UP Consumer and Food Sciences Students Celebrate the Indigenous Ingredients Foraged on the Future Africa Campus

UPAloes at the Admin Building
Aloes take a stand at the UP Admin Building

The Department of Consumer and Food Sciences of the University of Pretoria is hosting a special dinner to celebrate our indigenous food of which some of these ingredients will be foraged on their Future Africa Campus. DIANE DE BEER spoke to botanist and curator Jason Sampson as well as some of the other participants about this exciting concept:

 

This is not the first time the students of Consumer and Food Sciences will focus on indigenous ingredients, but it is their first foray into the Future Africa Campus.

The gardens at Future Africa were purposefully designed and developed to cultivate and produce edible and indigenous plants.  “We developed a menu to celebrate and use some of these ingredients in the menu that were available and as it was the end of the season for some of these products, we were able to harvest them and include them in our menu (like water chestnuts and makataan),” explained associate professor Gerrie Du Rand in charge of the Hospitality Management Final year students who will be preparing the dinner.IMG-20190730-WA0026

“What is exciting about this garden is the fact that many of these plants are unusual and not freely available and it provided our students the opportunity to celebrate these ingredients in a challenging manner with an unusual menu.”

Much of the expertise and help was given by botanist Jason Sampson from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, the man responsible for among others the botanical garden on the main campus of the University of Pretoria which holds a collection of living plants that is scientifically managed for the purposes of education, research, conservation as well as community service.

Known as the Manie van der Schiff Botanical Gardens, the aim is to raise awareness of our indigenous plant heritage and if you’re fortunate to be taken around the campus by Sampson, it’s as if the campus becomes a living organism with aloe walks on the Hillcrest campus and his magnificent fully fledged plant wall for the masterfully designed Plant Science building which functions as insulation as well as an aesthetically pleasing feature while also mimicking the natural habitat of some very unique plants.

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The rainwater harvesting plant (part of the Mining Engineering Study Centre of UP) with rain garden ponds and a storage tank

From the rose garden which was replaced by an aloe garden in front of the admin building (possibly the most visible ship structure on the most southern point of the campus), to what is referred to as a living laboratory, the rainwater harvesting plant (which is part of the Mining Engineering Study Centre of UP with a series of rain garden ponds and a storage tank which was installed as a reactive storm-water control system), someone has a firm eye on sustainability in these expansive grounds and to the scarcity of water in the future.

Working with UP’s resident architect, Neal Dunstan, they saved the university a stack of money but also created a system that harvests enough water for the glorious botanical gardens.

“The aloes haven’t been watered for six months,” he says and of course, that’s the point. And as you drive further through the campus, the signs of replanting and water-resistant plants are overwhelming. You just have to pay attention. This is truly forward thinking.

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The pod of the Lowveld chestnut. Inside is a handful of large, black, oily nuts with a soft shell. Delectable!

All of these projects and unique plant species are also available for study purposes as are the gardens that Sampson is involved in on the Future Africa campus. “There are quite a few master and doctorate studies to be done here,” says the man who describes his role on the new campus as “advising and interfering”.

And believe me he will. But with his passion for and knowledge of especially indigenous flora and to the benefit of the Consumer and Food Sciences students, a love for food, he will walk you through those gardens, still only in their infancy, and if you listen to him talking, have dishes rolling off his tongue.

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African Horned Melon , ripe and harvested. Picture: Hennie Fisher

His conversation centres on edible gardens, food forests and the need to diversify food crops which also leads to wild food plants. Today the world is dependent on five staples – none of which come from Africa. He points to the Irish food famine for example as a country that was solely dependent on one staple – and then starved. He knows this is a simplistic version but is also a reminder of food shortages and famine in the future.

“We need to focus on our little known orphan and African crops,” and here he points to examples like African berries (of which there are different kinds), a local grape version that instead of a bunch, forms single large grapes on a rounded bush or as an exotic example, the dragon fruit cactus which he is especially keen on as a vining waterwise fruit which could substitute for grapes to make what he believes will be excellent wine.

Cactus is a thing that he feels can be used in different ways (“eat the weeds”) and he is also keen on a sugar sorghum which delivers two food crops: wheat and sugar.

It’s one of the strengths he argues one finds in African crops. Most modern crops are single usage crops where a marula for example has multiple outputs. We would use the fruit, the nut, the bark and there would be a medicinal purpose introduced as well.

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Fully fledged plant wall for the UP Plant Science building

He feels we have been behind the times with indigenous planting (and he’s not against bringing in a few exotics). Some of his current plants in the Future Africa gardens include big-leafed spekboom (a different version of the plant that has become so fashionable in the past few years), Lowveld chestnuts that grow only around Mbombela and Barberton, the Pondoland coconut which is almost extinct in the wild, a horned cucumber which is farmed commercially in New Zealand and grows wild throughout Southern Africa, a makataan (wild watermelon) – and he can go on and on and give numerous ways of using these edible plants in innovative ways.

That’s exactly what the students were tasked to do. Research a menu, take the guidance from Sampson and then harvest what they need for their specific menu. What they have come up with is a truly innovative forward-thinking meal under the guidance of a student tasked with putting together a menu: Zandile Finxa. They also had to stick to a curriculum which not only introduces the different local ingredients but also a range of cooking methods.

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Makataan (wild watermelons) being processed Pictures: Hennie Fisher

It starts with an arrival snack consisting of a savoury Msoba (nightshade berry) panna cotta, aloe and spekboom salad and wild African sage (of which Sampson says, there are 27 different species in South Africa alone!).

The starter is a panfried Amadumbe gnocchi with African water chestnut mash (found with what will become a huge crop of waterblommetjies in the rainwater harvesting pond), roasted balsamic beetroot, guinea fowl with beetroot extract and biltong; followed by a mains of seared sous-vide Kudu loin with ting (sorghum) prepared risotto style, butter-tossed waterblommetjies, rooibos smoked carrots, creamed marogo and a venison red wine jus.

To end on a sweet note, there’s a chocolate and carob (of which the trees also grow at the university) macaron with milktart cream filling, amarula ice cream, horned melon and plumbago gell with a cinnamon and wild rosemary crumb.

Guests are then presented with a gift of glazed makataan (wild watermelon) and according to Sampson, this is a fruit of which the peel is considered to make the best watermelon preserve/jam and if you mix the fruit itself with pap, it’s lip-smacking.

UP Aloes on the Campus
The vibrant and revitalising aloe revolution at UP

The dinner will be pre-empted by a public lecture by Prof Herb Meiselman, an internationally known expert in sensory and consumer research, product development and food service who will deliver a public lecture on The influence of context/environment and psycho-graphics on product design and evaluation prior to the dinner for those who are interested.

Sensory and Consumer Research has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, moving from pure sensory research to a broad array of tests involving the psychology of the consumer and the place where testing and product consumption are done. While testing used to focus on the product being tested, it now includes the consumer and the environment.

