So much to enjoy in the ever-changing Capetown food scene

JUST back from a hectic few days in Capetown, whizzing from one speaking engagement to the next.

So much to enjoy in the ever-changing Capetown food scene

The food scene has changed in the past decade. Luke Dale-Roberts’ Test Kitchen, beside the Old Biscuit Mill in shabby chic Woodstock, has a Michelin star and is racked 28th in the world on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Guests book up to six months ahead to savour Luke’s super slick, multi element, small plates.

Across the road The Pot Luck Club is headed up by Wesley Randles and his bright young team.

This more casual eatery was jam packed too and turning the tables several times over even on a Monday night.

La Colombe out in the Silvermist Wine estate gets similar rave reviews and once again tables are full of guests from all over the world who have booked their tables months in advance for this ultra ‘fine-dining’ restaurant.

I was fortunate indeed that a dear friend Alicia Wilkinson of Silwood Cookery School whose brilliantly trained students work in all these kitchens managed to secure a table in each of the restaurants, so I had the opportunity to sample some of the most talked about places first hand.

But I have to tell you I wouldn’t have a notion how to reproduce much of the highly acclaimed food we ate.

More accessible for me was the food at the Chefs Warehouse Canteen on 92 Bree Street, the place to go in Capetown for tapas for two.

You can’t book but punters are totally happy to queue for Irish/Aussie chef Liam Tomlin’s delicious Asian inspired tapas in this relaxed canteen style restaurant with a kitchenware and bookshop tucked onto side and a street food take away outlet on the other.

The walls in the canteen are lined with narrow shelves, teaming with irresistible exotic deli ingredients, I had to buy some Khoisan organic sea salt, Rio Grande olive oil, Richard Von Geusau chocolates and Korean red pepper.

The menu changes every day and sometimes several times a day; beautiful fresh ingredients with multi ethnic flavours served on wooden boards in a variety of mini copper bowls, clay pots, rustic pottery dishes, steaming baskets and clay plates.

There’s fresh fish and shellfish, slow cooked meats, shoots and roots, seaweeds and ferments, salad leaves and foraged greens, all delectably balanced, irresistible to look at but not over worked. Menus are written on rice paper, clipped onto sushi mats.

Bree St was not an area on many people’s radar up to a year or so but jot it down on your Capetown list if you reckon you’ll be going that way, then seek out Jason’s bakery. It’s open from 7am-3pm.

Don’t miss the bacon croissants. Up the street there are three little gems side by side, The Culture Club, a super little cheese shop and café painted buttercup yellow. One door more and it’s Mothers Ruin – brothers Mark and Rob Hêre offer over 40 gins.

The Orphanage Cocktail Emporium is one of the originals in Bree Street, a hipster cocktail joint which also sells a couple of small plates like Truffle Chips with Wasabi Aioli and pizza (not listed on the menu’s website).

The weather of course was beautiful. I also popped into the newly restored Company Garden and met manager Rory Phelan from Inistymon in Cork.

These were the gardens of the Dutch East India Company who first started the garden in 1652 for the victualing of their ships that plied the spice trade route between Europe and the East Indies, via The Cape of Good Hope.

Potted Shrimp

Potted shrimp, crayfish and crab are always on our deli menu at Canteen and often appear on the tapas board.

It is a nice way to serve shellfish bound in flavoured butter that melts once spread over warm toast. The butter can be flavoured to suit your taste with chilli and cayenne pepper if you prefer the shrimps with a bit of heat or something more delicate such as tarragon and chervil.

400 g (14 oz) shrimp meat

Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely sliced

300 g (11 oz) unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine the shrimp meat, lemon zest and juice, spring onion and parsley and season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne pepper.

Pack the shrimp between 8 small ramekins or glasses.

Place the butter, garlic and thyme in a heavy-based saucepan and melt over a low heat.

Remove from the heat and allow the garlic and thyme to infuse the butter. Strain the butter through a fine sieve and discard the garlic and thyme.

Pour the melted butter over the shrimp to cover the entire surface of the shrimp.

Refrigerate the shrimp until the butter solidifies.

When ready to serve remove the shrimp from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Serve with hot toast and a small green salad.

Doughnuts with Lemon Syrup

Serves 6

Doughnuts

250g (9oz) plain flour, sieved

1 tsp salt

25g (1oz) castor sugar

15g fresh yeast

40ml whole milk

1 large free-range egg, lightly beaten

40g (1¾oz) soft, unsalted butter, diced

Extra flour for dusting

Canola oil for deep frying

Lemon Syrup

300g (11oz) castor sugar

100ml (3½ fl oz) water

40ml lemon juice

20g (¾oz) glucose

1 vanilla pod, split and scraped

Combine all of the lemon syrup ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan and place over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.

To make the doughnuts: Place the flour, salt and sugar in an electric mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. Mix slowly until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Crumble the yeast into the milk and crush it with the back of a spoon to dissolve.

Pour the yeast into the bowl and continue to mix. Add the egg and increase the speed of the mixing bowl and continue to mix until the dough comes together in a ball and cleans the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the butter piece by piece until fully incorporated. Check the consistency of the dough; if it seems too wet, add a little more flour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to prove overnight or leave to stand at room temperature for 1½ - 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based pan to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Remove the dough from the bowl. Knock back and knead the dough for 4 - 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into quenelles using two teaspoons, or spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a wide, plain nozzle and hold it above the hot oil.

