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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

The Culinary Art of Healthy Fine Dining

Pictures: Paige Derbyshire

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Duo of Vegetable Terrines

DIANE DE BEER

 

The 4th year Culinary Art students at the department of Consumer and Food Sciences at the University of Pretoria recently presented a French Bistro Evening instigated by the French Embassy’s promotion of the international Goût de France (taste of France) to be followed this coming Saturday by something completely different – a healthy fine dining dinner in collaboration with Mpho Thsukudu – a registered dietitian and published author, a specialist in the practicalities of healthy eating.

Planning for the French evening was as much fun as the actual night says guest chef Renée Conradie who spent many years in France where she enhanced her already flourishing accomplishments in the kitchen. “I was flattered to have been asked and then honoured to work with such diligent and innovative fourth year students.”

They picked a bistro evening after much deliberation because it would be the most convivial and celebrates hearty food. Their biggest challenge was to stay within a budget as they thought lamb (it was close to Easter) would be the best main course.
Two different vegetable terrines, a seven-hour lamb from the lesser known Auvergne region chosen specifically for that reason, a classic cheese platter and a deconstruction of the classic Tarte Tatin completed the menu on the night.

The planning, invitations, preparations and managing were all handled by the very capable students while the chef just kept an eye on the lamb.

As always, it was an excellent night from many different vantage points. For those dining, it was inspiring to see the students excel in these professional circumstances but also, because it’s a culinary institution, the menu reflects (is often ahead of) contemporary cuisine and its an easy way to keep in touch with what is happening in the ever-changing culinary landscape. It is most importantly also a learning experience – and sometimes the lessons are tough!

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Presented by the French Embassy and Plaisir de Merle (the wine on the night), the amuse bouche introduced French flair with Lavender-inspired crisp wafers with black tapenade served with Grand Brut MCC followed by the visually pleasing terrines: a carrot, beetroot and turnip, paired with leek (served with Chardonnay).

The tasty seven-hour lamb with wine sauce served with carrots and potato (and Cabarnet Sauvignon) could not have been more hearty as suggested but a tad dry and might have benefitted from a more substantial sauce (which was the lesson on the night); and this was followed by the typically French-inspired fromage course, a selection of artisanal cheeses (with Malbec) and beautifully concluded with the deconstructed Tarte Tatin served with Pastis crème Anglaise (and Merlot).

The next food adventure by the final year Culinary Art students aims to celebrate nutritious food in a South African context, while remaining flavourful. Many people might think this is impossible but in today’s high-stress world it is no longer an option if you want optimum health.

According to Culinary Arts lecturer, Hennie Fisher, the only thing most practitioners of food health agree on, is the volume/portioning that we eat; that we should eat less – for the rest there is little sound scientific evidence about what is healthy and what not.

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He notes that for many years Oprah Winfrey tried to make people understand that you could actually lose weight by eating chocolate (only just enough for one’s energy needs of course – a practice that would nutritionally be very dangerous, but not impossible). “So I suppose we are left to our own interpretation.”

On that note, he follows a philosophy of food health that trusts in eating anything which has the least processing involved. “Food is something (like humans) that is found in a specific state here on earth, and if one starts analysing what ‘processing’ of food implies, one soon finds that it automatically discounts things like coffee, tea, chocolate, cream, bread, etc. – those are all food products that have been changed from its natural state.

“If one could minimise that, and just keep to food elements in their most raw/basic state, you’d still be able to eat a potato, or eat a yummy sweet strawberry, but sugar and oils are not part of that deal.”

With this meal, the goal is to see how culinary people interpret a menu in the context of health – to see if they can create a menu that is ‘healthy’? He explains that they also hope to make people aware that fine dining and health can sit side by side in the same category.

It should be everyone’s aim to make mouth-watering food without instantly grabbing the easy taste drivers like oil and sugar. Making delicious and tasty but healthy food naturally comes with more effort, because it steers clear of the elements that usually provide instant taste gratification. “It’s all about giving the diner the same sensory satisfaction but without the elements that would be considered unhealthy and that is no easy feat. And perhaps that is our only resolve as a species for the future in terms of our food-related health; to learn how to make amazing food whilst considering our health,” he concludes.

The menu at R250 starts with an oyster and cucumber jelly and an oyster and mushroom Rockefeller (Sauvignon Blanc); an entrée of Springbok carpaccio with chickpea and rooibos cream, millet, carrot and pumpkin seed salad and cured egg yolk (Shiraz); for mains a pan seared ostrich (for obvious reasons) with carrot mash, scorched brussel sprouts, popped sorghum, Parmesan zucchini and glace de viande (single malt whisky); and perhaps most importantly/challenging, dessert with a poached apple with apple sorbet and roast pineapple with pineapple sorbet with a seed cracker, waterbessie reduction and aquafaba (water of chickpeas) meringue (sherry cocktail).

