Jamie Who is a blog about everything. Except current affairs. And politics. Also science, sport, religion, celebrities, movies, media and marketing, technology, business and design. So...basically Jamie Who is a blog about food. All things food.

Friday, April 30, 2010

HQ - I am truly sorry I didn't mention this sooner

Ask Capetonians who makes the best steak and they get pretty animated. Answers will range from "their local" to "my wife". Some idiots will say Brad's Grill. Pfffffft. Shame. Others will throw in 1800 or Nelson's Eye. People who think they're clever will say "You know what? Spur makes a great steak". Let's be honest though, people who matter will say Carne or HQ.  I've written enough about Carne in the past but it dawned on me that I have never mentioned HQ. I realised this glaring error last night and felt like stripping naked and whipping myself the way that albino monk does in The Da Vinci Code. I was disgusted with myself. I immediately strolled across from &Union, where I was enjoying the redhead (if you know what this means congrats - gold star for you), to see if HQ was still that good. It was.  

For those of you who don't know, HQ was started by the team behind the renowned Caveau brand. How it works is this simple: they serve salad, sirloin and chips. For R155. You might be thinking how expensive that is, but let me dig deeper on your behalf. (It's a pleasure.) The steak is 35-day aged meat from free-range, grass-fed cattle brought in from Namibia. It is - quite simply - superb. Served with a Cafe de Paris butter and sliced for you, it is 250g of heaven. The chips are skinny frites and you can have as many as you want. Excellent in texture. Did I mention you can have as many as you want? The simple salad is a combination of fresh cos leaves and butter lettuce and is served with toasted pine nuts and parmesan shavings. If ever there was an example of how simple food can taste delicious this uninspiring-looking bowl is it. 

Desserts are a part of HQ that never seem to get the recognition they deserve. There are 10 classic versions to choose from, and at R25 each they are surprisingly good value. I tried the chocolate fondant, which was faultless. Light, and with the right amount of wobble factor (very technical cooking term there). 

We enjoyed a bottle of Haut Espoir Gentle Giant 2006 which, with a smooth body and warm, peppery notes, was a match made in steak heaven.

Is the steak the best in Cape Town? That is a debate that will probably never be settled. Is it better than Carne? Perhaps not. But throw in the sexy bar serving up some of Cape Town's finest cocktails, Jack Black on tap, gorgeous staff, the live music and overall vibe and it's a tough place to beat. 

You can call them on (021) 424-6373. 

P.S. HQ is pretty dim, making it tough to shoot. A flash just didn't do it any justice. My bad. 

Jamie Who

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two shitakes walk into a chopping board

These are two shitake mushrooms. I bought one of them at a market and one of them at a grocery store. That's why I love markets. 

What's that? I'm getting lazy. No, no, this has nothing to do with the day I've had. I swear. I'm not busy doing other things instead of this blog. I swear. I love you. Honestly. Wait, come back...

Jamie Who 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

6 Spin Street - Brace yourself

I'd like to talk about value-for-money here. I've said before on this blog that value-for-money doesn't mean cheap. What it means is value. For. Money. In other words I'm happy paying R100 for a burger if it is the best I've ever had, or R40 for a beer at &Union. I'll also happily accept a platter of sushi that isn't the greaaaatest if it was ridiculously cheap. If I want free-range lamb from a farm in the Karoo I will pay a premium for it. So...basically, when I eat at a restaurant, or when I shop for produce, I am expecting a direct relationship between what I pay for and what I get. It's pretty simple. Apparently the guys over at 6 Spin Street Restaurant are unfamiliar with the concept though, as I have never seen such a discrepancy between prices charged and quality of food. 

Let's start with the good points though. The restaurant is in a beautifully restored building in town. Pressed ceilings, an original fireplace, a stunning stone facade, huge arched picture windows and parquet flooring. The restaurant shares the space with a few racks of books (made to seem even more like a library by the fact that the atmosphere was deathly quiet) and art hangs on the walls. Really, it's a great space. 

