the most comfortingly addictive thing I have ever tasted. I didn’t get a picture because we ate it too fast.

This is my version of a Reuben dish. I made a wholemeal pasta dough with spelt flour rather than 00 flour. It actually worked really well. I’ve had disasters with wholemeal pasta before but the spelt flour seemed to be better. I did leave the dough in the fridge to rest overnight as well though. This may have helped it firm up more.

I contacted Reuben’s for the recipes and they, very kindly, sent me  a few different ones. The mushroom filling is from one dish (I added the goat’s cheese) and the Cape Malay butternut sauce is from a completely different dish. It may sound odd but it all balances out well and tastes great. The only thing I may do differently next time is trim some of the “skirt” of the raviolis (above) so that there isn’t so much double layer dough, or even use more filling to reach nearer the edges.

The confit tomatoes are intense little balls of flavour that burst in your mouth. I will definitely make these again, for pasta or salads or anything really. You may think life is too short to peel cherry tomatoes and I do kind of agree with you but, it means they soak up all of the garlicky herb oil they are soaked in. You could just saute them in a pan to save time.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Ravioli

Serves 2, vegetarian. Adapted from the Reuben’s recipe

  • 200 gr ’00’ flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 2 large eggs

Mix together in a processor until it forms a dough. Bring together, knead for a minute, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. I left mine overnight.

  • 12 chestnut (or mixed) mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp sugar (or 2 tsp kecap manis)
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • about 30 gr goat cheese, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten for sealing raviolis

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in  a pan over a medium high heat and cook the mushrooms and rosemary for a minute. Add the soy, sugar and Worcester sauce and saute until the mushrooms are dark, soft and the liquid has all been absorbed. Leave to cool completely before filling the raviolis.

Roll out the pasta dough, on a well floured surface with a rolling-pin or pasta machine until 1mm thin. Cut out circles about 7cm in diameter. Take a tablespoon of the (cooled) mushroom filling and place on one side of the circle. Top with a piece of goat cheese. Brush the edges with the beaten egg and fold it over to cover the filling. Press down around the filling to get rid of any air bubbles and make sure the edges are sealed and there are no holes in the dough. You can cut off some of the excess skirt of the ravioli if you think there is too much. Place on a tray on a piece of baking paper until ready to cook. Store in the fridge if necessary.

To cook: carefully lower them into a large pan of salted, boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. They should float and look softer. Drain and serve immediately with your choice of sauce.

Garlic & Herb Confit Tomatoes

Serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 175 gr cherry tomatoes
  • 25 ml white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • sea salt & black pepper

Put a cross in the bottom of each tomato, put in a bowl and pour over boiling water till covered. Leave for 20-30 seconds, drain and then shock in iced water for 30 seconds. Peel immediately.

Warm the oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic and shallot over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Pour this over the peeled tomatoes and leave for at least two hours at room temperature before serving. Reheat in a pan with some of the oil. Season with sea salt & black pepper just before serving.

Cape Malay Butternut Squash Sauce/Soup

This makes a lot of sauce so I used it as a soup for lunch the next day as well.

  • 600 ml veg stock
  • 1 tbsp Cape Malay spice mix (see my recipe here)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 celery leaves & tops, chopped
  • 750 ml grated butternut squash
  • 400 ml milk/cream (I used oat milk)
  • 1 tsp palm sugar/brown sugar
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • 1 tin (400 ml) coconut milk (optional)
  • salt to taste

Put the stock, squash, Malay spices, onion, garlic and celery leaves in a large pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash is soft. Add the milk, season with the salt, sugar and bring to the boil again. Cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Remove from the heat and carefully blend with a stick blender until smooth. You can serve as it is or add a tin of coconut milk to make it more soupy. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and taste for seasoning.

I used a potato peeler to make some courgette ribbons which I heated through with the tomatoes and toasted off some pine nuts. Some baby basil leaves and fresh rocket look pretty for a garnish too.

For more information about Reuben’s restaurants and The Small Hotel visit their website here

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry, Lemongrass, Coriander, Rice Noodles

26 Mar

This was one of the five different vegetarian curries we had the pleasure of trying at Indochine restaurant on the Delaire Graff Wine Estate. The whole experience was out of this world but this curry was the best I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot. I’d even go so far as to say it is one of the best dishes I have ever tried from anywhere in the world.

It’s unusual, elegant, fragrant, well-balanced, exotic, beautiful and totally delicious. It’s not actually on the menu, the chef on the evening that we were there, Virgil prepared a special selection of vegetarian curries for us to try. If anyone is listening from Indochine, you should definitely put it on your menu. It is really fantastic.

The drive up to the Delaire Graff Wine Estate has stunning views of the surrounding mountains and when you drive up through the shady tree-lined drive to see the well-manicured lawns and row upon row of parallel vines, you know you have arrived somewhere special.

And if you thought that the exterior was beautiful you have to see the interior to believe it.  The entrance lobby is flooded with light and filled with huge exotic flower arrangements. Bronze sculptures and water features punctuate the space, creating a modern African glass jungle.

Contributing to the theme, the lounge areas are decorated with gold and ebony pieces that transport you the colonial luxury lodge of your dreams. Or is it just me? I could definitely get used to this.

