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Posted by on in Recipes

EAT YOUR WORDS: THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK by Louise Gelderblom. Published by Quivertree, 2017.

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 Clever title, great concept, and it’s sure to be another Quivertree winner. One look at the appetising cover with its cake-stand holding a featherlight pastry base filled with smoked salmon and a tangle of spring salad ingredients, and readers, cooks, and (of course) book club members will be instantly hooked.

Louise Gelderblom is a keen cook who took over from an equally accomplished mother and whose two daughters have followed in their mother’s culinary  footsteps. So this cook and voracious reader has been catering for her book club (Eat your Words) for decades and where the idea of this recipe collection was mooted.

In her introduction Gelderblom states that she has focussed on do-ahead fare that involves litte fuss, use readily obtainable ingredients and has included a good number of vegetarian options. I warmed to her immediately!

She offers further advice on planning, the advantages of quality ingredients and that only free-range eggs and humanely reared fish and poultry should be options. (What about lamb, beef and pork, I wondered, then noticed that this collection is meat-free. I think I should join that club...)

Many book clubs stay with drinks and snacks before, during or after the agenda, so the first chapter on finger snacks is welcome – with parmesan paprika biscuits taking the savoury cake! For those serving a meal, a few antipasti items make a fine start, such as hummus, marinated feta, harissa, tzatziki and frittata wedges. Informal meals of soup and bread in winter and salads in summer make another option, and the selection in  the chapter is tempting, and could inspire further ideas.

The substantial section of main course ideas varies from quiche (such a useful and variable item), several chicken dishes, fish boboties, along with other fishy bakes, and vegetarian choices like spinach and feta pie and a veggie cashew korma. All are suitable for feeding a crowd with pre-prepared ease. Side dishes precede desserts that include popular classics like crème caramel, lemon tart, melktert and baked chocolate pud. Also pavlova and frangipane tart for more ambitious bakers

Between the recipes you will find comments from book club hosts from across South Africa, describing how they operate and entertain. Some clubs follow a theme every month, others raise funds for charity, others gather for a monthly dose of bubbly and snacks and book exchanges.

There is an easy-to-consult index and the food photographs are simply styled , offering a colourful and tempting aspect so essential to books of recipes.

In retrospect it seems amazing that no one has thought of producing a local title around  book club eats before. Well, now it’s been done, very  well and in delicious style.

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A BITE OF LATIN AMERICA by Susie Chatz-Anderson. Published by Human& Rousseau, Cape Town, 2017.

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A collection delectable in every aspect, and one that fills a gap in culinary literature as well. There has been little in the way of comprehensive cookbooks covering Latin America on our bookshop shelves for years, and none, as far as I know, written by a local..

Now we have Susie’s delightful gastronimic diary , a very readable account of the year she and husband  Mike spent travelling through Mexico and South America, in a quest for the best taste trips. Or rather that’s what she wanted, while he  spent the time hunting down the best kite-surfing sites.

They resigned their office jobs, stored their possessions and bought two air tickets, waving goodbye to Susie’s mother who, we are told, feared for her daughter’s life every day!

In choosing Latin America, they embraced cuisines where Maya, Aztec, Inca, Spanish and Portuguese contributions mix and meld, followed by more recent influence from Africa, Caribbean, Asia and Europe.

Mexico was the first destination, and a good choice seeing that their fare is rated as one of the finest peasant cuisines in the world. They found more meat in the north, seafood at the coast, spicy vegetable and chicken in the south.  Favourite Mexican meals were breakfasts, which included rice, beans and avocado with their morning eggs. Her chorizo omelette is a dish that’s perfect for a winter brunch, and tortilla-wrapped fish with salsas is  an appetising informal lunch suggestion. Gorditas – corn pockets with saucy fillings – make a great alternative to pitas,  add some Margaritas and you have an easy way to feed guests.

They headed south to, Guatemala,  a country whose cuisine is not well-pubicised. Plantains, rice and beans and salads are featured, while Nicaraguan more pork chops -  well laced with rum and finished with cream and green peppercorns  - are starred along with a saucy chicken pie that looks worth a try. I also like the Atolillo, described as a chilled rum custard, and it reminds me of melktert filling garnished with boozy sultanas.

