Archive for the ‘Romantic Treats’ Category

A while ago I had the pleasure of visiting Cornell & Pieter de Villiers in Hermanus to have a look at the only “bean to bar” chocolate production facility in South Africa.

Upon arrival, we indulged in mugs of steaming hot chocolate and platefuls of chocolate muffins. I could definitely say at this stage that the de Villiers’ style of breakfast is a mythos I could adopt! After a radical sugar spike, we headed for the bean storage facility, where each origin of bean is stored  separately.  Stored in 25kg bags, the beans are kept on wooden pallets off the floor, in order to keep any pests away from the precious morsels.

A former electrical engineer turned chocolatier, Pieter has designed & made a large portion of the equipment necessary for his chocolate production. Internationally, chocolate production utilizes very large and extraordinarily expensive equipment which, for the micro chocolatier, is simply not feasible.

Pieter’s engineering knowledge has not just been limited to converting domestic, everyday items into chocolate-friendly machinery; he also developed the computer software that all his machinery is programmed to. For example, the bean roaster (which once was a pretty standard domestic oven) has a myriad of different roasting settings, all particular to the origin or ‘personality’ of the bean it’s roasting – certain beans may require a higher roasting temperature or a longer roasting cycle. Each batch of beans that is received is tested for defects, pests, mould & moisture content and is programmed into the system accordingly. This is one well thought through operation, and you can taste it in their chocolate. For a more thorough breakdown of the chocolate-making process, take a look here.

Roasting & conching the beans, then tempering the chocolate

Cornell & Pieter tell me that their strategy is to introduce a few more lines once they have a handle on how the general public receives their chocolate. Initially, they thought that the South African consumer would struggle with the fact that their chocolate is unflavored. Dedicated to introducing SA palates to ‘real’ chocolate, Pieter & Cornell painstakingly selected a range of 5 origins from a list of over 25 different origins, based on their taste profile, and launched these just a few months ago.

For chocolate that contains 70% cocoa butter and no other flavorings, the flavour notes that come through across the various origins is phenomenal. It cannot accurately be explained in words, you simply must taste the chocolate yourself.

Currently, DV Chocolate is sold in a select few establishments around the country, but the good news is spreading fast! To see where you can get your paws on these delightful treats or become a stockist, click here.

To get in touch, contact Cornell  on 028 316 4850 or email info@dvchocolates.com or visit them here.

*All images courtesy of DV Chocolates


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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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Admittedly, the last two or three days in Cape Town haven’t yielded the best weather, so a change in tune was required when preparing dessert for a dinner party I had the other evening.

Poached pears are undoubtedly one of the most simplest desserts to make, and always come out looking completely glamorous, like they belong on the menu of a fabulous fine-dining establishment.  Ensure you have 4 great quality pears that are fairly ripe, yet still have a firm crunch when you bite into them.  The Co-Pilot won the award for Best Dinner Guest In The World, as he brought along the very last bottle of William Everson’s experimental Shiraz Dessert Wine 2007.  I have it on good authority that due to the phenomenally positive reviews of this little gem, the dessert wine will be produced again, on a larger scale so that more of you wine freaks out there will be able to get your paws on this kind of Shiraz magic.  The bush vine Shiraz grapes are not irrigated, which results in an almost pea-sized grape that’s smacking of concentrated Shiraz flavour.  It rocks those typically dry Shiraz vibes, yet has a very Port-y nose.  When it hits your palate, it’s a huge contradiction of dryness at the back of the palate & sticky red berry sweetness at the front.  Heavenly, kittens.  Heavenly!

You won’t find this dessert wine around for a while yet, so use 2 bottles of great quality Shiraz, like the Ataraxia Mountain Vineyards Serenity 2006.  You’ll also need 1/2 a cup of sugar and a split vanilla pod.  To serve, you can really go to town:  home-made honeycomb ice cream (honeycomb is made by melting sugar to a caramel and stirring in bicarb), blue cheese mascarpone, or simple Chantilly cream.  I served mine with vanilla mascarpone and gold sugar shards.

