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!

Sugar and spice and all things nice, the cuisine of Mosaic chef Chantel Dartnall

DIANE DE BEER

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Chantel Dartnall

One of the few Gauteng chefs not disregarded by national (and international) food award judges, Chantel Dartnall from Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient (just outside Tshwane), is someone who is constantly evolving, never resting on her laurels.

She has just been named the world’s Best Female Chef at The Best Chef Awards 2017, which took place in Warsaw.

She was also placed at number 32 in the Best Chef Awards Top 100 list for 2017, ahead of luminaries such Spain’s Elena Arzak at 33, France’s Sebastien Bras at 35 and celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal at No 37. Dartnall was also the only South African chef listed in the top 100.

Launched in Poland in 2016, this international competition seeks out the world’s top chefs in terms of culinary artistry and visual presentation. The winning chefs are selected in six categories by 300 voters comprising chefs, food writers and culinary experts across the globe as well as 1,5 million followers on the competition’s digital platform.

Dartnall – who has twice been named South Africa’s Chef of the Year – beat out strong competition from globally acclaimed chefs including the aforementioned Arzak (Best Chef – Lady 2016 winner) of the three Michelin starred restaurant Arzak; Emma Bengtsson who is at the helm of the two Michelin-starred Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit in New York; Sophie Pic who gained three Michelin stars for her restaurant, Maison Pic in France and Clare Smyth, the first and only female chef to run a restaurant with three Michelin-stars in the UK with her establishment Core.

She takes everything she does seriously and yet, she’s always visible to her customers and ready to talk food. She loves sharing her inspirational ideas and talking about the origin and where her current interests lie.

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Cauliflower, Goose Liver Mousse, Brussel Sprouts, Black Truffle, part of her Autumn menu and demonstrated for the students

Seeing her work with the students from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Consumer Science recently when they launched their new kitchens, another side of her personality emerges. She’s comfortable and eager to pass on her trade secrets and because of her high profile in the industry, large crowds don’t faze her. She loves ploughing back and remembers how and where she started and the hard work it takes.

It was 11 years ago when she started cooking in the Mosaic kitchens. Having worked in a few commercial kitchens following her graduation, it was here she started formulating her future. From those early days, her food had a special quality. One immediately knew that this was something worth experiencing and through the years, while paying her dues (with tough lessons along the way), she signaled that she would realise her full potential … and more.

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Tidal pool with Salmon Ceviche, Verbena aspic, Vanilla, Seaweed Salad

It was clear even then that she would develop and establish a signature style and that she understood the process. Each season with menu changes, the growth was visible and her creativity intensely personal. She is someone who travels regularly as she samples food from the top tables around the world and then she invests in her own imagination which is at the heart of her cooking.

“I think the biggest change over the past 11 years was moving from an environment that was new and uncertain for all of us – to the space we are now.” The word she uses to describe that is confident which is a great place to be. It brings belief and allows you to constantly leap those barriers.

Her Autumn menu which has just run its course was spectacular – a visual feast. And then it excelled as a taste sensation. Named Tabula Rasa (a Latin phrase referring to a blank slate and anything existing undisturbed in its original pure state) and her commitment towards a natural approach was clear.

She has always been able to achieve magnificent visual explosions. It’s almost like being embraced by a colourful Spring garden. You want to sit back and wallow in the exquisite picture. It’s always been a magical part of a Mosaic meal.

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A plate of dreams

How many times have I just marvelled at the magnificence of the plate? Not the food, before I even get to that, the physical plate! They’re so rare and so perfectly picked for each dish, its hard to resist as they linger in your mind’s eye

And then the detail of the dish itself. I have always thought that Chantel’s food should be savoured and shared on rare occasions. It’s that special and I have been privileged countless times. It is all in the detail, the delicacy of the plating and the deliciousness of the food.

