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It’s the start of something new and exciting, friends!  Chef Privé goes all official and sexified at it’s new home.

 

Designed by the formidable and ultra cool cat, Neal Tosefsky, with image design by Angie van Zyl & photography by Ernst Heusser, Chef Privé gets transformed into a beautiful butterfly.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

 

– Chef Privé

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It’s official!  Chef Privé is going viral, thanks to the cool kids over at NoMu and their hugely popular pin-up poster competitions.  If you haven’t heard about this splendid project, you must have just crawled out from under a rock. Seriously!?   For your sake, let’s take a moment to recap on some of the awesomery, shall we?

2oceansvibe got the party started with the very cheeky “Touch Me On My Poster” campaign, and along the way NoMu have featured acclaimed South African bloggers, like IWantThat, Brandslut, Beatnik Bazaar & CapeTownGirl, to mention a few.  The prizes on offer have been completely ridiculous:  decadent NoMu hampers, designer handbags, luxury hotel stays, designer sunglasses, dangerously large quantities of alcohol, vouchers for some of Cape Town’s finest eating establishments & a pile of other fabulous treats. If you didn’t enter, shame on you, but we won’t judge you, sweethearts – instead, you’re about to get another chance to redeem yourself.

Chef Privé editor, Princess Jacalini (perhaps an alias, perhaps an actual Princess…) will be heading up the next campaign, tiara and all!  The poster goes live on the 1st of February at 2 (yes, TWO) locations around the country: Club Engen in Gardens, Cape Town, and at Service Station in Melville, Johannesburg.  You’ll also get the chance to submit online entries, as well as win a spot-the-difference BONUS prize.  Can I say that again? BONUS. Lovely!

There will be some radical prizes up for grabs, in exchange for an opportunity to engage in a bit of merriment. We’re looking for creative & crazy poses next to the poster.  Make us giggle!  Make us blush! There may well be BONUS points assigned for late-night tomfoolery at Club Engen…

So make a note, create a new event on your smartphone, scribble on a post-it, or write it on your hand!  We’ll also be publishing a bunch of easy recipes for you using my featured NoMu product, so come back & visit again soon!

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Happy New Year everybody!

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’m so relieved that 2010 is behind me.  Personally, it was a rough year and I sure hope that this new year has some nicer surprises in store for us all!

So in case you didn’t know, I went home for the holidays.  Home being my place of birth: the sleepy hollow of Bulawayo, in Zimbabaloo.  (That’s the new official name, by the way.  Write it down.)  I’ve not been back over Christmas for a number of years now, and normally miss the party bus mass exodus of Zimbos heading home for the holidays.  This results in missing special drinking time with friends from long, long ago.  There are a number of insanely awesome parties that take place (I know, right?), and I usually get to read about them over social networking channels, resulting in my achieving a non-Zen-like state of loser-dom.  It’s vicious.

Sista Bliss and I booked our tickets on a relatively new, low-cost (read dodgy & suspicious) airline called Kumba, operated by Air Namibia.  We overnighted in Jozi with family & flew into Bulawayo on a sunshiny Tuesday.  Or was it a Thursday?  I forget, mashed potato brains as a result of holiday-mode – nevertheless, unimportant.  We flew in, it was awesome, The End.  Here’s what we arrived to:

A rocking metropolis, you’ll agree?

Suffice to say that 10 days with our family consisted of a massive amount of bikini-time, good food and much needed rest. And the occasional scream through the house each day at a staggeringly earlier than normal time, “Its GIN O’CLOCK baby!”, culminating in a keen gathering at my dad’s bar.

Christmas Day was no different.  However, waking up to a very cheeky power cut at 7am and a mountain of food to cook didn’t do much to encourage our loving Christmas spirits; we bundled begrudgingly into the car and sped off to church in the hopes that whilst we were away giving thanks for all our blessings, the electricity fairies would magically come in, wave their ZESA wands, and all would be well again.  Yeah… not so much.  We had to move to Plan B, which came in the form of a Weber kettle braai and shoved the turkey and lamb in there for a few hours in the hopes that we could at least eat some meat with our cranberry jelly and mint sauce.  The power eventually came back on at 2pm, and we were able to furiously rattle the side dishes together, and enjoyed a wonderful, truly African Christmas lunch.

My mum bashed out a complete cracker of a festive punch, and I managed to smuggle the recipe out of the country to bring back and share with you all! I’m calling it Di’s Cherry Blossom Sherbet. You’re welcome!


