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Myrna Robins

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Cookbooks

CAPE MEDITERRANEAN BY Ilse van der Merwe, published by Stuik Lifestyle, 2019.

 

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Neither heritage nor nostalgic - the contents of this colourful hardback focus on the fare you would find on long lunch tables, set in vineyards, on patios or under beach umbrellas. The meal starts with breads and spreads, goes on to tapas-like starters, followed by generous salads and vegetable dishes around crisp roasts or grilled seafood. Such appetising scenes can be found all over our country, but are more prevalent in the Western Cape, where the Mediterranean climate calls for seasonal, sustainable al fresco feasting.

The cuisine of the Med basin incorporates that of south-western Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, and is driven by olive oil, fruit, vegetables, seafood and wine, with some meat and dairy. Many South Africans who relish contemporary fare embrace CapeMed, as it also known, while still adding more poultry and meat than the northern cooks do.

Stellenbosch- born food writer and blogger Ilse still lives in this wineland town where she also finds time to be a TV presenter and recipe developer. With this, her first book as inspiration, cooks keen to turn to a healthier and very delectable diet will find the answer, from the opening chapter – Loaves, flatbreads and pizza – to the finale of mostly fruit-driven desserts.

Delving into the contents, we find that the array of breads, both yeasted and flat, include smoky cheese sticks and olive and feta focaccia. Among the dips and spreads you will find smoked snoek pâté followed by Bo-kaap harissa paste, adding classic Cape favourites to others like tzatziki, pesto, hummus and tapenade..

Ilse dubs her chapter of starters or small plates Tapas, Terrines and Tasters, opening with panfried calamari tentacles with chorizo which precede vegetarian platters like grilled marinated sweet peppers with garlic and olive oil, shellfish delights such as roasted garlicky prawns with lemon and herbs and finishes with some beautiful terrines – free-range duck liver and hot-smoked trout.

Sustaining fare for chilly days can be found in the chapter on soups, chowders and stews. Cooks with time on their hands should love the Cape style bouillabaisse, those who want supper served in 30 minutes will be drawn to the black mussel and tomato stew. When mountain peaks are snow-capped it’s time to make her Italian-style white bean soup with Karoo lamb while vegetarians will relish leek and potato soup with mature gouda.

The salad section offers favourites that most of us know and rely on, from Caprese to Caesar, tabbouleh to roasted beetroot – and more. The chapter on Pasta. Potatoes andRrice offers no less than three recipes for gnocchi, starring potato, butternut and semolina, and they all look delicious.

Compared to the typical South African cookbook the section on roasts and grills is short, starring the ever-popular slow-roasted leg of lamb, coq au vin using local Riesling and yellowtail, stuffed and braaied.

Summer stone fruit, figs, granadillas and berries star in indulgent desserts, along with a few preserves . The index completes the text of this appetising collection, beautifully photographed by Tasha Secombe. The title is, I noticed, published by Linda de Villiers, now retired, who also proofread the text – which explains the fact that this is one cookbook where I failed to find a single error... 

“The way we love to eat” is the subtitle on the cover, to which many Kapenaars would answer “is there any other way?”

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Fans of Italian fare (and isn’t that nearly everyone?) should diarise October 5 and 6 when the first Festa Italiana will take place in Milnerton at the Italian Club.

The club will be transformed into an Italian street fair, such as you find in Rome, Milan, Naples, Venice and Palermo. All things Italian will be the focus, with food and cooking playing a major role. Italian cars to drool over will prove popular while wine, fashion, music, arts and crafts are all on the menu.

Author and foodie Grazia Barletta will demonstrate Italian culinary dishes, ahead of launching her third book, Delicious Italian Moments. Expect to see her produce Peperonata and Amaretti Semifreddo. Her demos start at 11am on Saturday and 14,45pm on Sunday.

Giovanni and Gabriella Esposito, a father and daughter duo will also be demonstrating cooking, while Davide Ostuni will show us how to make authentic mozzarella cheese.

The programme is packed with two days of exciting activities with something for all age groups. As the organisers say, Italian brands are highly sought after and popular in every culture. From la Scala Opera to the Florentine arts, fashion icons, gastronomic delights and automotive brands, “Made in Italy “is in class of its own.”