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Sea Mist with East Coast Lobster, Saffron, Coral

She says that through the years, their emphasis has become more pure. “The focus is truly on emulating nature in each of our creations.” There’s no chance of leaving Mosaic without feeling spectacularly spoilt. Everything possible is done to make sure it is a rare night.

If this sounds like a total rave, that it is. But I have been a guest for all 11 years and witnessing the transformation has been special especially as part of the Pretoria food scene. We have many fine unacknowledged chefs and restaurants in the city arguably because they don’t fit into the standard requirements, but Mosaic was determined not to be ignored and they shouldn’t be.

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African aromas with venison, Madumbi, Soetdoring Smoke

Confidence has allowed them to move on and forward and the current object foremost in Chantel’s head and probably heart is her Spring menu which launched on the Equinox (September 22). Titled Cosmorganic it alludes to the “supposed character of the universe as a living organism whose atoms are endowed with sensibility, asserting that the organic in the whole of the universe as well as in the narrow sphere of a single body on the earth, is the first thing from which the inorganic is separated.”

That’s a mouthful, but then so is Chantel’s thought-processes as she creates the individual dishes. Just look at the pictures of the individual plates from the Autumn menu, each one with its own story and personality.

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First Frost with Forelle Pear, Ivoire Chocolate, Tonka

These meals do not come easily and they’re pricey. Their Market Degustation menu of five courses is R850 and their Grande Degustation of eight courses is R1 250, that is without the wine pairing which adds respectively R460 and R585. I will easily pay that for the meals I have been fortunate to enjoy. It’s something unforgettably special and if food is a passion for you especially when this kind of artistry comes into play, save the money and go. It will be memorable.

Mosaic is an experience and as much as it is about food it is also about the people who are watched over by Chantel’s adorable mom Mari. She’s always there to greet you, to see that your every need is met and to make sure you’re personally cared for. Add to that the sommelier team of Germain Lehodey and his protégé, commis sommelier Moses Magwaza, who inform you of the luxurious wines you’re being served.

What I feel about Mosaic comes from the heart and in the end, it truly is about sweetly savouring every mouthful – and reveling in the moment.

Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient

http://www.the-orient.net/Home

Tel: (012) 371 2902/3/4/5

The Orient

Francolin Conservancy

Elandsfontein

Crocodile River Valley

Pretoria

 

New kitchens and a culinary science degree keeps them ahead of the curve

food
Sunflower spring with carrot jelly and orange blossom yogurt cream

DIANE DE BEER

To celebrate their spanking new kitchens, the University of Pretoria’s Department of Consumer Science invited celebrated Mosaic chef Chantel Dartnall to guide the students through a fine-dining lunch for the media while also introducing their latest BSc Culinary Science degree which keeps them ahead of the curve:

 

All of us at some stage of our lives, man or woman, has to take stock of our kitchen. Think how much more challenging this becomes in a teaching environment.

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Consumer Science Department this year unveiled newly renovated food laboratories that will accommodate more students with better equipment – some of the latest, in fact – and benefit their latest degree.

More students will be able to participate in the cooking experience, which means more trainees. Previously, the labs had 26 stations in total, but this has now been expanded to 60. Gas stoves have been fitted in keeping with current commercial trends. The new labs can also offer induction cooking and blast freezing as well as a range of food science equipment for modern day research and training.

After much research, these kitchens have been designed to be trendy, ergonomic and user friendly, with industrial equipment and surfaces. A lot of this this wouldn’t have meant much to any of us but for the many cookery programmes on television, which have allowed us to become more comfortable and informed about the technologies and advancement in the culinary space.

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Chantel Dartnall with students busy preparing lunch

“Culinary research is a growing area which can be expanded with new facilities and modern up-to-date equipment. This puts UP at the forefront of culinary art and science training and enables future graduates to contribute to consumer food product and services development,” says Dr Gerrie du Rand, head of the Food and Nutrition section at the department.

