Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Rasberry chilli chicken livers

I made a chicken liver dish a while ago with reduced pomegranate juice, red chilli and a bit of parsley and it was a winner. Last night I decided to try a similar sort of thing, using a great raspberry jam that someone had given me. If you're a chicken liver fan try it out.


- 250g chicken livers
- flour
- salt and pepper
- a blob of butter
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 green chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 3 tsp raspberry jam
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped


- put flour, salt and pepper in a bowl
- add livers and mix well, you want a light covering
- heat butter in a pan and add garlic and chilli
- throw in livers and cook through
- add spring onion and jam for last 2 mins of cooking
- serve with green salad

Friday, 19 August 2011

Pea and hazelnut soup

George Jardine, head chef at Jordan’s restaurant has given me a recipe that he recommends with their award winning Riesling 2009. He says it’s an easy but rich dish with the peas adding a fantastic sweetness and the hazelnut oil a great textural quality.

Pea and hazelnut soup with porcini


- 500g fresh peas
- 1lt good chicken stock (or veg if required)
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 50g butter
- 1 tsp hazelnut oil
- some porcini powder


- boil the chicken stock and cook the peas in this until tender
- blend all until smooth, adding more liquid if required
- finish with the butter, season with the hazelnut oil, salt and pepper
- pour a generous portion into a bowl
- steam the milk until frothy and spoon over like a cappuccino
- sprinkle the porcini powder over the froth

Serve with a glass of chilled Jordan Riesling.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Jordan Wine Estate = soul + soil

I reckon the Jordan Riesling is a very worthwhile buy. It won the Riesling Trophy at the ‘SA Trophy Wine Show’ and it was one of the wines that contributed to Jordan winning top estate at the recent ‘SA Terroir Wine Awards’. In case it hadn’t yet done enough, it’s also just come out on top at the tri-nations of wine, against Australia and New Zealand. Maybe our rugby guys need a glass and a half of the stuff?

The Riesling vineyard is on one of the highest and coolest spots on the estate and the result is a crisp food wine with a smattering of spice. Jordan is a newish family-owned estate in Stellenbosch; the old dame of South African towns and one of the world’s celebrated old wine regions. The hard work of Gary and Kathy Jordan, the husband and wife wine-making team, pays off with wines that boast both a new world flair and a touch of classic elegance.

I’ve always liked the Jordan Merlot but I must confess that at a tasting on Monday night, it was the Jordan whites that gave me a whack across the face. Very good indeed!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Steak done right

When you’re shopping for a piece of steak there are a few things to remember. Always get the best quality meat you can and make sure it’s thick enough. Really thin pieces will dry out too easily. The raw meat must feel fairly firm and should be cherry red in colour, not dark plum. A marbling of fat (the thin threads weaving their way between the lean meat) is what you want and adds a huge amount of flavour during cooking.

When you’re ready to cook the steak, make sure you’ve had it out of the fridge for long enough. Half an hour is usually sufficient unless you’re at the North Pole. It should be at room temperature because throwing a cold steak over heat will result in tightening of the meat and an unwanted loss of tenderness.

Prepare the steaks by rubbing with olive oil and then give them a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Dry heat is ideal for cooking steak. The combination of the evaporation of moisture on the surface of the meat, the juices and flavour concentrating and the caramelization of natural sugars gives you a wonderfully flavoursome crust and a great result.

Cooking on a dry griddle pan or over the coals is perfect. The steak should sizzle when it first hits the heat so make sure you’ve got the pan hot enough or that your fire is good. Depending on the thickness of the steak you should cook it for around 2 minutes each side for medium rare (the way I like it), a bit more for medium and a bit less for rare. I’m afraid that well done is not really an option and completely frowned upon by most. Don’t fiddle with the meat while it’s cooking; turn it gently and definitely not by poking it with a knife or fork.

Once you’ve cooked the steak to your liking, it should rest for at least half the cooking time. Put it on a rack and cover with foil. Juices will mingle throughout the meat which will be moist the whole way through. If you don’t rest it, all of the juices and flavour will escape when you cut into it.

Make sure you serve the steak on a hot plate and you should us a razor-sharp knife.

There is nothing like a steak done just right and if I was forced to mention the restaurant that gave me the best I’ve ever had it would be 'El Boliche de Alberto' in the holiday town of Bariloche, Argentina. They’re fortunate enough to be given an amazing raw product but they seriously respect their ingredients and produce steaks that have heavenly flavour and tenderness.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Delirium Tremens, the slightly bitter blonde

A while ago I spoke about the fantastic pub in Brugge called t' Brugs Beertje. I mentioned that one of the super beers availabe was the Delirium Nocturnum. I've been in touch with Delirium and they've given me what they feel is a great beer recipe. Preferably done with a blonde beer, but any good quality ale will do.