More rice with beans, this time cooked in coconut milk, from Costa Rica and a similar version, without the beans, sweetened  and spiked, for dessert. From Columbia, chilli salsas,  Spanish-style omelettes and green apple and mint lemonade. On to Ecuador, where our adventurous couple savoured prawns ceviche and a potato and peanut stew with tofu and discovered countless varieties of Andean potatoes.

The author’s description of places and people in Peru are fascinating, the cuisine – indigenous dishes of Inca origin touched by Spanish influence, equally so. Her version of Causa  Limena illustrates this well – Peruvian potato, avocado, tomato and tuna layered stack – and makes a summery lunch.  For wintry days, their vegetable and quinoa soup  makes a colourful and nutritious meal. Husband  Mike’s favourite dish was Peru’s signature beef stir-fry, Lomo Saltado.

By way of contrast, the sophistication and diversity of Brazil’s fare was absorbed and relished  with delight. Recipes include cheese bites,prawn pie,upside-down banana cake (a breakfast special)  and Caipirinha, the  country’s signature cocktail.

From their final destination, Argentina,  Susie brought home recipes for Empanadas (beef and onion pies), a leek, sage and bacon bake, layered vegetable  tart,  the famous Chimichurri salsa and the Argentinian version of Dulce de Leche, caramel which is used in cakes, puds and cookies such as Alfajores, recipe given. The recipes finish with some good coffees, followed by a detailed index. Susie’s great travel photos add much interest, while the food shots are sumptuous, and beautifully styled.

What’s really appealing is the way the author suggests substitutes for exotic ingredients and alternatives and additions to the original dishes. Just the sort of helpful advice that every cook, beginner and experienced, appreciates. That and a down-to-earth modesty, an attractive trait that is by no means guaranteed in current cookbook-cum-diaries.

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Two family-focussed cookboks - one local, one British -  and the new edition of Platter's wine guide make a trio ideal for festive gifts - and for keeping on our own bookshelves.

 

FOR FRIENDS & FAMILY by Nicky Stubbs. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016.

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Visually  appetising, this hardback is a delightful addition to any cook’s bookshelf. That said, its particularly appeal lies in its trusted tried-and-tested recipes, a collection  ideal for keen, but inexperienced family caterers.

As the title tells, the focus is on delectable, do-able fare that friends and family adore, that they expect to find when turning up at Stubbs’ home, invited or just dropping in hopefully at teatime. This hospitable cook qualified with a Cordon Bleu course, has cooked professionally in London and France, run restaurants, given cookery classes and written for magazines. But her passion is catering for those who sit around the family dining table, sharing both simple  meals and elaborate celebrations. This compilation  is, she states “…a love song to the family and friends who have fed me, taught me to cook, eaten and cooked with me.”

Useful tips precede recipes which, start, naturally enough with breakfast, go on to starters, simple meals, vegetables and salads. Main courses are slotted into categories – chicken, beef and lamb are followed by pork and seafood. A few condiments (pesto, hummus, tartare sauce) give way to a substantial section of bakes, whilepuddings complete the menu with perennially popular classics, from crème brûlée to malva pud, pavlova to icecream, pears in red wine to a baked almond and lemon finale.

Recipes are illustrated in colour, and presentation is just what novices need: a brief description of the dish, clear ingredients, and step-by-step method. Small tips (eg advice on what kind of plate to use during a dipping process ) may seem old hat to many, but will be appreciated by beginners.

Were I to cook a Christmas dinner from this title, I would start with Stubbs’ gazpacho, follow with her slow-roasted chicken and lamb recipes, and add melazane for the vegetarians. Dessert  could star her Christmas icecream bombe. In place of mince pies, teatime treats would include her Squidgies, a simple, no-fail recipe if there ever was!

One of this year’s best local cookbooks, crisp and clear, with old family photos that enhance appeal and emphasise recipes designed to delight palates of all ages.  

 

SUPER FOOD: Family classics by Jamie Oliver. Published by Michael Joseph of the Penguin Random House group, 2016.