To poach the pears, pour the 2 bottles of Shiraz, sugar & the vanilla pod into a smallish saucepan – the pears need to be completely submersed in the wine, otherwise you’ll find yourself standing over them & turning them as they cook.  Not glam at all, blue birds!  Heat the wine and the vanilla pod to a simmer, while you carefully peel the pears.  Make sure your strokes are even and the pears have a flat base, so they don’t topple over & sit nicely on your plate.  Poach the pears in the wine for 20 minutes, then remove them and set aside.  Bring the wine up to a boil and reduce down to a thick syrup.  Cool this syrup completely, and then pour over your pears & leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours.  If you can prepare this the night before, even better.  The pears will soak up all that yummy flavour & take on a richer, darker hue.  Serve warm if weather permitting, or at room temperature, drizzled with some of the syrup & accompanying garnish & your guests will forever sing your praises as a domestic god(dess) with some serious clout!

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Fynbos, cityscape & ocean views. Paradise!

Boy-o-boy did I enjoy myself this weekend!  I’m not sure if it was the long weekend or National Braai Day or the fact that I got to hang out with The Co-Pilot all weekend long, but wowaweewa I had a good time!  I hope you guys did too!  I heard someone mention last week that they thought it was interesting that the biggest thing we have in common culturally in this country (or at least that which all the focus has been put on surrounding Heritage Day) is turning raw meat on an open flame, but I think there’s so much more to it than that, don’t you think?

After a wonderful day of braai-ing on Friday there were lots of yummy leftovers which were surreptitiously packed up into a picnic basket & bundled into the car which sped off in the direction of Deer Park.  I’d never been there before, yet heard so many people gush over how lovely it is, so was super stoked when The Co-Pilot suggested we take our carcinogenic picnicings there..


Our little corner of picnicdom next to a lovely burbling stream.

It must be said at this point in time that The Co-Pilot is a master of sandwich-making.  The man is known far and wide for his magical skills with bread and fillings.  No two sandwiches are the same, and ingredients range from random to exotic & always delight the salivary glands.  My cue to down tools, pick up a refreshing beverage & assume a position of chillage.

Assuming the position. Boom!

Some of the ingredients we used: Paul's Chilli; Tarragon Mustard; char-grilled peppers; mixed wild mushrooms & fine beans

We also took along some red onions, tomatoes, some old-school iceberg lettuce (LOVE that stuff) & a big chunk of medium-rare rib eye steak.  Earlier that day we’d got a fresh loaf of ciabatta from the blokes selling bread out their Venter trailer at the Biscuit Mill.  You guys know who I mean right? Of course you do!

Here’s what went down on my sandie:

And The Co-Pilot’s sandie… (it should be noted at this stage that off-camera I am guzzling 1 x nomalicious sandie!)

Go on, tell me you're not drooling?

The Big Kahuna of Yumminess

And then there was none. Well, not much, anyway. Nom!

As you can see, much nomming & chillaxing done.  I recommend you get your picnic baskets out this summer & take advantage of all the beautiful places our beautiful city offers.  Happy Heritage Day!

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This is my all-time favourite dish to make.  It’s not something you can just throw together at the last minute, but it is the process of preparation that is so wonderfully therapeutic, and ultimately when this dish is ready, I can guarantee you’ll be totally excited to make it again & again.  The flavours only get better over time, so if you can, make this at least 1-2 days before you’re planning on eating it.

There are 2 vital components to making this gorgeously rustic dish: the brown base, and the Neapoletana sauce.  If you put time, effort & great quality ingredients into making these, your osso buco is guaranteed to be a sure-fire success.  We serve osso buco with gremolata, my darlings – a combination of Italian parsley, lemon zest, garlic & anchovies.  This glorious creation cuts the richness of the stew & brings a light, zesty & salty dimension to the dish, meaning it is perfectly seasoned & balanced in flavour.  I like to make extra and roll in it, rather like cats do with catnip.  I can’t help myself.  It’s that good.

Osso buco is originally made with veal shin, but since we live in a slightly more sensitive society than our French & Italian hombres, beef shin has been substituted & doesn’t let the team down in the slightest.  If you can’t find beef shin, the only other cut I’d suggest for this dish is lamb knuckle.  The texture of the meat at the end of the cooking process is hugely important – just trust me on this one!  And always, bone-in.  Don’t let your butcherman separate the meat from the bone.  Beef shin contains the sexiest bone marrow compared to any other cut, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get your slurp on once it’s all cooked.   I like chocolates & flowers in my gift baskets, thank you very much!