 

 Booking details:

Date: 7 August 2019 Time: 7pm for 7.30pm Venue: Future Africa Complex RSVP and Enquiries: Prof Gerrie du Rand, 012 420 3547 or gerrie.durand@up.ac.za Tickets R300 per person.

 

As Greek as It Gets with Stavvie and Inge

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Perdfect foodie partners Stavvie and Inge

DIANE DE BEER

The stars were aligned when chef supreme Stavros Vladislavic and fanatical foodie Inge Pretorius decided the time was right to start their Tshwane culinary venture. They had been talking for years.

He is an old favourite in the capital city but left in 2003 for neighbouring Cullinan where he has been pulling the crowds, especially for lazy weekend lunches. And that is still an on-going enterprise with wife Vonni keeping those fires stoked.

Now he’s back and for Pretorius, a woman with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, it is a dream that she has been nurturing for many years. She has always wanted to run a restaurant. Her head is filled with food from the moment she wakes up, when she starts planning the family’s evening meal.

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As Greek as it Gets

“It’s been a huge learning curve,” she says of the restaurant enterprise, but the two partners knew from the start how it would work. Stavros is the chef-patron and the one who makes all the food decisions, while Inge does the admin and the management. She but also worked her butt off to get the place looking the way it does – with a little help from many friends, starting with her husband and Vonni, who has an artistic eye.

They wanted to keep it relaxed, a typical Greek taverna, no frills, yet bursting with charm. How to do the dining side wasn’t a stretch. Chef Vladislavic has been doing his spectacular kitchen wizardry for many years and his customers wouldn’t want any of that to change. Why mess with something that works?

Meze platters with Spanakopita, kebabs, Haloumi and Keftedes
Meze platters with Spanakopita, kebabs, Haloumi and Keftedes

The big man with the booming voice knows better than that. His food is as generous as his heart and Inge, who is left doing the sums, had to accept his wisdom and better judgement. “It was tough for me to relinquish control, but I knew I had to listen to him,” she says.

And that’s their strength. She has allowed the chef who knows how to feed his people to take the lead while she gets stuck into making it all work. It’s a winning recipe and the way she likes it. All the while she’s also improving her cooking skills and knowledge, something she’s passionate about. Sampling food from the kitchen is what she loves best. That’s how she got to know Stavros, eating at his different restaurants.

On the night, we went, the chef had prepared a feast. It’s all about produce and passion. It started with a light fresh salad of asparagus, avo, coz lettuce, and spring onion with a rocket pesto dressing. This had to counterbalance the meat dishes to follow; a Cajun burnt pepper fillet and a chilli, garlic and ginger chicken succulent and perfectly cooked with beetroot and spinach as a tasty accompaniment.

Stavvie's Greek Burger
Stavvie’s Greek Burger

No Stavvie meal would be complete without some seafood. This time it was a platter generously packed with a selection of kingklip and hake loins, prawns, mussels done in white wine garlic and cream, calamari in a light chilli sauce, rice salad, pita bread and tzatziki.

These were his choices for a welcome feast from his state-of-the-art kitchen, from where a kiddie’s size moussaka, some freshly made pita and a few dips were as complete at a later lunch meeting.

From his meze menu (including artichokes, dolmades, melitzana, tiropita, spanakopita, saganaki, calamari and beef  slouvaki chicken boerekia or keftedes) to the Greek national dishes ranging from brizoles, moussaka (traditional and a veg option), pastitio and the melt-in-the-mouth kleftiko, there’s the whole other side of the menu to explore. Or you could feast on a starter of squid heads (a personal favourite) or sardines. Prawns, snails or chicken livers are also an alternative sensation and along the way, the chef will be cheering you on.

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The Colourful interiors of As Greek As It Gets

Even in today’s coffee crazy world, restaurants aren’t always reliable but finding themselves in the heart of Tshwane’s cuisine culture (in the centre of Greenlyn), they tick all the boxes. And the sweet side offers halva, baklava and Greek biscuits, Kourabiedes or Melomakarona or you could simply finish the night off with Ouzo and dates – there’s no better choice.

As with many of the city’s restaurants where the chef-patron is such a large part of the success, with Prinsloo in tow (sometimes quietly in the background), they pack a punch. It’s not often that someone who doesn’t need looking after is set free simply to make magic with the food and on the floor with the patrons.

On the wine side, the choice is as sassy as the food with different needs and pockets catered for. Under each section, there are options with Hermanuspietersfontein Kaalvoet Meisie Sauvignon Blanc tough to resist for the name alone; a prosecco at R230 also an option on a celebratory night; wine served by the glass which means carafe; and then you’re yet to dip into the cocktails (Stavvie’s special of vodka, lemon, mint and lime would be my choice) or even one of their special gins or whiskeys – you’re spoilt for choice.

As Greek as It Gets is as much about Stavvie as it is about the food. You could just slip in quietly and have a meal, you might even get away with it. But if you’re one of those diners who likes talking food, prefers someone guiding you with the menu, or perhaps wants to try something extraordinary, this is your place.

He will talk the talk but also walk the walk. And now he has someone there to keep everything running sweetly, deal with administrative hassles (we all have those) and just keeping an eye and checking on the sidelines whether the night is playing out as gently as it should for everyone involved.

*First published in Sunday Times Lifestyle Food, 16/6/2019.

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*Details:

As Greek As It Gets

Greenlyn Village Centre

Thomas Edison & 13th Avenue

Menlopark,

Pretoria

Tel: 0844 55 55 88

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 10pm

Sunday 11 am to 4pm

Paradise is a Farm in Africa

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Pretty as a picture

DIANE DE BEER

 

If you are ever looking for the perfect getaway, Halfaampieskraal is heaven.

In their latest book Halfaampieskraal The Way we Live, the first quote reads “The perfect place to do nothing at all.”and it captures the farm which opens its arms to guests so generously and completely.

Turning off from the N2 at Caledon and driving in the Stanford direction, it is a part of the rolling wheat fields of the beautiful Overberg. It is still very much a working farm and when paging through The Way We Live, I was reminded of a friend’s 50th birthday celebrated there a few years back.

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The glamour of the past

It’s all about the place and its people, the way you become part of the farmstead while luxuriating on recliners under huge trees with homemade cocktails and unusual snacks while farm animals come and peek at the latest arrivals.

The rooms which are just behind the main house are drop-dead gorgeous and quite unique in the way they have been designed. This is obviously someone’s passion and it shines through.

Owner Jan-Georg Solms (with partner Cobus Geldenhuys) describes it as “curation of my favourite things – and lots of them”. He explains that with this being the family farm, he also inherited much of what is featured and he and partner have an annual breakaway to Greece where he often picked up objects, he lost his heart to. “I have an eye for pieces that can be fashioned differently and given a second life.”

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The charm of farm living

But he has stopped chasing new purchases and prefers appreciating beautiful objects in other homes and buildings rather than a personal desire to own even more. The rooms are done subtly but with a luxurious tint. “The idea is that you have to feel comfortable, as if you know the room intimately.” Included are heavy linen gowns, beds that are slightly larger and higher than the norm with down duvets stuffed with the feathers of their own geese, but in European weight.