The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass doors opening out onto a terrace that takes full advantage of those spectacular views.  The copper and blue theme mirrors the red earth and blue sky of the surroundings bringing the outdoors in.

The curved banquette seating, facing the view is perfect for an intimate dinner for two.

A lovely detail, they have little pots of microherbs on the tables. Should you need a little more coriander.

Let’s get onto the food. First a bamboo basket arrived filled with pickled cucumber, black rice crackers (amazing), sweet potato crisps and a trio of sauces to go with them. Passionfruit, cucumber and pineapple & chilli. We chose a bottle of the Delaire Sauvignon Blanc as recommended by our excellent waiter. It had a hint of passionfruit which made it the perfect wine pairing with the spicy, fragrant dishes to come.

The amuse bouche was a little mouthful of tofu, mushroom, edamame and coconut sauce. Beautifully presented on a piece of slate. You may have noticed that I am plating some of my food on a slate tile at the moment. This is where the inspiration came from.

Our starter was an Indian Spiced Makhani Tofu Croquette, cinnamon confit tomatoes, pickled root vegetables, raita, beet leaves and tomato chutney. Presented on a slate tile again. You can see how all the colours stand out so beautifully.

We also ordered a Green Mango Salad with lime juice, chilli, ginger, coriander, mint. This classic Asian dish is refreshing, light, crisp and fresh. It makes a great side dish because of the contrast in textures. The cold crunch of the unripe mango with the hot spicy sauces of the curries. You can see why it is a classic all over Asia.

We were then presented with a palate cleanser. Apple and Ginger Sorbet with a sake shot. Oh alright then.

The sous chef Virgil came out with our main courses to explain the selection of curries he had made for us.

Tapioca Pearls with Curried Squash and Tofu Tom Yam, never has tapioca tasted so good or looked so beautiful.

Thai Green Pak Choi Curry with broccoli, sugar snaps, edamame, spring onions, light, fragrant and spicy

Melon Coconut Curry with lemongrass, ginger, coriander, chilli and fresh mint. Mind blowing honestly.

Lychee Red Curry with pickled cabbage, coconut, ginger and sprouts. This fruit in curry thing is going to catch on.

Burmese Aubergine Curry, tomato, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Aromatic and spicy.

For dessert we ordered the Trio of Creme Brulee because why wouldn’t you?

White Chocolate & Chilli, Ginger & Lime, Coconut. Heaven on a plate.

This restaurant has some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is daring, exquisite and mouth-wateringly good. If you live in SA and you haven’t been, you need to go. Exceptional food and service in luxurious surroundings.  Go on, treat yourself you know you want to. For more details and menus check out their website here.

For those of you that don’t live in South Africa, you need to try this recipe. And if you’re saying “Eww melon in curry, that’s gross” you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. The cool sweetness with the spicy, aromatic sauce is an unbelieveable combination that deserves some recognition. Do it.

You will have to make your own curry paste and coriander puree but don’t let that put you off it is not difficult and it is so worth it. You will also need to get a melon baller if you haven’t already got one leftover from the Seventies. You can serve it with plain rice or some thick rice (stick) noodles like I did.

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles

Serves 4, Vegan, Gluten-free. Adapted from the Indochine recipe

Prep time: 25 mins Cooking time: 20 mins

For the curry paste:

  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 5 white peppercorns
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 4 small green chillies, deseeded and chopped (depending on the chilli)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped/minced lemongrass
  • 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves) finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime/lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped coriander stalks
  • a big pinch of salt

Blend everything together in a mortar and pestle or food processor until you get a smooth- ish paste. Set aside.

For the Coriander Puree:

  • a bunch of fresh coriander leaves(or a mix of coriander & basil), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1 bowl of iced water

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the bicarb. Plunge the coriander into the hot water and leave until the water starts to turn green. Drain off most of the water and blend to a smooth puree in a measuring jug. Cool down by putting the measuring jug in the iced water.

For the Curry:

You can use which ever melon is available, two different colours is nice.

  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) watermelon
  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) green melon
  • 2 cans coconut milk (do not shake before opening), I used low-fat
  • 2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • coriander puree (see above) I used about 2 or 3 tbsp
  • salt
  • thick rice (stick) noodles for 4 people (or rice)
  • fresh mint leaves, rolled up & finely shredded for garnish
  • toasted coconut for garnish
  • vermicelli rice noodles deep-fried for garnish (optional)

Scoop out balls of melon flesh with the melon baller but leave the excess on the rind. Scrape out the excess flesh into a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.

To a large pan over a medium high heat, add the tops of the coconut milk (the thick cream bit) and cook until bubbling and starting to reduce. Add the curry paste and stir for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the rest of the tins of coconut milk, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.

Add the palm sugar, lemon juice and salt to the sauce then stir in the coriander puree and melon puree and taste. Adjust salt, lemon juice as required. Then add the melon balls, stirring to coat them in the sauce and heat through.

To make the vermicelli garnish, heat some oil in deep-frying pan until it sizzles when you test it with a dried noodle. Carefully drop a bunch of the dried rice vermicelli into the oil , it will puff up straight away. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the curry over rice noodles, garnished with the shredded mint leaves, toasted coconut and fried vermicelli (if using).

Thanks Indochine for a fabulous evening and for introducing us to the genius of fruit in curry. I am desperate to try the lychee one next…

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