Whether it's a treat of a meal for Father’s Day or a supper to mark mid-winter, June is the right month to create a menu that incorporates our fabulous South African brandies, from cocktail to dessert.
Brandy imparts a special flavour when used in cooking, enhancing the final taste of any dish. The spirit can be flamed, simmered, stewed, or used to deglaze a pan in order to produce an irresistible sauce.
Don’t be bound by quantities of brandy as listed in recipes, as you may prefer less or more – but note that too much brandy will simply overpower the flavours of the food it is supposed to embellish. You want aroma and flavour of the spirit to elevate your creation to gourmet heights. The alcohol evaporates during cooking so there is no need to worry about after-effects.
South Africans are so fortunate when it comes to brandy – we really do make some of the best in the world – not that this is always appreciated. But the top judges in the northern hemisphere do – they are continually placing our brandies up there on top where they belong: the results below are two of the latest stash of awards scooped by our clever craftsmen and blenders.
Our brandies made a clean sweep at the 2017 World Drinks Awards recently, claiming gold, plus the title of World’s Best Brandy for the Oude Meester Demant. This contest takes place in London, hosted by TheDrinksReport.com with a judging panel of respected and experienced authorities from the drinks and hospitality industry. They score entries on nose, palate, finish, balance, character and quality.
Last month our brandies wowed the judges in America’s prestigious San Francisco’s World Spirits Competition. The SFWSC awarded Oude Meester three Double Golds for their 12- year-old, 18-year-old and Demant brandies. Van Ryn’s Distillery claimed two Double Gold medals for the Van Ryn’s 12-Year-Old Distiller’sRreserve and the Van Ryn’s 20-Year-Old Collectors Reserve respectively.This competition is among the most widely respected in the world, attracting more than 2 100 entries of spirits for evaluation by a judging panel comprising of 43 international experts.
Now to a celebratory meal: I have started the dinner with my own version of brandied mushroom soup – if this doesn’t appeal, think about a delicious chicken liver terrine flavoured with fresh orange and brandy or a brinjal paté, baked and mashed with cottage cheese, brandy, yoghurt and fresh herbs for a trendy vegetarian first course.
For the main course I settled for a quickly prepared lamb chop recipe, Banting-friendly, a change from casseroles, curries, potjies and the like, which can be teamed with seasonal veggies or salads. It comes from a well-used book entitled California Brandy Cuisine written some years ago to mark 200 of Californian brandy production.
And then a trad Cape finale, given a twist, which you can find in Bertus Basson’s enjoyable cookbook Homegrown, published by Jacana Media and released earlier this year.
BRANDIED MUSHROOM SOUP
I have deliberately left off quantities, but have mentioned approximate ones in the method. They can be increased or decreased according to the cook’s taste.
Butter or butter and olive oil
IX 350g punnet portabellini mushrooms, wiped and sliced, reserving a few left whole
1X350g punnet white mushrooms, wiped and sliced
I large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Fresh herbs tied together – eg thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, lovage
Chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and white pepper
Fresh lemon juice
Heat a generous quantity of butter or a mixture of butter and oil, and sauté the onion over medium heat until softened. Add garlic, stirring, then increase heat and toss mushrooms in the pan until their juices run, stirring frequently. Add the herb bunch, then about 2 cups of stock, bring to a simmer. After a few minutes add milk to taste – up to 2 cups if you want a cream of mushroom soup, less if not. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes, then take off the heat and stir in cream – quantity depends on how rich you want the soup to be. Stir, then season with the salt, pepper, horseradish and lemon juice to taste. (The horseradish can be omitted, but I love the combination of this herb with mushrooms, they seem synergetic). Add more stock if you want increased quantities or a thinner soup. Finally mix brandy ( I use about 40ml or 3 scant tablespoons) into a spoonful of cornflour until well mixed, add to soup, bring back to a simmer, stir and remove from heat. Remove herbs. Cool, then using a hand held mixer, puree a soup a little, but still leaving it partly chunky. Chill until serving time. Reheat and serve, topping each serving with a spoonful of grated raw portabellini mushrooms that you have tossed in a little lemon juice. Serves 4 or more as a first course.
BRANDIED LAMB CHOPS
4 or more thick beautiful free-range lamb chops
Butter – about 4T
Finely chopped mild onion, red if possible – about 4T
Finely chopped Italian parsley – about 2T
Worcestershire sauce, about 2T
Salt and ground black pepper
Brandy, up to half a cup
Heat half the butter and sauté the chops over high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Remove chops from pan. Add the onion and cook gently until soft and golden. Return chops to pan, add the remaining butter, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning to taste. Cook about one minute more, then heat the brandy, ignite and pour over chops and sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
BERTUS BASSON’S CREPE SUZIE
Bertus describes this recipe as a kind of gentrification “of a church bazaar pannekoek by introducing it to some alcohol and a chafing dish.”
Pinch of salt
Half tsp baking powder
30ml vegetable oil
2 oranges, zest grated and juiced
2 oranges, segmented
2 naartjies, segmented
2 lemons, zest grated and juiced
45ml good brandy
100ml van der Hum liqueur
Sift all dry ingredients together into a bowl and whisk the milk, buttermilk, water, eggs and oil together in another bowl. Slowly pour the liquid mix into the dry ingredients, whisking continuously to form a smooth batter. Rest the batter for at least an hour, preferably overnight, in the fridge.
Rub a good quality 24cm non-stick pan with a drop of vegetable oil. Heat to moderate heat and add about 80ml of batter. Roll the pan around to spread batter evenly. Cook until lightly browned on one side, flip over and lightly brown the other side. Fold into quarters, allocating two pancakes per person. Repeat process until batter is used up.
For sauce, heat a large pan, big enough to fit 8 folded pancakes. Sprinkle the sugar onto the dry pan and let it caramelise lightly. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the orange and lemon juices and stir vigorously to form a syrup. Place the folded pancakes into the pan and coat with syrup. Add the orange and lemon zests Warm the brandy and van der Hum and ignite. Tilt the pan toward the flame and add the flaming spirits to the pan. When flame dies, add the orange segments to the pan. Serve immediately with vanilla icecream. Serves 4.