Friday, 21 October 2011

The Ballinderry - more than just a guest house

The Ballinderry is a guest house in the town of Robertson, situated in one of the most fantastic wine valleys of the Western Cape. Somehow Belgian owners Luc and Hilde have managed to create an interior that is both modern and chic but more importantly relaxed and comfortable, quite literally a home away from home. The two of them are very good at what they do and if you’ve never met them have a look at the photograph above. A great picture that I managed to find in the dictionary under ‘hospitality’. They have a passion for what they do and this translates beautifully into all that is around them but most noticeably onto the exciting plates of food that leave Hilde’s ordered and immaculate kitchen. Her breakfasts are exceptional but what takes me back every time I am anywhere near them is the 3 course dinners that seem to get better and better. With the combination of her Belgian heritage, a love for Mediterranean cuisine, her natural palate and some true creative genius, Hilde never disappoints and puts amazing things together.

The menu last Friday was a perfect example of the type of food she likes to cook (and I like to eat).

Starter: Cheese soufflé and salad

Very light Old Amsterdam cheese soufflé, side salad with dried fruits and slow roasted cherry tomatoes.

Main: Duck a l’ Orange, gratin potatoes and veg

Duck leg slow roasted in an orange and port marinade, duck breast pan-fried and flambéed with brandy, gratin potatoes, red cabbage and fried apple and a port orange sauce.

Dessert: White Belgian chocolate icetart, dark chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries.

Yes please!

Hilde has very kindly given me her Cheese soufflé recipe and I’m going to share it with you.

Ballinderry’s Cheese soufflé (for 6)


- 120g Old Amsterdam Cheese, grated
- 20g white flour
- 12g butter (+ extra for the ramekins)
- 300ml hot milk
- 4 fresh jumbo egg whites (or 5 large) – room temperature
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- a few fresh sage leaves, chopped
- black pepper
- salt
- nutmeg
- 6 lightly buttered ramekins


- melt butter in a pan on a low heat and add flour
- use wooden spoon to stir the dry mixture.
- gently pour in the hot milk while whisking firmly, using a hand whisk
- as soon as starts to boil, switch of the heat
- add cheese (keep on whisking) followed by baking powder
- season with sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg
- not too much salt or nutmeg as the cheese is rather salty
- let the mixture cool down a little while you beat the egg whites
- gently fold in the egg whites and pour into the ramekins (3/4 full)
- preheat the oven to 175 C
- put ramekins on a baking tray a bit below the middle
- bake for 12 to 15 minutes
- souffles are ready when their top is golden and centre moist
- do not open the oven while baking.
- serve immediately with a little salad on the side with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, dried fruits and a drizzle of olive oil.

TIP: You can make the mixture a few hours in advance but without the baking powder and egg whites, which you only add to the mixture (room temperature!) before baking.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Weltevrede - a sense of place

The Wine Estate of Weltevrede (or fully satisfied) sits near Bonnievale on the banks of the Breede River. The funnel shaped Robertson Valley, between the mountains of Langeberg and Riviersonderend, channels the flow of air which is cooled by the river and then carried gently across the vineyards. This is exactly what the farmers want and is one of the reasons the region is able to produce such outstanding wine.

The Jonker family has been wandering the farm of Weltevrede since 1912 and the running of the estate now rests on the very capable shoulders of Phillip Jonker. He’s had some experience in both California and Bordeax and has become somewhat of a Chardonnay expert; but the family’s intimate knowledge of the place, passed down through generations, cannot be underestimated. The Jonkers believe that when the earth was created and decorated with soil, water and vegetation, off-cuts of some of the very best bits were taken and joined together to form the patchwork of terroir that surrounds Bonnievale. A good example of this is their ‘Place of Rocks’ and ‘Rusted Soil’ Chardonnays, exactly the same grape but very different wines, both produced on the estate but nurtured on different sides of a little hill.

I’ve just done a tasting with Weltevrede and had the chance to revisit their Rusted Soil Chardonnay, undoubtedly one of my favourites. I also had my first taste of their new Vanilla Chardonnay; something they’re doing in an attempt to attract those who aren’t mad about the varietal. Through specific soil and barrel selection they’ve managed to create something that is crisp and un-wooded, with a lingering hint of vanilla. I think they might be on to something with this one and it’s certainly good value for money. I reckon on a hot day it would go superbly with a salad, maybe something like bacon, prawn and papaya.