I'm not going to spend too long on the food because...well because I get in a bad mood when I talk about it. Power had a piece of kingklip with a tomato and feta sauce which came in at R105. It was a piece of fish on a plate. I had their special of the day which was crispy duck. It was a piece of duck on a plate. When the bill arrived I discovered it was R175. I have eaten all over Cape Town and never been charged that much for duck. Forget the fact that it was actually extremely average. They were also running a special from Phillippa Cheifitz (who I love by the way), where you could try a few dishes from her book, South Africa Eats. Well, it's a great idea but unfortunately it was butchered. The tuna from Phillippa's recipe (which she serves with sweet potato soup) was overcooked so badly it was inedible. A yellowtail and haricot bean salad suffered similarly overcooked fish, was terribly dry and we left half of that too.  Service throughout the meal was appalling (let's keep in mind we were the only people there) and presentation of all the dishes was amateurish. In fact, I've been to loads of dinner parties where the host/hostess's food tasted and looked in another league. 

I understand teething problems but these guys have far more deep-rooted problems. You simply cannot charge these prices and get away with it. We have far too many other options in Cape Town. 

Oh, I drove around for 20 minutes trying to find parking. Good luck with that. 

Jamie Who

6 Spin Street is on...umm...Spin Street. Here is the web address www.6spinstreet.co.za

P.S. I didn't want to put a picture of the food up. I like my blog too much for that. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beef and wild mushroom stew served on butternut and celeriac mash

I had a good giraffe (laugh) the other night, watching TV. There's a show on BBC Food which is all about how some people are scared of food. Like, properly terrified of it. The particular episode I watched had a dude who freaked out every time you brought fruit or vegetables anywhere near him. I'm not kidding. He started sweating, shut his eyes and blocked his ears. It was truly bizarre and I laughed unashamedly. As the programme went on I realised it wasn't supposed to be funny. Not that this made me stop laughing. What was interesting to me was the reason the guy was so scared of the fruit and vegetables. You see..he didn't know what they were. He was scared of the unknown. Once I had figured this out the show became a lot more interesting to me. I say this because I am constantly trying to explain to people not to be scared of food. You can't learn unless you try things. Use ingredients you aren't familiar with. Buy whole foods and unusual cuts of meat. Get inventive. You'll find out soon enough the recipes you can come up with are limitless. 

A good example of a strange looking ingredient is celeriac. I spotted some in Woolies the other day and used it to take a pretty standard dish to a level that made it interesting. Here's how:

Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
  • 400g stewing beef, cut into chunks (I used free-range)
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • Half an onion, sliced
  • A red chilli, roughly chopped
  • A handful of mixed wild mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Half a cup of red wine (I used Cloof Very Sexy Shiraz. Use whatever you like but I do like the way a shiraz has the spiciness to support this dish)
  • Half a cup of water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 celeriac bulb, skin removed and cut into cubes
  • 1 butternut, skin removed and cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • A handful of parsley, roughly chopped with extra for garnish 
Okay, what to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 20o degrees celsius. In a deep pot fry your beef in olive oil until browned. Remove meat and set aside. 

2. Add onion and the mushrooms to the pot along with the red wine. Cook for a minute and add the garlic and chilli. Cook for another minute and add the tomatoes and the water. 

3. Return meat to pot, bring liquid to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook on a medium to low heat with the lid on for as long as you can. (3 hours or more is ideal. If you don't have time make sure it is at least 1 hour. Anything less and the meat will be tough). About 45 minutes before serving remove lid to allow liquid to reduce and thicken. Add the parsley at this stage. 

4. Place the butternut and celeriac in a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and add the paprika and cayenne pepper. Season with sea salt and black pepper and shake to make sure vegetables are covered. Cook for 20 minutes, remove and shake. Cook for 25 minutes more, remove and mash. 

5. To serve spoon celeriac/butternut mash into deep bowls and pour over some of the stew. Garnish with parsley. 

The celeriac is a funny-looking thing but it adds a great depth of flavour when combined with butternut. Together they work as a beautiful alternative to mashed potato and visually the dish is more attractive. How smooth you make the mash is up to you. Personally I like to leave it looking a bit rustic - I think the extra texture is a bonus. Of course, it's also a lot healthier than mashed potatoes which is another plus. 

There you have it. A nice little winter dish with an ingredient that you really have no right to be afraid to use. Give it a shot. What's the worst that could happen?

Jamie Who

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Joseph Joseph Elevated Utensil cooking range

So my lovelies I have finished my first review for Yuppiechef. Actually, I finished it a while ago but I had to put it on ice until their (very nicely designed) newsletter was ready. The good news is that today it went out. So click here to hear what I had to say. 

See what they did over there at Yuppiechef? They gave you a little pic of me. Naughty...

