Friday, 26 July 2013

The astonishing restaurant at Jordan Wine Estate

Jordan Restaurant, at the wine estate of the same name (just outside Stellenbosch) has raced to the top of my Western Cape dining experience list.  The relaxed, unpretentious vibe and busy open kitchen embraces you and very quickly you are part of what is a fantastic atmosphere.  A spectacular backdrop of big South African sky, vineyards and distant mountains provides added value but with the food and wine on offer, there's very little time for that sort of distraction.

The 4 course 'Menu du Jour' (which changes daily) sounded interesting but what arrived was sublime.  A demonstration of restrained and creative cooking with flavours and textures that all sang from the same song sheet.          

Jerusalem artichoke veloute and sage beurre noisette

(so good I didn't even have enough time to look at it, let alone take a photo)
Salt and sugar cured Springbok tartar, celeriac confit, hazelnuts, prune puree and smoked egg yolk

 Wood-fire roasted pork belly, white-bean cassoulet, charred onion salad and aromatic jus

   Honey and poppy-seed soufflé     


Um, yes please!

Food like this, matched with wines that have excelled at both the recent Decanter World Wine Awards and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, is something that needs to be taken seriously.   

George Jardine, head/executive chef (aka the one who should be obeyed), was born into a family of chefs in Edinburgh.  His culinary talents led him to London where he worked under Jean Christophe Novelli.  A stint at the Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel in Cape Town and time at top restaurants in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and then Sydney have (in my opinion) given life to what is an imaginative cooking brain that is bursting at the seams.  George returned to Cape Town in 2006 and in 2009 the restaurant at Jordan opened with him and his brain standing in the kitchen. 

In an interview in 2011 George was asked what the most challenging part of his job was.  His reply was 'grumpy guests and people who, before they even sit down, have already made up their minds'.   

Well done Jordan, George and the whole team, my mind was made up 30 seconds after walking through your doors, you guys are superb.

George very kindly gave me the recipe for his luscious soufflé.

Honey and Poppy seed soufflé
  1. 500ml milk
  2. 6 egg yolks
  3. 200g sugar
  4. 80g flour
  5. 1 vanilla pod
  • in a sauce pan bring the milk and vanilla up to a boil
  • in a bowl combine the egg yolk, sugar and flour until well incorporated
  • pour over a 1/3 of the boiling milk, mix then combine all into the sauce pan and cook out for 10 minutes
  • the mix should thicken
  • once cooked pour onto a tray and allow to cool
To make the soufflé:

For each souffle you will measure:
  1. 50g of the base
  2. 100g egg white
  3. 50g sugar
  4. a tsp honey
  5. 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • whisk the egg whites with the sugar until firm peaks have been achieved
  • in a separate bowl combine the base, poppy-seeds and honey then fold in the egg whites
  • spoon this into well buttered soufflé dishes (we use 13cm diameter dishes), and bake at 180C for 10 minutes
  • serve immediately with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream

Banana Jam's 3 Day Beer Fest and NEW 30 Tap System

A press release from Craft Beer HQ (South Africa)

'The craft beer revolution is now in full force in Cape Town and to mark two years of pouring pints of local artisanal ales and lagers, Banana Jam Cafe – the headquarters of the revolution – is celebrating the only way they know how: by offering an even greater selection of beer!

For the past two years, the Harfield Village-based restaurant and bar has proudly poured the widest range of draught craft found anywhere in South Africa. This led to the decision of craft beer lover and owner of Banana Jam Café Greg Casey, two weeks ago, to up their output from 16 taps to 30 this July. The taps will feature more IPA, more stout, more local brews and more imports from world class breweries overseas.
Although the beer will continue to flow year-round, the new taps will open for the Massive Mini Beer Festival, a three-day event. The celebrations start on August 1st, International IPA (India Pale Ale) Day.  International Beer Day falls on August 2nd, when the festivities continue with a vast range of bottled beers from around the world. Beer lovers will find no less than 36 beers on tap on day three, thanks to a temporary six-line system set up on the restaurants popular outdoor deck.

