New Trading Hours

As of Monday, 2 March 2015 Café Dijon will be trading as follows:

LUNCH: Fridays 12h00 – 16h00

TAPAS HAPPY HOUR: Mondays to Fridays 16h00 – 18h00

MISS THE TRAFFIC AND JOIN US FOR ½ PRICE OFF ON SELECTED BEERS AND WINES BY THE GLASS.

TAPAS Feb 2015

TAPAS MENU – R36 per plate

– Duck liver Pâté with freshly-baked bread

– Patagonian Calamari with a Red Pepper & Pineapple Salsa & fresh coriander

– Seared Tuna with Butterbeans, olives, capers

– Cheese & Ham Croquettes with Dijon mustard dip

– Homemade Chorizo sausage with mayo

 

DINNER: Mondays to Saturdays 18h00 – late

PRIVATE EVENTS: We also cater for private functions. Please contact Sarah On 082 800 3929 to discuss your ideas.

FRIDAY is “BRAAI” DAY

I haven’t blogged for a while, somehow slowed down by the gloom of the past season. It’s not that I don’t like Winter, or that there isn’t anything good to blog about. On the contrary. It’s just that in our business things slow down naturally during the colder months, and it is a time for planning ahead for the season to come, and to catch up with friends and family…We spent time in the Karoo, on the Garden Route and on the West Coast, as well as taking a trip up to the top of Table Mountain…

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 Mother Nature also appears relieved to see the end of the cold months as she trades her austere grey suit for flowing dresses of the brightest colours. September, being Heritage Month, offered even more reason to celebrate our Rainbow Nation. We celebrated “Braai Day” at the restaurant on September the 24th with succulent Peri Peri chicken, home made beef sausages, Beaufort West lamb loin chops and Angus Beef steaks grilled over the coals. The response was so positive from locals and tourists alike, and we are now going to braai at Café Dijon on a regular basis. The fact that the FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil helps too, with many a guest sharing their memories of their time spent in South America, beer in hand, standing around our own “asado”.

 

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We start things off with “Roosterkoek” (literally translated: grid cake). These smokey bread pillows baked over the braai coals are served with chunky snoek pâté and biltong butter. The meat platter follows, with traditional side dishes of coleslaw, Sweetcorn fritters, tomatoes, rocket and onion and creamy potato salad. It is a true feast…

Roosterkoek (Makes 12 buns)

1kg Cake Flour

1 packet Instant dry yeast

5 tsp white sugar

2 tsp salt

375ml water mixed with 375ml Buttermilk

Method

Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Heat the water and buttermilk until luke warm and pour over the dry ingredients.

Combine the dough by working with your hands and then knead for about 15 minutes.

Return the dough to the bowl and cover it with a cloth. Place it in a warm spot and allow it to rise to double in size. Knead the bread down to its original size and divide into 12 balls. Shape into mini oval shaped breads, flattening them with the palm of your hand.

Sprinkle the buns with a little flour and allow them to rise again to about double volume.

When the buns and BBQ coals are ready (medium hot), place the buns on a grid about 15cm above the coals and turn them regularly until the dough balls are cooked through and golden brown on all sides.

Best enjoyed immediately!

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P.S

I know that this is very cheesy, but in the spirit of Heritage month and our Rainbow Nation, I feel compelled to share a photographic rainbow compiled from pics taken on our travels over the past few months…

RED

Our Roosterbrood champ, Sara de Koker’s “kopdoek”, and Red Hot Pokers…

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ORANGE

A West Coast Sunset – burnt orange against an Indigo sky. A feast for the eyes and food for the soul…

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YELLOW

Canola fields and Karoo egg yolks. So bright, your eyes hurt…

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GREEN

New growth on the oak tree outside our house. Such an energizing colour!

BLUE

The bright, bright blue of a clear Karoo sky…

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INDIGO and VIOLET

The inky sunset pic above and the subtle hue of the borage flowers now garnishing desserts at the restaurant …

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Magic Mushrooms

(I thought this might get your attention!)

