Friday, August 20, 2010

Not your average cuppa joe

As a child I remember being told by my grandfather that I’d get worms in my tummy if I drank coffee. It never dawned on me that this was actually a big fat fib since he drank 5 cups of the strong black stuff each day… And besides, I would deal with worms any day just to get my daily caffeine fix.

Any addict worth their coffee beans, should know what Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is only (arguably) the best coffee in the world! So when I received a last-minute invitation to a very special tasting of this extremely expensive coffee, to say that I jumped at the chance would be an understatement!

But who would be so generous to share their bean treasure? David Donde, coffee evangelist and owner of TRUTH. coffeecult, that’s who. TRUTH. specialises in brewing and roasting artisinal coffees – in their own words “We roast coffee. Properly.” At TRUTH. coffee is a religion. There could not be a better place to worship the awesomeness that is Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, than at TRUTH.

I was told that the only way to taste coffee is by sipping an espresso. So, with the buzz of excitement filling the TRUTH. roastery, I savoured the taste of this exorbitantly expensive brew... I, with my sweet tooth, didn’t even feel the need to reach for my usual 2 sachets thanks to it’s velvety smoothness. Only slightly acidic and with a chocolatey after-taste, it was pure perfection in a cup. But perfection has a price: R60 a shot.

So why is it so expensive? Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is classification grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Over the last few decades, it has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. In order to be labeled as such, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans must comply with a number of criteria set by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica: it must be grown in the Blue Mountains between the elevations of 3000 and 5500 feet. No coffee can be grown above this, as the area is forest reserve, and any coffee grown below this altitude cannot be labeled Jamaican Blue Mountain. So there is a limited amount of JBM coffee and a very high demand for it, hence the exorbitant price.

I’m sure there are many people out there who would raise more than an eyebrow at paying R60 for a cup of coffee, but think of it this way, anybody who has ever spent more than R350 on a bottle of wine, has payed about R60 for each glass… You could argue that it’s an excellent vintage from a good estate, but the same can be said for a cup of coffee. Ever heard of the quote “Life’s too short to drink bad wine”? well after that rather indulgent cuppa… I say life’s too short to drink bad coffee!


Photography by Julia Housdon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to poach an egg

Not many people can say that there is one thing that they are blindingly brilliant at, but honestly, all trumpet-blowing aside, I am the Princess of egg-poaching. I can only credit this to the many gruelling hours I spent on the breakfast shift of a 120 seater restaurant. When you have one hand babying 30 poached eggs in 6 separate saucepans of simmering water and the other furiously whisking a 12 egg hollandaise you learn pretty quickly how to master the art without landing up with… um egg on your face!

So here it is, step-by-step: the secret to perfect poached eggs!

Step 1: Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle simmer and add about 1T white vinegar. Crack a fresh, room temperature egg into a small bowl or ramekin.

Step 2: Swirl the water with a spoon to create a whirlpool and slowly drop the egg into the centre of the whirlpool. Leave for a few seconds before gently lifting the egg to make sure it isn’t stuck on the bottom of the saucepan. Allow the egg to poach, making sure the water doesn’t boil, to the desired stage.

Step 3: Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place briefly on a clean tea towel. The egg is now ready to be served.

TIMING: Soft yolk 2-3 minutes
               Firm-set yolk 3-4 minutes

  • Don’t allow the water to boil as this might cause the delicate egg to break
  • The vinegar helps the eggs to coagulate quickly in the water and stops them falling apart
  • If you are poaching more than one egg, it is a good idea to have 2 saucepans of water on the stove: use the above method to poach the egg until soft yolk stage then gently transfer it into the other saucepan for the remaining cooking time whilst you poach another egg in the first. In professional kitchens, the eggs are poached to soft yolk stage beforehand then plunged into ice water and stored. To serve they are simply droppped into hot, salted water to heat
Happy poaching!

Photography by Richard Aaron

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is how I roll

Every now and then, whilst testing and developing many many recipes, I come across a real gem. The kind that gives me the urge to share its awesomeness with everyone (and yes, awesomeness is a word - I just invented it). I've never understood those foodies that don't share my optimism to dish out delish recipes; the one's that graciously accept a compliment for their superbly moist chocolate gateau or utterly light choux pastry but then um and ah when asked to dish the dirt on the recipe... After all, sharing is caring right?