What you’ll need: (serves 6)

4 Cherry Blossom tea bags

2 Rooibos tea bags

2 liters of water (you can substitute 1L of water for champagne at the last minute if you’re that way inclined)

100ml red berry juice

Juice of 1 lemon

Lots of ice

To garnish: sprigs of mint & miniature rose blossoms

And then…

Boil the water & allow the tea bags to steep for about 10 minutes.  Discard the tea bags and allow the tea to reach room temperature – this can be done the day before.  Add the remaining ingredients just before your guests arrive & decant into a large jug or punch bowl.

After an incredible holiday with our family, Sista Bliss and I reluctantly began the perilous trip home – it consisted of a delay of epic proportions on the first leg of our journey; our plane to Johannesburg had technical problems (read hung-over technicians) and we eventually departed Bulawayo 3 ½ hours behind schedule, resulting in our missing our connecting flights to Cape Town.  Being the silly season, there were no available seats left on any other flights that evening, and we had to again call upon our awesome family to put us up for the night until we could get back to the airport at 5am the next morning to be put on standby.  Here’s a snapshot of Sista Bliss and I two hours into aforementioned delay:

All smiles, see?  I unfortunately cannot show you smiles on the ass-end of our journey.  They simply did not exist. All I know is, by default 2011 is going to be a much happier year, I’m sure of it!

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Tequila Bolognese

Tequila Bolognese with handmade parpadelle pasta

I don’t know about you, but I am a huge fan of pasta Bolognese.  When I was 5 years old my family and I were traveling to the US, and had a stopover in Rome.  That evening we dined in our hotel’s bistro; it was one of my earliest childhood memories, sitting behind a small wooden table with a large bowl of spaghetti Bolognese in front of me.   I remember being frustrated as I was struggling to pick the spaghetti up with my fork… I was 5, I could barely negotiate a knife and a fork confidently.  The waiter came over and patiently sat with me showing me how to hold the fork upright and twirl it in my fingers, picking up the spaghetti securely as well as the ragu sauce.  I believe I became a connoisseur of pasta Bolognese right at that moment.  For real!

My friend Captain Bread of Jardine Bakery fame, told me about a shooter called tequila Bolognese the other day, and I must admit that my curiosity got the better of me.  What if we made the real thing?  What if we used the finest meats around, and substituted the usual red wine for gold tequila?  We set a date and, as they say, the rest was history.   Here is our evening in pictures:

Leek flowers, sage & garlic. Pancetta, pork, veal & lamb mince.

We used a selection of fresh herbs: leek flowers, sage, thyme, rocket, fennel bulb & Italian parsley.  For the meaty part, we used 3kg’s of pork, veal & lamb mince as well as some pancetta lardons.

Sauteeing mince. Mr Fennel Head.

I sautéed onions and garlic together with some olive oil until they were soft and caramelized.  I then deglazed them with a lot of tequila.  Like a quarter of the bottle a lot.  Yeah, you know if you’re going to make tequila Bolognese you really need to embrace things and believe in your cause.

I cooked off all the mince & the pancetta separately, not using any oil, and added it all to the boozy onion & garlic mix.  Cue some more tequila, and more sautéing.  You cook off most of the alcohol, so don’t be afraid of getting boozed from this.  We’re only after the flavor of the tequila. *Winks* I then added chopped sage, fennel bulb, thyme & Italian parsley.  I also tossed in a tin of tomato paste, a tin of whole peeled tomatoes and a liter of lamb stock, thanks to NoMu and their fabulous fonds.  The lid of the pot went on, the heat was turned right down and was left alone for the next 3 hours.  Time for some in-house entertainment, folks!

Once the 3 hours were up, I finished the meat sauce off with leek flowers, salt and pepper and the secret ingredient:  balsamic vinegar reduction flavoured with black Turkish figs.  It was then time to get the pasta made. In my opinion, thick ribbon pasta is the most ideal shape for a full-flavored meat sauce.  Our pasta machine’s settings were only able to cut tagliatelle, so we hand-cut the pasta like this:

Making parpadelle pasta

A thoroughly enjoyable evening albeit fairly exploratory – during the evening we received a host of interested and indignant tweets about the meal… I’m really about pushing the boundaries with flavors and trying new things, so if this is your cup of tea, give it a go – I’m certain you won’t be disappointed!

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Savingnac brandy & chocolate truffles

A few weeks ago, I met Dawn Jorgensen after having mentioned that I was a huge limoncello fan.  Dawn kindly offered to do a tasting of her and her husband Roger’s Primitiv vodka and organic limoncello.  Roger is the master distiller and an alchemist of all things boozy!  Dawn handles the marketing, and has generated an incredible amount of excitement around the brand in a very short space of time.  After tasting their delicious vodka and limoncello, and hearing how passionate these people were about what they were doing, I knew there was a trip to the Jorgensen’s farm in Wellington to plan and a wonderful story waiting to be told.