Bacon, prawn and papaya salad


- a handful of young leaf spinach
- a good glug of olive oil
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 10 bacon rashers
- 1 large papaya, cut into large cubes
- 1 ripe avocado, cut into lengths
- 10 prawns
- 2 tsp cumin
- butter
- salt and pepper


- season prawns with cumin, salt and pepper
- heat butter in a pan and cook the prawns until just done
- mix olive oil and lime juice in a bowl
- grill bacon until crisp and cut each streak in half
- add prawns, bacon, spinach, papaya to the bowl and mix well
- serve with a chilled glass of Vanilla Chardonnay

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Genuine passion, real flavour; Micro-breweries deserve more attention

Micro-breweries face a number of challenges in a market dominated by the copiously advertised and distributed brands that are not short on pocket change. What sets them apart from these beer Goliaths is the fact that they use no preservatives or additives and don’t pasteurize to lengthen shelf-life. Their beers are natural and hand-crafted; with lots of variety and superb quality and flavour.

Living in England for a couple of years, I got the chance to explore the regional real ales but travelling Australia’s East Coast is what really opened my eyes to micro-breweries and their magical liquid produce.

South Africa is relatively new to the micro-brewing scene but hopefully, with the support of discerning beer lovers, they’ll gain popularity and create ripples throughout the marketplace. The general public has begun to be a little more in tune and inquisitive with what they’re consuming, like where and how products are made and the things that are put in them.

I’ve chosen a couple of micro-breweries to highlight, one fairly well known, the other young but certainly making inroads.

Knysna has been the home of Mitchell’s Brewery since 1983, but because of growing demand, the brand has spread countrywide with a branch opening in Cape Town in 1989. They use only local ingredients, in a process that combines German lagering and British mashing techniques, and produce beers that are high in flavour and low in alcohol. They have the Forester’s Lager, the Bosun’s Bitter, the Raven Stout and last but certainly not least the 90 Shilling Ale, a full-bodied traditional Scottish Ale that I encountered only recently for the very first time, but is actually their biggest award winner. It's made from malted barley, yeast, hops, water and cinnamon and the end result is a spicy ale that is big on flavour.

Mitchell’s recommends an Asian Pork Stir-fry with the 90 Shilling and they were kind enough to give me a recipe for exactly that.


- 300g medium egg noodles, cooked
- Chinese 5 spice
- 700g pork belly, sliced
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped fine
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
- a bunch of spring onions, trimmed and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 5 carrots, julienned
- a packet of red cabbage, sliced
- a handful of green beans
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stems chopped and separated


- heat a wok and another smaller pan
- pour oils in the wok and fry ginger,chillies and coriander roots for a minute
- add peppers, spring onions, garlic and veggies and fry until wilted
- add noodles, coriander leaves, honey and soy
- fry for 3 mins until noodles are steaming hot
- at the same time drizzle a little olive oil in a pan
- rub pork with 5 spice and then fry for 2 mins each side
- serve all together with a 90 Shilling

Camelthorn Brewery, the dream and baby of Jorg Finkeldey, was opened in Windhoek in 2009. He, a South African trained chemical engineer, named his brand after an indigenous tree to highlight it’s resilience in challenging environmental conditions. There are 5 different craft beers under their umbrella and occasionally Jorg creates an additional seasonal delight. Their Brauhaus or Weissbier, a Bavarian style wheat beer, is something very special and even better when combined with an Eisbein. Try the recipe below, get yourself a top wheat beer and see what I mean.

Eisbein with sauerkraut and bread dumplings


- kosher salt
- curing salt
- 1 litre water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 2 tsp all spice
- 1tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp bashed coriander seeds
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 2 carrots finely diced
- 1 onions, finely chopped
- 2 tsp sugar
- 5 garlic cloves, bashed


- make the brine by mixing 120g of kosher salt and 12g of curing salt per litre of water
- make enough to cover the pork completely
- make sure you chill the water thoroughly before continuing
- put pork in a plastic container and cover with the brine
- leave in the fridge for 4 days
- bring a pot of water to the boil
- rinse the pork under running water and pop in the pot
- bring back to the boil, remove scum from the surface and turn heat to low
- simmer the pork gently for 3 hours

Bread Dumplings


- 2 stale rolls, torn into cubes
- 1 cup of warm milk
- 3 eggs, beaten
- a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- a pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste


- put the bread in a bowl and knead in the milk lightly
- cover and leave to rest for 30 mins
- mash up the soaked mix to form a thick dough
- mix in eggs one at a time
- add the rest of the ingredients and knead until smooth
- if the dough is too sticky add some breadcrumbs
- wet hands and form balls with dough, setting aside on a baking sheet
- bring a pot of salted water to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer
- drop dumplings in and simmer for 20 mins, gently stirring
- remove and serve hot with Eisbein and some sauerkraut