 

The latest BSc Culinary Science degree, which focuses on the art and science of food offered by UP is the only degree of its kind in southern Africa. And these kitchens are good news especially for these students, who have to be at the forefront of what is happening in the culinary world.

The degree itself taps into the latest buzz in education in the US, where strong links between creativity and science is being touted and applied with great success. That, according to the hottest research, is what should be driving prospective workers when choosing their study direction.

All you have to do to check the evidence is to type in the words science/creativity/students and you will find a host of articles about the latest findings and studies pointing to the rewards in your future if you should pay attention to this advice.

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A student busy with finer detail

Take, for example, Nicholas Cary and Erik Voorhees, the pioneers of the world’s most powerful crypto currency, Bitcoin.

They put part of their success down to having been in the business leadership programme at the University of Puget Sound, a liberal arts college in Washington. They called it “a hive of intellectual curiosity”.
What they do there is enforce interdisciplinary programmes, so students of international political economics and business leadership are pushed to expand their thinking beyond their own narrow fields; and cross-train in the history department. Others studied the warrior poets of Asia!
Like a growing number of others in the US, this campus prizes broad-mindedness and intellectual discussion.

Think of the legal profession, one where creativity perhaps doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet someone explained the other day that the best part of her job was the solving of legal problems. That’s when she is at her most creative. It’s the same way a scientist will get to solve a particular problem. That’s what the arts do, they teach us to think creatively.

Now, if only someone had explained this to me when I was studying maths and science at school? We weren’t even told how a particular maths problem would be used in the real world? So you learnt by rote.

If food is your particular fancy, with their trendy culinary science degree kicking in next year, check the syllabus:
First-year departmental subjects: Basic food preparation; Other subjects: Academic information management, Language and study skills, Marketing management, Biometry, General chemistry, Physiology, Introduction to microbiology, Molecular and cell biology, Mathematics. Second-year departmental subjects: Food commodities and preparation Other subjects: Biochemistry, Marketing management, Food microbiology, Principles of Food Processing and Preserve, Bacteriology Third-year Departmental subjects: Food service management, Nutrition, Nutrition during the life cycle, Consumer food research, Large-scale food production and restaurant management Other subjects: Food chemistry Fourth-year departmental subjects: Product development and quality management, Food service management, Recipe development and standardisation, Culinary art, Research project, Experiential training Other subjects: Research methodology, Sensory evaluation

(Also see story on Chantel Dartnall that follows)

Artists in motion and how they do it: with the charm of cuisine and chanson

DIANE DE BEER

A chef (Renette Vosloo) and a chanteuse (Willemien Rust) have hooked up to present evenings of cuisine and song in  Tshwane:

 

Renette and Willemien
Renette and Willemien

It’s not a new idea, but it is the freshness of the approach, the two individuals involved and the absence of these kinds of events, that makes this something special.

What they have done is taken their unique strengths – the one song, the other cuisine – and formulated a season of evenings where the one puts mouth-watering food on the table, and the other interprets the different dishes with a song from a chosen culture.

It started last month and runs until the beginning of October.

They began by asking specific questions. How would Edith Piaf’s iconic song Non Je Ne Regrette Rien taste? Why would Carla Bruni’s voice pair well with cinnamon and honey? How would Tiken Jah Fakoly’s song Dernier Appel translate on a plate?

It’s a way of playing with fun themes, tantalising the imagination and entertaining guests in a novel way – allowing them to escape a harrowing world out there.

That’s what good entertainment always does – and they’ve sealed the deal.

blackboard menuThose interested in food, might know Renette Vosloo as the Rooitamatie (red tomato) chef whose restaurant has had a few transformations in Pretoria, others might know her from a top-4 appearance on 2014’s Kokkedoor on Kyknet or her presenter’s job on Saturday mornings’ Ontbytsake (7.30 am on Saturdays on Channel 144 with repeats). Her food story with cooking in a 13-episode series will be broadcast next year.