 

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When one looks at the list of Jamie’s cookbooks, starting with The Naked Chef released in 1999 and including a title nearly every subsequent year, one can be forgiven for wondering what  he could still offer family cooks in the way of new and delicious fare? Last year he published his  Everyday Super Food, and in the introduction to this Super Food, Oliver states that readers requested a compilation of updated  family classics that are also balanced and healthy, rewritten to offer meals that “…fuel, revive, restore and energize…”

There’s probably a good reason why the health and happiness chapter is located at the back of the book. Here Oliver presents his tips, tricks and advice on food, nutrition and wellbeing.  Perhaps the publisher thought that some parents would not take to lessons on  balancing proportions from the five food groups,  staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, getting moving and eating more fibre! But Jamie’s preachings are easy to digest and he is renowned for having contributed to better diets for thousands of Britons and their children. He embraces organic, promotes carbohydrates (eat your heart out Banters), and empahises the importance of chewing properly. He also suggest setting aside more time for meals, at home, at school, at work. A chapter entitled Healthy gut, happy body investigates the roles of prebiotics, and probiotics,  and there’s plenty on the importance of drinking water, preferably from the tap. Limit sugar intake, cook with your children, grow food, and support farmers’ markets, he urges.

Recipes start with breakfast ideas,  including some super smoothies. Good variations on boiled eggs are followed by  interesting pancakes, used as  containers for healthy fruit, protein, grains, nuts, coconut and more. Quick snacks include 18 options for teaming avocado on rye toast with a host of other ingredients. Quick fix meals  includes a Japanese miso stew sparked with dried seaweed, mixed greens, exotic mushroom and tofu on brown rice noodles.  Adventurous creations are  balanced by classic pasta and sauces. His comfort food classics  - such as shepherds pie – are given extra veggies and pulses to increase fibre and vitamin content. Salads are equally colourful vitamin- rich meals and similar treatment is afforded to   curries and stews using Indian, Thai, African and Chinese influence.  The chapter of tray bakes  present oven-baked meal s-in- one dish – nad his   Sicilian fish  with aubergine, tomato, pinenuts and raisins on wholewheat couscous looks fabulous. There is a fair number of vegetarian dishes and, finally, recipes for batch bakes for healthy bulk cooking and freezer standbys.

This is a dessert-free cookbook that is also sans confectionery or sweet treats for coffee and teatimes!

Oliver’s talent for food photography is  evident in the appetising colour images on every other page. Add in a couple of his wife Jools, himself, and endpapers filled with snapshots of children of all ages harvesting, cooking and eating, and you have in your hands another surefire culinary success story.

 

PLATTER’S 2017 SOUTH AFRICAN WINE GUIDE. Published by Jean-Pierre Rossouw for Diners Club International.

 

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Forest green, this 37th edition is, presenting 660 pages of information and  ratings on about 8 000 wines and their cellars , in an alphabetical arrangement of South African producers of wine and brandy. Starting with a pithy and well-constructed  summary of trends in SA wine, (which deserved a byline) followed by editor Philip van Zy l’s introduction, readers will find the five -star wines of the year listed and who’s who on the tasting team .

Some 520 pages of entries offer comprehensive listings of wines produced and tasted, plus facilities and attractions at the cellar door along with opening hours. This section  precedes an industry overview, information on wine bodies, wine-growing areas, grape varieties and details of competitions and awards. Styles and vintages are discussed ahead of  wine-tasting  and winemaking terms.

Wine route information  is always sought after, and this section includes details of wine tourism offices, wine tours, restaurants and accommodation in Cape Town and the winelands. The updated maps  which indicate positions of cellars are equally essential items for travellers. Information on disabled access to wineries and farms is a project in action as two disabled winelovers are in the process of assessing whether destinations that advertise themselves as disabled-friendly, are, in fact living up to this.  The initiative is being funded by Platters.

As always, this is an essential companion for locals and travellers to our winelands and is still among the best and most comprehensive in the world: It is  edited with care and  proofed diligently  with a treasury of information packed into one fat pocket book .

The guide, which sells for R215,  is also available as an app for iPhone and Android and as web-based version for desktop and mobi. See www. wineonaplatter.com.

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Let no one say that South African cookbook writers and publishers are not up there with the best when it comes to including current culinary trends . While some techniques that are in vogue are best left to chefs in high-tech kitchens, others can be easily practised by keen cooks and dedicated braai masters and mistresses.

Think smoking, curing, pickling, fermenting, foraging - venerable processes which have come full circle and are now trending. Add to that list the ongoing focus on healthy eating, using sustainably grown or produced ingredients, plus welcome environmental savvy by insisting on ingredients in season and we have a good summary of the current food spectrum.

From the pyramid of local cookbooks that have hit the shelves recently, five titles feature below: digest the brief round-up of their contents and decide which title(s) you would like to own.

 

 A Year of Seasonal dishes from Food & Home Entertaining. Published by Human & Rousseau 2016.

