November 2010

French flair a la Cape: Marlene van der Westhuizen

Chic South African Marlene van der Westhuizen is inspired by French flavours and classic techniques. When in Cape Town this industrious woman whips up gourmet meals, while in France she hosts tasty tours.
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This appeared in Indwe inflight magazine in Nov 2010

What keeps you busy in food? I’m a classically trained chef and I’ve produced a few cookbooks. I own a space I call the Food Studio in Green Point. Three times a year I host cooking holidays for foodies in Charroux, Auvergne in France.

Please explain the concept of the Food Studio. It’s a venue where we strive to cook excellent food at affordable prices. We offer lunches or dinners for 10 to 22 guests – I pair my dishes with wines on request - or host small groups of friends or colleagues for stress-free cooking classes.

How did you transform the Food Studio space? We renovated a semi-detached Victorian building in 2007. Upstairs my open-plan kitchen leads to a terrace and a dining area, plus guest bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s decorated with a few serious antique shop pieces plus some easygoing, fun items. I love the antique Murano chandelier I found in an Italian shop in St Germain in Paris.

We’ve heard tasty rumours about dinners on offer. Yes, I have capitulated under pressure from clients. We opened the Food Studio for individual dinners every Friday at eight. We’ve been running these since 19th October, charging R280pp for three courses. It’s a set menu and people can bring their own wine. Booking is essential.

What could I eat at the Food Studio? Comfortable “brasserie luxe” food. Onion soup, coq au vin, osso buco, oxtail, tarte tatin, orange pudding… Served with bread on the table while I cook with a glass in hand! All recipes are from my cookbooks: Delectable, Sumptuous, Lazy Lunches, Decadent Dinners, Kuierkos vir die Middag and Kuierkos vir die Aand. dsc_0001.jpg

You recently went to France to lead your gourmet tour. What happens? Guests stay with me at Bagatelle, our home in the medieval village of Charroux. We shop at local food markets, cook, walk and cycle. During a weeklong experience, we might browse for antiques at the Sunday brocante, eat at a local haunt, cook some more and taste wines.

Ingredients always in your fridge or pantry? Fresh eggs, full cream milk, tomatoes and ripe Brie. Collectively these make a perfect meal.

Your treasured foodie collectables? I love napkins… large antique ones. I have more than is strictly proper. And I have heaps of silver and bone cutlery.

Catering, Friday dinners and Charroux gourmet tour details at Food studio Tel 021 433 2259.

Feast for the eyes and stomach at Pierneef à La Motte

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It’s the eating venue in the Winelands that has people talking about – and filling tables at - on any day of the week. La Motte wine estate owns an extensive art collection by South African master artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, and it inspired their namesake restaurant. Many of Pierneef’s works are depicted on restaurant walls in a dramatic yet tasteful renovation and landscaping exercise.

The resulting fresh contemporary dining space has custom-designed chandeliers as a focal point - dangling porcelain bowl designs were inspired by the eighteenth-century porcelain brought to the Cape by Dutch East India Company ships. Harmonizing ceramic lampshades light the open kitchen area and show off an imported oven with gold knobs – chef Chris Erasmus jokes that it has a similar price tag to a Maserati sports car…

The food reflects similar attention to detail. Erasmus and culinary consultant Hetta van Deventer researched early Cape culinary history in the Cape archives and adapted recipes from European cookbooks popular in the 17th and 18th century. But this isn’t boerekos. Erasmus’ fine dining background produces complex, aesthetically appealing “Cape Winelands cuisine”. dsc_0007.jpg

Worth trying: the hearty king’s bread on a rich, meaty soup topped with a veal knuckle karmenaatjie ball. A meal in itself in chillier weather.
Tasty Cape bokkom salad with thyme-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, quail eggs and wild garlic dressing, a clever play on braaied Cape snoek served with apricot jam and bread.
The fragrant fish curry is summer-friendly with fish and seafood that is pleasantly light in a saffron-and-stock broth yet big on seafood flavour. It’s modelled on an early Cape recipe. dsc_0001.jpg More adventurous eaters would appreciate historical preserved meat influences in lacquered smoked and pickled lamb’s rib (soutribbetjie), with pickled tongue and dried pear dumplings, verjuice-poached pear and crispy lamb’s liver biltong.
Desserts mostly follow a more conventional format, and include the likes of apple tart with melktert ice-cream.

Pricing: At La Motte, Starters average at R50, mains between R90 and R110, desserts average at R65. La Motte wine recommendations accompany every dish.

FlavourTip: A chalkboard of the day also showcases “easier” food more suited to families or lighter daytime eating. Kids make a beeline for the water feature outside the glassed-in dining terrace. dsc_0014.jpg

PIERNEEF À LA MOTTE, R45, Main Road, Franschhoek. Tel 021 876 8800, Pierneef Open for breakfast Sat and Sun, lunch Tues to Sun, dinner Thurs, Fri and Sat.

FOODSTUFF: Is a take-away chicken worth R68?

dsc_0004.jpg I’ve driven past a few times and heard good things from foodie friends. The pricing always scared me off. But yesterday a daytime swim and a sneaked coffee at Jardine Bakery – the deal was we’d only stay if they had the sublime dark chocolate brownie dotted with white chocolate – meant there was no time remaining for a supper shop.

Rotisserie 360 has a hatch across the road from Jardine on Bree. And the rotating chickens look and smell so good… But at R68 per 1.5kg chicken, I expect a lot from a bird. Don’t you? A half chicken sells at R38. Other items available include salads. I hated the coleslaw dished up at every family braai in the 80s, but I noticed some coleslaw here - it’s rather appealing now in a retro kind of way. At home we knocked together couscous and roasted vegetable segments and had a delicious supper.

But was the chicken worth it? Here is what the menu brochure claims: farm-fresh free-range chickens are marinated overnight in a choice of lemon and thyme or chilli, lemon or thyme. We weren’t given a choice but I think we ate the chilli and thyme version.

The rotisserie white meat was moist with flavoursome crispy skin tasting mildly chilli-ish. Fresh thyme formed a pleasant dominant flavour. The chicken was bigger than those sold by Woolworths, but then Woolies butter-basted versions sell for around R45. Admittedly, the Woolies white meat often tastes dried out. Rotisserie 360 chicken tastes homemade and beats Woolworths in flavour. It makes a convenient option if your budget is unlimited. But it isn’t so good that I’d give up ever roasting my own.

FlavourTip: Rotisserie 360 offers a picnic service for around R70 per head, consisting of chicken, homemade mayo, salad, baguettes and brownies. Booking 24 hours in advance recommended.

ROTISSERIE 360, Bree Street, Cape Town. Open Mon to Fri from 8am to 6pm. Tel 084 314 1357, Rotisserie 360