Jamie Who

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bombay Brasserie - Delicious

There's a true story in the world of sneakers. It's a long one and you can Google it if you have the will or the time but basically it involves two German brothers. The Dassler brothers. Named Rudolf and Adolf, these two became estranged mainly as a result of their differing views on Hitler and the nazi movement in the 1930's. At the time, they were involved in shoe-manufacturing. After the fall-out, Rudolf left to set up his own company (Puma), while Adolf stayed behind and re-named his shoes, Adidas (Adi Dassler - see what he did there?) What makes the story really cool, as these two went head to head, was the close proximity of their factories. The story goes that they could actually see each other across the Aurach River. So what does this have to do with anything? And why did it pop into my head when I ate at The Bombay Brasserie last week? Well my lovelies, the extra spice *ahem in the question "where is Cape Town's best Indian restaurant" lies in the close proximity of two if its contenders. 

Just down the drag from the newly renovated Bukhara, Bombay Brasserie has opened to generally glowing reviews. I stopped by last week to check it out and was impressed for a few reasons. Firstly, the staff. Everybody was world-class. In particular, Phineas, who we were lucky enough to have serving us. He was brilliant. In fact, I would go so far as to say he is the best waiter I have ever had. Thumbs-up to the man. 

The decor is plush, and serves as a good indication for what they are trying to achieve at Bombay Brasserie - which is elevating Indian food to a fine-dining level. (Something, as pointed out by JP Rossouw on his blog, Bukhara achieved when they first opened their doors, many years ago.) There's soft lighting, show-stopping chandeliers, thick velvet curtains, white orchids, oversized mirrors, rich wallpaper etc. adding to a good feel. One plus, for me, is the size. At only 40 covers a night, Bombay clearly has the edge over Bukhara in terms of creating an intimate and elegant dinner. The flip side of the coin being that the atmosphere was quiet. Almost too quiet. Bordering on dull.  

So...the food. With diners being encouraged to share, we did just that. Starters were both vegetarian and consisted of apricot and potato cakes (perfect texture) and steamed lentil dumplings. The dumplings were phenomenally light - a result of being held together by just a hint of chickpea, rather than an overpowering binding agent.

For mains we enjoyed a lamb shank, cooked in a saffron broth, and a prawn masala. The shank was put in front of me. I reckon I could've made the meat fall right off the bone if I stared hard enough. Meltingly tender and beautifully seasoned with the delicate saffron. The prawns, as is often the case with a curry, was a battle between aromatic vs. hot - the latter winning pretty comfortably. Our side dishes were a garlic naan bread (too small but thoughtfully cut into two already) and beautiful sauteed spinach with fried garlic. I didn't know spinach could be that good and owe it mainly to the consistency they achieved; almost a puree but not quite. 

Desserts are often relegated to an afterthought in Indian eateries but we ended off with some cardomon ice cream, which certainly deserves praise. 

Something worth mentioning is the strong emphasis on wine pairings which I found refreshing for an Indian restaurant. With so many spices and flavours on offer in each dish it is a sommelier's dream and I enjoyed hearing the thought processes behind the selected wines. The added bonus is a good selection of wines by the glass, albeit at fairly steep prices. We enjoyed some Teddy Hall Reserve Chenin Blanc 08. Shame...

The place is hard on the wallet and I can already hear people complaining about portion sizes. At R350 -R400 per head it is unashamedly positioning itself in the fine dining category. I'm interested to see who wins the Bukhara Bombay Brasserie Battle. 

Jamie Who

P.S. I tried to get some pics but the romantic lighting made it tricky and a flash would not have done it justice. I'm going to try and source some though so please be patient. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kitima Sunday Buffet - A steal

The words "all you can eat" and "buffet" - when used in one sentence - are generally enough to strike fear deep into my soul. I stay way from these offers the same way I wouldn't go to Pep and buy "all the clothes I could wear".  The point I'm making is that quality, as a rule of thumb, is compromised at these special offerings. But, as they say, there is always an exception to the rule. In this case it is Kitima in Hout Bay. 

I used to go there for their Sunday buffet pretty often. Too often probably. I got a bit tired of it. But, after enjoying a birthday party for The Gym Nazi a few weeks ago, and after seeing their new cocktail lounge, I was keen to give it another go. I had given it more than a year and figured I was ready. 