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Food & Home Entertaining is renowned for supplying fans with imaginative recipes for every course and occasion. This substantial compilation is organised according to month, making it easy to find ideas for both seasonal meals and entertaining menus. The well-illustrated recipes comprise the best of those published over the last decade. Diversity is the keynote, with dishes that take five minutes to assemble (Parma ham, blueberry and feta salad for high summer) to a gluten-free chocolate torte that replaces wheat with an egg-rich chocolaty ground almond batter. A few vegan options, several vegetarian recipes and many with Asian influence can be found. I particularly like their combination of sustainably farmed kabeljou with a trendy achar of guava, teamed with a spring salad and ciabatta toast. Cooks have the option of braai-ing or frying the fish and toast .

 

Baking with Jackie Cameron, published by Penguin Books, 2016.

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Chef Cameron is not only a great baker, but all-round talented cook, who opened her own internationally-recognised school of food and wine last year. In this mouthwatering collection of biscuits and breads, pies and tarts, cakes large and small and desserts and puds, the focus is less on trends and more on absolute delicious bakes, whatever course they serve.

However, Jackie is not immune to what’s in vogue and offers us gluten-free bread, and one based on   the indigenous tuber amadumbe. (Sweet potato can be substituted). Her red velvet cake adds cocoa to increase its appeal. She gives crème brulée a local twist by flavouring it with Amarula cream liqueur, and includes trad favourites like malva pud, melktert, millionaires shortbread and even an upmarket version of peppermint t crisp tart. The small selection of savoury tarts and pies is particularly appetising. This is an appealing, crisply designed compilation, that will be well used in every kitchen it finds itself.

 

One Pot Pan Tray by Mari-Louis Guy and Callie Maritz. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016.

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Ever since this brother and sister team burst onto the gastronomic scene with an extravagant collection of bakes back in 2011, they haven’t paused, producing several more successful titles . In this colourful compilation they assemble whole meals in a pot, a frying pan or roasting dish, saving on labour and washing-up. The contents stay with savoury fare based on red meat, chicken, seafood, bacon and ham as well as meat-free suppers, each dish balanced with both a carb and veggies.

We find traditional boerekos favourites (curried banana meatball bake, teamed with butternut chunks and quartered red onions) along with baked chicken, mushroom and leek pasta topped with cheese sauce, and a Iberian-inspired bake of sardines and potatoes, flavoured with tomatoes, peppers and paprika and sauced with lemony olive oil. There are a few soups, and the haloumi and vegetable bake offers a delectable combination of fresh asparagus, baby marrows and onion mixed with the cheese, flavoured with citrus and oregano, spiked with jalapenos and garlic. It seems to sing of spring, and is adaptable – replace pricey asparagus with spring onions, for example.

 

All Sorts of Salads by Chantal Lascaris. Published by Struik Lifestyle 2016.

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This compact softback is both a convenient size for kitchen use and a practical and useful collection. The author came to entertaining and cooking after moving from corporate business to become a pilates instructor and developing interests in both health and salads, which feature high in her diet. The recipes tried and tweaked coincide, quite accidentally, with today’s culinary trend: Their simplicity is part of their attraction. Old favourites in new guises sees up –to- date versions of coleslaw, potato, Caesar, Waldorf and three-bean salads. The substantial vegetarian chapter includes some trendy combinations like beetroot, quinoa and rocket, and cauliflower, butter bean and feta.

Fish and seafood star in summery combinations – think grilled tuna steaks and nectarine salsa , salmon and pistachio, even a fish cake salad, complete with sweet potato chips and mixed salad. Calamari is teamed with chorizo and chickpea in an Iberian charmer. Meaty salads presents main courses packed with protein plus healthy green for all-round fare, such as the Med mini-keftedes teamed with tzatziki and salad.

 

Carmen’s Best Recipes by Carmen Niehaus. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016

.b2ap3_thumbnail_CKBK-TRENDS-Banting-lasagne.jpgBanting lasagne from Carmen Niehaus

Food writer Carmen Niehaus has been supplying her many readers with flavourful, reliable family recipes for 25 years, and has developed a vast collection in the process. Having to select 100 for this cookbook, she finally settled on 10 chapters of 10 recipes, based on criteria like family favourites, recipes with reduced carb content, many starring veggies and salad ingredients. There are a few breakfast and light meal options along with those suitable for every course on the menu. Practical tips accompany every one, as do appetising colour photographs. Her fans will be pleased with this souvenir, that also caters for slimmers – see her Banting lasagna – which replaces pasta with aubergine and omits the white sauce without going overboard with weird substitutions.

