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.”

ja­nis.kin­n­ 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.

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