The rooms are stocked with excellent coffee, buttermilk rusks and fresh fruit. Mosquito nets stand alert in season and bathrooms are oversized, all with open showers (wet rooms), some including baths and others, outside showers. Flowers fill all the rooms and the main house stoep, if you can tear yourself away from your room, is a favourite gathering spot to enjoy either sunrise or sunset.

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Interior at Halfaampieskraal

The main house which also has some rooms but is also the gathering place is a jumble of well-organised themes “which allows guests to peek around and lose themselves in flavours and textures of bygone eras”. The rooms have names like Plantation Room, Reading Room Officer’s Mess, Red Dining Room (with a 53-year-old post office wall-to-wall red carpet from his parents’ time) and Empty Room (filled with objects…) which gives you an idea of the feel and style of this quite extraordinary vintage farmstead.

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Dining in splendour

And with all this chic comfort, in addition, there’s the extraordinary delicious factor of the food. “We keep files of all our guests (with 60% of them being returns) and the menus we’ve served, not to repeat ourselves,” he responds when I ask him about our weekend meals. Many of the guests order some favourite from the previous menu though.

Their chef Marlette Scheltema has been with them for some time and has chef training, but she easily adapted to their style of cooking: simple food, generous, but not an overly loaded plate. “We draw a picture every time of what the plate will look like once the guests have dished up, when planning menus.

“Most food is served table/family buffet. We use what we have locally, simply because we want food less travelled.  Marlette now does almost all the cooking, and I get to taste everything!”

Our menu was as follows:

Friday casual evening with spanakopitas, lemon and tzatziki for starters, paella on the fire for mains, and a simple lemon-pudding;

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Three cheese breakfast soufflé-tart and Turkish cucumber;

Breakfast Saturday was the three cheese breakfast soufflé-tart, boerewors and the most amazing Turkish cucumber;

 

Saturday evening, the night of the celebration, started with canopies of toffee tomatoes and salmon-rolls. Starters: field- and porcini-mushroom soufflés, baked in cream and pecorino. Mains: home grown leg of mutton, cooked at 110 deg C for 9 hours, served with a green-oil-gremolata dressing. The sides included caramelized onions with branches of bay leaves; Potato Ann, upright butternut, courgette strips and small beetroots. Desert was an old fashioned croquembouche, with the crème patisserie flavoured with frangelico and decorated with pistachio brittle. Served with tiny liqueur milk shake shooters – and quite spectacular to suit the occasion.

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For those still standing, breakfast Sunday was the house standard Brekko-pan – a big pan, with small pork bangers, bacon, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, dried oregano and a bit of cream, baked slowly, with halved hard-boiled eggs added in the end. This was served with traditional vetkoek and jam. All breakfasts start with a fruit platter with their six-spice syrup and double cream yogurt and their own honey, freshly squeezed orange juice and extra strong coffee.

What you have is pretty much a breakaway weekend of fine farm dining in style with as much rest in-between as possible although the area offers much opportunity for exploring if you wish.

But first have a look in their latest coffee table book packed with the most beautiful pictures and recipes from the farm which will give you a chance to see for yourself if this is your idea of paradise – at a cost that isn’t prohibitive. Check their website for more information.

 

*You can buy Halfaampieskraal The Way we Live at www.kraal.biz also Wordsworth, Love books in Mellville and Exclusive Books. It won the South African Gourmand World Bookbooks award (category: Hotels)

 

 

Social Media and Smartphones Dictate the Pace but Detract from the Vibe

Social media and smartphones can play havoc with the way you understand the world. DIANE DE BEER is hoping for a reality check where the picture doesn’t tell the only story:

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Smartphones on the march

 

There are lots to say for both these modern amenities but sometimes – and that probably has much to do with my age – I can’t help but wonder about real life and slow living that is lost along the way. Two examples of their impact had me puzzling just a bit recently.

The one had to do with commuters on a train in Tokyo all so lost in their smart phones, they might – and probably are – be living in a parallel universe. Back home, an invitation to sample the new summer menu at one of Joburg’s premiere restaurants had me struggling to make sense of the moment as single plates of every dish was passed around for diners to sample, photograph and promote to the outside world – at breathtaking speed or that’s how it felt.

On a trip to Japan, our mode of transport in Tokyo was the train – sometimes above the ground and, when we couldn’t do it any other way, underground. But this didn’t really make any difference to the phone phenomenon which was so pervasive it had my whole party pondering the merits of easy access to … well almost anything. And that is the problem perhaps.

It wouldn’t it be smart phones I suppose if we didn’t have perfect access?

It doesn’t take long for foreign travellers to notice that everyone on the train is either on their phone or sleeping. That’s sounds like a rather mild condition when stated like that. But what I really mean, from the moment you walk into the station and then arrive at the right platform and step onto the train, there’s no eye contact with any individual who is probably making this journey twice a day.

It makes sense that they would use this instant source of entertainment to keep themselves occupied during what must be a tedious part of their day. But it is the level of engagement which completely ignores the public space they find themselves in that is quite fascinating.

Given the Japanese innate politeness, it feels especially as if the young men have found a way of ignoring all the social conventions of their society by simply locking into their phones. From the moment they step onto the train and off and beyond, they have their phone pressed – up close and personal – right into their face and they do all of this while grabbing a seat and then they stay put.

There’s no acknowledgement of pregnant women or elderly individuals who might warrant a young man giving up his hard-earned seat – and which they are advised constantly to do via public announcements and one understands why.

But there’s also no embarrassment or losing face, because he is locked completely off from the world happening around him. If they were reading books or even watching news, that would also add some justice to the endeavour but it’s usually games. We did spot some manga to our relief and perhaps three books (always manga) and perhaps two newspapers on our journey.

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Those on the train who aren’t on their phones (both men and women) are asleep, standing or sitting, sometimes with the phone pressed to their noses. Admittedly, commuting is tiring and while we are on holiday with all the time in the world, this is a hard slog – before and after work – either way.

What is disturbing though is the absence of discovering who these people are. They’re simply missing – any time of the day. It seems that’s what the Japanese do – particularly in Tokyo –when on their commute. The sleeping is less disturbing because tiredness in today’s world is a universal trait amongst workers.

The stress and long days are easy culprits but the cutting off from the outside world, your fellow travelers, to the point of not making any contact at all cannot be healthy. Instead you’re in communication with a machine.

Our fellow commuters seemed lovely people, but who could really tell?

Similarly, a recent media lunch at 54 on Bath’s Level Four to test their new Summer Menu was equally soulless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the function that’s at fault, it’s what the world has become and what we have to do, to survive. By ignoring the process and going simply for goal, depth and thus lasting impact is missing, to my mind.

Previously – and not that long ago – a tasting menu would actually include having a meal, conversing with you fellow diners, testing the temperature of the room for conviviality and all those other benefits that add to a great meal.