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JAN - A Breath of French air by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. Published by Struik Lifestyle, Penguin Random House, 2016.

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There can be very few chefs who not only cook and style their gastronomic creations, but complete the process by doing their own photography.

There are even fewer – in fact, just one - South African chef-patrons who can boast of cooking, styling and photographing fare in his renowned French Riviera restaurant JAN, a venue that has just been awarded a prestigious Michelin star.

Meet Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, South Africa’s first Michelin star chef, presently working his way through a hectic programme of launches, talk-shows, dinners and more in Gauteng and the Western Cape. His second glamorous cookery book, JAN, is getting star treatment, along with its author.

It’s a covetable hardback, lavishly illustrated with the chef’s photographs, both culinary and moody shots of antiques, bountiful floral arrangements, timeless French doorways and tiny balconies with curly balustrades. South African pincushions fill a small container, a touch of home in an otherwise Gallic book. Whereas The French Affair, published just three short years ago, contains much that was inspired by his mother and grandmother, this collection is sophisticated gourmet, up-to-the-minute fare, beautifully styled and presented. What adds hugely to each recipe is Jan’s generous instructions, enabling all but the most ignorant to reproduce their choice of his dishes.

From his childhood on a farm near Middelburg in Mpumalanga to the opening of his restaurant in Nice, is a story, he says, “filled with many obstacles, hard work, determination and more than a little bit of luck.” He took over a former motorbike repair shop, and dived into the world of doing business with French. As opening day grew near, Jan continued with his French classes, published his first book and shed a few kilograms. They were fully booked when they opened their doors to diners on a Saturday evening. A little later, with half the main courses yet to be prepared, a power failure led to a comedy of errors, when, Jan relates, there was only thing to do: drink a shot of your dad’s homemade mampoer, offer guests complimentary champagne, take a deep breath and regroup.

Today not only his guests but his staff come from all over the world, and his high standards of service and cuisine have brought plentiful rewards and awards.

The contents of JAN the book follow the menu formula, opening with Boulangerie, recipes for baguette and other French loaves. The Cape with its famous seed loaf, inspired by those served in a Stellenbosch restaurant where Jan had worked as a waiter is there, and another for mosbolletjies, which the French have taken to with enthusiasm. The ideas for amuse-bouche in the next section include squares of pissaladière, mini tarte tatins of fig and blue cheese, his mother’s souttert with sundried tomato jam and Charroux mustard, all easy to copy if you plan a bistro menu. Sophisticated alternatives will please ambitious cooks.

Seasonal dishes inspired by what’s available at the Nice market fill a chapter – salt-roasted beetroot and goat’s cheese crepes, shallot and orange custard, salads of glazed endive, spelt and caramelised sunflower seed and an easy roasted butternut and almond quiche. Meat and poultry are up next, starting with chicken liver and Parmesan mousse (it will be hard to improve on the liver paté in his first book, topped with a Old Brown sherry jelly). Duck, beef, pork and lamb – his lamb shanks look irresistible – precede fish and seafood. Sardines, scallops, and shellfish are given original treatment, alongside good ideas for salmon and trout. Patisserie encompasses several dessert delights – including a luxurious milk tart teamed with muscat-poached pears and quinces, perfect autumn fare for Cape hosts…

Chocaholics will hone in on Jan’s finale of berries and chocolate mousse, his pear and white chocolate hazelnut cake and a chocolate and cassis tart. Buchu sparks his version of classic madeleines with burned butter and honey, and locals will love naartjie panna cotta with white chocolate rocks. Cooking for the staff is a chapter one doesn’t often find in cookbooks but at Jan’s restaurant they can tuck into spag bol, pot-au-feu, courgette fries or a traditional Gallic banana rum and raisin rice cake before or after a busy evening’s work. Alternatively, they make themselves after-midnight snacks before heading home: these could include a banana and salted caramel popcorn smoothie, or Jan’s favourite, biltong, mayonnaise and Mrs Ball’s chutney filling a sandwich of white bread, with crinkle-cut chutney flavoured crisps on the side. Ah, clearly you cannot take South Africa out of this boy! A detailed index concludes the text.