No, I am not about to list suppliers of those hallucinogenic fungi that many experimented with while at university, but to share my love of the exotic “Bolitus Edulus” mushroom. Known by the French as the “Cep” and by the Italians as the “Porcini”, this fabulous fungus may be foraged for in the pine forests clinging to the sides of our Boland mountains ten days after the first autumn rains. It is a bit of a bun fight, though, with many vying for the best spots. Thankfully these seasonal delicacies may be purchased fresh from great delicatessens such as “Wild Peacock” in Stellenbosch or from suppliers such as “Nouvelle Mushrooms”. They are also available from most supermarkets in the dried form which is, by far, the most practical method of keeping and using them… You are also then guaranteed to not have mistakenly picked a poisonous species…

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Bolitus mushrooms have a wonderful, earthy taste, and are listed in taste profiles as being of “umami” flavour. One of South Africa’s most celebrated chefs, Luke Dale Roberts, cleverly groups items on his menu at his restaurant, “The Potluck Club“, into these taste groups, and one can select dishes which are sweet, sour, bitter, salt -or umami-flavoured. I am not sure where the latter is tasted by one’s tongue as it does not feature on any of the diagrams that I have seen. Perhaps this “new”, fifth taste profile will feature in my children’s Biology textbooks soon…

Whatever its classification, wild mushrooms can add a wonderful depth to what would otherwise be rather bland dishes. I love playing with classic food combinations and find it so rewarding to create a variety of mouth watering dishes from a basket of a few basic ingredients. The Bolitus remains the star, however, no matter what you add. Below is a tray of goodies that I love to play with, and I offer you a few ideas of what to do with them.

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1) For a sumptuous soup, fry off one onion (diced) in butter until soft. Add a peeled, cubed potato and 2 cups of chicken stock. Boil until the potato is soft. Add 40g dried mushrooms (which have been rehydrated in 1 cup of warm water for at least an hour until soft). Add these AND the liquid to the soup base.* Heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley and a dash of cream and blend to the desired “chunkiness”. You can add a tot of Medium cream sherry, too, just to make it a bit more special. Serves 2.

2) I make the following pasta sauce which always evokes a positive response.
Rehydrate 1 packet (80g) dried Porcini in 2 cups of water until soft (minimum 1 hour). Fry off one onion, diced, in 30ml butter until soft and translucent. Add a chopped clove of garlic and cook gently for one minute. Stir in 10ml flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring through. Add 200ml of the mushroom water, heated in the microwave, and stir until thick. Add the drained mushrooms and 1 cup of cream, salt and pepper and cook until warmed through and sticky but not gloopy or too thick. Toss in enough cooked pasta for four guests, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy! (Sometimes I add diced bacon or cubed chicken breasts to the cooked onions and continue as before. Freshly chopped chives, parsley or garden thyme can also change things up a bit.) A huge hit at Cafe Dijon in Stellenbosch was our Home made potato gnocchi with Porcini sauce. Not a pretty dish by any means, but oh, so delicious!

3) The above pasta sauce (without the bacon or chicken), but with a dash of sherry and a pinch of garden thyme, makes a great sauce to serve with grilled chicken or beef, venison or ostrich steak.

4) This basic mushroom sauce is also great as a topping for baked potatoes. Again, add bacon or chicken and the fresh herbs to your taste – or whim! No sherry, though. Blue cheese makes it even better!

5) Ina Paarman’s “Chicken Pie Deluxe” is an old favourite of mine (page 46 of her cookery book, “Cook with Ina Paarman”, published way back when in 1987!) This dish featured on many a wedding buffet when I ran my catering business on the farm during the 90’s and her recipe still forms the basis of the “Chicken Pot Pie” served at the restaurant today. The addition of Porcini to this basic chicken pie recipe elevates it and is worth a try!

6) Dup loves to add wild mushrooms to any “potjie”. Chicken, Beef, Game and Lamb all accept the earthy addition of this umami element. Again, remember to keep the rehydration liquid to add to the potjie’s sauce.*

7) One of our favourite risottos is Porcini and Thyme. Use the fresh or rehydrated mushrooms as you would in any basic risotto recipe, but always use good, homemade chicken stock and not a stock cube. They are pure salt and lack the gelatin that you gain from boiling down skin and bones.

8) Use Porcini (preferably fresh) and Gorgonzola Cheese as an Omelette filling. You will live in anticipation of Autumn from that day on. Believe me!

9) Whatever your mood, however, nothing beats some porcini fried with garlic, onion and thyme, finished off with a dash of cream and served on a slice of griddled ciabatta. Mushrooms on toast never tasted so good.