Call me old fashioned and I am when it comes to this kind of stuff, but simply gathering around a table while the starters, then mains and concluding with desserts are placed on the table while everyone has the chance to sample, doesn’t do the food any favours. There’s too little time to savour and chatter about the food, because everyone is busy taking pictures and posting it on one of the many social platforms all of us use to promote whatever catches our fancy and an event expects.

It’s not that I want to fault the restaurant or their marketing people. This isn’t their doing.  It’s how media works now and how it works best. I love the instant thing and the fact that one can get your message out there.  I use it myself to promote my blog and anything I might post – how could we possibly have done any of this before? It opens new vistas for those who love to write (or want to promote anything else) and want to share what they experience with like-minded souls who might tune into a particular vibe.

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Sweet potato ginger tart starter

It’s not that difficult to give a snapshot and a soundbite about the dishes as they pass you by. The starters feature seared yellow fin, fresh raw peas, avocado mousse, wasabi powder, and pickles; the ‘Black Angus’ carpaccio, quail egg, pomegranate, truffle mayonnaise, and parmesan; the chicken and sundried tomato terrine, with smoked tomato, baby beetroot, radish, apple gel and roast nuts; and my favourite for its originality, the sweet potato and ginger tart, with spicy pineapple gel, corn, lemon cream, and pickled cucumber.

For mains I would opt for the nose to tail eating with the ‘Marino’ lamb cutlet, loin, confit belly, braised shoulder, with pea puree, and asparagus which is hearty and rich in flavour yet strangely works as a summer dish, while with dessert, opt for two classics, lemon crème brûlée or vanilla pannacotta, both with a summer swirl of berries interpreted in different ways.

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Marino lamb cutlet

The accent is on quality ingredients like yellow fin tuna, duck and Wagyu sirloin while punting local with fresh produce and artisanal cheese. Dining at 54 on Bath has long established itself and with their exec chef Matthew Fox inviting all his chefs to the party to contribute their own dish, there’s an individuality to the different dishes which works well.

There’s a lot going in its favour, but sadly for me personally, sampling a new menu, I want an individual bite of food which I can savour if not in my own time, given some time rather than sitting in the middle of a hectic scramble to get it out there briskly please. It’s as if the chase is on because the ice cream might melt before the picture hits its audience.

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Lemon crème brûlée

Is it only me? Or do I simply long to focus on more than just the destination? Personally, eating has as much to do with the vibe as the visuals.

Nataniël at Play with Family and Friends

Edik book coverSiblings Nataniël and Erik le Roux partner in a book that captures the magic and mayhem of a French-styled lifestyle based on their four-season television cookery series Edik van Nantes, which finished earlier this year:

 

DIANE DE BEER

 

“Except for family, we don’t have things that old,” says Nataniël at a French heritage evening hosted by French ambassador to South Africa, Mr Christophe Farnaud, in celebration of the entertainer/TV personality’s latest book Die Edik van Nantes (Human & Rousseau, R370) co-written by his brother Erik le Roux, who was also co-presenter of the KYKnet cookery/lifestyle/travel programme consisting of four 13-episode seasons.

It all began with the younger Le Roux brother settling in Nantes after marrying Nathalie, who is from the area and introducing Nataniël to this city where he quickly lost his heart. Before that, he says, he only travelled to Paris where he had great adventures – amongst them Paul Gaultier remarking that he was the only overdressed person he had encountered in this city of high fashion.

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Nataniël presents his latest book to the French ambassador in SA, Mr Christophe Farnaud

Once the siblings discovered that Nantes was their heritage, their great adventure followed as they searched for their roots, criss-crossing the region all the while cooking with both their French and Afrikaans heritage, coming into play. But they also focused on the arts and culture of the city and region, turning this into much more than just a cooking show.

They were also smart enough to know that you have to have a hook to hang a cooking show on (similarly with a book) to distinguish yourself in a market that’s saturated. “People don’t use recipe books anymore,” says Nataniël, “they cook from the internet. You have to give them more.”

He is amused by some South Africans who feel a sense of betrayal because of his love affair with many things French, but to understand his admiration, you have to understand his sense of adventure and added to that, a journey he could share and experience with his brother. “We could catch up and reconnect,” he says which is why he describes this as one of his happiest work experiences.

Not only could the Le Roux siblings research their heritage as descendants of the French Huguenots, but Nataniël could also discover and explore the culturally rich university city, now the home of family.

He describes Erik as someone who has the technique and experience of professional kitchens while he is a “rough home cook”. Erik notes that he loves eating more than cooking, yet they both acknowledge that food is the way too many hearts and hearty get-togethers with friends and family. “It’s an escape and a way to destress from a hectic stage career,” explains Nataniël, hence the book, which features the lifestyle and recipes the way these were presented in the television series in celebration of a city the artist now calls his second home.

His brother was always going to leave South Africa, because he couldn’t come to terms in a place where old men wear shorts, he notes.

Nataniel's favourite table in the book
Nataniël’s favourite table in the book

And when Nataniël first wanted to visit his brother’s new home, Erik explained that he would hate the industrial city. But determined to recognise the region, it was a quick yet lasting enchantment. To the amusement of everyone at the French Embassy, he explained that Nantes was his French addiction. What he learnt in France was everything about inspiration, aspiration and even more importantly, intimidation!

“I love the way the city has welcomed me and my crew,” he explains. Doors were flung open and he was invited to film in renovated art museums, try their regional cuisine, tweak the recipes for local viewers, discover new ingredients in cafés, bistros and restaurants and share his French passion with his South African television audience. Because of their dedication to capture the essence of the city, these two bald brothers have also become a fixture in this North-Western French city.

Discovering a town that boasts everything from four upmarket paper shops, for example, to the largest puppet building company in the world, Nataniël knows how to flaunt it. He was thrilled to hand the Ambassador his first Afrikaans book on French culture!   “It’s a South African book on France without any lavender or rusted wrought iron,” he says, pointing to an overcrowding in this French oeuvre that he feels has leant too heavily on a specific nostalgia.

And followed that with a piano recital where he was joined in a piano tribute (with She and Emmenez-Moi) to Charles Aznavour by his accompanist, classical and jazz pianist Charl du Plessis (see picture).

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So apart from this latest book, which is already flying off the shelves according to the author, he is also finishing with his last short season in 2018, Messenger, at the Oude Libertas from December 12 to 15, following a short run at Pretoria’s Atterbury Theatre.

“A sign, a message, a suspicion, a proverb, a shock, a revelation, that’s how lives are changed, for the better or worse,” he notes. From the earliest miracles, legends and myths to new discoveries or internet filth, most of humanity live life overwhelmed by fear, trends, tiredness or hysteria. “This is what I wanted to explore, social phenomena that paralyze, surprise and rejuvenate.”

These are his topics of discussion in a show performed in a time usually associated with festivities and inspiration and you will find all of that in these stories told in either Afrikaans or English with music both self-penned (including Messenger, which is completely mesmerising) and established songs, like the soft Duke Ellington jazz ballad  It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream..

