Christmas feasts meat and drink to chefs
Foodies at top establishments give tips and share mouth-watering recipes for a memorable gathering, writes JANIS KINNEAR
LET’S face it, for many of us Christmas is all about the food.
And who better knows how to tantalise the tastebuds than some of Cape Town’s top chefs, who have shared some of their favourite scrumptious, artistically plated and even healthy – yes healthy – Christmas dishes and desserts.
Putting her personal “Christmassy” touch to a trifle, chef Vanessa Marx, head chef at Dear Me, an all-day brasserie, pantry and event space in the city centre, used red velvet sponge cake for the dessert, which is her personal favourite.
Having tied the knot only last month, the 28-year-old newlywed said she and her husband would alternate between their families for Christmas lunch. “Between the two of us we have quite a lot of family, so with Christmas we’ll have one person bring the turkey, another person the gammon, and there’s usually a whole dessert table,” she says.
While carefully assembling the brightly coloured trifle visible through a small jar in which it will be served, she says she is a big advocate of fresh seasonal fruit.
Adding passion fruit between layers of custard and strawberry jelly, Marx says she owes her “cooking gene” and love of trifle to her mother.
She adds the finishing touches – two strawberries perched on the last layer of cream, then sprinkled with edible glitter.
“Having travelled abroad, Christmas is a little different in South Africa because it’s usually pretty hot. So it’s nice having a light pudding as opposed to something heavy. But it is that time of year when anything goes. We over-eat, drink at like 10am, sleep and eat again,” she says.
On preparing a Christmas meal, she recalls her ouma scoring the fat of the gammon: “I would help glazing it for hours and hours, and then put pineapple and cherries on toothpicks.”
A chef for the past decade, Marx says she’s still inspired by the “creativity” of inventing new dishes, focusing on seasonal ingredients. “My suppliers often source the most amazing things, and I also exchange ideas with fellow chefs and the people around me.”
This year, Marx says, it’s likely she’ll add pavlova to her Christmas feast.
And which gift is she hoping will be under her Christmas tree? Maybe a KitchenAid. Sharing good food and wine is top priority, a sentiment echoed by fellow chef Bertus Basson, 34, well-known as judge on TV show The Ultimate Braai Master.
Basson closes his Overture restaurant in Stellenbosch because “it’s family time”.
“I made a call about three years
and dry at 80ºC for two hours. Fresh berries Raspberry sorbet or store-bought berry sorbet ago that I don’t want to be the person keeping my staff from their kids and family over Christmas. But I’m lucky that I’m in a position where I can, so we are all off, we all party, and then in the new year we’re back to business.”
With plans to tie get married in April, Basson says he’ll also be sharing the festive season with his own and his fiancée’s parents.
As a young child, “heavy” Christmas lunches were the norm, but now he prefers lighter meals – including platters of smoked meats, breads, braai and wine.
“Christmas is supposed to be comfy… taking it easy. Rather have less variety, and instead have one dish of great food in the sun with an open fire,” he suggests.
One of Basson’s favourite dishes is smoked trout, combined with fennel salad, cream cheese and lemon rind.
“I love trout. It’s on South Africa’s green list and at home you can buy it and just slice it up yourself.”
Trout is among a group of fish species on the green list of Southern 454g pumpkin puree, consistency of thick mashed potato 454g sweetened condensed milk, tinned 2 large eggs 1g ground ginger 2g ground cinnamon 2g ground nutmeg 3g salt Preheat oven to 220ºC. Using a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk and eggs. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Pour into a pie shell and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 175ºC. Bake for another 30 minutes until set. 40g sugar 100g toasted pumpkin seeds Pinch of salt Add sugar to a pan and place on a moderately heated stove, stirring continuously until it turns to a golden caramel. Remove from the heat and add the pumpkin seeds, stirring until they are evenly coated. Tip the brittle on to a African Sustainable Seafood Initiative that are fished and farmed in a sustainable manner.
And what’s he hoping for for Christmas?
“Some more time off ?” he jokes. If not, a book or a bottle of riesling, his favourite local wine.
Peter Tempelhoff, 43, executive chef at The Collection, whips up a pumpkin pie, that favourite Thanksgiving dessert.
With a side of pumpkin seeds and vanilla mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese, and scattered with white chocolate shavings, Tempelhoff says it’s a good way to get children to eat vegetables.
Stuffed turkey is a “special” part of his Christmas tradition.
“Cook it slowly so you avoid it drying out,” he says. For stuffing? Sage, onion, breadcrumbs and chestnuts.
On Christmas Day, Tempelhoff says he will probably be at his new Mondial restaurant at the V&A Waterfront, but he’ll go home to share lunch with his wife and three children.
surface to cool. Add the salt. 150g mascarpone cheese 1 vanilla pod – scraped 50g icing sugar 20ml cream
“The kids get so excited and still believe in Santa.
“Christmas is a celebration of family and getting together around the table in a spirit of sharing,” he says.
On his inspiration, Tempelhoff points to Cape Town’s scenic surroundings – and finding love.
“When I fell in love with my wife, my ingredients became more luxurious, and I believe I started cooking with more passion.”
His Christmas list includes “a new car”, or a camera to take “great food shots”, he laughs.
Despite working on Christmas Day, the Cape Grace Hotel’s head pastry chef, Lorraine Meaney, 34, says it’s always festive in the kitchen. Staff sit down to enjoy lunch together, and exchange gifts.
“Everybody would love to be at home, but sharing it with my ‘extended’ family is not a bad second,” she says.
With an Irish background, her family would import Irish salmon for Christmas to serve as a starter. A roast lunch would follow, then her Add scraped seeds to the mascarpone cheese, as well as the icing sugar. Whisk together thoroughly with the cream. Store in the refrigerator until needed. 1 pie crust each (9 inch), unbaked favourite dessert, Christmas pudding, “well soaked in brandy”.
“We’ve been eating the same Christmas meal for as long as I can remember, and it’s usually a team effort,” Meaney says.
A special addition to their meal would be mince pies, which her mother would stock up on in November.
Meaney’s offering this Christmas is an unconventional red-and-white vanilla cheesecake, with each element displayed individually rather than stacked in layers.
Decorating the plate is red velvet cantuccini, a type of biscotti, surrounded by scoops of white chocolate cheesecake cream, raspberry sorbet, cocoa streusel and a variety of berries.
As you grow older, says Meaney, being around the table with your family becomes more important than receiving gifts.
“I don’t want anything, unless it’s something someone has made themselves, or if they’re just giving of their time.”
firstname.lastname@example.org Place a slice of pumpkin pie on a plate. With a warm spoon, scoop some mascarpone on to the plate. Finish with the pumpkin seed brittle and some grated white chocolate.
PIE PLEASURE: Executive chef for The Collection by Liz McGrath, Peter Tempelhoff, presents one of his favourite Christmas desserts – pumpkin pie. It’s decorated with white chocolate shavings and a side of mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese, and pumpkin seeds.
CHEESECAKE DELUXE: Cape Grace Hotel’s head pastry chef Lorraine Meaney displays her unconventional vanilla cheesecake, themed in traditional Christmas red and white.