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* A few words of warning: Silt can sometimes remain in the folds of the dried mushrooms and this settles on the bottom of your reconstituting water bowl. Never pour all the liquid into your dish but rather lift the mushrooms out with a slotted spoon and pour 2/3 of the liquid into your dish through a muslin cloth.

Also, do not substitute the Porcini/Cep/Bolitus with Shitake mushrooms. They have more of a metallic taste than the preferred earthy one and are, in my opinion, less appetizing in the recipe ideas listed above, being more suited to far Eastern cuisine. (I wonder how Chef Luke will classify them?)

Autumn: Persimmons and Pumpkins

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I love the vibrancy of autumn colours. Just as one starts to feel the bite of cold in the air, Nature turns on the visual heat. One can’t but feel warmed by the golden glow of the orchards and vineyards that surround us.

I have noticed that the Persimmon orchards in particular have been most splendid in their autumnal finery this year. Perhaps it is due to this year being a bumper crop for farmers of Sharon fruit (a cultivar of persimmons) that the trees are still full of energy and are exhibiting this in the fabulous reds, golds and oranges of their leaves. Whatever the reason, we have yet again been blessed with more of this lovely, exotic fruit. Persimmons have formed the basis of the fruit platter in the Middle East and China for decades, but only started to appear on the supermarket shelves of South Africa in 2000. These golden orbs of deliciousness are so worth trying, and when eaten when ripe (but still firm) they have the silky texture of a mango and the sweet flavour of dates. They are not great when over-ripe, however, and become squishy and slimy. This is possibly why one of the Afrikaans names for this glorious fruit is the “snotappel” – surely no translations are required here…

As the persimmon is relatively new to our consciousness, we are still finding new uses for it. I am experimenting with it in curries and chutneys, but still enjoy it most “au Naturelle” in the following salad…

Persimmons and Pumpkins

Slice one persimmon fruit per person and place in a petal arrangement on a plate. Top with two slices of Parma or Serano Ham, some rocket and some pickled beetroot tendrils. The addition of Parmesan cheese or Gorgonzola further brings into balance the sweetness of the fruit, the saltiness of the ham, the pepperiness of the rocket and the sharpness of the sweet and sour beet. Like me, keep experimenting, and you will be pleasantly rewarded…

This year our vegetable garden yielded almost as impressive a crop of pumpkins as the surrounding persimmon orchards, and as the temperatures start to plummet my desire for comfort food increases.

Persimmons and Pumpkins

Pumpkin fritters, pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie are all fine and well but a girl with more of a savoury tooth than a sweet one longs for more options. Thankfully Dup is a dab hand at making gnocchi, and pumpkins work just as well as potatoes. Here those salty Italian cheeses that I love so much work oh so well with the light, puffy pillows of pumpkin dough and I share his basic recipe with you:

Basic pumpkin gnocchi

500g floury potatoes (those recommended for boiling and baking), peeled

250g pumpkin, peeled and cubed

90g plain flour

1 egg

Salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste

Boil both the potato and pumpkin until cooked. Allow to dry and cool until manageable. Mash the vegetables and work in the flour, egg and seasoning until a soft dough forms. Do not overwork, though. Roll the pumpkin gnocchi dough into a snake of about 15cm in diameter and then cut the roll into 2cm cubes. The gnocchi can be kept on a floured plate or tray until needed.

Heat a pot of lightly salted water until it reaches a rolling boil. Put the gnocchi into the water and fish out with a slotted spoon as soon as they rise to the surface.

Drizzle with olive oil and crumble Gorgonzola over the top. Serve with sage leaves (fresh or deep-fried in a little oil) and some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Parmesan works just as well as the blue cheese, and toasted pine nuts and some roasted butternut and onion elevate the dish even further. If you do not want to get down to making the gnocchi, though, butternut ravioli or cappelletti (both available from retail food stores) work just as well.

Persimmons and Pumpkins

A Passion for Pavlova

A Passion for Pavlova
I love Pavlova! There is nothing quite so heavenly as those crunchy, sugary pillows of meringue topped with whipped cream and mounds of fresh fruit. It would appear that this is also the case for many of our guests at Cafe Dijon as we sell pavlovas by the dozen, weekly! Thank you Australia, for creating such a delicious dessert in honour of the visit Down-Under by the famous ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Who knew that tutus could taste so good?