Those of you who haven't been to Kitima will be floored by how beautiful the decor is. The venue is an old manor house and the place has been beautifully restored in a combination of colours and fabrics. Deep reds and blues are offset by delicate silks, lavish ornaments and over-the-top mirrors with gold frames. There are thick carpets running along dark wooden floors, stunning details on pressed ceilings and a new outside area beneath a bedouin tent. The new cocktail bar (I think it's called Raya Lounge?) is also a skoochie addition and a perfect place to have drinks before your meal. Or after. Or during. Or before, after and during. 

I have never eaten from their regular menu but in terms of what they throw out for a buffet you are spoilt for choice. There's sushi, duck springrolls, steamed dumplings, fried wontons, wok-fried noodles, tom-yum soup, pastries, green curries, beef stews and more. With nobody being able to tell me where the meet came from I stuck to sushi and vegetable dishes and nailed a creme brulee or two at the end. While nothing was mind-blowing, nothing was disappointing and at R195 per head I've got to say it is still the bargain I remember it as. 

As I have a habit of doing, I made up for the savings on food by ordering expensive wine and drinking too much of it but they had Moreson 2008 Premium Chardonnay. I mean, come now. If you can control yourself better than I did you can leave having enjoyed brilliant value-for-money. 

The buffet ends at 15h30 so book early (we went at 12h00) and settle in for a long, boozy lunch. There's no rush. I mean...it's Sunday. In Hout Bay.

Jamie Who 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quinoa salad with roast beetroot and caramelised onions.

Ok my lovelies, this entry is probably going to be my shortest ever. I'm extremely busy and have an important meeting to get to. Look it's at Caveau and yes, I will be drinking but don't you DARE feel like I am neglecting you to rush off and get drunk. You know I love you. So much. Kisses. 

Annnyway, here's what you'll need to feed 4:
  • A cup of quinoa 
  • 6 baby beetroots, quartered
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • A handful of basil, ripped
Okay, what to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and sea salt over the beetroot and onions and roast for 45 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, cook your quinoa on the stovetop as per the packet instructions. 

3. When your vegetables are cooked, remove and allow to cool. Chop finely. 

4. In a large bowl mix the quinoa into the vegetables and add the parsley and basil. Add a good glug of olive oil (the best you have) 

5. To serve, place in the middle of a large plate. Drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar around the salad. 

Told you it was going to be quick. Don't be fooled though, this salad will make you weep. It's that good. 

Now excuse me. Chardonnay and brainstorming awaits. And we all know how well those two go together. 

Jamie Who 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Twankey Bar - You will be sick of me very soon

We've spoken about the foodie club before. It's a weird bunch. I'm a member. You're a member. You also get fake members. Or, as I like to call them, wankers. These people are the ones who order the most expensive bottle of wine instead of the best. They are also convinced they know everything there is to know about food. Real members of the club (yes, that's me and you in case you haven't gathered so far) are aware that you can never know enough about food. There are always new techniques, trends, flavour combinations etc to learn. And what happens when you do discover something new? Well...it's a revelation of sorts. Last night, having a few drinks before eating at Bombay Brasserie, (review to follow) it happened to me.   

We'll get to that just now though. Let's first talk about the general vibe at Twankey Bar, on the corner of Wale and Adderley. As part of the Taj Hotel they have done well to create a separate entrance. So you don't feel like your sitting in a bar at a hotel. Nice. Inside the eye immediately takes in the beautiful marble bar. It's a beaut. There are raised, cushioned chairs instead of uncomfortable stools, lower versions, some leather wingbacks and one or two booths. The place is sexy but discreet at the same time. Like Mrs. Jackson who taught me Chemistry all those years. Annnnnyway...that's neither here nor there. What becomes quickly obvious at Twankey is the attention they have paid to the food. And in particular (and here comes my "light form the heavens" moment) the pairing of oysters with Guinness. Wow. I had never tried it but was instantly hooked. Something about the thick, velvety Guinness and the delicate oyster was..well..it was f-ing amazing. As explained by James, the food and beverage manager for The Taj, it is their intention to introduce this to as many people as possible. In fact - and don't tell him I told you this - if you go there right now and order oysters they bring you some Guinness. For free. To try. With the oysters. For free. With the oysters. 

The rest of the menu is vastly superior to any other pub fare I have seen in this country and had things like quail sitting happily next to chilli poppers. 