Signed copies of African Brew, SA’s first dedicated beer book, will also be on sale. The book, published by Random House Struik, features 38 breweries and includes tasting notes, food pairing suggestions and troubleshooting tips.
Banana Jam has been at the forefront of the country’s craft beer scene since day one, with beer enthusiasts from across South Africa considering a trip to the Caribbean-themed restaurant a kind of pilgrimage. As well as local favourites like Devil’s Peak Brewing Company, Cape Brewing Company, Boston Breweries and Jack Black Beer, the taps regularly feature one-off beers from experimental brewers, ales from breweries around South Africa and unusual ales imported from overseas. Specialties to try on a winters evening are  a half-pint of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale – what Nutella would taste like if you turned it into a beer (available on tap exclusively at Banana Jam). There is also an extensive range of bottled beers from South Africa and beyond, including the extreme beers from Scotland’s renowned BrewDog brewery.

In the coming months expect more beers, more festivals, more beer-inspired cuisine and plenty of beer lovers on hand to convince the masses that craft is king at Head Quarters.'

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Altun Orda - something special if you happen to find yourself in Kashgar

Kashgar is an eye-opener of a city in China's North-west Xinjiang province.  With the vast majority of the population being Uigher and almost all of these strictly Muslim, it is poles apart from the rest of the country.  I was energised by the attitudes and ideals of the people, amazed at the way they manage to hold onto traditional life in a country that has become so passionately power hungry.  Don't get me wrong, I love China and found my 2 month journey to it's corners to be one of the most inspiring and exciting of my life.  China was absolutely fascinating for quite a few reasons but mainly because I could never predict what was going to happen next, even in pretty normal situations.  Whether it was the military-like early morning uniform inspection of the McDonald's staff outside it's Beijing airport branch, the elderly couple sitting next to you in the park all of a sudden jumping up and performing a 30 minute ballroom dance number or the woman at the back of the bus deciding it would be a good idea to shove orange peels up her nose to ward off motion sickness, entertainment was around every corner.

Kashgar and it's folk welcomed me with an honest smile and I felt that I really got to know the place.  The (weekly) Sunday or Livestock Market is a must see.  A short distance from the centre of town, people from all over the region arrive by car, truck, donkey-cart, bike and on foot and they bring with them every example of being that would fall into the livestock category.  Sheep lined up to show off their neatly trimmed backsides and an open area where you're able to take a donkey or camel for a test-drive, it's not your ordinary market.

The cuisine is also very different with an interesting mix of delicacies and cooking methods from the tribes of Central Asia.  I fell in love with the way they prepare their lamb and mutton, slow-cooked and tender with strong cumin and chilli flavours.  These great plates of food can be found on every corner but the highlight for me was a restaurant called Altun Orda, near the Seman Hotel.  Altun Orda or 'Golden Palace' lives up to it's name with an intensely ornate and golden interior.  The lamb kebabs were heavenly and for my wife the veggish spagesh gush siz (veg spaghetti without meat) was just as good, if you're into that sort of thing.  It's unbelievably reasonable with a menu that has a massive array of Uigher specialities and the traditional music from downstairs and the opulent surroundings provide a wonderful atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.        


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

IPA you beautiful thing

A little while ago I attended the Knysna Craft Beer project which showcased a few of the smaller, specialised, GREAT South African breweries and a huge range of styles of the wonderful liquid.  In my younger days I enjoyed a beer or 2, lured by pricing and the lifestyle and image promoted by certain gigantic beer companies.  These uncomplicated, weak and chemically enhanced beer examples were just what the doctor ordered for my pathetic teenage palate.  Something to fill a gap and to 'lighten the mood'.  With age and the wisdom (?) that followed I have been drawn to the grape and beer is something I now only occasionally indulge in.  When I do I want something with a bit of backbone; a strong brew that offers real and pure malt flavours.  The Indian Pale Ale (IPA) is an example of just this and has a style that has attracted me for quite a while.  Boston Breweries, in Cape Town, makes a great IPA, and this was the definite winner for me at the Knysna Festival.