What I also love about these meringue nests is their versatility. Not only can they be made into all conceivable shapes and sizes, but they can be topped with an array of fresh, soft fruits in season. During spring I use strawberries, blueberries and raspberries while during summer I add the more traditional Pavlova fruits such as kiwi fruit and granadilla pulp. During autumn I like to add fresh guava and banana, while in winter I have to be a bit more creative. Citrus fruits are not a great Pavlova topping and I resort to tinned peaches sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds. One of my favourite variations on the theme is to create a Banoffee Pavlova by folding a tin of Caramel Treat into the whipped cream and heaping fresh, sliced banana and chopped pecan or walnuts on top. A great festive dessert is the addition of melted white chocolate to the cream and loads of fresh raspberries and Kirsch liqueur drizzled over the top. As I said, it is a wonderful, verstatile dessert which, despite common misconception, is also very easy to make.

I follow a recipe from an old classic herself, dear Delia Smith. She doesn’t add all the Pavlova meringue extras such as vinegar and cornflour. She simply whisks three fresh egg whites in a very clean bowl until soft peaks form and then folds in 175g of castor sugar 25g at a time, making sure that the previous sugar addition has been fully incorporated before adding the next spoonful. The mixture is then spread and shaped onto a greased baking sheet topped with silicone paper. She then bakes it at 140°C for 1 hour before turning the oven off and allowing the meringue to dry out as the oven cools. The paper is then simply peeled away from the base of the meringue before the fun begins!

Of all the available pavlova toppings, I like banana and passion fruit the most. We hosted a big 70th birthday party for my father over the Easter week-end, and I was reminded of the symbolism of a granadilla (or passion fruit) flower for the Spanish Christian missionaries of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Passion fruit

These missionaries adopted the Blue Passion Flower as the symbolic representation of the Passions of Christ and the story of the crucifixion as follows:

The pointed tips of the granadilla vine leaves are the Holy Lance, while the tendrils depict the whips used during the flagellation of Christ.
The central column is believed to be the Column of Flagellation, while the 10 petals and sepals represent the ten Faithful Apostles (excluding St Peter, the denier, and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer).
The radial filament (consisting of 72 or more filaments) refers to Christ’s crown of thorns.
The chalice-shaped ovary with its rounded receptacle depicts the Holy Grail or hammer, while the three stigmas are the nails.
The five anthers of the Passion flower represent the five wounds inflicted on Christ’s body (4 caused by the nails through His hands and feet, and 1 through His side by Holy Lance).
Finally, the blue and white colours of the Passion flowers are said to stand for Heaven and Purity.

Whatever your religious inclinations (or lack thereof), one can but be charmed by the innovative use of this beautiful bloom by those Christian teachers as a tool to get their Easter message across.

A West Coast week-end

weskusThose of us who have had the privilege of spending time on the West coast of South Africa know that “the West coast is the best coast”!

Granted, it is barren, has ice-cold water which makes sea recreational activities unappealing, and it can suffer from weeks of strong South Easterly winds during summer. For these reasons it is not considered as sophisticated as the South Coast with its lush mountainous backdrops, warm waters, milder climate and posh hotels and eateries. But it is exactly the absence of what the South Cape Coast has which gives the West its charm. Let us not forget, too, that the West Coast faces West, and with that comes the most spectacular sunsets. There are times when the West coast can offer much of what the South can (when the wind is not blowing, it is not too hot, and the sea temperature rises to above its usual ice-cream headache chill), but what gives it the edge, at least for me, is the simplicity of the architecture, the honesty of the food and the lack of crowds and constant threat of drizzle. Paternoster and Yzerfontein have followed Langebaan and Saldaha’s growth spurts over the past 20 years, but if you head further North you can still experience the true magic of the “Weskus”. It was over just such a perfect week-end that Dup and some of his friends headed up to Lamberts Bay recently for a beach camp with little more than fish and mussels from the sea and a cooler-box (or two) of good wines…

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One need not take French wines along to have a good time, nor try to get fancy with complicated mussel recipes such as Moules Provençal (with tomatoes and fennel seeds) or Mouclade (mussels cooked in a light curried cream as served in the French harbour town of La Rochelle). There are now excellent wine producers such as Fryers Cove and Sir Lambert situated near to the town of Lamberts Bay where the “manne” were able to stock up on some very good Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. All were budding Rick Steins on their own Culinary Odyssey it would appear, and there was no need to frequent the “Muisbosskerm” for its extensive menu celebrating local produce…

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The “Muisbosskerm” restaurant is situated on a beach on the outskirts of Lamberts Bay and is South Africa’s first open air restaurant, rated by National Geographic as “One of the Top 10 Sea views to Dine for”. Here you can enjoy snoek and crayfish cooked over the coals, breads baked in a traditional clay oven, and black West coast mussels cooked in a “potjie”.