The thinking when one looks at the menu is obvious and there’s no doubt in my mind, that the students in the capable hands of Thsukudu will pull this one off – deliciously!

If anyone is interested or needs more detail, contact kyla.balcou@gmail.com.

In conversation and with his cuisine, Shuichiro Kawaguchi gets you smiling

shuichiro-kawaguchi-with-his-much-loved-butternut.jpg
Shuichiro Kawaguchi with his much loved butternut

Most people have some kind of obsession – some good, others not so much. For Shuichiro Kawaguchi it has always been food. He loves to cook and with the results, he hopes to charm – or simply get you to smile. DIANE DE BEER who has tasted his extravagant cooking, discovers his latest passion – butternut. He shares his thoughts on what he regards as a remarkable ingredient with which to experiment:

 

 

When Shuichiro Kawaguchi (Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Japanese Embassy) talks about food, it always makes you smile.

Such is his passion, one that was cultivated by his mother from an early age, that his stories and his obsession – the best kind – have that effect. In fact, he says he is motivated to cook for others because it puts a smile on their face. And he certainly does that – in conversation or with his cuisine.

Selfportrait
Self-portrait

He was raised in a family where food played a key role. His love of cooking was encouraged by his mother while his father loved tasty food. Once he got married, his passion for cooking became even stronger because as his family grew, he always had an audience and they kept smiling.

Not only is he an extraordinary cook, but in Africa, Japanese cuisine (perhaps sushi aside) is not that familiar and as he cooks with a French and Japanese flair combined, the results are quite stunning.

Speaking to him recently about his latest mission, it didn’t take long before I was completely hooked. This time his fancy is butternut. “I was motivated by a Japanese friend during a Facebook conversation when they insisted butternut didn’t taste good.” That’s his explanation and he is sticking to that.

Jupiter
Jupiter

He wanted to prove that she was wrong, and he knew with the specific qualities of butternut – sweet, creamy and rich – he had more than enough to work with.

It’s not that butternuts aren’t cultivated in Japan, but they’re not as good as what he has found here and they’re very expensive. He can talk with authority, because for the past year starting on July 24 last year, he has invented a new recipe with butternut as the star, daily, and has up to now, collected more than 230 recipes.

He has taken inspiration from others, but when he works from a recipe, and that’s not often, he makes it his own.

And when you ask him about the length of time this fancy is going to last, he smiles and says, as long as it takes.

Japanese Flavoured Mousse
Japanese Flavoured Mousse

He reminded me of Faust’s pact with the devil and says that he will go up to 800 or the perfect tasting dish, whichever comes first. Only then will he consider publishing a book of butternut recipes and turn his food flavours in a different direction.

He and his wife have five children, two whom are currently with them in Tshwane, and he concedes that they might be bored with butternut, but he hasn’t quite achieved the brilliance he is hoping will conclude this project.

It started with the ubiquitous butternut soup and his version persuaded him to keep going. “I started really liking the taste and was determined to prove my point,” he explains.

All his experiments have detailed recipes as well as pictures of the process concluding with the finished dish. The quality is fine dining and his family don’t have much to complain about. Few of us would argue if this is the quality of food placed in front of us – even if all of it has butternut at its centre.

Mock Deep-fried Carp
Mock deep-fried Carp

Talk to him about the diversity of the dishes and he shows a picture of butternut cookies and talks about pickled butternut which has a sweet and sour taste. Every dish is given a name like (the Munch) Scream or Flower World, Self-Portrait or Sunset in Pretoria, the names as imaginative as the project.

He has also after the number of recipes cooked, become the authority on butternut. He buys in bulk at his local greengrocer because it’s so much cheaper and prefers a young squash because it is less sweet and the texture much more flexible. The more mature the butternut, the sweeter the flesh and the more fragile, which is also useful for specific recipes.

You can even eat it fresh, he says. What he does is slice it very thinly and then dips it into salt. He also likes baking it whole, almost char-grilling at a high temperature, which results in deliciously soft butternut which he eats simply with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Because it’s not a vegetable with a strong taste, salt should be used sparingly, but that also means that it adapts easily to different taste experiments.

He has no problems inventing new recipes because his years of cooking have provided a great memory bank on which to draw and he does grocery shopping on an almost daily basis which further invigorates his imagination.

On previous postings, when he was in Tanzania, he had his own television cooking programme and in Finland he cooked for a Finnish/Japanese society to further expose them to Japanese cuisine and extend his own cooking experiences.