Turkey fillet with mushrooms, Gorgonzola and blonde beer


- 500g turkey fillet, cut into cubes
- 125g oyster mushrooms
- 1 small leek, cut into small rings
- 75g Gorgonzola
- 200ml chicken stock
- 8 Tbsp heavy blonde beer
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper


- rinse the leek and allow to drain in a colander
- remove the hard bits from the mushrooms, cut into pieces
- season the turkey with salt and let it rest
- heat some oil in a pan and sear the turkey
- lower the temperature and add some stock
- keep stirring and let it simmer gently for about 15 mins
- add the leek and the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 mins
- add the gorgonzola and beer and stir well
- turn up the heat and season with pepper and salt
- cook for 2 mins more
- serve with pasta or saffron rice

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Robberg Nature Reserve

Robberg is a rocky peninsula that juts out into sea on the Western edge of Plettenberg Bay, a pretty coastal town with some of the Garden Routes best beaches. It’s a beautiful Nature Reserve that is easily explored on foot, with a couple of trails snaking around and over the top of the neck of land. The interesting flora and highly visual geological zones (some dating back to about 130 million years ago) offer more than enough for the eye but it’s really the animals that live on and visit the place that make it special. There is a noisy and decidedly smelly Cape fur seal colony, an abundance of Southern Right and Humpback whales that visit every year after winter and plenty of playful dolphins. The bird life is wonderful and I’ve even come across penguins on the beach every now and then.

The reason I decided to write a quick story about Robberg is that in the last 2 months I’ve seen Great White sharks on five occasions. This last Sunday I watched one the size of a bus, glide up and down along the rocks, seemingly hunting but staying confusingly far away from the seals. Maybe he’d just eaten or was vegetarian and looking for sea cucumbers? All I know is that I’m going to be a bit more careful the next time I’m flapping around in the waves like an injured walrus.

The entrance fee is R30 for adults and the park is open from 7 to 6 daily (with closing times being extended to 8 in summer). There are 3 circular hiking trails, ranging from 30 minutes to around 4 hours, if you’ve got the energy to go the whole way around. The full loop around the point must be done at low tide and is not really suitable for young kids. There have recently been a few incidents with freak waves but if you use common sense you should have no problems whatsoever.

The Nelson Bay Cave, which is located a little after the entrance gate and down to the sea on the right, is a really worthwhile attraction. It’s a significant middle and later stone-age archaeological site which was first inhabited around 120,000 years ago. At that time there were no braai (barbeque) or picnic facilities and residents scuttled around the rocks hunting sea life. Fortunately things have changed and today there are two braais and plenty of tables at the parking area. It’s a very special spot, even on a wild and windy evening, and ranks at the top of my ‘world’s best braai spots’ list.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Hermanuspietersfontein - a real mouthful

Hermanus is not only known around the world for its visiting whale population but is also gaining recognition as a superb wine producing part of South Africa. The Hemel-en-Aarde region is a very happy home to small production cool-climate wines; the likes of Ataraxia, Creation, Hamilton Russel, Newton Johnson and many more.

In the early part of the 19th century the farmers of the area wanted their kids to be taught in Dutch instead of English. A well respected school teacher named Hermanus Pieters was often only remunerated in sheep and these he would graze at a spring near the sea. In 1855, a while after his death, the village of Hermanuspietersfontein was founded in his honour. The name was shortened to Hermanus in the early 1900’s.

The winery of Hermanuspietersfontein chose to pay homage to this esteemed teacher and the people of 1855 by making the commitment to keep all their wine names and labels in Afrikaans. Bartho Eksteen was awarded Diners Club ‘Winemaker of the year 2010’ and has a collection of wines that are causing a bit of a stir in the wine community. He treats Sauvignon Blanc (SB) with the utmost care and attention, always hand selecting and grading and from then on minimizing grape handling and any unwanted exposure to friction.

Their Bloos (a ‘blush wine’) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot that is created through specific techniques like juice bleeding and subtle wood fermentation. Bartho is extremely happy with this wine and feels that it reflects the unique terroir they’re blessed with and confirms their belief that ‘good earth makes better wine’.

I attended a recent gourmet food and wine evening and got the chance to listen to Bartho harp on about his wine and all sorts of other things. He’s a loud bellowing sort of character who speaks with a fairly rugged intensity, quite similar to what you’d expect from a rugby line-out call. We tasted 3 SB's which is, I suppose, what you’d expect at a tasting involving the self proclaimed ‘monster of SB’. All were quality and my pick of the night would have to be ‘die Bartho’, a SB, Semillon and Nouvelle blend, that had its own little party in my mouth.