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I was not invited along on this “boys only” week-end, of course, but was not too bothered. We were up at Britannia Bay as a family recently and I was able to indulge in the cooking of one of my favourite mussel recipes, “Moules Marinieres”. I believe that half of what makes this recipe so special is that we go foraging for the black mussels on the rocks at low tide, taking care to select those of adequate size and limiting our haul to the required maximum of 30 per person per day*. Of course, if there has been a recent toxic red tide, mussels need to be ruled off the menu as they are filter feeders and can make one very ill. I still find it incredible that people are unaware of this and often have to explain the reason for the absence of Mussels on our Specials Blackboard at the restaurant to a disappointed guest. They are used to eating those awful, frozen green-lipped ones topped with a gloopy bechamel sauce at other establishments which is a far cry from the original recipe…

*Recreational permits are required and can be obtained from your local Post Office.

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Moules Marinieres – Black mussels with white wine, garlic and cream

20 fresh black mussels per person
Butter and olive oil
Finely diced carrots, leeks and celery (1 heaped tablespoon per person)
Dry white wine
Fresh pouring cream
Chopped garlic (to taste)
Chopped Parsley
Black pepper

Firstly, wash the black mussels in a bucket of fresh water. Discard any that float. Tear the beard from the rest and scrub the shells to remove any barnacles.
Gently fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes (quantities per persons to be catered for as indicated above) in butter and olive oil to coat the base of a heavy based frying pan. Add 20 mussels per person to the mirepoix (diced stock vegetables), adjusting the size of the pan as needed. Pour in enough dry white wine to just cover the vegetables and bring to the boil. Place a lid over the mussels and steam for 3-5 minutes until the mussels open. Remove the opened mussels and keep warm. Discard any mussels that remained closed.
Add a splash of cream (approximately 60ml per person) to the reduced wine and vegetable mirepoix mixture and cook until almost sticky. Add garlic, parsley and pepper to taste and pour over the cooked mussels.
In true West coast style, no cutlery is needed… Simply use an open, empty mussel shell to pincer the other mussels from their shells. Use freshly baked bread to soak up the creamy wine sauce. My idea of heaven, especially when enjoyed with a glass of Fryers Cove Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Provençal Peppers

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Our vegetable garden has come to the end of its summer offerings and I was inspired by the last few glossy aubergines to make a dish that I so enjoyed during my times spent on the Côte d’Azur.

“Petits Farcis” are Mediterranean vegetables such as peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and courgettes stuffed with sausage meat and breadcrumbs and then topped with Parmesan cheese before being baked in an oven. These simple but tasty morsels are a staple of summer lunches in the South of France and during my time there Prince Albert of Monaco (referred to as “le petit prince” due to the late Prince Albert still being alive then) arrived on board the yacht on which I was working with super models and trays of these vegetable delights in tow.

They are extremely versatile and are enjoyed with both a herb and vegetable filling as a starter or with a meaty filling (sausage meat or left-over roast lamb) as a main course. I like to make a filling using the vegetables which are to be stuffed and spice up the mixture with two of my favourite Provençal ingredients, anchovies and olives. If these salty little fish are not your thing, use about 150g fried bacon lardons or chopped spicy chorizo sausage instead. Bon appetit!

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Stuffed Mediterranean Vegetables
Serves 4-6

6 tomatoes
3 red peppers
2 Aubergines
3 courgettes
2 onions, finely chopped
30ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs or cooked rice or cooked couscous
A pinch of dried oreganum
60ml chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
20 Kalamata olives, pipped and halved
12 Anchovies, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Cut the top off the tomatoes and scoop out the flesh and seeds. Reserve these for use in the filling. Salt the inside of the tomatoes and place upside down on a draining rack.
Cut the red peppers in half (from the stalk to the base) and scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut the aubergines in half (also from the stalk to the base) and scoop out the inner flesh. Reserve this for the vegetable filling. Cut the courgettes in half, length-wise, and scoop out the filling with a melon baller. Again, reserve this for the stuffing.
Preheat your oven to 180°C.
In a pot of boiling water, par boil the courgettes for about 4 minutes. Remove and drain.
Rub the skin of 5 of the pepper halves and the 4 aubergine halves with olive oil and par bake, scooped side down, for about 15 minutes.