Having been a guest at an eight-course dining extravaganza at his home, it is evident that this is his life’s mission. “It’s like a music concert,” says the Minister who is also an accomplished violinist, “only, I entertain with food.”

If you want to try one of Kawaguchi recipes, here’s a simple but delicious sample:

Almond Butternut Cake
Almond Butternut Cake

Almond Butternut Cake:

Ingredients:

1 Cup Butternut puree
Almond flour  200g
Sugar  200g
Wheat Flour    150g
Eggs   8
Butter  250g
A few drops of Almond essence

 

Method:

 

1: Pre-heat the oven at 170℃.
2: Combine all the ingredient except butter together and mix well, then add melted butter and mix well.
3: Put the dough into a cake pan with a bake sheet on the bottom.
4: Bake for about 45 minutes until done.
5: Serve with whipped cream or ice-cream

Check Him Out On M-Net’s Masterchef, But Yotam Ottolenghi Is All About The Sweet Stuff With His Book Sweet

masterchef
The three Masterchef judges with Yotam Ottolenghi

IF  you’re a Yotam Ottolenghi fan, switch on your TV tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday (February 26,27 and 28) and watch M-Net. The chef of the moment on local screens, DIANE DE BEER spotlights his latest book Sweet by Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Edbury Press):

Sweet

 

If you haven’t heard of Yotam Ottolengi yet, now’s your chance.  He is currently the inspiring celebrity chef on the Australian Masterchef season being broadcast on DStv’s M-Net and should be there until mid-week.

He’s an amazing chef and first caught the world’s attention with his first cookbook, Ottolenghi, which he did together with Sami Tamimi.  Jewish from Italian and German descent, he met Tamimi, an Arab-Palestinian at a London artisanal pastry shop where the two of them worked together discovering that they had grown up in Jerusalem only a few miles apart – naturally on opposite sides of the conflict which makes their (in-the-kitchen) coming together all the more special.

It is an intriguing tale of these two men who had to travel all the way to London and meet at their place of work, in a kitchen, after which they opened their first deli together. In their book Jerusalem, they tell the story of how the flavours and smells of the city is “their mother tongue. Everything we cook and everything we taste is filtered through the prism of our childhood experiences: foods our mothers fed us, wild herbs picked on school trips, days spent in markets, the smell of soil on a summer’s day, goat and sheep roaming the hills, fresh pitas with minced lamb, chopped parsley, chopped liver, black figs, smoky chops, syrupy cakes crumbly cookies.”

Their books tell you everything about the chefs and in his latest Sweet, Ottolenghi has teamed up with Helen Goh, someone he has come to appreciate for the finest qualities she brought with her all the way from Australia where she had a professional history as a pastry chef and a psychotherapist. “What we shared,” he writes in Sweet’s introduction is “this kind of intensity and commitment that has been a constant throughout Helen’s different roles in Ottolenghi.”

While she I accomplished and has many talents, more than anything else, it is with her cakes – and, he says, he uses the term very loosely here, to mean anything from “a dreamy chocolate chip cookie, to a light-as-a-feather meringue roulade, to a rum and raisin bundt with caramel dripping down its sides – that Helen carved her inspired mark on our food.”

He also makes it clear that Sweet as the title suggests is a book filled with sugar. “There’s so much sugar in this book that we thought about calling it, well, Sugar. It’s all about celebrating the sweet things in life. Even though they are aware of the current concerns about the adverse effects of sugar, this is a recipe book full of over 110 wonderful sweet things.”

If you want to know how to slip into Ottollenghi’s heart, it’s around a spread of food. “I bonded with Sami in this way all those years ago, then with Ramael Scully, co-author of Nopi: The Cookbook, who taught me to love miso and appreciate a few new cooking techniques. My friendship with Helen was formed mostly around a piece of cake.”

If sweet things are your passion, there can be no better test than this one. Flipping through the pictures featured are enough to get those juices flowing and when you realise how passionate the two pastry specialists are about cakes and anything sweet, that has to be your ultimate yardstick. You cannot take sweet advice from someone who doesn’t completely buy into the celebratory confection of it all. It’s easy to see that these two do.

And if you haven’t met Ottolenghi and his amazing recipes yet, first catch him on M-Net tonight, tomorrow and possibly Wednesday as well (they did say all week and the first one was last Thursday), turn on the TV at 5.45pm and see this amazing man in action.

He says this is the first time he has agreed to participate in this kind of competition, because he felt that this Masterchef was more about the personal development of the contestants than the competition.

You will lose your heart to the chef and his food.