Primitiv vodka dinkies & the organic spelt it's made from

I visited the distillery on the first day of Roger’s absinthe production, and couldn’t believe my luck!  Rog had laid out all of the ingredients out for me and took me through each one, how it was grown, where it came from and the part that it played in the final product.  I was astounded at the number of herbs and spices that made up the absinthe, and took pictures of each to bring back and show you.  Certain ingredients are used to flavour the spirit, thus they are added at the beginning of the process.  Others are added after distillation and are used to colour the absinthe and add lighter notes, creating a complex, well-balanced flavour.   The absinthe is distilled in a copper pot still at a consistent temperature of 75’C, and takes about 24 hours to distill 1000 liters of spirit.  I never got to taste the final product that day unfortunately, but Dawn and Roger had a stable full of other equally enticing treats up their sleeves for me to try.

Field of Dreams absinthe

The copper pot still during absinthe distillation

Dawn and Rog founded their distillery on their gorgeous farm Versailles, in the heart of Wellington, and it is from here that Rog first grew and nurtured the Chenin Blanc grapes that feature in his pot still Savingnac brandy.  The brandy is made in the typical cognac style, is twice distilled in a traditional copper pot still and matured for a minimum of 10 years in French oak.  I tasted the brandy in its 13th year, and it was surprisingly smooth yet incredibly complex and rich. Exotic spices, molasses, chocolate and sandalwood all come through on the nose, and the palate is just as delightful.  We tasted the Savingnac accompanied by local handmade chocolate truffles filled with a rich ganache center.  A sip of brandy, swirled in the mouth and swallowed, a bite of chocolate, letting the chocolate linger on your tongue while taking another sip of brandy, letting the two do a little dance inside your mouth… Sheer heaven!  What’s interesting is how the flavour of the brandy changes when you have the chocolate in your mouth.  It becomes nuttier, spicier & more bold in flavour. An absolute joy to encounter.

The Savingnac was Dawn and Rog’s initial venture, but it was going to take the better part of a decade and then some to yield anything near desirable in Roger’s opinion, so the couple decided to look into other boozy projects to pass the time while their beloved golden nectar aged. They didn’t have to look very far.  Organic lemons grown in the valley, organic spelt grown above the snowline in the Cederberg mountains, exotic African Grains of Paradise and a host of rare and mysterious herbs & spices that make up Roger’s acclaimed and authentic Field of Dreams Absinthe.

Angelica root & seed, coriander seed & star anise

Roman wormwood, khaat, southern wormwood

Melissa, grand wormwood & sweet flag

Buchu, wild dagga & hyssop giant anise

Hyssop & liquorice root

After a long stay in Italy, Rog and Dawn were captivated by limoncello, and  introduced the first product in their Naked range, using the organic lemons mentioned earlier, which rivals most of the Italian varieties I tasted during my travels to Amalfi and the rest of the Campania region in Italy. Rog and Dawn will also be extending the Naked range to include more fruity liqueurs, so look out for these on their website.

Launching in March 2011 is Jorgensen’s Gin, a fascinating blend of Macedonian juniper and Grains of Paradise (a peppery-flavoured spice grown for the Jorgensen’s as part of a community upliftment program in Ghana).  I’m super excited about tasting this one in particular, as I do fancy my gin!

Roger recently listed the Primitiv vodka and Naked limoncello with Pick n Pay’s flagship store PnP on Nicol in Johannesburg, which will be sold in their bottle store. It’s pretty clear that Jorgensen’s Distillery is going places, and I’m hard-pressed to find two other equally passionate people who are more deserving of having their products flourish as Roger and Dawn have!

Visit Jorgensen’s Distillery or contact them on 021 864 1777 or email Dawn on dawn@jd7.co.za for stockists around the country.

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Restaurants. Reviews. Drama..

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Porcini madness

In light of the recent (and somewhat strangely) cool & rainy weather we’d had in Cape Town, I thought I might call upon the services of Mushroom Hunter Gary Goldman – a guru of all things fungi and a man whose keen sense & sharp eye would spot an out-of-season porcini at 50 paces.

Naturally, The Co-Pilot was totally in on this little adventure, and we met Gary and an equally fungi-mad acquaintance of his in the car park of Newlands Forest early one morning. We started off up one of the main trails, and then veered off-course into the thick of the forest, where only the most serious of foragers dare to venture.