Costumes are original and breath-taking in his own inimitable style and his superb musicians include Du Plessis (piano), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Werner Spies (bass) and drummer Peter Auret.

It’s a glorious way to conclude your cultural year with an entertainer who will have you laughing hysterically as he smartly underlines the madness we need to navigate in our modern world.

Booking at Computicket.

 

 

 

 

The Brilliance of Rachel Botes

Pictures: THEANA BREUGEM

Rachel Botes2
Chef and butcher Rachel Botes Pictures: Theana Breugem/ http://www.thefoodphotographer.co.za

Chef Rachel Botes is all about brilliance. DIANE DE BEER mourns the loss of her much loved Carlton Café Delicious which recently closed its doors after 16 years of excellence but celebrates the potential this unleashes for this genius food mind in the future:

 

Looking back, moving forward was the title of something described as an inspirational discussion presented by Weylandts Kramerville on design and lifestyle trends recently. And the person I was really focussed on was the woman responsible for all the magic at our dearly departed Carlton Café Delicious in Menlyn a few weeks back.

And while mourning all round happened in Pretoria café circles, Rachel junkies like myself, though sad about the demise of this particularly delicious deli, also knew that perhaps the universe was having its way with this forward-thinking chef whose talents were sometimes overlooked by those who should know better. Not only has she been busy writing her first cookbook with venison the topic du jour but she is also knee-deep in studies on the historical background of the iconic melktert (milk tart).

And it was specifically the future venison book that was the topic of her conversation on the day; the fact that it is the cleanest and most sustainable meat available. “Food is my design and my colour; venison is my passion.” That’s how this chef, butcher and future author describes her focus and it’s clear that this is a talent that refuses to go away.

 

Tapping into the topic of the day, she explained that memories and nostalgia have always been an inspiration for her food. But just in case you think you can pin her food choices down, her recipes for the day and in advance of the venison book to come, include leg of venison with pineapple peels and banana, wrapped in fig leaves; venison rusks; and biltong cheesecake with preserved quinces and goat’s cheese. She also notes that the recipes will all be interchangeable with beef, lamb and pork if venison is not your choice or perhaps not available.

It is to hear her speak about the individual recipes to understand where her food brain wanders. Sheep-fat rusks, for example, is a Karoo special and she wanted to include a version of this in the book. What she has done, because venison doesn’t boast the kind of fat necessary for the rusks, was to include shredded impala in the dough mixture. “It pairs magnificently with coffee,” she says.

Using the pineapple skins and banana as a tenderiser for the meat in her leg of venison and then wrapping it in fig leaves, she loves the way all the flavours permeate the meat. And in case you’re wondering, when your fig tree has leaves, that’s when you preserve them, to have their availability all year round.

Rachel rusks
Venison rusks

The biltong cheesecake was a no-brainer. As South Africans we’ve always liked something sweet with our meat, she confides, so this cheesecake straddles that savoury/sweet conundrum and it could go either way.

This is exactly who Rachel Botes is. She cannot call halt when it comes to imagination and innovation. It is her goal to turn venison into the star she and her sponsor, Sollie Potgieter, believe it should be. His wife (Elize) and his passion is Burkea Wild where they farm mainly with Livingstone eland, buffalo, sable and oryx.

She met the couple when they started coming to her deli 15 years ago and discovered they had similar food desires and dreams.

She points to days when we all knew where our food came from. “There were trust relationships between a client and her butcher or grocer,” she reminds us, and this is something she believes should be part of our food culture again. And while this cannot happen in the way it did in the past, we could still endeavour to create these relationships where we can in the interest of our health and good living.

While there isn’t a regular supply for venison and we cannot just order a kudu rump or a springbok sirloin at will, with a stronger demand it could be more and better controlled. With her book, which will be titled Antelope, she hopes to start an education process that will inform those interested in food and their health. “I would rather opt for these free-range animals than those injected with hormones,” she adds.

rachel melktert2

When she first started investigating the recipes available on venison, she turned to what she refers to as “compilation albums”, those recipe books put together by schools and churches and sold to raise funds. Her starting point has always been to respect what she is working with and when it’s venison, that’s not a tough ask. With her first encounter with an enormous kudu carcass, she had to find a bigger kitchen to accommodate this craziness. It was quite intimidating, but she also realised that she loved working with this extraordinary meat. “I have such respect because I know I’m working with something special,” she explains.

If you think venison is not your kind of meat, Botes will be the one to persuade you differently. Those of us who know and have sampled her food often, understand her extraordinary ability to create something completely different from something we thought we all knew.

And in Pretoria, while Cartlon Café Delicious has left a gaping hole in our culinary chest, Botes will be back. That is already clear with what she has been up to this year without knowing that impossible rentals would unexpectedly rush a closure which would have come in the not too distant future anyway. But with venison and milk tart a part of her everyday thinking at present, it won’t take long before she pulls all her dedicated followers into some kind of version of her food fantasies.

She has many. But she is still mulling about her future with many of her ideas in an early state of osmosis. When she returns, it won’t be quietly.

The book titled Antelope is the first to appear – in January 2019. So, watch out for that and follow news on her progress on Instagram and facebook: @rachelsdelicious.

Capital Craft Beer Academy Ticks All The Best Boxes With Beer As The Big Boss

Diane de Beer

Capital Craft interior

Pictures: Nelis Botha

 

CAPITAL CRAFT BEER ACADEMY

 

Address: Greenlyn Village Centre, SHOP NO. 20 Cnr Thomas Edison & 12TH Street East, Pretoria

Phone:012 424 8601

Hours: Monday & Tuesdays from 12pm to 9.30pm (kitchen); Wednesdays & Thursday opens at 10.30am; Friday & Saturday 10.30am to 11.30pm and Sundays from 10.30am to 6.30pm (kitchen)

 

 

If like me you’re not really a beer drinker, arguably the Capital Craft Beer Academy doesn’t make sense.

But from the start, the sensibilities of the four guys who came up and developed the original concept, hit all the right spots.

The obvious attraction of the dining/drinking experience is the 210 beers on their menu. Brothers Henk and Willie van der Schyf, Johan Auriacombe and Niel Groenewald, started with a craft beer festival in the shade of the Voortrekker Monument in Tshwane. It has since moved to the Pretoria Botanical Gardens.

The success of that was overwhelming but it also encouraged the quartet of entrepreneurs to start their own restaurant Capital Craft Beer Academy in the Greenlyn area with another opening a few years ago in Centurion which has a strong family slant – and they’re both swinging.

Mean Green 2
The Mean Green Hamburger

What captivated me from the start was the food menu, with new additions a few months back, that offers cuisine I wouldn’t have associated with a beer venue. From vegetarian platters with roast veg and haloumi skewers, grilled corn on the cob, falafel balls, crudité salad, jalapeno poppers (with a bite!), served with Tzaziki and guacamole (R80) to one of their new menu items, A Green Goddess consisting of green salad with sugar snap peas, cucumber, baby marrow slivers, spring onions, green olives, avo and crumbed feta on a bed of coz lettuce with a green goddess dressing (R70).