She’s back in the capital city with her Rooitamatie guest house and supper club. It’s always been her preferred way. It’s all about visiting a home – and that is where she is most comfortable. If that’s not your idea of fun, it’s not for you.

The guest house is situated between two major hospitals (Zuid Afrikaans and Jacaranda) with the bulk of their guests focussed on hospital visits.

The supper club which spills onto the front balcony and then into the garden doesn’t take too many diners which makes it an intimate evening and one best enjoyed with a group of friends. They offer dinners only when booked for a group of six or more. They’re not licensed and the menus are discussed with diners before the time .(renette@rootamatie.co.za).

On the night our menu started with an amuse bouche (pissaladiére, almost like mini pizzas), a particular favourite of the chef, with anchovy, a hint of chilli and a light pastry accompanied by Francois Hardy singing about young love; followed by a starter of black noodles, squid ink,  braised squid, slow roasted tomato “bouillabaisse” to the sounds of Emily Loizeau’s Eaux sombre; Carla Bruni’s Quelqu’un m’a dit where the sounds invest the fleetingness of life with the original flavours of saffron chicken, tarragon cream, rose water and almond rice pilaf; and what else with the decadent dark chocolate tart, white chocolate shards and white crème Chantilly than Edith Piaf’s iconic Non, Je ne Regrette Rien?

This is where Willemien (also known as Willemien/Philomène Rust -née Heyns) steps in. The two great loves of her life: French and music. (The Philomène side of her name, she laughingly describes as a bit of an identity crisis! But it also encapsulates who she is and what she does.)

For the past six years she has lectured in French at the University of Pretoria. In 2014, she received her Masters in French, and in all this time, she was juggling many balls – perhaps too many. The non-academic side of her life was dominated by music, her own solo singing but also numerous collaborations. And suddenly – as it would with her kind of passion and talent – the music has emerged very strongly and she decided to take a creative sabbatical this year for as long as it takes.  “I’ll be back in academia at some stage,’’ she says referring to herself as a creative entrepreneur who performs, presents creative writing programmes where French is taught (on invitation) and also does film translations.

Willemien in songBefore she presents her interpretation with a song, Renette introduces the dish and then before the performance, the singer explains the intuition that determined each individual taste. Willemien believes this year is her time and she’s left her day job to concentrate on her singing. Sometimes it will be the music of others and at other times, it will be her self-penned songs in theatres and at festivals.

With her French background, selecting an evening of French music is an excellent choice. She obviously feels at home, knows the music which allows for inspirational choices and acts as her own accompanist on piano. She also invites a friend to add extra instruments for texture and ambience. On the night it was Pieter Bezuidenhout on accordion and synth.

She determines her menu choices by selecting one iconic/popular song, and uses contemporary singers to introduce recent sounds, with some of her own compositions to showcase her own work. Before the dinner starts and once it has concluded, she plays light background music.

This is how her music is given centre stage.

It is a night full of surprises. The ambience is warm and comfortable with the odd dog meandering through the room, and one almost expects a toddler to stick his head around a door. It’s that kind of place. The food is imaginative and tasty, and the music a worthy companion on the night.

Follow-up dates:

Francophone Africa:
(Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Angélique Kidjo…)

20 September: Rooitamatie Guesthouse (Adelle Nqeto & James Robb will be joining her)
27 September: Victoria House SOLD OUT

Francophone Islands (Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion) :
(Grèn Sémé, Slam artists…)

4 October: Rooitamatie Guesthouse
11 October: Victoria House

 Ticket includes: 4 course meal with wine; live intimate concert “paired” with each course. Bookings at least a week in advance at philomene.et@gmail.com

 

Delicious and Delightful: de food, de chef, de deli

Diane de Beer

 

LadiesWithKopdoeke1
Rachel and her deli dames

 

Pictures: Theana Breugem

CarltonChef
Carlton Chef Rachel Botes

 

What makes a good deli?