Good food  is a popular subject in South Africa, and when a farm lad makes his mark in the glamorous Med region of the western world’s gastronomic champion, it’s a good news story indeed.

 

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A TASTE OF ISRAEL by Nida Degutlené, published by Penguin Random House, 2015

 

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October means that we book reviewers can expect lists of  titles in our in-boxes to lengthen, as the seasonal harvest of new books starts arriving for the Christmas trade. I have waited until now to review this very delectable and well-produced cookbook as I didn’t want it regarded only as a book to dip into at the time of traditional Jewish holidays. It is certainly a compilation that celebrates the Israeli culinary tradition, written by a foreigner and non-Jew and perhaps this helps to make it a fascinating and tempting collection for  those cooks who savour exploring exotic cuisines.

The author is a Lithuanian businesswoman, food blogger and freelance journalist who married a diplomat who was sent to Israel in 2009 as Lithuanian ambassador. While there, Nida not only relished unearthing Jewish culinary traditions, but found that dishes from her childhood are based on Jewish recipes that have become part of Lithunanian fare. She started sharing her discoveries on her blog, and now has 30 000 followers.

Meze and appetizers make a colourful start to the recipes and between the well-known chopped herring and watermelon and feta salad, there are interesting bites like Muhammara, walnut and sweet pepper paste, courtesy Syrian Jews who spread it on pita breads and an Israeli take on Peruvian ceviche, paired with cubed mango. Among the breakfast ideas I honed in on a frittata with baby marrows, leek and walnuts – although I will use local pecans instead. The characteristic carmelised onions favoured by Sephardis feature in a baked fish recipe that includes a layer of tahini sauce and that is finished with toasted pine nuts. A chicken recipe enjoyed in winter when its citrus season adds orange and lemon juice and zest to chicken quarters, along with honey, Arak, garlic, chilli and cardamom – definitely worth trying,.

The chapter on street food is an enjoyable trip - celebrating classics like burekas,knish,shawarma and falafel. And lesser-known creations such as Sabich, a vegetarian sandwich of pita bread filled with tahini, aubergine, egg, and onion, made by Iraqi Jews.

Talking of meat-free fare, there is a great selection in the vegetarian section, from sweet peppers filled with cheese, through a selection of patties – leek, pumpkin, peanut - , and a Turkish phyllo cheese pie. From one of Jerusalem’s most popular restaurants  comes Machane Yehuda, polenta with mushroom, asparagus and poached eggs,   a favourite with diners that cannot be removed from the menu,

Bakes include a latkes selection – I rather fancy the potato and beetroot ones with onion and feta, that are baked rather than fried. An interesting article on kosher wine precedes the final chapter of “Extras” that includes a fiery spice paste called Zhug, a contribution to Israeli street food from Yemeni Jews.

Nida Degutiené is a publisher’s dream – not only does she write well and compile an enticing collection of recipes, but she does her own styling and food photography as well – this book has been well translated from Lithuanian by Medeine Tribinevičius and will make a popular addition to many a well-used cookbook collection this summer.

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NOTE: This review was first submitted to the Argus newspaper in late August for possible use during Woman's month. It was published on the Life pages of Saturday Weekend Argus on September 19 as a heritage month contribution.

BITTER + SWEET: A Heritage Cookbook by Mietha Klaaste as told by Niël Stemmet, published by Human & Rousseau 2015.

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Traditional country food meets a soul-stirring story of a rural woman, a domestic worker and nanny, who tells her life story to Stemmet in 29 chapters, reminiscences that start with her childhood on a farm near Robertson and finish as her charge, the adolescent son of her employers, leaves the Cape to head to a new life in the Transvaal.

 

Mietha Klaaste was also a keen and talented cook who regarded preparing meals a privilege rather than a chore. So it seems only right that between the events that coloured her humble life, she also shares her recipes, wonderful, honest fare where the simplicity of farm ingredients is never overshadowed by surplus ingredients or fancy garnishing.

 

A third element is Stemmet’s inclusion of carefully selected poems and excerpts that emphasise the content, physical and spiritual, of the preceding chapter. They come from diverse sources ranging from the Bible to Lewis Carroll, from Adam Small to Ingrid Jonker, from Antjie Krog to timeless nursery rhymes.