To make the filling, chop the remaining 1 piece of red pepper into a fine dice as well as the reserved aubergine and courgette insides. Fry the chopped onion in 15ml olive oil over a moderate heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and stir through before adding the diced pepper, aubergine, courgette and reserved tomato flesh. Add the dried oreganum and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and fold in the breadcrumbs (or rice or couscous) chopped parsley, olives and anchovies. Once cooled, add the egg and mix well. Remove the aubergines and peppers from the oven and flip them over. Stuff these as well as the courgette boats and scooped out tomatoes with the vegetable filling and place these back onto the baking sheet or into an oven-proof baking dish such a a Le Creuset, which can then be used for serving straight from the oven.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the stuffed vegetables and pop them back into the oven for a further 15 minutes or until the cheese has formed a golden crust.

Serve with a fresh green salad and a glass of Rose such as HPF “Bloos” and make believe that you are sitting under a plain tree in Provence, watching a game of boules…

Blackberries and Apples

Nothing brings back fonder memories of holidays spent in Cornwall, England with my English grandmother, than Blackberry and Apple Pie with lashings of clotted cream! Nostalgia kicks in even further as I imagine Beatrix Potter’s little Miss Tittlemouse living under a bramble bush and doing her best to shoo away the toad from her tidy house! We have just such an amphibian living under our bulkbin vegetable garden and I have seen him regularly lately when checking on the progress of our blackberries…

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I had no idea that berries took so long to ripen! I have been dying to bake this pie with sweet summer apples and blackberries, but my garden has not been playing along. So, with patience not being a virtue of mine, I suggested to Dup that we buy some berries from Hillcrest Berry Orchards and “do lunch” somewhere in Stellenbosch as well. It was one of those beautiful, clear, windless March days and he leapt at the idea. We meandered over the Helshoogte Pass and were relieved to find that as it was still early, The Postcard Cafe in Jonkershoek could still accommodate us. I highly recommend becoming a tourist in your own back yard now and then and we spent an hour savouring the spectacular view (and a very pleasant salad) on the open veranda of the Stark-Condé Wine Estate’s restaurant.

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To top things off, their Dessert Menu listed a rustic apple pie. I was sold…

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On the way home we purchased a kilogram of frozen blackberries from the Hillcrest shop (at least 50% cheaper than the fresh ones) and got ready to bake. We have hundreds of cookbooks and I often struggle to choose which recipe to use. As in this case, I often combine recipes from different cookbooks to either suit my abilities, the ingredients in my larder, or my whim. In the recipe below I have used a Sweet shortcrust pastry from an old favourite, “Dessert, the Grand Finale” with an apple and blackberry filling from one of my Nigella Lawson books. Enjoy…

Apple and Blackberry Lattice Pie
Serves 6-8

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Sweet shortcrust pastry

2 cups (250g) cake flour
1/3 cup (50g) icing sugar
1/2 cup (170g) unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk (keep the white)
45ml cold water

Sift together the flour and icing sugar. Make a well in the center and add the cubed butter. Crumble the butter in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolk with the iced water and pour it over the flour and butter and work it together quickly to form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Now start with the apple filling.

650g apples of your choice (I prefer Pink Lady)
60g unsalted butter
125g sugar
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
10ml cornflour (Maizena)
325g blackberries (fresh or frozen)

Peel and core the apples and slice into about 8 wedges per apple. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar and cinnamon. Add the apples and cook for about 10 minutes until soft but not squishy. Remove the apples and sprinkle the cornflour over the buttery mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a sticky paste forms. Return this to the apples and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and get back to the pastry…

Grease a 20cm ceramic pie dish with butter. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface to approximately 4mm thick. Roll this over a rolling pin and then unroll it into the base of the pie dish. Gently press the disc of pastry into the base of the dish as well as up the sides, taking care not to stretch it too much. Trim the edges and reserve this pastry in the fridge for the lattice topping. Place a square of baking paper on top of the pastry and fill the dish with uncooked rice, dry beans, lentils or ceramic or clay baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans (reserving them for another day) and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pastry base from the oven and brush it with the remaining egg white. Pour in the apples and scatter the blackberries over the top.

