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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Michael Olivier: Notes from my kitchen table

My kitchen table: The end of summer

Michael Olivier - 2006-07-07

As the temperatures drop at the end of summer and those of us resident in the Cape hope for some meaningful autumnal rains, thin summer comforters are replaced with winter duvets and thoughts turn to comfort food.

Last week I had lunch with Franck Dangereux, my favourite Cape chef, and was privy to some of the dishes on his winter menu. Franck cooks at La Colombe on the Constantia Uitsig Estate. I am not sure how I have lasted for almost 60 years without eating bourride, having read about it and seen pictures of it. Franck's one was of kingklip, a glorious, crispy-edged cooked-to-perfection piece of it nestling on a bed of aioli - redolent of roasted garlic - covered with a rich creamy fish sauce dotted with peas. His coq au vin will be made not from a capon but from organic chickens from Elgin and there will be a daube de boeuf, comfort foods all.

Franck's winter menu is on offer in 2-, 3- or 5-course options and served with carafes of the eponymous Constantia Uitsig Wines - always a treat. One of my more amusing moments with Franck - and one which highlighted the sort of enthusiasm and professionalism with which he practises his craft - was seeing him on the floor with a huge industrial beater filled with egg yolk and sugar foam, heating the side of the bowl with a blowtorch to cook the sauce and pouring in rosé Billecart-Salmon Champagne to make a pink Champagne sabayon to go with vanilla poached pears.

FeastHis book Feast is - forgive the pun - an absolute feast of food divided into seasons of both restaurant and "home" food. Beautiful pics and some enchanting ones of his children. Recently won the Gourmand Awards for the Best Chef Cook Book in the World.

One of my favourite English food writers is Jane Grigson, and I am currently reading her English Food. Love her titles - so simple and to the point. I am fascinated that in contrast to the male-dominated French food-writing school, the really prolific food writers in England are women - Eliza Acton, Hannah Glass, Mrs Beeton, Elizabeth David, Margaret Costa, Marguerite Patten (saw her on TV the other day - just produced her 66th book; and she was demonstrating on TV as far back as the late 1940s).

Here, too, women foodies rule: Hildagonda Duckitt, Mev Dykman, Hilda Gerber, Aagot Stromsoe, Lesley Faull, Betsie Rood and Annette Kesler, to name but a few.

The Saffron Pear Tree
I have just put down The Saffron Pear Tree by Zuretha Roos. What a nostalgic, romantic autobiographical journey! Well written in a wonderfully informal way. Lovely pictures of her grandmother and aunts, father and siblings, adult life before and after children. I sobbed when her son died. I was so moved by the book I phoned her and realised that the essence of her is distilled in this book. All the recipes of the comfort foods of our childhood - she, like me, grew up on a Cape Farm - are there, plus some of her modern dishes. She was a well-known magazine food editor and perhaps better known for her Afrikaans novels. This is a Sunday-afternoon-in-a-hammock read, a glass of the new Groot Constantia Muscat de Frontignan to hand. Delicious and wonderful to see a sweet wine from this area, so famous at the turn of the 18th and well into the 19th century for just this style of wine.

All this talk of comfort food … perhaps you would like to try a real tomato bredie. This is one I took to Australia for the Margaret River Wine Festival that takes place in November each year. I did a Cape Malay Buffet there on Voyager Wine Estate. Maddy and I took months to reconstruct Malay dishes, and this is one of them. From a food point of view I was tackling the lion in its den - the Australian food is just wonderful in homes and in restaurants.


Michael and Maddy's Tomato Bredie

The better the stock, the better the bredie. We often use Ina Paarmans eponymous stock powders with great success. Using mutton rather than young lamb adds to the flavour as well. Louis Leipoldt is a great believer in shaking the pot quite often; this helps the sauce to emulsify.