 

The food covers every occasion from breakfast to supper, including special occasions like tea parties and weddings. Breakfast highlight of baked sweetcorn offers a variation on rusks and porridge, while tea was likely to be Clanwilliam rooibos with condensed milk. To accompany it, over weekend, were scones or crumpets or delicious ginger biscuits. Weekday fare ranged from bully beef and rice when freat meat was not available, to warming bredies, served with snow white rice. Desserts were comforting and substantial, with buttermilk pud and melktert high on the favourites lists. Vegetables were always present, usually sweetened, and lightly spiced. One recipe I would have liked to have seen included in this collection is for a savoury dish using 'oukos', the buds of a Gasteria that folk in the Breede river valley used in place of waterblommetjies, which were not always easy to find.

 

Most of the recipes are illustrated with gentle colour photographs that are in harmony with the printed instructions.

 

Mietha’s childhood was happy, living in a house on the farm of her parents’ employers: her mother worked in the big farmhouse, her father was the foreman on the farm. It was the period in South African history when the apartheid laws were in full force, but this did not affect Mietha’s early days: this child of nature enjoyed school as much as she loved wandering along the banks of farm streams, looking for tadpoles and crabs.

 

There are also family stories that illustrate the hardship endured by those living further north, in arid Namaqualand, where real poverty invaded every aspect of life. Miethe longed to go there, and take them huge supplies of food to lighten their burden.

 

Life’s hard knocks started when Mietha was told she could not go to high school but had to start work for the farmer’s son Johan and his new wife Susan. Not long after this Susan gave birth to her first son Daniël, and, as his nanny, Mietha replaced her hurt about missing her education with a fierce love for this blue-eyed baby, a love that thrived and blossomed as she nurtured him from babyhood through to adolescence.

 

As a young teenager she was raped by a member of the employer’s family, an episode which affected her permanently, and resulted in attempted suicide. These low points were countered to some extent by a busy schedule of domestic duties, and always, the joy she felt when Daniël arrived home from school. He was a loner, as was she, he enjoyed nature, as she did and they both loved to cook and to eat, so the bonds between them were unusually strong.

 

This all came to an abrupt end when Daniël’s parents decided to move to Gauteng, or the Transvaal as it was then to look for more lucrative jobs. Mietha was told she could not join them, and was given a new radio, the furniture in her servant’s room and a box of chocolates as thanks for 16 years of dedicated service.

 

But, thanks to an innate strength, Mietha used the parting to return to school, going to evening classes, while working in a Robertson bakery during the day. She used the local library extensively, reading widely, listening to gramophone records, and studying recipes in cookbooks. She cooked them, first at home, then as the hotel cook at the Majestic hotel. She also entered – and usually won – competitions for jams and baked good at the local agricultural shows. She was, as she says, “known as a top-class cook.”

 

Of course a story like this ends with as many questions as answers, and we are left to ponder on many a subject even as we glance through Mietha’s method of roasting chickens which were sold in aid of funds for the local orphanage. This is a book that is probably best absorbed in Afrikaans, but Marietjie Delport is to be commended for a great translation. And all strength to Stemmet for choosing not to omit the parts that some readers would prefer not to find in a recipe collection!

 

In one of the weekend newspapers, Prue Leith is quoted as complaining that much of the culinary literature being published can be classed as ‘food porn’ – either featuring a celebrity of some kind, or consisting of numerous photographs of glamorous landscapes, such as Tuscany, with little or no real writing on the cuisines. Bitter+Sweet offers a striking contrast: Perhaps the publishers should forward her a copy.

 

Postscript: Niel has just told me that the publisher is going to forward Leith this book - I do hope she replies.

 

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Bonellos-road-tripping-cover.jpgROAD TRIPPING WITH JUSTIN BONELLO by Justin Bonello and Helena Lombard. Published by Penguin Random House SA, 2015.

 

Hard to believe, but this is Bonello’s ninth title, and its nine years since he burst onto the local culinary scene with his first television show, Cooked, also the title of his first book. Helena Lombard joined the Cooked in Africa Film team in 2011, and has travelled with them, cooked and researched and written four of his subsequent titles.

The positive symbiosis between the popular TV series and these titles is a given, as the book reflects highlights of the journey undertaken. Along with photographs the content - in this case route and destinations. This does not detract from the book’s appeal, rather the opposite: both readers who have seen the filmed series of the braai contest and those who haven’t are likely to relish this gastronomic adventure across some of southern Africa’s little frequented parts.