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Press the left over pastry to form a disc and roll it out again before cutting it into strips, 20mm wide. Plait these over the top of the pie to form a lattice and brush again with egg white. Bake for a further 25 minutes until the pastry is crispy and golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar (optional) and serve with cream (clotted or pouring) or vanilla ice cream. Then close your eyes and think of England – in a good way, of course!

Making Bacon at home

Bacon just seems to tick all the decadence boxes: smokey, salty, fatty strips of flavour which pep up so many boring dishes and makes them oh so much more desirable. It is no surprise, then, to find that bacon is the most searched for food item on google and that festivals celebrating this porky pleasure abound in the States. Just look at the list at the bottom of this blog of events held there in 2013! Perhaps we could add just such a day to our Culinary Calendar… (Jan Braai, take note!)

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I have also noticed the change in the packaging of bacon in large supermarkets over the past few years, with many opting to make mass market brands appear more home made. The colours are muted, the branding more subtle, and simple pencil sketches and words like “dry cured”, “oak / beechwood smoked” and “no MSG” are used to distinguish one brand from another and create an appeal for the product. I must say that this seems to work and I find myself selecting the brands which are presented in this way, assuming (sometimes incorrectly, I might add) that this bacon is going to be better because it looks as if it is made on a smaller scale and thus with more care. 

Although I use bacon in many dishes, both at home and at the restaurant (pastas, salads, sandwiches and more) I reserve it in its simplest form for Sunday brunch. Our children salivate at the thought of their stack of blueberry flapjacks topped with crispy fried streaky bacon, all smothered with maple syrup. A calorific bomb, to be sure, but then it is only a once weekly treat…

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It appears, too, that the English (as in those from the United Kingdom) prefer to use back bacon for their famous Bacon Butties, whereas streaky bacon is the choice of the Americans when serving up their hash browns et al. Whatever the bacon used, however, we found that students and businessmen alike could not get enough of our Breakfast Burger when we sold it at Cafe Dijon in Stellenbosch when we still had our shop there. The layers of lettuce, tomato, bacon and egg topped with cheese, aioli and ketchup, all served inside a soft sesame bun, had them coming back for more – daily! Take the bacon out, and it loses much of its appeal, don’t you think?

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Bacon is being produced by more and more artisanal butchers and delicatessens and we are also going to give “makin’ bacon” a go. (Not everyone has access to tickets for the Gravy Train, but many of us can get on the Bacon Bandwagon and make our own…)

There are many recipes out there to choose from, some advocating the use of pink curing salt and others opting to use brine, saying that the pink salt (which contains Sodium Nitrate) causes cancers. There is no proof of this, however, and the pink salt gives the bacon it’s reddish colour (as apposed to grey) and helps to prevent the growth of bacteria during curing. Some bacons are cured and roasted while others are smoked. (I guess it is all a matter of personal taste.) Below a recipe that we are going to use. It is from Michael Ruhlman’s book, “Charcuterie : The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing”, and it looks like a good one. We will taste it when it’s done and decide if it needs a bit of smoking. We’ll keep you posted…

Home made Bacon

The process takes about 7-10 days and yields about 1.8kg of streaky bacon

Ingredients

Approximately 2.250 kg of Pork Belly (we get ours from Joostenberg or Sweetwell Delis)

1/4 cup of Salt

10ml of Pink Curing Salt # 1 (available from Deli Spices in Maitland)

1/4 cup of ground Black Pepper

1/4 cup of Brown sugar

5ml grated nutmeg

4 Bay leaves, crumbled

5 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed

5-10 sprigs of fresh garden thyme

Method

Place the pork belly on a large baking sheet or roasting pan, large enough to fit the belly lying flat. Combine all the curing ingredients and rub it all over the belly (top, bottom and sides). Wrap the meat in plastic and put into the refrigerator. After 3-4 days, flip the belly over and rub it with your fingers to redistribute the salt and sugar mixture. Return the meat to the fridge and keep checking it between day 7 and 10 for when the meat has become firm to the touch.

Remove the pork from the plastic and rinse and pat it it dry. Return it to the fridge and leave it uncovered overnight to dry completely.