You'll need:
1,5 kg Lamb [1/3 thick rib bone in
2/3 boned shoulder is a good combination]
3 medium onions, chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, sliced
a 2 cm piece of fresh green ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbs sunflower oil
2 cardamom seeds, crushed in your hand
4 coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp fresh crushed thyme
1 tsp fresh chopped marjoram
2 small chilis red or green, seeded and chopped - leave the seeds and veins in for extra heat
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
freshly-grated nutmeg to taste
500 ml demi glace, or rich brown lamb or beef stock
750 ml tomato juice from the tin below
500 g medium potatoes - peeled and quartered
1 250 g net weight with juice of canned peeled tomatoes
1 Tbs mild fruit chutney
1 Tbs soft brown sugar.

In a casserole, on top of the stove, brown all the meat, a few pieces at a time, in the oil over medium heat. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
   Fry the onions very slowly in the oil for a while, then add garlic and ginger and fry until golden. Add a little more oil, though only if necessary. Just before they are done, add the cardamom, coriander, peppercorns, fennel, thyme, marjoram and chili. Stir-fry for a short while. Pour off any excess oil before continuing.
   Return the meat to the casserole and season lightly with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper and nutmeg.
   Add the demi glace or stock and the tomato juice and cover.
   Braise gently over low heat, checking for burning or in a 180°C oven for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven.
   If you have the time, cool quickly and refrigerate overnight. This is an important step to mature the flavours. It also gives you the opportunity the following morning to remove the cold solidified fat off the top and helps to tenderise the meat and makes it cook faster the next day.
   Next day, reheat the casserole gently in a 180°C oven before adding the roughly-chopped tomatoes and potatoes. Simmer gently for one and a half hours or until the meat is tender. Stir gently to mix through well. Add the chutney and brown sugar; reseason with salt and freshly-milled black pepper if necessary. Serve this with a Pilaff of Basmati rice. Basmati rice was the rice used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the Cape.

Serves 6 people.

Some wine suggestions:

  a. Bouchard Finlayson Vineyards Hannibal, an exciting and different-tasting blend of Italian and French noble red varieties, Sangiovese Nebbiolo, Barbera Pinot Noir and Shiraz grown in one of the cooler wine-growing areas in the Cape.



b. Mark and Belinda Lindhorst's Statement [isn't that just a fabulous name for a former accountant to give his wine?] is so intensely flavoured you might need a knife and fork to consume it - a Shiraz led blend full of blood plums and vanilla spice. Good grippy tannins add to this strapping wine - reined in like a thoroughbred racehorse.

Click to visit Swartland Winery

c. Two delicious Click to visit Swartland Winery wines we have tasted recently are the Indalo Shiraz and Indalo Cabernet Sauvignon. Both of them very impressive. Rich dark, berried, excellent use of oak. Watch these - no, don't watch, taste and be excited about the Swartland.

And talking of wine - some interesting bottles have crossed my kitchen table in the last month. Glen Carlou Pinot Noir - some call it the heartbreak grape - David Finlayson reveals the charm and feminine elegance of this wine so superbly. Beguiling ripe fruit wrapped in red velvet. Ridgeback, you will recall I mentioned the Sauvignon Blanc last month, produces a Shiraz - a whopper of a wine made by Cathy Marshall who is in love with the wines of the Rhone - and her Viognier is going to be a knockout wine in 2005.

Petrina and Rob Visser are soft ripening cheese specialists in Klapmuts - and their new Huguenot, a medium hard rinded cheese was one we enjoyed at the kitchen table - on its own with crusty bread and a glass or two of wine. Taken with a dab or two of Cheese Cheer, a stunning little jar of fruit relish - our favourite is the black cherry and star anise - made by Raymond and Betty O'Grady of Hillcrest Berry Orchards on Helshoogte. Friends for almost 30 years, we've all grown up on what my children call Raymond's Jam.


Well, let me scrub down the old oak kitchen table. I'll keep my notebook and pencil handy so I'll have lots to talk about next month. Email me at noshnews@iafrica.com if you would like to know more about wines I have tasted and dishes we've enjoyed. Please visit my website, http://www.noshnews.co.za/. There's a mine of information there about books, wine, places to stay and good food.

Till next time, eat and drink well.