We have a few in Pretoria but if you check your favourite, mine happens to be Carlton Café Delicious (Menlo Park Centre, 71, 13th Street, Menlo Park) – it usually has something to do with the chef patron; in this instance,  the fabulous Rachel Botes.

It’s all about quality produce and seasonal food, as it usually is with good chefs across the world, but with Rachel it’s about something more. It is her deep love of food, her instincts of what she wants to present and how, as well as strong roots in terroir which taps into her cultural background.

She never lets up. The deli is always evolving with fresh ideas popping as frequently as her trademark baked goodies that few can resist. She has a demanding clientele who through the years have appreciated the excellence, thus always expecting more. And she doesn’t disappoint.

Reading her daily specials on the blackboard is a treat and often trips you up if you’re expecting that all old favourites will remain on the menu. Because her dishes often defy the description, it’s difficult to resist just checking out what she has come up with.

CarltonTomatoTarts
Carlton Tomato Tarts

She has developed a formidable team around her but as anyone in the competitive restaurant world knows, nothing stays the same for too long. Yet she has been up to the challenges, understanding that well-trained staff will move on to different experiences, sometimes simply dictated by a change in their lives.

A good example is her Friday Dinners, which were inspired by a tough economy and a desire to gift her customers with an enticing option at a competitive price to counter punch financial famine. The options are well thought through, varied and cuisine that would be difficult to replicate with similar excellence both in the kitchen and on monetary grounds.

There’s also the Friday happy hour, which was initiated to celebrate and spotlight a long-awaited liquor licence while simultaneously allowing the creative cuisine minds in the kitchen to explore and experiment. Watch out for some of these favourites to resurface in the new menus.

It’s not only the food that’s fiery, it’s also her choice of wines which she has astutely assumed should be cheap but of supreme quality because they are a daytime deli. She has some of the best sourcing secrets and if you are smart, make a note of your favourites for your own wine cupboard.

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Carlton Anchovy Toast

Different folks want different strokes in their desires for their best deli. In mine (or all honesty my partner’s), it is the anchovy toast breakfast (for the past few years and foreseeable future) that is the meal of choice – and would be any time of day, if there wasn’t a cut-off point.

Others cannot make their annual trek to the sea without the Rachel festive specials and it’s a treat of a different kind to watch these goodies being collected.

A few years ago that side of the deli has moved next door and there’s more breathing space all round but it has also allowed Rachel to have her own long table, which is used for separate occasions. You can book the table for a special lunch or evening event allowing the chef supreme to do her own menu.

She’s at her best when given free rein because it allows that cuisine craftiness to shine through.

If you wonder about her not receiving all the accolades her reputation so richly deserves, it is a result of its being a daytime deli. It’s as if the food powers that control these awards don’t take that kind of food finesse into account.

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Carlton Marmite Tart

And yet, with everything she does, travelling the country to pass on her skills or to cook on request for people who know what she achieves in the kitchen, is worth experiencing, any time, any place.

If you’re wondering about this ode to a chef, it took some thought to decide when writing about food on this first-time blog, what would I like my first food musings to cover.

Why not someone who has been worth watching over the years, someone who has become a friend, but was first and foremost a chef whose artistry from the start was awe-inspiring?

CarltonBiltong
Carlton Biltong

Whether it is about a table setting, the choice of flowers or table decorations on a particular occasion, deciding to make her own biltong, or the way she has constructed artistic meals in art museums to accompany and illustrate an exhibition. Or simply thinking about the drinks she served all those years when she was waiting for a licence, to make it colourful for her clients who might have preferred a light wine with their lunch.

It’s about the innovation, the innate sense of style, the way she turns everyday meals into something imaginative with sleight of hand to make it special and often spectacular that fills a dreary day with sunshine.

This is a chef who loves to feed people, to have them smile, to add new tastes and textures, to surprise even the toughest critic – but also someone who has learnt to accept that you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

For me though, it is always delicious because this is food that is thought about, has to fit different criteria but in the end, has one goal, to be delicious!