The variety is huge though. From a brunch section (Big Boy with cut waffle, three rashers of honey-glazed bacon, grilled tomato, seasoned corn medallions, smoked Bockwurst and two eggs to top – R75 to crafty omelettes with two items of choice R65), salads (above), snacks (deep-fried biltong, Mac Mac balls with homemade macaroni balls covered in panko crumbs deep fried and served with Jalapeno cheese sauce, pretzels and crunchy chicken livers) to sandwiches (party in the club, stolen goods, Fat Frankie) to the last word in dining huge: Puff, Puff, Pass, a blazing selection of boerewors, smoked chicken pops, 200 g smoked pork ribs and in-house smoked brisket all tied together with chips and their legendary onion rings as one of their select platters.

Green Goddess 2
Green Goddess

And for the serious carnivores there’s a great selection of burgers such as the Chakalaka Burger (R79), new on the menu, with a 200g patty topped with traditional South African spicy vegetable relish on a fresh bun with mayo and baby spinach, or the Mean Green, the usual patty with sundried tomato pesto with cut jalapenos and lashings of basil aioli (R85). Or you could opt for the ribs, which they promise benefit from time and effort invested to bring you the best.

Keeping to their smart theme, desserts include a classic waffle served with chocolate ice cream and chocolate-pistachio truffles or a rock&road ice cream coffee, both seem to fit the venue so sweetly.

Pretzel
Pretzel

Other new items on the menu include a Philly Steak Roll, haloumi fries, pulled pork poppers, their own home-made pretzels, pork wing, a Fat Frankie and Uncle Porkie, both wrapped in bacon, grilled parmesan corn and marrow or for the seriously health conscious a Pumpkin Patch which is a clever combo of salads and veggies.

If you’re not a serious or regular craft beer drinker, this will be a sharp learning curve. They currently list more than 200 and this number keeps growing. As newbies, start off with a tasting kit guided by an informative manager who will show you the way to go and you could ask for a viewing of their on-tap beers as well as their storing facilities. It’s impressive.

There’s no better place to start if you wish to polish up on your understanding of ale.

Pulled Pork Poppers
Pulled Pork Poppers

If you want wine, they have a small but crafty selection as well as an extremely good whisky and gin collections. Shooters include house blends like a melktertjie or a beavis and butthead, craft bombs sport combos like Soweto Bomb or Dawson’s Kriek with some serious gin tasting platters also on offer.

Beer is the big boss but by no means the only one talking.

Depending on your age and how you enjoy your meals, you will pick a time to visit. At the start of the week things are gentle but it can get packed with a serious party vibe on weekends. Sundays usually have a strong family feel.

The service is attentive and helpful and because they warn that preparation time is around 45 minutes to deliver on their promise, they keep you informed about the state of the food. Questions are smartly answered, and a general well-being is constantly monitored.

Capital Craft interior2

They’re big on ambience and their contemporary beer hall style is superb. Tables can be shared easily, and with a look of canteen chic, well designed, it all works smoothly. Even when they’re busy, there’s more than enough space to select a quieter spot.

What has really impressed me every time I have visited is the way they have ticked every box. It’s extremely difficult to please all the people, all of the time. Yet they seemed to have managed just that and with a menu update, those who like their style of food have fun new dishes to try.

You will feel as if you’ve landed in heaven if craft beer is your thing and if you don’t know much, this is the place to learn. You will find your poison and so much more.

Because they’re part of the Greenlyn complex, parking is easily available and safe and check out the competition while you’re there, because this is another of Pretoria’s food havens with Zest and Eisbein and Co all part of this cuisine carnival.

 

Liezie Mulder of the Iconic île de pain Makes Every Recipe Her Own – Anytime

Ile de Pain Wild oats loaf_4599
Wild oats loaf

Liezie Mulder and her family’s restaurant île de pain in Knysna are legendary. Her second cook book île de pain ANYTIME (Quivertree) has recently been published. If you love food, playing around in the kitchen, take note. She tells DIANE DE BEER about her way with food and how best to replicate her passion:

ile de pain cover muckup (002)

 

 

If you have been to Knysna’s famous île de païn, buying into Liezie Mulder’s latest (2nd) cookbook will be easy.

She says it herself in the introduction: As a chef I borrow, share and am inspired by the works of others and I absorb what is happening around me, at home and on my travels, and then make it my own.  …what is important is to use my own voice, to be honest, to be unique and true to myself.”

She wants to make it better using different techniques or using ingredients in a way that’s different or by introducing unique flavour combinations. Sometimes she simplifies it to express her style and philosophy more emphatically.

Travel is a huge source of inspiration for her. It gives her a chance to breathe far from her immediate surroundings, to experience, listen and be immersed and influenced by different cultures. She scribbles notes while watching cooking shows and collects food memories when she travels- here or abroad.

The restaurant menu is constantly evolving but for her the important ingredients are simplicity, uncomplicated and wholesome. And then she adds: “There has to be a party in your mouth with every bite!”

Ile de Pain Liezie
Liezie Mulder’s île de païn

The past 15 years at île de païn with much heartache and joy has taught her to have more fun and not to take work and food too seriously. It shows and comes across especially in her philosophy. Asked about her recipes, she says they should be fresh, simple, uncomplicated and fun. “I like to keep flavours in a recipe clean, working within the flavour palette of one region or country. I like to combine unexpected flavours and present it in a way using few components on a plate, so as not to confuse the palate.”

It’s about celebrating her favourite food memories … and food! “I wanted to create something lasting, beautiful but also useful. Something that captures the essence of what we do, and at the same time inspires others.”

If you’re interested in the food world, watch food programmes or speak to foodies, you will already know that sourcing ingredients is hugely important. “It is vital to use quality, healthy, fresh produce that offers high value in terms of both vitality and beauty.” All of this will contribute to the quality of your food in a way that saves both money and time in the long run.

The restaurant is a family affair with Mulder and her partner and master baker Markus Färbinger at the helm. What they initially set out to do was a village bakery which has now turned into a fully-fledged restaurant that works around the clock. She gives insight into the running of that as well: “It was only after five years that systems began to flow. Better-qualified chefs joined the team, we changed our working hours, took a step back, and grew as a result of becoming more aware of what needed focus.”

Because this was their family’s life, they had to adapt the running of their restaurant to suit their lifestyle. Everything was going well at the 10-year mark and then something dramatic happened – a fire in 2015 and everything burnt down.

But this gave them time to rethink their lives and their restaurant – and whether they wanted to start again – from scratch. The answer was yes but this time they could take a deep breath and design a new île de païn which she describes as “confident, lighter, happier, sophisticated but not perfect”.

This time it’s all about quality and not quantity – in their food and their lives. The recipes included in the book are the most popular from the restaurant menu, her own personal favourites and those of her family. Each one tells a story from where the inspiration comes from and how it became part of their menu. It could be cooking with her mother-in-law or sharing a meal with a Vietnamese farmer or even something as exotic as being invited to cook with the chef of the King of Bhutan.

