ILE DE PAIN ANYTIME by Liezie Mulder. Published by Quivertree Publications, Cape Town, 2018.
This is another gem from Quivertree, a sizeable hardback with a linen- feel cover, featuring a inviting plate of Mexican fish tacos on the front cover and a shot of the restaurant, shelves laden with loaves, on the back.
There can be few South African foodies and gourmets who do not know about the iconic Ile de Pain, a Knysna café and bakery that makes a major reason for some for visiting the Garden Route town.
Co-owner and head chef Liezie Mulder, together with her partner and master baker Markus Farbinger, started the restaurant in 2002 and it did not take long for its reputation for wonderful croissants and bakes and authentic coffee to spread, first among locals, then to a wider audience.
As one would expect, bakes star prominently in this collection of approachable recipes that cover every meal of the day along with a range of chutneys and sauces to have in the pantry. Appropriately, the dishes are grouped by time slots – Around 8am, noon, 6 pm and midnight, with some sweet treats and a chapter of favourite recipes from family and friends getting their own chapters. There is also a good number of recipes that will please vegetarians and even a few vegans and many that reflect the influence of the Far East, Mexico and Italy. A three-year stint in Texas during her childhood still influences her favourite barbecue sauce recipe. Meat is not a major role player in this fresh, contemporary and nourishing culinary collection.
To focus on just a few of her dishes, the superfood smoothie in the breakfast chapter offers a powerhouse start to the day, and the baked yoghurt with berries, an Indian delight, can be served to start the day or as an easy dessert. In the midday chapter, an inspiring selection of exotic, healthy, grain-based salads finishes with a Greek salad that takes the classic to new heights. Supper recipes include casual bread-based dishes, from burger to flatbread while sweet treats reflect a more classic approach – scones, banana bread and berry tart. And there is a great choice of breads – loaves, tortillas, buns – in the midnight chapter, although readers can, happily, choose their time to start kneading...
I missed out on Liezie’s first cookbook Café Food published nine years ago which probably stars croissant recipes, the only item I missed in this collection. This treasury well reflects her present philosophy of being open to possibilities with ingredients, to have fun and not take food too seriously. On the other hand she is meticulous when testing new flavour combinations and adapting dishes that inspired her while travelling to ensure they suit the restaurant menu. As usual, Craig Fraser’s evocative photographs add hugely to the title’s appeal, and Wilna Combrinck's design make it a visual delight.