What you’ll need… (serves 6)

12 medium-sized beef shin pieces

Seasoned flour

1 small bag baby carrots, peeled & cut into halves or thirds

3 medium onions, peeled & roughly chopped

5 sticks of celery, peeled & roughly chopped

3 cups brown base

2 cups Neapoletana sauce

For the brown base:

1kg beef bones – ask you butcher for some bones that still have a fair amount of meat attached

1 sachet tomato paste – about 80g

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup celery (leaves & stalks) roughly chopped

2 medium white onions, chopped

1 cup carrots, peeled & sliced

1 bay leaf

2 cups red wine (quality in, quality out so use something decent please!)

1-2 tbsp corn flour & water for slurry

Water to cover

For the Neapoletana sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or smashed

3 sprigs of basil, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tins whole peeled tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

For the Gremolata:

1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

½ cup finely grated lemon zest

5 garlic cloves, smashed

5 anchovies, chopped finely

And then…

To make the brown base – Heat your oven to blady hot.  Use your hands to coat the bones with the tomato paste & put these in a single layer on a roasting tray & roast them until they’re well caramelized & dark brown.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan & fry all your vegetables together on a high heat until they are nicely browned.  Add the browned bones to your veggies, as well as the bay leaf & red wine, and cover with some water if your bones are still poking out the water.  Let this simmer on a medium heat for approximately 1 hour until all that lovely flavour permeates the liquid.  Strain this, clean your saucepan & return the liquid to the pot & bring to the boil.  Once boiling rapidly, pour in your corn flour slurry & stir well.  Set aside for later.

To make the Neapoletana sauce – Heat the oil in a saucepan & sauté the onions & the garlic.  Once softened, add the basil & oregano & stir well.  Add the tomatoes & turn the heat down to a slow burble.  Leave this uncovered for 1 hour until the sauce has reduced slightly & the tomatoes have broken up.  Season with the sugar, salt & pepper & set aside for later.

To assemble the osso buco – Place your well-seasoned flour on a dinner plate & dust each beef shin in the flour.  Shake well & sear off in a very hot pan with a little olive oil.  Don’t crowd the pan, as the joints will not brown & seal properly.  Layer these browned beef shins in a large casserole with the vegetables, Neapoletana sauce & brown sauce.  Place the lid on the casserole or cover well with foil & place in a preheated oven at 180’C for 3 hours and not a minute less!

Toss all the ingredients together for the gremolata & chill before serving.  This dish is ideally served with pasta, specifically parpadelle or a similar long, thick tagliatelle pasta, but it is just as fabulous served with some fresh (preferably home-made) crusty bread, & accompanied by some awesome red wine.  We paired our osso buco with a Californian Cab Sav. which worked particularly well, or you could go for a 2007 Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block; it’s intense spicy notes, ripe plum & black fruit aromas accompany this dish perfectly.  I also paired this dish with a grilled vegetable herb salad, as we had a fairly healthy crowd round the table.

Buon appetito!

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I decided to capitalize on the public holiday & went out to Stellenbosch to stock up my stash of wine.  Between all the gorgeous estates, we felt compelled to stop off & do a tasting at Kleine Zalze.  A lovely case of wine later, we exited only to find ourselves right in the middle of the Terrior action.  “Dessert?” he offered.  “Absolutely” came the reply.  You know life is good when you just eat pudding.  So we sat down at the only available table on the terrace – it seemed as if they’d saved it just for us – and ordered coffee & pud.  Let’s see what Chef is offering today shall we?

Can you decide?  I couldn’t.  I was kinda expecting them to have my favourite favourite: crème brûleé.  And they did.  Only it has been changed from the classic baked custard with the hard caramel topping we all know I adore so much.  It came with a passionfruit caramel jelly topping & was served with coconut sorbet.  Let’s see how that came out…

If I’m honest, I’m loathe to say a bad word about Terrior & their food because I am one of their biggest fans.  Truly.  But I couldn’t help myself today.  My dessert wasn’t great.  The texture of the custard seemed as if there was a bit of gelatine featuring somewhere in there in order for the pud to be unmoulded.  Not cool.  I’m not a fan of passionfruit except when you cut them open & suck the sloppy membrane out.  Sounds delightful, right?  So I pulled the jelly topping off & got stuck in.  The coconut sorbet sat on a bed of toasted fresh coconut bits, which I thought was a nice touch, and the sorbet had been sprinkled with black sesame seeds, which weren’t entirely befitting the theme of the dish, but added to the visual appeal.  If we lived in the land of “Give everything a score out of ten”, I’d give it a 4.  Sorry guys.  I feel wretched.  Even the waitress was surprised when I didn’t clear my plate.