Preheat the oven to 200°F (93,3°C). Place the meat onto a clean roasting pan or baking sheet and roast for approximately 90 minutes or until the internal temperature has reached 150°F (65,5°C). Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool enough to handle. Remove the skin by peeling it off or by trimming away carefully with a sharp knife.

Cool completely so that the meat firms up. Slice thinly or into lardons if preferred.

The bacon can keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or frozen for 3 months.

Below the list of Bacon and Beer Fests held in the USA in 2013:

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February: Figs and 40°C

What a week this has been! With searing 40°C February heat outside, things were hotting up in the kitchen too… Valentines Day was fully booked at the restaurant and we were also prepping for a cocktail party to be held at the beautiful Remhoogte Wine Estate for the following evening. Hats off to my dear parents who stepped in and took charge of our two exhausted swimmers-cum-high jumpers once again.

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Figs are synonymous with February and, as the temperatures soar, you can almost see them swell and ripen overnight. The main challenge is pick them before the birds get them! It seems that everything from starlings to mouse birds has a taste for these plump little fruit, which may explain why they are picked green and unripened for making Green Fig Preserve – at least they do not have puncture marks! Of less appeal to the raiders of the avian kind is the prickly pear with its sharp, protective spikes. This cactus-borne fruit is utterly delicious served ice cold, having been carefully peeled of course, but is a conundrum with regards its name. It is hardly a pear, is it, and even less a fig, as it’s Afrikaans name, “Turksvy”, or “Turkish Fig”, would imply!

Our two fig trees were dripping with fruit this year and got my creative juices going. I included figs in many menus this month, and love the way their pretty pink flesh enhances the other ingredients on the plate. As part of our Valentines Day dinner we offered slices of ripe Dalewood Brie with red figs and crystalised almonds as an alternative to the Black Forest Trifle, and we were pleasantly surprised by the popularity of this simple but satisfying “dessert”.

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We are coming to the end of the ‘Parma Ham and Melon’ season, and this is when I love to include one of my favourite salads on the Cafe Dijon menu, ‘Parma Ham with Dalewood Brie and Baby Red Figs’. The combination of salty meat, creamy cheese, sweet figs and peppery rocket just does it for me…

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We get our Brie and Camembert directly from the Cheesery Shop on Dalewood Farm as we drive past it daily on our way through to work. This small, family run cheesery has grown in quality and range over the years and it is wonderful to see how Rob and Petrina Visser’s hard work is paying off. The newly revamped cheese shop boasts numerous trophies and awards, and we love trying their new cheeses. Dalewood is one of the stops along the Franschhoek Artisan Food Route and is well worth a visit. (Just be advised that the shop is closed on Sundays.) Other recommended stops are Babylonstoren, known for their wines and spectacular fruit and vegetable gardens, and a little further down the road, The Jam Jar, where you can stock up on Jill Pienaar’s delicious homemade jams and preserves…

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When we had our Cafe Dijon in Stellenbosch we featured whole truckles of Dalewood’s champion cheese, the fabulous “Huguenot”, on giroles. These became a real party trick and many of these cheese slicers were purchased as birthday and Christmas gifts. Thankfully Dalewood stocks both the giroles and the cheese, but ordering is essential as they only make about 6 truckles a month. We use their other great cheeses on our cheese platter at the restaurant as they compliment our French theme with their nostalgic names such as the aforementioned “Huguenot”, the “Languedoc” and the “Bolander”. (The connection is strengthened further by hinting at my husband’s French roots and present location.) These speciality cheeses are produced on a limited scale and are not always available or ripened to the required perfection, so buy them when you see them to avoid disappointment!

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At the Remhoogte party on Saturday we topped our canapés of piped duck liver pâté with thin slices of baby red figs and decorated the large cheese platters with a selection of fresh and preserved figs. Besides the great Remhoogte wines (which we know) we were introduced to the product of their latest project, their craft beers marketed under the “Wild Beast” label. These are easily of the best beers that I have ever tasted, and the hard work and hot weather notwithstanding, I polished off two. No big deal, you might say, but then, I don’t drink beer… (Dup was quietly impressed, I think, having never seen me drink more than the first sip of his ale on any occasion during our eighteen years of marriage.) We made some little pastries with the left-over figs and cheese and enjoyed them with a cold bottle Riesling on Sunday, but with not quite the same satisfaction …

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