Ile de Pain1
île de païn

Before she gets into the real recipes, Mulder has some advice:

Basics, basics, basics, she stresses. Only when you have mastered the basics can you start playing around. That’s the rule with most creative endeavours.

One of this chef’s strengths is organisational skills. She advises cooks to work with checks and balances. Take the time to read through a recipe, weigh out all the ingredients, organise your work area, get all your equipment ready – and clean as you go.

Quality ingredients has already been highlighted and with equal importance, she stresses detail and consistency in everything she does in the kitchen.

Speaking as a professional chef, she believes passion about food, people, creativity and a need to be of service are what you need to make it in the hospitality industry.

There’s much to like about the book but with bread and baking a strength of this restaurant whose name translates as island of bread, pay attention. And when she notes that the concluding chapter – Prep Time – is her favourite, also take note.

She loves sauces, relishes and dips, almost all of which can be made ahead of time and are jampacked with flavour as well as guaranteed to deliver a punch at every meal, she assures. So perhaps that’s the right place to start. She believes the great start to any successful meal, menu or dinner party is in the planning and preparation.

Ile de Pain L and M
Liezie Mulder and and her partner and master baker Markus Färbinger

Especially if you cook and entertain mainly on your own, here’s heartfelt advice and if you listen to what she says and how to go about it, your kitchen can become a great source of joy.

What makes this such a special book is the fact that Mulder spends most of her life thinking about and working with food. It’s not just the recipes that are precious, it’s also everything she has to say about the recipe and how best to prepare a certain dish or bake a brilliant loaf of bread.

Get thee into the kitchen!

Renata Coetzee Honoured with Relaunch of Feast from Nature and UP Food Feast

DR Renata Coetzee, a pioneer in research and awareness of the various food cultures in South Africa over five decades, passed away in Stellenbosch at the end of last month at the age of 88. DIANE DE BEER honours a woman, always a warrior, who attended the relaunch of her latest book only last month:

 

Through her lifetime of research and books, Renata Coetzee has built both national and international awareness of the culinary heritage of various cultural groups in South Africa. It is apt that her latest book, Food Culture of the First Humans on Planet Earth – A Feast From Nature, is currently being relaunched with a 2nd impression to bring it to the attention of a wider public.

One of these celebrations will be a dinner in Tshwane on Mandela Day to celebrate the impact of the culinary and cultural history of our first people on contemporary South African cuisine and another a launch presented at the Market Theatre the day before, July 17.

In collaboration with the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security, the editor Truida Prekel and African Sun Media, the University of Pretoria Department of Consumer and Food Sciences will present a four-course dinner with recipes inspired by Coetzee’s decades of research on indigenous food cultures in celebration of her book.

Renata's porcupine skin braai
Renata’s porcupine skin braai

The menu which will honour her research is the following: Sundowner is a honeybush and aloe cooler; First course, Nature’s Salad consists of morogo puree, spekboom gel, pelargonium sand, lemon foam, pickled papkuil shoots, compressed aloe buds, and an array of flowers; Second Course, Forager’s Pride is a dune spinach soup with deep fried warthog biltong; Third course,  Rocky Waters, includes Tilapia, buttered ice leaf, sea fennel and oyster leaf puree and bokkoms dust ; main course, Exploring Burrows presents porcupine and waterblommetjies served with “ystervark-se-mielie”, roast uintjies, crickets rice and glace de viande; and thre meal is concluded on a sweet note with  a Sunset tea party  of buchu panna cotta served with pickled t’samma, rooibos and gooseberry syrup, arum lily crumble and acacia sweets.

Many will remember this remarkable woman as someone who was obsessed with and specifically studied our roots in many different forms with the food culture of different groups as her resource. Her aim was to promote “nutritional authentic cultural cuisine” which she believed could play a huge role in our growing tourist industry – and should do even more so in the future. Her major contribution is probably scientific, but she has always tried to engage ordinary people interested in food heritage with creative and stimulating documentation of various aspects of the South African – and particularly the Cape’s – culinary culture and lifestyles.

renata's veld food
Renata Coetzee’s veld food

Her most important books in this field include South African Culinary Tradition/Spys en Drank – the food and food habits at the Cape between 1652 and 1800, featuring influences of the Malay slaves, French, Dutch and German settlers (Struik, 1977) (Afrikaans and English both out of print); Funa – Food from Africa – the food and food habits of the different African ethnic groups (Butterworths, 1982) (which should be reprinted); Cost-conscious Creative Catering and recently KukumakrankaKhoiKhoin-Culture, customs and creative cooking which was a translation of the 2009 Afrikaans version dealing with food cultures in the early days; and this present relaunched book is based on research of 15 years which aimed to preserve the culinary heritage of the earliest humans and their descendants.

She always believed that she had to understand local foods to promote healthy nutrition. At one point in her career, she was catering for Anglo American Gold Mines providing 250 000 meals a day for five years with the accent on cultural preference. That is why she was always intrigued by the palates of especially the San and the Khoi people who presented the oldest DNA. She felt she was dealt this amazing hand which would just be silly to ignore.

By going back into the past, the way brains progressed and patterns developed, all of these, she argued, influenced the way people selected food. When the San and the Khoi people split, for example, their food choices developed differently. She realised that many of these choices were made for practical reasons. Some wouldn’t let go of traditions, but sometimes the changing environment determined new dining habits. The San, for example, became hunter gatherers and the Khoi turned to smaller animals while also learning more about the veld and the plant life around them. This was all determined by the way their lifestyles changed, something which still influences and determines our eating patterns and choices today.

Renata Verjaa r 2
Foodies Renata Coetzee, Cass Abrahams and Topsi Venter celebrate in style

Because of the way she studied, researched and publicised her hard-earned knowledge through her writings and TV programmes, and formal training, she empowered thousands of women over the years, by training them in the finer skills of entertaining guests and tourists with her cultural cuisine.

This latest version of this unique collector’s book on original food cultures, A Feast From Nature (R650 is a combination of the many decades of her knowledge as a nutritionist and food culture expert with multidisciplinary research of over 15 years – bringing together aspects of archaeology, palaeontology, botany, genetics, history, languages and culture in a unique way. While scientifically sound, it is also beautifully illustrated and a true collector’s piece.

In 2015 she self-published the book, through Penstock Publishing. The first print-run of 500 copies was soon sold out – mostly to friends, family and fans. The book was reprinted shortly before her death to make her unique work available to a wider audience. Academics, researchers and food experts can also benefit and build further on her research.

According to Prekel, “Communities will benefit from further work to build understanding among various cultures and on the history of our ‘First Peoples’. Indigenous plants with culinary and agricultural potential can be further developed for food production.”

Renata en Johan by S-Delta

“Her research included interviews with many elderly Khoi-Khoin women and men in various regions, about the details of their food sources and uses. A special feature in the book is that wherever possible, the Khoi and Afrikaans names of plants and animals are given, with English and scientific names. About 250 fine photographs and over 80 illustrations of edible indigenous plants – as well as maps and Khoi traditions – make the book a journey of discovery, bringing to life the linkages between evolution and culinary history over millennia.