The foreword offers a good idea of just what such an undertaking entails when it consists of a diverse group of more than 70 crew being on the road together for more than two months. They covered almost 9 000km on dirt roads, and endured long working hours to complete a 13-part reality TV series . Bonello offers would-be travellers a list of important items to pack and recommends planning the route in advance, while also staying flexible and finding the roads off the beaten track. In their case they started at Noordhoek, where Bonello lives, moved east to Witsand, then west to Paternoster before heading inland to the Cederberg. The mighty Orange river was a popular destination, then it was off to Namibia where they spent time in Luderitz, Sossusvlei and the Fish River canyon. The Tankwa Karoo was another isolated stop, followed by Oudtshoorn and the journey finished at a lodge on the Breede river.

Justin is not the only source of the recipes in this collection: a few were offered by members of the crew, who included a couple of top chefs, and some were the creations of top contestants in the series they were filming. The trip started with a fiery Durban fish and prawn curry, presumably made on the braai at Noordhoek, before a convoy of cars and trucks left for a lengthy nomadic lifestyle. The Breede river lodge at Witsand was their first stop so a recipe for fishhead soup is appropriate, followed by braaied brandy banana splits. With KWV as one of their (presumed) sponsors, cooks could jazz up their recipes with wine and brandy, and frequently did. Doughnuts, cooked in a flat-bottomed potjie over coals provided welcome padkos for the trip to Paternoster, where they camped at Tietiesbaai in wintry weather. One of the professional chefs on the team, Bertus Basson, produced whole braaied fish with pesto, tapenade and ash tomatoes, dished up with sauvignon blanc, which makes mouthwatering reading while Justin and others made the most of the region’s black mussels. In the Cederberg various potjies were prepared and the crew were warmed by spiced and spirited rooibos tea.

One of the most isolated destinations visited was the Diamond Diver Cottages at Noup near the Namaqua National Park, the name being self-explanatory. There some robust salads were on the menu and we learn about games they played after work was done and on the road.

The three team photographers provide some fantastic scenic shots , as well as many of the crew in action and great food images, all of which enhance the text hugely. The book designer must have had great fun in the production of this title, a colourful and appealing mix of mod and retro, that adds up to an invitation to get up and take the open road – along with a good store of ingredients and imagination.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_CKBK-COVER-BAKING-for-profit--PP_Cover_ENG.jpg

 

BAKING FOR PLEASURE & PROFIT by Christine Capendale. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2015.

 

Given the renaissance of home baking that has flourished since cupcakes became the flavour of the month, a spate of cookbooks devoted to the joys of producing delectable home-baked goodies has flowed from local and overseas publishers. Some of the earlier ones were both useful and enjoyable, but most of the recent titles I have received have been potboilers, to use a mixed metaphor.

However, Christine Capendale’s compilation is an exception – a well produced collection of sweet and savoury treats including confectionery, with recipes clearly set out and well illustrated,  each accompanied by tips under the heading ‘Sell more! ‘Capendale suggests eye-catching decorations and packaging to add eye candy to those wanting to market their goodies successfully.

In fact the book begins with a fund of information for those aiming to make money from their hobby, with details on everything from licences and permits to equipment and supplies. She tells us how to work out the cost of ingredients (with tables), to add in equipment and operating costs,marketing expenses, and  how to calculate selling prices. General baking tips follow and, by the time one reaches the first recipe – for red velvet cake – one feels that the benefits of a whole cooking course have been presented by a teacher eager to share her passion and expertise.

So, its unsurprising to learn that Capendale ran successful cookery classes in Langebaan, where she still spends some of her time, and has a food studio in Pretoria where she teaches and writes about cooking.

The recipes start with cakes, go on to tea breads, cupcakes and biscuits. Bars and squares fill another chapter, while the following, Sweet Treats, presents a range of confectionery, which always sells well. Traditional bakes includes classics like milk tart and mosbolletjies, and there are plenty of sweet tarts and pies to try as wwell. Breads, rusks and muffin and savoury quiches and bites are also given their share of space.

The oh-so-trendy macaroons, white and dark chocolate and raspberry or coconut – are there for the more experienced baker to attempt – and threaded onto coloured ribbon and dangled en masse -  make for irresistible displays.

Well indexed, with beautiful images by photographer Myburgh du Plessis, the R250 price of this title is certain to inspire a whole bunch of keen bakers to make their passion pay! And when the present cult of home baking is replaced by some other pastime, this collection will continue to pay its way. The Afrikaans version is called Bak vir Pret and Profyt.

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