With Jack Black on tap and the entire &Union range proudly on display, you know where to find me on a Friday from now on. And Thursdays. Because it's Phuza Thursdays. Maybe Wednesdays. Because let's face it Wednesdays are the mini-Fridays. And Saturdays. (Did I mention there is a nice big TV showing sport?)  

With brilliant service, a winelist that clearly champions the little guy, a passionate manager and a vibe that generally just makes me feel skoochie inside, Twankey has jumped to my number 1 spot in terms of after work drinks. According to James they are going to be very strict on how many people they let in on a busy night. Just another reason to leave work early tomorrow. 

Jamie Who

P.S. I did take more pics than this but I'm having some camera issues. I'll try and get them up tomorrow. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fig, raspberry and almond cake

I got a quiet reminder from some of the guys I had over for lunch the other day that I had forgotten to post the dessert I made. With a bit of a chocolate hangover from Easter I figured this was a good time to stick it up on these pages. I got the idea for this recipe from the awesome Kylie Kwong and chose to use the ingredients because they are beautifully in season at the moment. Any fruit can be used but honestly, why would you not want to use figs? 

Stuff you'll need to make a cake for 8-10 people:
  •  3 figs, stems removed and cut lengthways
  • Two-thirds of a cup of self-raising flour
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 cups of almond meal (ground almonds are fine)
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated orange zest
  • 8 egg whites
  • 185g of butter, melted
  • 1.5 tablespoons of milk
  • A punnet of fresh raspberries
  • 1.5 teaspoons of brown sugar
Okay, what to do:

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Lightly grease a 23cm cake tin and line the base and sides with a double layer of baking paper. Make sure it sticks out a bit over the rim of the tin. 

2. Sift icing sugar and flour into a large bowl. Stir in almond meal and orange zest until well combined. 

3. Place egg whites in a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork. (You don't need peaks, you just want the egg whites to break down slightly).

4. Add egg whites, butter and milk to almond mixture and stir until everything is mixed in. Fold through half the raspberries. DON'T OVER-MIX. 

5. Pour half the mixture into the cake tin and add the remaining raspberries. Pour remaining mixture over the top. Push sliced figs into mixture at a slight angle. (How you do this is up to you but I like it to look "haphazard". The rustic vibe is cooler I think)

6. Sprinkle over the sugar and place in oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Start checking after an hour though. You know it is done when you can insert a skewer/knife and remove it cleanly. If the top is becoming too brown cover with tinfoil. 

Now the hard part. You have to leave the beautiful thing in the tin for 10 minutes before you turn it over onto a wire rack. It's tough to wait. 

You can serve this either hot or cold, which makes it a great dessert to make in advance. Oh, and please throw on a scoop of proper vanilla ice cream. I mean, come now. 

Jamie Who 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Emily Moon - Date night

If you can find a restaurant more romantic than Emily's at Emily Moon River Lodge, just outside of Plett, I'd like to know about it. I'd also like you to take a photo of that parallel universe you live in and send it to over to planet Earth where I live. 

It might be the phenomenal views of the Bitou River. It might be the love letters featured in the menu design. It might be the collection of eclectic artifacts. It might be the weathered wooden sculptures and leather upholstery. It might be the fact that I'm generally tipsy when I arrive. I don't know what it is. But the whole vibe is magical. If ever you are looking to impress a date, this is the place. Honestly, I reckon Wayne Ferreira's ugly brother could seal the deal in there. There are loungers around the pool, tables on a balcony which are perfect for pre-drinks and a recently-completed shop in an upstairs room. Style drips from everywhere. 

I had doubts though, mostly because of a past experience with the chef. Stereotypical in his moodiness, the man seems to be unaware of how lucky he is to have such an amazing venue. Last year when The Queen (she was only a mere Princess at the time) and I were scouting for wedding venues we set up a meeting with him. You might not know this about me but I quite like food. So you can imagine how I felt when I told him what I was thinking for our menu and he simply said "that's not wedding food." Look, I am aware that fish and chips and bunny chows might not be for everyone but that's what we wanted. He should have been excited by something a bit different but instead we told him to piss off and found another venue. (One that made awesome fish and chips and a beautiful gourmet version of a bunny chow by the way!!!)