Tshwane Foodie Adventures Plentiful in The Village Where the Mood is Mellow

Platter of dimsum
Platter of dimsum at Cowfish

DIANE DE BEER

Tshwane has become quite the foodie town in the new millennium and its playing power is diversity. There’s not much you’re not going to find in the capital city when talking cuisine.

The latest stomping ground, for the past two years at least but still growing and evolving, is an area called The Village in Hazelwood. There are many favourites starting with the Italian granddaddy, Alfie’s Italian Café in Hazelwood Road as well as its offshoot just around the corner, Alfie’s Pizzeria and Deli in 16th street.

On either side, there’s Salt that offers modern deli fare and Culture Club – Bar de Tapas that does a mean and very generous tapas menu as well as one of the popular Burger Bistros (the original is in Pierneef Street, Villieria).

The feel of The Village is modern, it’s young without being exclusionary, the prices are competitive, and the service is attentive overall. Parking is available and the mood is mellow especially on warm Pretoria nights.

The thing about The Village is the ambience. Starting in Hazelwood Road and turning into 16th Street, which is dedicated to different dining options, it represents smart pavement eating, which – with Pretoria’s fair weather – is simply the best.

In the past, because of some archaic laws, very few restaurants had an outside option, but it has become almost obligatory and suits this area to a T. The selection on all fronts is great, and you can pick something to suit your fetish for that day or night. Meals can be gargantuan or a light lunch, it’s all out there on a platter for you to sample.

Perhaps for the moment, it captures Pretoria’s strengths best. This is truly fine modern dining from hamburgers to pizzas to Portuguese balachau to Asian inspired cuisine, pasta and freshly baked breads and patisserie.

Two of the youngest kids on the block are the Portuguese flavoured Ozé Café & Bistro and Cowfish, which specialises in meat and fish.

Oze interior
Ozé Café and Bistro
  • Ozé Café and Bistro, 24 16th Street, Hazelwood, Pretoria; Tel: 012 346 0150

If Portuguese is your preference, the menu is modern with a good smattering of both fish and meat. It was a fishy day for us and we opted for the sardine starter and one portion of prawns to share. They didn’t have either clams or the tentacles for the octopus salad but perhaps the festive season played havoc with availability.

The sardines, a special on the day, were extraordinary with a helping of boiled potatoes and veggies. Everything seemed very straightforward with quality ingredients doing the trick. It was the perfect choice, followed by a half-serving of the smaller portion (250g) of prawns, grilled to perfection as the menu said it would be, served with a salad. But there was a choice if you favoured chips for example.

All we needed to conclude the meal was something sweet, and again their donuts weren’t available but that wasn’t a train smash with a serving of pastéis de nata (two mini pastries per portion) not to be missed. It was one of the best I’ve had and a sweet conclusion to a lovely lunch.

Oze's pasteis de nata
Oze’s Pasteis de Nata

With a cocktail bar on the premises, their drinks menu is innovative and fun with a wine list that offers different by-the-glass options.

If meat is your food of choice, the delights are many with chourico, chicken livers, trinchado and buffalo wings on the starter menu and for mains, chicken or beef espetada or the usual steak options (300g) with a choice of either fresh cut chips, boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables, Pretoria’s ubiquitous creamed spinach, or Portuguese salad or rice.

I am also tempted by some of their sandwiches like the Portuguese bun layered with cured chourico and Terra Nostra cheese or the Portuguese French Toast (Rabanadas), buttermilk dipped, fresh cut strawberries, bacon, maple syrup and mascarpone cream. It sounds deliciously decadent.

Our bill with a tip was R400 which included two coffees (R40) as well as the drinks (wine R60, Bloody Mary, R40). That’s not a bad deal.

Cowfish interiors
Cowfish Interiors
  • Cowfish, 11 Hazelwood Road, Hazelwood, Pretoria; 074 111 8033

As the name suggests, Cowfish has a menu which represents a specific spectrum, with the accent on hamburgers, sushi, dim sum, signature plates and cocktails – arguably an odd mix and yet, it opens up a choice which in its quirkiness allows for a fun meal. It also encourages sharing, with, for example, a dim sum platter (R165) which was our first choice with the possibility of something else to follow.

We selected the 9-piece platter with three flavours of our choice which included beef, lamb potsticker, pork and shrimp, prawn and cream cheese, chicken, coriander and cashew nuts or chicken, ginger and spring onion or a dim sum classic, sui mai  (prawn, chicken and tobiko). For vegetarians, they have spinach, cream cheese and spring onion. It’s a broad selection and will take a few tries for you to find your favourites.