Not if you're a sweet little old lady who is known for her outstanding bakes at the church bazaar! A friend of my grandmother's, she would willingly hand out her 'secret' recipes with a smile to those who asked... However, the product of her 'secret' recipes never seemed to emerge from other's oven's quite as perfectly as it did from hers! I can only imagine the scandal and sordidness of it all when it was discovered that the dear old dame would leave out an ingredient or two when passing on the recipe card! With that in mind, rest assured, the recipe for the most delicious Cinnamon rolls below is featured in all its original glory - no recipes were harmed in the posting of this blog!

Cinnamon rolls


Popular in Scandinavia where they are known as Kanelbullar, these buns are light, not too sweet and delicately spiced. They freeze extremely well - a quick pop in the microwave is all that stands between you, a cup of java and a freshly baked cinnamon bun for breakfast each morning.

(makes about 20)

800g flour
½t salt
2 packets yeast (10g each)
100g butter, melted
350ml milk
2 eggs

Cinnamon butter
2t ground cinnamon
100g castor sugar
100g butter, softened
1 egg, to glaze

Combine the flour, salt and yeast. Mix the butter, milk, eggs and stir into the flour mixture. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth using your hands or the dough hook in your mixer. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. Make the cinnamon butter by mixing together the cinnamon, sugar and butter. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3 mm thick. Spread the cinnamon butter on the dough, and roll up to form a sausage, and cut into 2cm slices (cut fat 'v' shapes with the bottom of the 'v' about 2cm and the top about 5cm). Press down on each one with two fingers so the cinnamon stripes ooze outwards. Put the buns on an oiled and lined baking tray, allowing enough space in between for them to puff up as they rise and while they bake. Brush with beaten egg, and leave to rise for about 15-30 minutes and then bake for 20-25 minutes at 180ÂșC until they are golden. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Photography by Angie Lazaro

Friday, August 6, 2010


I've always tried to pinpoint the moment I realized I wanted my entire life to revolve around food; the moment it dawned on me that there was nothing in this world I would rather do than create food... I'm pretty sure it was that one Christmas day when I was about 8 years old and I unwrapped a mixing bowl with a set of measuring cups and spoons. At the time I was a little disappointed - baking utensils just didn't seem to live up to a Malibu Barbie - but after I was shown how to use them, I was hooked. From that day onwards, when I was asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" my answer was "A chef".

During my 2 years at Top Billing, I've definitely had culinary experiences which have reignited that passion for food inside of me. One of these was a 12 course tasting menu at The Marine Hotel in Hermanus prepared by Peter Templehoff himself. It was a truly unbelievable meal and one that I thought could never be topped. Until, of course, I attended the launch of Peter's new Greenhouse restaurant at The Cellars-Hohenort. The meal that changed food for me. The best meal of my life (so far!)

The Victorian-style Greenhouse has been designed with lots of glass and white timber and has a chic cottage feel. It has a simple understated, elegant feel - very classical, but in a modern way. The glass ceiling and large windows cleverly bring the beautiful gardens inside. The fine dining restaurant is an intimate one with only 45 seats and is absolutely magical in the evening - dining under the stars.

Peter (who also studied at The Institute of Culinary Arts) is the Executive chef for The Collection by Liz McGrath which includes The Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, The Marine in Hermanus and The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay - a job most certainly not for the faint-hearted! According to Peter, he had a bit of time off during the World Cup and like most chefs, simply couldn't sit still. He decided to create a special menu for the very special Greenhouse restaurant and this sees the introduction of his new conceptual cuisine. The tasting menu is designed so that each dish is a discovery and surprise. The descriptions on the menu leave you guessing until the dish arrives at the table (using interactive service by impeccable waitrons).

Take a look at the menu... it certainly does leave a lot to the imagination!

carpaccio of tuna, scallops & abalone
pickled daikon radish, wasabi bavarois, crispy seaweed
Klein Constantia, Brut MCC 2006

This was served on a cold glass slab with the carpaccio plated in alternating vertical stripes topped with quenelles of wasabi mousse, caviar and of course the daikon and seaweed. Peter is a perfectionist when it comes to presentation and this dish was no exception but the highlight was the mini copper pots the waiters brought to the table. One elegant sprinkling of the 'powdered dressing' (which was a reddish powder) and our table was covered in a thick blanket of clouds. After wading through the puffs of vapour and finding our plates and cutlery, the flavours were extremely well balanced and the Brut elevated the seafood to another level.