Anyway, back to the chef and back to Emily's. After firing a few questions at our waitress (very good by the way) it was pretty obvious that the chef in question had taken more of a management role and was not really in charge of the kitchen. Well, this was a bit of a blessing actually and the food we all enjoyed was better than I have ever had at Emily's! We started with a 24-piece sushi platter from the new sushi bar (yip, the most beautiful place in the country now has a sushi bar) and a goat's cheese and artichoke salad. The artichokes weren't fresh but the vinegar they were kept in actually worked brilliantly as a dressing. I'm not sure if they meant this but let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Fresh gooseberries married nicely and added necessary sweetness. The sushi was brilliant. Deep red tuna, clearly not frozen and the usual salmon roses, california rolls and nigiri. All good. And at R99, an absolute steal. 

For mains I had the linefish, which was the interesting Panga. Quite an unusual fish, and not seen on many menus, I would compare it to Red Mullet. Dusted and shallow-fried, it was exceptional. I also tasted delicious sirloin from Karan, which was a massive slab of meat. In fact, it was too big and after seeing the amount of fat that was left by The Dragon, the general consensus was why not just serve a smaller piece but with less fat? Surely a better idea? The Queen had a mussel and prawn pasta, baked in tinfoil. Good, but not excellent. For desserts I ended things off with an excellent creme brulee, perfect consistency of custard and a nice thin, crisp caramel.

Emily's. The most beautiful, romantic, gorgeous setting anywhere in the country. Now with a tapas menu, a sushi bar and some new energy in the kitchen. Let's hope the food starts doing the venue justice. So far, so good. 

Jamie Who


Monday, April 12, 2010

Whole wheat linguini with blue cheese, walnuts and wild rocket

Jeeeeeeeeez, I hate it when people say "oh this? I just made this with whatever ingredients I could find". Sure you did. That quail just happened to be in the freezer. So I understand if you're going to be pissed off with me starting this recipe with "I just made this from stuff I had lying around." But honestly, I did. See...I insist on having some cheese in the fridge. Good cheese. Strong cheese that smells. Unashamedly. Like it's proud to be stinky. Anyway, I had some unbelievable blue cheese in my fridge and (inspired by the classic waldorf salad) I used it as the base for this recipe. It is embarrassingly easy to make. 

As with any dish, the better the ingredients the better the dish. When it is this simple though, that philosophy is even more important. So get the best you can. 

Okay, stuff you'll need to feed 4:
  • A block of blue cheese the size of a tennis ball, torn into chunks. 
  • A packet of whole wheat linguini (or any long pasta) 
  • The zest of three lemons
  • A handful of walnuts
  • A big bunch of wild rocket 
Okay, what to do:

1. Cook the pasta as per the instructions. 

2. Drain pasta and add blue cheese immediately so it begins to melt. 

3. Add the lemon zest, the rocket and the walnuts. Stir through pasta to ensure everything is mixed properly. 

4. To serve, place in deep bowls and drizzle over some extra-virgin olive oil. (The best you have. I'm a big fan of Tokara and Willow Creek) 

Yip, that's it. Could be the easiest recipe I've ever put up here. Which is proof that tasty food doesn't have to be fancy food. 

Jamie Who

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Ski Boat Club - Average. At best.

Whisperings were filtering through Plett about a place that served the best fish and chips in the area. Big call. Huge call actually when you consider The Deck, Emily Moon's, Enrico's, Off the Hook and...my house. I was told it was the choice of locals. That's normally a good sign. Unfortunately, Crocs are the footwear of choice for a lot of the locals. Ignoring this I went searching. I found the spot easily enough. It is on Main beach with a great view of the famous Beacon Isle. The only signage was a tatty sign that read "Ski Boat Club". Tatty is a word that describes pretty accurately the entire experience. 

Firstly, I'm all for a place that is cheap and cheerful. In fact, fish and chips taste best when served that way in my opinion. And that is what the Ski Boat Club offers. Tomato sauce from plastic red bottles. Proper vinegar. Tables made of pine wood. Walls made of pine wood. Actually, the entire place made was made of pine wood. You know the vibe. We were seated outside and if you could ignore the sunburnt poms and screaming kids (which I never can) things were pleasant enough. We ordered the fish and chips (what else would you order) and waited. And waited. And waited. After two polite enquiries the food arrived and part of me wish it hadn't. The batter was disturbingly yellow, a clear sign I told a by-now-horrified-Queen of the cleanliness of the oil it was cooked in.  Look, the fish beneath it was fresh at least and the chips were delicious. Luckily I had gone for grilled hake. Well, I say luckily but let's not get carried away. I spent a good amount of time pulling bones from my teeth. And not little bones. Like baby elephant tusks. The actual fish, when I found some, was good enough.