 

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Tickets can be bought through Webtickets or at the door on the day. Costs are R80 for adults, R55 for pensioners and children from 12 – 18. Children under 12 go in free. The Italian Club is at 16 Donegal Street, Rugby, Milnerton.

 

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Posted by on in Cookbooks

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THE SOUTH AFRICAN VEGAN COOKBOOK

By Leozette Roode, published by Human & Rousseau,  Cape Town, 2018

The first of its kind in South Africa, this compilation of vegan recipes also offers readers who may be contemplating a vegan lifestyle much information, from basic equipments, answers to common questions, vegan alternatives for everyday products and menu ingredients using locally sourced products.

Last year veganism and its advocates became more frequent on South African culinary websites along with articles on the subject in the print media. This year sees more of the same, so that – while this country is, and is likely to remain, populated by avid meat-eating urban and rural South Africans, the number of vegetarians and vegans is sure to be increasing. Probably among the younger generation, who – if they stay the pace – will mean a larger number of older folk will bring up their families without eating meat in the near future. Time will tell.

Meanwhile this is the first local vegan cookbook to appear on our book store shelves, and author Leozette is well-equipped to write it: She is an international blogger, recipe developer and demonstrator of vegan recipes and ideas and has aimed, in this book, to offer readers 100 easy-to-follow, inexpensive and quick recipes.

Her journey from meat-eating to veganism is well- described in her introduction. Here she also offers facts on why going vegan is good for the environment, citing water resources needed to raise red meat and poultry, the quantity of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere while raising animals and the huge areas of our land that are required either for grazing these animals or growing crops to feed them. She also offers a useful list of vegan-friendly alternatives to meat, dairy, confectionery and other products – including wines.

Recipes start with breakfast ideas, including some berried smoothies and chocolate granola, follow with snacks like tandoori cauliflower bites and move to lunch choices that range from simple soups like zucchini “noodle” soup and multigrain salads to chicken-style salad cups and chilli con carne using soya mince. Some of the pasta dishes will tempt non-vegan eaters as well.

In the bakes offered as teatime treats the alternative ingredients are more obvious – eggs replaced with flaxseed powder, milk by almond or soya milk, butter by coconut oil, etc. But the results – muffins, scones, cakes and sweet tarts – look very appetising in the full page colour photographs.

Recipes for supper and grander occasions complete the menu and the recipe index ends the text.

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HOMEGROWN  by Bertus Basson, published by Russel Wasserfall Food, Jacana Media, 2016.

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It would be difficult to find a more fitting title for this collection of recipes, memories and snatches of  Basson’s life.  He is one of South Africa’s most down-to-earth chefs, describing himself as “an Afrikaner kid who didn’t eat his vegetables” and that the “flavours, smells and memories of growing up in South Africa make me the cook I am.”

Bertus gained immediate fame as the judge on the television show The Ultimate Braai Master, but before that had built a fine gastronomic reputation as head of  the renowned Overture restaurant in Stellenbosch   - along with a couple of others and a catering company.  In his foreword he offers a great tribute to his wife Mareli who is as keen on cooking as he is, as curious about good food everywhere, and who he describes as his “perfect parner for this journey...”

Given the tough time that sugar is having in  current  health-wise diets and articles, cookbooks and television shows, Homegrown offers a nice contrast by opening with a favourite dessert in  Childhood, the first chapter. It stars  sugar, cream, caramel, confectionery,  you name it...   It’s followed by his Kos Kos salad, canned pilchards in tomato sauce teamed with lettuce, cucumber, avo, tomato and soft- boiled eggs, mayonnaise-dressed with capers adding a little sophistication. Messy and delicious, it’s another  childhood staple that Basson  describes as poor man’s Nicoise.  This nostalgic section also offers braaied snoek, pumpkin pie, sweet mustard tongue, frikkadels, and melktert with variations.