Now, it’s not all bad.  That’s right – always leave the best for last, I say.  My guy ordered the chocolate fondant, and he was bang on the money.

A soft, gooey fondant that had a great balance of cocoa & chocolate – not too bitter & not too sweet.  There were different flavored ganache drops underneath each ice-cream scoop, which were scoffed before I even got close, but one was peanut, one was horlicks & the other was chocolate.  The ice cream for me was the piece de resistance because Chef had attempted (& struck culinary gold) hazelnut ice cream, which was perfect.  I liked that it still had a few grainy bits of nuts, which added another dimension to the texture.  The little ball of spun sugar on top of the fondant entertained My Lovely enormously, as he was taken back to his childhood to the days of eating candy floss.  “Candy floss is spun sugar, baby!?” Yes my darling.  Just sugar.  This from a doctor, who witnesses complex medical anomalies on a regular basis.  Shock, surprise & ecstasy over sugar.   Love it!  The tuile was cute, very crispy & paper-thin & there was a lovely tangy red berry coulis, just to add a bit of tartness.  Always essential for a tart to be present.  All in all, a brilliant dish.  Wonderfully executed.  Go team!!  Definitely a win for the Terrior okey pokes.  They may have lost me as a new-age brûleé convert, but they certainly haven’t lost me altogether.  See you soon darlings!  Mwah x

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Admittedly today was always going to be a me-day.  Solo run at the crack of dawn, got all my errands done, even bought myself a wonderful new recipe book!  Tres indulgent!  So it made sense that I’d get in the kitchen, clatter together a few pots and pans and share some yumminess with my BFFs.  Mussels seemed like a sensible choice seeing as though we are technically rocking an Autumn vibe.  I was thinking white wine – a good Chardonnay – parsley, garlic… and then it hit me.  I’m such a fan of Gremolata**, (actually fan doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about the stuff) why not incorporate those flavours into some mussels?  I serve mine with thin slices of grilled ciabatta, but they go just as nicely with big chunks of warm bread to soak up all that saucy sauce!

This is how it goes… (serves 4)

1kg fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 cup good quality Chardonnay

1/2 tsp dried red chillies

1 fresh bay leaf

For the Gremolata**

1 handful fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

4 medium size fresh garlic cloves, smashed into a paste

2 anchovy fillets, smashed into a paste

1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated

1 tbsp olive oil

And then…

Heat your olive oil in a saucepan & get your onions sautéing.  You’re wanting them to sweat gently until they go translucent, so ensure your heat is fairly low.  Once the onions are soft turn up the heat, pour in the white wine and add the bay leaf & dried chillies.  Allow the wine to simmer or reduce down until you no longer smell a strong alcohol aroma.  This forms the basis of your steaming liquid and all these yummy flavours are going to have their way with those gorgeous mussels. They’ll never be the same!

Once your liquid has reduced, turn the heat up so that the wine starts boiling gently.  Toss in your mussels, put the lid on & give the pot a shake.  The mussels will take about 3-5 minutes to steam open, if you see any that are still firmly closed pick them out and throw them away*

Transfer the mussels and their scrummy juices to serving bowls.  Stir together all the ingredients for the Gremolata & spoon this liberally over the mussels.  Arm yourself with a loaf of bread, roll up your sleeves and dig in!  Don’t forget the bib!

* A tip on buying & selecting mussels: always buy from a reputable fish monger, never on the side of the road (that rule applies to most things in life!).  Red tide is a nasty occurrence of higher-than-normal levels of microscopic toxic algae in sea waters and is very dangerous if contaminated shellfish is ingested.  Make sure your mussels have shiny, unbroken shells.  Get them home as soon as you can and cover them in fresh water.  Scrub off all the beards and any barnacles, and discard any shells/mussels that have cracks in them.  If air gets inside your mussel, he’s going to die.  I don’t think I need to say that that is going to taste pretty wretched, non? If any of the mussels are already open, this means that they have kicked the bucket.  Above rules apply: discard immediately.

** Gremolata is traditionally served as an accompaniment to the Italian stew Osso Buco.  It’s fresh, zesty flavours add another dimension entirely to the rich, slow cooked tomato-based stew of veal shin.

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