Worth a trip? Sure. For a beer in the sun and a meal to fill the gap. Best fish and chips in town? I hope not. The search continues.

Jamie Who 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zachary's - Memorable

If you follow me on Twitter (and why wouldn't you, I'm hilarious) you would have picked up by now that I'm swanning my way through the Garden Route at the moment. Last night I took time out from eating amazing food and drinking expensive wine at home to go to a restaurant. Where I ate amazing food and drank some expensive wine. 

The venue was Zachary's, Pezula Hotel, Knysna. Expectations were high. The problem with having such high expectations though - I've discovered in the past - is that they are often not met. So it gives me great pleasure to announce that not only were mine met last night, they were exceeded. And then some. 

The first thing that struck me upon arrival was the restaurant's warm decor. Interesting "tree" sculptures hanging above tables, modern art on the walls, awesome booths that had been cut into walls and padded and the obligatory white orchids made up the look. Lighting is soft and while maintaining an aura of "this place is the real deal" you feel very welcome at the same time. Service is world-class and consistently impressive. The valet dude (jokey). The hotel receptionist (chatty). The barman (funky). The sommelier (smiley). The general manager (witty). Every single person was on their game. 

Onto the food. We were presented with the set menu for the night which included an amuse bouche of smoked salmon and dried fig, free range quail with pomegranate and marula nuts, Chalmar sirloin with smoked potato puree, green beans and roast garlic, a chocolate banana cupcake with butter toffee mousse and chocolate ice cream and petit fours consisting of white truffles, mini coconut cakes and chocolate shavings. At R275 per person, I can go on record as saying it was the best value-for-money I have seen. Anywhere. Ever. The Queen, Pafoof and The Dragon all opted for this and two of them couldn't even finish their meal, such was the generous portion size. (I obviously ate what they couldn't manage.) The Bear opted instead for a beef fillet from Karan which was the only disappointment of the evening. Under-seasoned and some of it way too rare for the medium he ordered. (What's that? Who ate it? I did. What's your point?)

And then there was my meal. Wow. Kicked off with a rabbit terrine which was perfect in texture. Not the gelatinous mess that some can be. Seasoned well, and held together with a beautifully smoked strip of cured pork. Fantastic. Next was a roasted duck breast which was served with a parsnip puree, the smallest baby beetroot I have ever seen and baby shitake mushrooms so delicate they were kept raw. At this stage I felt my review was going to be more of a love letter so I started looking for faults. I found none. And if I was impressed, I slipped quietly into delirious with the arrival of my dessert. A white chocolate tart with..wait for it...roast butternut ice-cream. One of the stand-out dishes of my short career. As a combination the flavours married beautifully and I got - I think - a small taste of what people probably experience when eating Heston Blumenthal's food. My eyes and brain were seeing butternut but my tastebuds were getting ice-cream. The whole thing was almost surreal. Truly an unforgettable plate of food. Oh, did I mention I was sipping Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2004 and Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2006? Yeah, that added to the occasion. And on the subject of wines, theirs must surely rate as one of the best in the country. 

All in all, I wouldn't just recommend Zachary's, I would insist on it. Yes, the regular menu might be a bit pricey but it's an experience. The chef, Goffrey Murray, is so dedicated to source local seasonal produce that he has started growing them himself. With local fruit, vegetables and herbs on his doorstep the food speaks for itself. He didn't quite crack Eat Out's top 10 restaurants in their 2009 edition, but with this quality of food on offer he is surely not just knocking on the door. He is banging it down. 

Call them on 0443 02 3333.

Jamie Who 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mixed green vegetable salad

Part 2 in the Easter Feast special here. I am going to make this entry short mainly because it's supposed to show how easy the recipe is. Also, quite a big part of me wants to go drink a glass of Chardonnay at Cornuti. 

This is called the green vegetable salad because...umm...because that's what it is. I literally buy as much green shit as I can and throw it all into a salad. I was lucky enough to find some pumpkin seed sprouts at a food market so I added them. Obviously these are rare but you can use any microherbs as a substitute. Always top it off with some pumpkin seeds and shaved pecorino/parmesan or similar cheese. The visual contrast is pretty cool. 