Squeeze gently, snipping the dough with scissors into small, even, rounded pieces as it drops into the oil.

Deep-fry the doughnuts, turning them with a slotted spoon until they are evenly golden brown in colour (approximately 1 minute on each side).

Remove the doughnuts from the oil using a slotted spoon and place them into the lemon syrup and leave for a few minutes to soak up the syrup.

Beetroot Cured Salmon

Serves 8

240g (9ozs) demerara sugar

15g (¾oz) crushed black peppercorns

35g (1½oz) crushed juniper berries

80ml dark rum

50g (2oz) dill with stalks, roughly chopped

Zest of 3 lemons

1kg (2¼lb) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

1kg (2¼lb) piece of fresh salmon, pin boned and trimmed with skin on

Horseradish Cream

50g (2oz) freshly grated horseradish

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar

100 ml (3½ fl oz) whipping cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Fennel and Lemon Salad

2 small heads of fennel with fronds removed and chopped

15 ml extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries, rum, dill, lemon zest and beetroot in a stainless steel bowl and mix together. Spread a large piece of cling film out on a clean work surface and place the salmon flesh-side up in the centre of the cling film.

Spread the marinade evenly over the surface of the salmon and enclose in the cling film. Wrap the salmon in a sheet of aluminium foil to prevent seepage and place in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days, depending on the thickness of the salmon.

Drain-off any excess liquid from the salmon daily and re-wrap tightly. When ready, using the back of a knife, scrape the marinade off the salmon and gently wipe the surface with a clean, damp kitchen cloth.

To carve the cured salmon, using a sharp, thin-blade knife, make an incision through the flesh at the narrowest end of the salmon. Hold the skin tightly in your hand and work the knife from side to side between the flesh and skin, working the knife towards the opposite end, at the same time pulling the skin with the other hand. With the tip of a knife remove the dark blood line from each slice before serving. Cut the salmon into cubes to expose the salmon flesh.

If you cannot find fresh horseradish buy a good quality horseradish sauce. To two parts horseradish sauce add 1 part whipped cream for a mild flavoured sauce.

To make the horseradish cream, place the ingredients into a chilled, stainless-steel bowl and whisk to ribbon stage. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the fennel salad, slice the fennel as thinly as possible, preferably on a mandolin. Place in a bowl and dress with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the chopped fennel frond and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Arrange the fennel between 8 chilled plates. Place the salmon on top of the fennel and spoon a little of the dressing over the salmon. Make a quenelle of horseradish cream.

Prawn in Potato Waistcoasts with Curry Salt

Serves 4

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

12 slices of large potatoes, sliced lengthways

12 prawns, peeled and deveined with tail on

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Corn flour, mixed to a thick paste with cold water

10g (½ oz) curry powder

4 lemon wedges

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat to 110°C.

Add the potato slices and heat without colour until they are almost cooked. Remove the potato slices from the oil with a slotted spoon taking care not to break them.

Lay the slices out on a tray lined with greaseproof paper with a space between each one so that they do not touch each other. Set aside until ready to use.

Lightly season the prawns with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lay a potato slice on a clean work surface and brush the edges with the corn flour paste.

Place a prawn tail at one end of the potato and roll the potato tightly around it.

Repeat with a second slice of potato so that the whole prawn is covered with potato, leaving the tail exposed. Secure the potato with a small cocktail stick.

Prepare the remaining prawns in the same way. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Hot tips

The newly founded Slow Food North West Convivium are hosting their inaugural event tomorrow, Sunday, November 22, at the Irish Organic Centre, outside Rossinver, County Leitrim, from noon to 5pm. There will be talks on sea salt harvesting, a beer tasting, and Glen Wheeler from McNean House will give a cookery demo. Don’t miss the tour of the Organic Centre tunnels. Contact slowfoodnorthwest@gmail.com or theorganiccentre.ie/

Have you discovered Wilton Farmers Market yet? It’s every Tuesday from 10.00am-2.30pm. It’s just across the road from CUH. Exciting and nourishing local food for local people. wiltonmarketcork.com

Jerusalem Artichokes are back in season. They look like knobbly potatoes and are packed with natural inulin. One of the very best foods to enhance our gut flora and so delicious. Kids love them roasted and we find new ways to enjoy them all the time including sunchoke ice cream.

Wild food of the week: Winter Cress or Bittercress (cardamine hirsute) is lush and beautiful right now, it grows in little bunches in soil and gravelly patches. As with all cress, the top leaf is always the largest and the leaves get smaller down along the stem. Delicious in salads or as a garnish for an appetizer

The Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland welcome James Wong of BBC Gardeners World. He will give a talk ‘Grow for Flavour’ on Wednesday, November 25, 8pm at the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan, Dublin Tickets €25.

Correction

The Apple Brack recipe that appeared on Saturday, October 31, had an error. The recipe called for soaking the fruit in 1 pint of hot tea for 1½-2 hours. There is no tea required in the apple brack recipe.

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