Gary, a former IT man, is completely self-taught when it comes to mushrooms. Armed with a number of mushroom encyclopedias, a pocket knife and a basket, he would forage Newlands, Tokai & Celia forests, studying & identifying each species he came across. It seems to me that the public study of mushrooms in this country is a fairly elusive one. No-one seems to admit to being an ‘expert’, or knowing anything more than the basics when questioned, as if an underground Mushroom Order existed!  To find like-minded people at the time, Gary posted a fairly cryptic message in a local bulletin, to which only one person responded. That person – we’ll call her Mary – happened to be foraging with us this very morning! Super mysterious, non?

The actual foraging process was quite stressful for The Co-Pilot and I. Gary & Mary moved very quickly over the areas they were foraging, knowing exactly what they were looking for. Our instruction was to look for ‘bumps’ in pine needle thickets… When you’re in a forest and there are ‘bumps’ everywhere, it takes time to study each one & we found ourselves lagging behind, petrified that we might miss something important. Mary was extraordinarily lucky skilled, and found three nice sized porcinis in the first thirty minutes.

The SMFB (Stealth Mushroom Foraging Brigade)

As we moved up the mountain, we spread out to cover a larger area. In a few short minutes, the rest of the group was completely out of sight; all I heard was the sound of my own breath, the crunch of pine needles underfoot & the birds, keeping me company. I searched next to fallen trees, I searched at the base of trees, I searched near rocks… There were a number of other species of mushrooms, which Gary had identified earlier as edible, but no signs of the elusive porcini. Until… wait! There! A little ‘bump’! Could it be? I crouched down on my hands and knees and gently cleared away the brush around the mushroom, being careful not to touch or remove it before I was able to confidently identify it. Gary and the rest of my foraging buddies were nowhere to be seen, so I continued peering intently at my prize. After a moment, I was certain it was a porcini, and thus proceeded to do a little victory dance in the forest. I had foraged my very first porcini!! Much excitement! I gently grabbed the base of the mushroom, and twisted the root gently, as Gary has said. It loosened easily from the earth, and I carefully pushed down the pine needles & the earth to close the hole. Mushrooms multiply via spores, so with some care and good weather conditions, that little spot would yield another gorgeous porcini, perhaps for another lucky forager to enjoy.

I bounded across the forest to show The Co-Pilot, who graciously put on an air of excitement for me but who was secretly cursing inside, as he’d not been as lucky. Our walk took us through a large section of the forest, and we met other people along the way who were also just ‘taking the dogs for a walk’. Foraging for mushrooms in Newlands forest is not actually allowed, only in Tokai and Celia forests, so when you come across other people off the trails, it’s with a knowing smile that you greet them & move off again.

A few pointers if you’re going to forage for mushrooms yourselves: Don’t pick anything that you cannot positively identify. Place your ‘shrooms in a well ventilated container once picked, never in a plastic bag as they’ll start to sweat. It’s best to go hunting early in the morning – there’s more chance of you finding a good collection at this time, and your find will be fresh after the cool of the night. Technically, mushroom season is between March and May when the temperature drops between 12-22 degrees celcius, the atmosphere is humid & there has been some rain. Our forage was a bit cheeky, and Gary wasn’t entirely hopeful at a good yield, but we weren’t embarrassed at all about our find.

Not kak

Once home, we brushed the dirt carefully off each mushroom – never wash them. We then sliced the porcini into thick pieces & seared them in a very hot pan with a little drizzle of olive oil & fresh lemon juice. We ate this with scrambled egg for breakfast – if I try to explain all the shades of nomness to you, I could very well be here all day. Suffice to say that there is nothing like eating a freshly picked porcini mushroom. We made a sort of mushroom stroganoff later with the other mushrooms – first by gently sautéing onions & garlic until very soft, adding some fresh thyme & lemon zest. We then poured in a tub of fresh cream, and let that reduce down until it was nice and thick. We then sautéed each species of mushroom separately (and tasted each of them) and added those to the stroganoff sauce & let them simmer together for a few minutes to impart their flavor. We enjoyed this on freshly toasted ciabatta bread, which was super tasty!

If you’d like to go on a similar adventure or if you’d just like to learn more about mushrooms in South Africa, give Gary Goldman a call on 021 686 7188 or email him on gary.goldman@cybersmart.co.za

Gary runs The Mushroom Factory, and supplies wild mushrooms to local restaurants & cafes. You will also find his mushrooms at the Biscuit Mill, being sold by the lovely folk mentioned here.

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