Okay, stuff you need to feed 6: 
  • A few handfuls of rocket
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach
  • 2 Avocados
  • A handful of microherbs or your favourite herbs (flat-leaf parsley is a good one)
  • A bunch of tenderstem brocolli
  • A punnet of sugarsnap peas
  • A cup of frozen peas (This is one that I have no problem cooking from frozen)
  • About 5 medium-sized courgettes, sliced lengthways as thinly as possible
  • Some pecorino shavings 
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds
Okay, what to do:

1. Blanch your vegetables in boiling water. When done plunge them into a bowl of iced water. This will keep the electric green colour. 

2. Rub your courgettes with olive oil and cook over a braai or in a griddle pan. You want them to have charred lines. 

3. Throw your herbs into a big bowl and mix in the vegetables. Halve the avo, remove the pip and scoop the flesh out with a teaspoon. Add avo to bowl. Add some good olive oil and mix to ensure everything is coated. 

4. To serve arrange salad on a platter and garnish with the pumpkin seeds and cheese. Find the best balsamic vinegar you have and use it to dress. 

I sincerely hope you managed that one. If not, maybe we should just quit now. No hard feelings. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get my drink on. 

Jamie Who

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Deboned leg of lamb, stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and blue cheese

Jeez I have eaten for the A-Team this weekend. Thanks to The Dragon our Plett headquarters is packed with chocolate. Like...packed. You can't move without knocking over a bunny or a rabbit. If you open a cupboard there's one staring at you. The fridge has them wedged in between fruit and vegetables. On top of the TV there are little bowls of white chocolate chickens. There are dark Lindt balls in the bedrooms. It's a joke. Honestly, I almost expect to see milk chocolate when I turn on my shower in the morning. And it doesn't stop with the chocolate. It seems Easter has become a bit of a general binge and the lunch we hosted for some family friends summed it all up. 

After visiting an amazing local butcher and a market in the morning I made olive-and-sundried tomato rolls, a huge mixed green vegetable salad, a butterflied leg of lamb stuffed with wild mushrooms, spinach and blue cheese and roasted tomato and basil pasta rice. The Queen weighed in with decadent chocolate brownies and ice cream. So yeah, it was a bit of a feast. I'm not going to do all the recipes in this single post because...well because I'm lazy and I'm on holiday in Plett and the beach is looking awesome. So I'm going to break them up for you. Let's start with the lamb shall we? 

Stuff you'll need to feed 10-12 people:
  • 2 deboned legs of lamb, about 1.5 kg each
  • About 750g of mixed wild mushrooms
  • Two big bunches of baby spinach
  • A good block of blue cheese
  • A handful of rosemary
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Okay, what to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Fry off the mushrooms in a little olive oil and set aside. 

2. Do the same with the spinach leaves, adding some water. This allows the leaves to steam and wilt down fairly quickly. Don't overcook the leaves - you still want a bit of bite and you want the green colour. 

3. Lay a leg of lamb on a large work surface. You will see the cavity where the bone used to be. Slide a knife in and cut through one side. Now carefully use the knife to cut as you roll the meat out. You are trying to flatten the meat so just cut wherever you think is right. Use the palm of your hand, a mallet or a rolling pin to beat the lamb down if you want. Repeat process for the other leg. 

4. Take your mushrooms and spinach and chop them as finely as possible. If you have a food processor use it. What you want is something that resembles pesto in consistency. 

5. Spread the mushroom and spinach mixture over one of the pieces of lamb. Add rosemary and garlic and season generously with salt and pepper. Crumble over the blue cheese. Place the other piece of lamb on top of the mixture. You should now have something that looks like a T-Rex sandwich. Season the outside of the meat again.

6. Wet some string and tie the two pieces firmly together. 

7. Take the tray you will cook the meat in and place over your stove. Turn all the hobs on high and pour in some olive oil. Place your meat in the tray and brown on all sides. 

8. When your meat has a nice golden colour, place the tray in the oven and cook for about an hour or until done. (use 20 minutes per 500g for pink lamb as a guideline)

9. Remove, cover with tinfoil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove string and carve into slices. 

10. To serve, place on a large platter carefully keeping the stuffing between the two pieces of meat. 

As I said, this went down with plenty of other stuff but there is no need to go so overboard. A couple of roasted potatoes, or a nice simple salad would be awesome. It would also work really well on a Weber. 

Jamie Who