“The book also offers valuable lessons in terms of the nutritional value of many indigenous foods, food security and sustainability. The DST/NRF Centre of Excellence: Food Security, hosted by UWC and the University of Pretoria, has supported the reprint of the book. They, together with the Agricultural Research Council, intend doing further research on indigenous food products identified in Coetzee’s extensive work on the various food cultures in South Africa.”

Her legacy will be legendary especially as it impacts on all of our lives, not only now – but especially in the future.

The book can be ordered from orders@africansunmedia.co.za or online at http://www.sun-e-shop.co.za

feast of nature1

  • The book will be relaunched on July 17 with speakers Prof Himla Soodyall, 50:50 presenter Bertus Louw and Prof Julian May on Tuesday 17 July at 6pm at the Market Photo Workshop Auditorium, Market Theatre. Contact: zamab@markettheatre.co.za.
  • The four-course dinner will be held at EAT@UP, Old Agricultural Building 2.9.1, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Campus. For more info contact kyla.balcou@gmail.com Tickets are R300 per person.

 

Mad Nomad Reflects the Owner’s Passion

Nomad front
Mad Nomad

DIANE DE BEER

Mad Nomad, Shop 2001, Level 5, Mall of Africa, Magwa Crescent, MIDRAND

Open seven days a week.  Phone010 786 0250

 

 

The new Turkish restaurant Mad Nomad in the Mall of Africa is a passion project.

It’s been the dream of the Turkish-born, German-raised Tufan Yerebakan, now South African restaurateur, for as long as he can remember. And while he grew up on the Turkish street food so popular in Germany, he has always had his head and heart set on the real deal.

If there’s one word that slips into the conversation regularly, it’s authenticity.

Nomad Interiors with art1
Mad Nomad with its artistic interiors reflecting its owner’s passion.

Mad Nomad is a response to his roots and is completely different to his two smart family restaurants, Kream, in Brooklyn and in the restaurant square of the Mall of Africa.

Now in his mid-40s, for Yerebakan, restaurants have been his business since he came to this country in the early 90s. Kream has a very specific feel and philosophy which Pretoria will recognise as part of the smart, traditional dining experience so loved in the capital city.

But Mad Nomad is something completely different. The name points to his journey across the world and the interiors – for which Yerebakan brought in a young designer who would push the boundaries – say what he wants to achieve with what he views as his special place. He wanted something that would make a splash – and it does.

With an open kitchen, as you enter the restaurant to your right, you’re immediately engaged with the food as chefs are busy baking and braaiing behind a counter that runs the length of the restaurant.

Nomad Interiors with art
Mad Nomad interiors

The seating space is divided into two areas differentiated slightly by look and, as with all Yerebakan’s restaurants, art plays an important role and is introduced when he spots something he wants to live with.

“I spend most of my time in my restaurants, so that’s where I show my art,” he says, and it’s wonderful to see how he displays local art in such a magnificent way. “I don’t really care what others think because this is a huge part of my life.” That’s who he is and what he wants to show the world – in full colour.

When you get to the food in Mad Nomad and that’s after all why you’re there, it’s the real deal. If anything, this was the most important thing for this restaurateur. He went to Istanbul to check the food at source and to find chefs who could help him establish a strong kitchen while training local chefs in the art of Turkish food.

Stuart Basaran Nomad
Suat Basaran, chef in charge at Mad Nomad

It’s an on-going process with a full kitchen of chefs to get things started. “I have to keep at least one here because you need someone to check on the authenticity,” he says.

Only a few months into the life of Mad Nomad and they’re still experimenting and distilling the menu. It’s impressive as it stands now yet while there’s no watering down of textures and flavours, they are still adding some new ones and removing recipes that aren’t quite pulling their weight.

It’s important that South Africans experience a truly Turkish feast and that’s exactly what you’re in for.

On the night, we were a table of five and served extravagantly from a menu that’s as wide in its approach as it is in narrowing down the Turkish flavours. As you tuck in, you cannot help but wonder about the dearth of Turkish restaurants in this country.

Nomad shawarma wrapped
Shawarma Wrapped: Thinly Sliced Beef and Lamb with Lettuce, Onion and Tomato, Hummus and Tahini with Tzatziki Sauce

Many people visit that part of the world and the Middle Eastern palate is one that’s familiar to us. It’s perhaps the most fun to approach this one as a group, which means you can order more and a greater variety which is really what this food is all about. Once you get to know the dishes better, ordering will be simpler but, in the meantime, ask the staff for guidance. They should be able to help.

Starters can be done meze style and these will include all the usual suspects including hummus, tzatziki, aubergine with yogurt or with tomatoes depending on the style you prefer, roasted red pepper, vegetarian vine stuffed leaves (dolma) with rice, onion, tomato, currants and olive oil, and Icli kofte (deep fried meatballs with walnut and spices covered in potato and bulgur wheat crust), falafel with hummus and flat bread, Urfe kebab (starter version of minced lamb served with bread) and the list goes on.

But you could also, as we did on the night, go for a selection of pide, the Turkish version of a pizza which comes in many different versions. It’s a thin crust: with mozzarella cheese, beef mince and diced onion, tomatoes and peppers, or fillet cubes and mozzarella cheese or sucuk, a cured sausage made with lamb or beef and flavoured with garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes. There’s also a vegetarian option with mixed vegetables or with spinach and feta. Nomad Doner, which some might recognise, is another option with thinly sliced beef and lamb, onion, parsley and mozzarella. But keep the portions small or the mains won’t be an option and you want to try some of their finger licking meat. You won’t resist.

Nomad pide
Mince & Mozzarella Flat Bread/ Folded Option World Famous Turkish Pizza with Beef Mince, Diced Onions, Tomatoes and Peppers

The shawarma options aside for the moment, their kebab selection is excellent and again, it’s best to check the various kinds ranging from the Iskender (the name of the original creator), Adana, Urfa or the Beyti Sarma. There are also fillet cubes on a skewer, chicken chops that are quite spectacular, lamb sis kebab or a Turkish-style filled pasta called Manti. A mixed platter on the first visit (R200) is perhaps the best way to go because of the riches the menu offers. It can be overwhelming.

The wine list is also something that has been given special care with many other liquor choices.

What this expansive selection on all fronts means is that there’s something for everyone and for us, the flavours of the Middle East were what lingered the longest. That and the superior quality of everything on the plate. We did get to dessert, but I must be honest, by that stage, my palate took some time out. I do remember that even though the rice pudding and kazandibi (famous Turkish milk pudding) were both there, Tufan spoke about their sweet selection and that they were still experimenting.

It’s a sweet spot and even though the Mall of Africa seems vast, once you’ve checked your bearings, it’s easy to find. Because this is this restaurateur’s dream child, it’s going to keep evolving as he keeps shaping and streamlining.

Already this is a huge plus on the Gauteng cuisine landscape and beckoning to be explored.