I asked Bartho for a family recipe that would be good with one of their SB's and his wife Sune has very kindly done just that. She said that would be no problem at all because they're SB fanatics and therefore a lot of the meals in their house rotate around that variety.

Sune’s fresh white mussel soup


- 2-3kg fresh white mussels
- a bottle of white wine
- good quality fish stock
- 6 medium potatoes
- a bunch of chopped leaks
- a knob of butter
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- a blob of crème fraiche


- lightly steam the mussels in wine, discard any unopened
- take mussels out shell, clean away intestine sack and rinse
- pour white wine stock through muslin cloth
- add fish stock until your get around 2 litres of liquid
- add potatoes and leaks, boil until tender
- chop cleaned mussels and fry in butter with garlic
- liquidise potatoes and leaks in stock and add mussels
- warm through and serve with a blob of crème fraiche and bread

According to Sune their Nr. 5 is super with the soup.

Friday, 5 August 2011


The farm was established by French Huguenots in 1776 and is one of the oldest in the Franschoek area. Boekenhout, or Cape Beech, is a sought after timber used in furniture making. The pictures of chairs that you’ll find on some of their labels and the name itself pays tribute to talented 18th century craftsmen who were able to create beauty from natural resources. A little like the art of good wine making.

The vineyards at Boekenhoutskloof cover an area of only 20 hectares, of which 75% are red. They buy their grapes from all over, ensuring that they get what they’re looking for. The very good Syrah, as an example, is bought from Schalk Burger’s farm in Wellington and their Grenache comes from Citrusdal, South Africa’s oldest vineyards for that varietal.

Marc Kent has been winemaker and part owner since 1994 and he and the team are not only good on the wine production side of things but also with the marketing and selling of the stuff. Their labels are the Boekenhoutskloof, the Chocolate Block, the Wolftrap and the well known Porcupine Ridge. At a recent tasting I got to sample some of the above and finished with a hit of the Chocolate Block. The stand out on the night for me was the Porcupine Ridge Merlot. Great value for money and pleasant up the nose and on the palate.

See their website for more info.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Silom Thai Cooking School

I’ve done a few cooking courses in the last couple of years and all of them were good fun but the one that really stands out was Silom Thai, in Bangkok. We were met by our teacher at a hotel near the sad but popular Khaosan Road and walked to a market around the corner where we explored the stalls and ingredients on sale. There were about 6 doing the course and each of us was given a list of a few things to buy. After strolling to a house nearby we started preparing ingredients and putting them together into different dishes, like a spicy chicken galangal coconut soup, some zingy fried fish cakes and a fiery red chicken curry. We had plenty of time to not only understand what we were doing but also to appreciate the importance of the beautiful fresh ingredients, the balance of salty, sweet, spice and sour, and the colours and textures of Thai cooking.

Don’t be lazy – make your own Red Curry Paste


- 5 dried chillies, soaked in water
- 3 tsp shallots, chopped
- 4 tsp garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp galangal (Siamese ginger), grated
- 2 Tbsp lemongrass, chopped
- 2 Tbsp lime rind, chopped
- 1 Tbsp coriander root, chopped
- 20 peppercorns
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds


- heat a dry pan to a low heat, roast coriander and cumin seeds for 5 mins
- grind the seeds to a powder
- add the rest of the ingredients and bash to a paste
- refrigerate in a glass container
- the paste will keep for a few months

Make sure you check out the Silom Thai website.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Swartberg Pass and Prince Albert

Just North of Oudsthoorn (in the Western Cape), past the well trodden chambers of the Cango Caves, is the start of, in my opinion, one of the most spectacular mountain passes in South Africa. The Swartberg Pass takes you 27km up and over the Swarterg Range and then down into the little hamlet of Prince Albert. Any car can do it, but if you're worried about sheer drops and blind corners, let someone else drive or avoid it altogether. The scenery along the way is truly spectacular and from the top, at an altitude of 1583m above sea level, you can really appreciate the effort that went into the last of Thomas Bain's engineering masterpieces.

Every time I drive into Prince Albert I'm amazed that even though it's in such a dry area, the gardens are always full of colour. The reason is that there is an abundance of water carried from up in the mountains and then around town via a network of channels that residents have allocated times to access. There is a wide variety of shops, galleries and restaurants and plenty of activities. Soet Karoo (or sweet karoo) is a sort of one woman one garage winery that, as one would expect, produces wine of the sweet persuasion. There is a lady named Ailsa who takes visitors on both historical and ghost walks around town and there's even a cooking school. If you feel like getting completely lost and escaping for a while then a few nights at the fig farm of Weltevrede is a good option. You can book the whole farmhouse and hibernate with some fine wine, a few kilo's of lamb and a good book. For the more energetic there are a number of hiking trails and there's also the opportunity of cycling the pass, preferably down.