IPA has a controversial and interesting history.  One train of thought is that it was originally created, with it's increased hop and alcohol content, to make sure it didn't spoil on it's journey to the British troops in India.  Another was that the increased hops was a vital component of beer to be consumed in the warmer climates.  Back in the day beers were dark and murky things.  With better understanding and control of the malting process brewers were able to produce a more pale variety and this was something different for the consumer.  Add higher hop levels, the notion that it was a beer that should be drunk in warmer conditions and give it a name like Indian Pale Ale and you've got a winner.  Whatever it's history, it's certainly a beer that has a future.             

Smoked salmon, courgette and basil risotto

Easy and delicious; with intensely rich but fresh flavours.  Lovely with a lightly wooded white.

  1. 1 onion, finely chopped
  2. same amount of finely chopped celery
  3. 2 tsp chopped garlic
  4. olive oil
  5. 500ml vegetable (or chicken) stock
  6. 300ml good white wine (the rest to hydrate the chef)
  7. 1 cup risotto rice
  8. 100g smoked salmon ribbons
  9. 2 medium sized courgettes, oven roasted until cooked but not soft
  10. a handful of basil, finely chopped
  11. a cup of grated Parmesan
  12. a squeeze of lemon
  13. a knob of butter
  • heat olive oil in a pan and add onion, celery and garlic, cooking slowly
  • when soft add rice and stir for around 3 mins until the rice starts to go a bit translucent
  • add the wine and stir
  • when the wine is no longer, add stock 1 ladel at a time, stirring well
  • continue for around 30 mins, until the rice is al dente
  • add 3/4 of the chopped courgette, 75g of chopped salmon, the butter, 3/4 of the Parmesan, the basil and a squeeze of lemon
  • stir well, pop the lid on and leave for 5 mins, off the heat
  • serve in bowls with a few pieces of courgette, a strip of salmon and a sprinkle of Parmesan over the top of each

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Beleza good

Cape Town has a huge variety of restaurants; catering to locals and tourists alike.  A number of the establishments are very good and well known, many necessitate meetings with financial advisors and then there are those you stumble upon by chance.  On the corner of Burnside and Kloof Nek Road (Tamboerskloof); Beleza falls into this 'hidden gem' category.

This little eatery has been in operation since 2006, producing simple and good food at reasonable prices.  The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and there is service with a 'genuine' smile.  They have a large menu; with Italian and Portuguese seafood and meat specialities.  I eyed a couple of steaks leaving the kitchen and developed some serious food envy.  I had chosen the Mozambiquan Peri Peri Prawns and after tucking into a large portion of well cooked prawns in a sauce that had just the right amount of kick, I was more than happy.


The Vintage Clothing Store named 'Lembranças' (inside the restaurant) was something that even a shopaphobe like myself found interesting.  For those of you into that sort of thing and looking for beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces it's a great place to explore, have a coffee and maybe a bite to eat.  They kindly gave me their seafood curry recipe, a dish I had a little taste of and can also recommend.   

Madeiran seafood curry

  1. 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 1 medium chilli, sliced
  4. 1 garlic clove, crushed
  5. 1 tsp ground cumin
  6. 1 tsp ground coriander
  7. 1 tsp turmeric
  8. 1 Tbsp garam masala
  9. 50ml cream
  10. 400g chopped tomatoes
  11. 5 medium raw prawns, deveined
  12. 5 mussels
  13. 1 medium calamari, sliced
  14. a small bunch of coriander, chopped
  • heat oil in a deep-sided frying pan and cook the onion until it starts to turn golden
  • add cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala and cook for a few mins
  • add the garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the tomatoes
  • season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 mins, stirring until the sauce thickens
  • blitz this mix in a food processor, put back in the pan and add the prawns and mussels
  • as the prawns change colour, add the calamari and cook for another 5 mins
  • stir in the cream, add the fresh coriander and serve immediately