smoked ostrich tartar, avocado, horseradish espuma
Constantia Uitsig, Chardonnay 2009

...presented in an ostrich egg - yes, an ostrich egg! My version was minus the avocado (as I'm allergic FYI) which according to my dining partner was a vital component of the dish, but the horseradish espuma was a nice spicy accompaniment to the ostrich - an idea I intend on stealing unashamedly :)

langoustine and crayfish, sea sand, langoustine puree, langoustine bisque
Eagles Nest Viognier 2008

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most delicious food I have ever placed in my mouth! And that even includes any form of chocolate! The dish was served in a wide-rimmed soup plate. A shellfish sand (100% edible) was dusted on the rim which had a perfectly steamed mussel snuggled in the sand - to look just like the beach! How cute?! With a flourish the waiters appeared and poured steaming langoustine bisque into the centre of the bowl, over the langoustine and crayfish tails, which revealed a frothy white foam - just like ocean waves lapping at the sandy shore! Peter is an absolute genius!

roast duck, wild mushrooms, stuffed sprouts, bitter chocolate soil, Jerusalem artichoke bark, scent of forest floor
The Yardstick Pinot Noir 2009
by Adam Mason & Peter Templehoff*

The entire dining room had been waiting for this course and you could cut the anticipation with a knife - which is exactly why Peter made his way around the room calmly chatting away to guests - obviously enjoying the fact that he was teasing us! When I politely pointed out to our waiter that he'd forgotten our cutlery he sniggered and then told us that there was no mistake. We weren't getting any cutlery. Now I was confused and terribly excited! Just when we thought we were being served some food, a hot towel appeared on each table. We were given instructions to wipe our hands with the towel which was scented with forest aromas - mushrooms, dampness, pine... Then we were finally served the food... a plate of autumn leaves! Or so it appeared... We looked at our waiter for help who suggested we 'use your hands to forage for food'. Each leaf revealed a wild mushroom, truffle shaving, foie gras nugget or chocolate soil. We were surrounded by the flavours and armoas of a forest. Amazing. And so much fun!

*Yes, he even makes his own wine...

inverted creme brulee
Shochu Margarita Jelly Shot NV

A green tea mousse topped with a lime granita in a small water glass, and next to it a small corked jar filled with the Shochu shot along with a mini straw. We devoured the delicious combination of green tea and lime and the extremely boozy cocktail. Yummy! Except that, according to our waiter, we weren't done yet. Flip the water glass over and hiding in the concave of the glass was a perfect little creme brulee! oooo how I love surprises! Did I mention that Peter is a genius?!

camembert cheesecake, roast pineapple ice cream, pineapple compote, pine nut biscotti wafer
Vin de Hohenort 2007

Ok, be honest, pineapple and cheese? gross! But oh was I wrong. A miniature cheese board arrived at the table with what looked like a wheel of camembert - only it wasn't. It was a velvety, rich, delicious cheesecake with a subtle hint of camembert. The ice cream was intensely flavoured and very smooth - perfectly offset with the crisp biscotti wafer. The Vin de Hohenort definitely rounded off this dessert. It brought all the flavours together beautifully.

passionfruit bubble, chocolate-cardamom brulee
Buitenverwachting 1769 Natural Sweet 2007

Lucky for me, when Peter asked, I knew exactly what a tonka bean was! Last year our senior photographer attended a launch on my behalf and stole me a Tonka bean... (Thanks Angie!) His name is Katonka Tonk and he sits in a jar on my desk... Although after this dessert, he is most definitely going into a yummy frozen parfait! The passionfruit bubble looked like a perfect egg yolk, topped with gold leaf, and when placed in the mouth, exploded to reveal a sweet tangy passionfruit liquid. And with the bitter chocolate brulee, it was a sublime combination!

macaroons and truffles

Even the petit fours were breath-taking: white chocolate olive truffles and strawberry macaroons speared onto the tips of a miniature wire tree. The perfect ending to a meal that could not get any more perfect!

As I mentioned earlier, this is the 8-course tasting menu, which is R850 with wines and R550 without (although I really do suggest you opt for the wines as the pairings really do make a huge difference!) but they also offer an extremely exciting a la carte menu... Apparently it features a Fire & Ice Souffle (frozen and flambeed) on the menu which is to die for!

Now go and make a dinner reservation! Do it! NOW!
The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort

Photographs supplied