Friends and family from his ‘hood who cook and bake star next, with Bertus featuring  both the characters and their specialities. These  range from bread and scones to Gatsby and peri-peri chicken, from  shisanyama of mielies and braaied brisket to  boerewors rolls, pies, and pannekoek.  To finish,  commonplace guavas get a lift with classic muscadel-spiked  egg custard.

In the chapter dubbed Ingredients, things go upmarket somewhat – soft-cured biltong is served with greens, Parmesan shavings,  anchovies and black olives. Whole roast lamb’s liver is paired with sorrel  or parsnips and green beans, and Basson’s favourite, black  mussels come with beer, bacon and seaweed. Octopus shares a plate with  gnocchi and nasturtium paste.

There’s much more before the final meal, a long  family Sunday lunch where slow- roasted  leg of lamb and veggies are  followed by his wife Mareli’s  popular dessert cake, topped with figs, pecans and cream.

The text is interspersed with a great selection of relevant photographs – at the sea, in the garden, on the farm, in the kitchen. Guest cooks are photographed in action or showing off their culinary creations, and the food pictures are appetising as well.

This collection offers   an enjoyable range of mostly traditional South African fare with a few twists and turns and little ceremony. The text finishes with a glossary and index. The editing could have been a little tighter here and there –  ingredients missing in either the list or the method  were noted, although I did not go through every recipe – but one feels that neither Bertus nor most readers will let these typos upset them

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In an era when as many cookbooks seem to get published as thrillers, and when the majority of current titles are of a high quality, most writers, cooks and publishers look for some kind of Wow! factor to distinguish their work and attract readers.

In the case of this hardback, there is no attempt to rivet the reader with a stunning cover, amazing food or a glamorous cook. On the contrary, the plain black cover is deliberately devoid of illustration, using lower case letters to give us a one-word title, a one-word sub-title and the writers’names life partners Nikki Werner and Brandon de Kock.

The title page informs us that “this is not a cookbook. It’s a book about cooking.” Ah. But it’s magazine editor Kate Wilson’s foreword that fills in the gaps here, as she recalls time spent with Nikki as she rose up the food editor ranks: long before this young journalist reached culinary heights, she was already a dedicated cook, a food nerd, who passed on her passion for beautiful ingredients and authentic techniques to partner Brandon. Not only did he embrace the alchemy of food with aplomb, but added his yen for its history, making dinner parties in their home quite an occasion.

We learn how, for his 40th birthday, all he wanted was a great pizza. So he and Nikki went to Naples to find it in the city’s top pizzeria. As Kate Wilson remarks, that’s dedication!

In this treasury of information and techniques, the pair set out to share their experiences and much practical research to help keen cooks take their skills from good to great, to arm them with a collection of trustworthy foundation recipes . They have arranged the content into concepts , each with a recipe that best illustrates it. Most readers will be taken aback to see the opening ingredient is – wait for it - popcorn and it is accompanied by a five-step guide to making a batch of perfectly popped puffy corn clouds.

After much ado about knives and chopping, garlic and leaves, followed by making classic vinaigrettes, the “study in simplicity” is their green salad with parmesan and pine nuts – truly hard to beat when made with perfect, fresh ingredients. From there they move on to cooking chicken breast fillets that are moist, perfectly cooked and melt-in-the-mouth tender. This is a recipe I readily identify with as I, too, spent long hours trying to achieve the same result. Nikki’s three-minute chicken involves splitting the breasts horizontally, flattening them to achieve even thickness, lightly flouring them, then cooking them in hot oil for 1 and half minutes each side. White wine is added, the chicken is removed, the wine, briefly cooked, thickens with the flour, and is poured over the chicken. Voila!

Other sections focus on tomato-based sauces, various veggies, white sauce and recipes that use it, including advice on pasta, and mushroom base and variations. Lamb and rib-eye steak feature among the meat know-how, followed by potato, baked, mashed and roasted. The finale stars chocolate ganache, made to be poured generously over vanilla icecream, a classic dessert if there ever was.

Craig Fraser’s photographs of quality, simply styled fare are perfectly in keeping with this stylish compendium of information, presented by a pair who are both passionate and persuasive. The wow! factor will surface when readers produce their own culinary triumphs, and these will please the authors nearly as much as they do the cooks.

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