Prawn tempura at Cowfish
Prawn tempura at Cowfish

It was a great start to the meal, but we were ready for another small bite with the prawn tempura (three crispy prawns served with Teriyaki sauce, creamy spice and mayo, R110) a winner.

They were almost too pretty to eat and a smart accompaniment to the dim sum.

But we had only sampled a minor selection of a menu that is as intriguing as it is imaginative. Their signature plates, for example, include a tomahawk steak (ribeye on the bone – 600g – which offers great presentation and bulk), ribs (wok-grilled pork ribs served with a chilli soya barbeque basting), chicken Katsu (crispy fried chicken strips in Japanese breadcrumbs and plum sauce) and a Teriyaki salmon steak.

The hamburger menu is also enticing with a Kaizer cheese, Ravenous Pig and Belfast Boy all begging for closer inspection as do their salted prawns and squid salad or their Vietnamese calamari.

On the sweet side they have Kawasura rolls (spring rolls filled with strawberry, hazelnuts, dark and white chocolate served with ice cream), deep-fried ice cream or chocolate meltdown. They specialise in cocktails but also have a fair selection of wine and beer which is good to go with the hamburgers.

It’s a laid-back, easy vibe, the staff are friendly and attentive and with both these options, I’ll return for more foodie adventures.

 

Nostalgic Food for Friends and Family

DIANE DE BEER

For Friends & Family

For Friends and Family by Nicky Stubbs (Human and Rousseau):

 

 

Everything about this book screams nostalgia and when you ask Nicky Stubbs about her love for food, she points to the Elisabeth Luard quotation at the beginning of her book:

Meanwhile I have discovered no panacea for the troubles which afflict humanity – unless it is that a meal shared round the kitchen table serves both as a celebration of the good times and a comfort in times of trouble. At the end of it all, I can only echo the words of wise clergyman, the Reverend Sydney Smith (now there was a man for good advice): ‘Take a short view of life. Look no further than dinner or tea.’

– Elizabeth Luard, Family Life –

Nicky Stubbs Credit Philippa Hetherington
Author Nicky Stubbs. Picture Philippa Hetherington

And this book in particular happened when the author was sifting through a lifetime of recipes to gather them all in one place. “I was missing my parents terribly and found it comforting to immerse myself in the recipes that I grew up with.” What she thought in the process of sorting, was that this was a cookbook she would love to have.

Hence For Friends and Family. She  wanted to achieve a book that would be helpful, useful and practical for all cooks, from beginners to specialists – the family’s go-to cookbook in fact!

The book fell into a natural order based on solid useful everyday recipes with special recipes for high days and holidays – which is exactly what she had wished for.

It’s a book with equal emphasis on family and food. “The family photos, food photography and beautiful layout and cover still take my breath away. It appeals to children as young as six and to the best cooks I know,” she notes.

Because she was so clear on what she wanted to achieve, the book was written in a two weeks during a family holiday where she would wake up at 4 in the morning to write until the family woke up. She then handed the manuscript to a remarkable design/editing/cooking/styling team to turn it into what is her dream cookbook.

family and friends

“All the crockery and cutlery used in the food shots are mine, the photos are family archive pics taken by my mother and the contemporary mood shots were taken by my sister. The end papers are taken from paintings I inherited from my uncle,” she says which explains why this is a book that reads and feels like a family love letter.

From start to finish, Stubbs has not only selected the recipes from her family and friends, but also infused the book with the way she feels about the people around her. It’s memories she shares with the world and something all of us recognise.

The recipes naturally have a South African flavour with milk tart and bobotie and many other familiar local favourites even if not always strictly from here. But as Stubbs desired, she now has all the best recipes gathered and bound in one book.

“I suppose in a way, South African cuisine is fusion cooking at its best,” she explains. “It’s a fusion of ingredients, cooking cultures, proud communities, abundant fresh and seasonal ingredients woven together.”

And the recipes she selected for this book are those she can’t live without when travelling and the recipes which are the most crowd-pleasing.

When paging through, it is a book filled with the warmth and love of family food from stewed fruit (remember those?) to oats and Maltabella, French toast (each family has its own version), kedgeree and sweetcorn fritters, and … wait for it: macaroni cheese.

All of these would have been part of a white South African family table of a certain time.

It’s fun to check them out, see these particular versions and explore the unfamiliar or twists to recipes that are part of most repertoires. From Sunday lunches to heirloom recipes, childhood favourites and old-fashioned classics, it’s all here from the crème brûlée to the irresistible fudge, pears in red wine (which seems to pop out as a classic each alternative decade), profiteroles, meringues, rocky roads, and brownies.

It’s yum!