Johannesburg - We pore over a South African’s tribute to his Afrikaans heritage and love affair with France; see what’s cooking in 7de Laan, and after being bitten, allow ourselves to be smitten.
The French Affair: Tables of Love
By Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen
Struik Lifestyle R375
My instinctive reaction to The French Affair: Tables of Love was that it looked like yet another pretentious, clichéd cookbook about someone’s trip to France and their obvious love affair with the country.
Well, it is, and it isn’t.
The author, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen does have an abiding love of France, but his styling, attention to detail and recipes are glorious; as delicious to look at as they are tempting to prepare. It’s well produced and lovely, instead of turning in with a novel you might reach for a copy of this instead.
Paying homage to his journey from his family farm in Mpumalanga (a real farm in Africa, Charlize) to the Cape Winelands, the French Riviera and Paris, Jan Hendrik has the right credentials – and then some – to be releasing a recipe book.
Trading in the bucolic setting of Mpumalanga to train as a chef (with a masters in pastry) at Zevenwacht wine estate’s chef school outside Stellenbosch and a photographer in Cape Town, he worked in the wine industry and Elle magazine as contributing food editor before accepting a dream assignment in Paris with Elle International.
Currently based in Nice in the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera), he has named his restaurant simply Jan.
The book documents this talented photographer, chef, artist and blogger’s love affair with France and its food cultures. Delving into his formative experiences, Jan Hendrik dedicates the book to the women in his life – his mother, sister and grandmothers, who showed him how to “put love on a plate”.
“As a child I feared a rugby ball and loved the smell of marzipan when my mother decorated wedding cakes.”
So, he says, his book is “not only about a hunger for food, but life, experiences, places and all things beautiful”.
In its first chapter, titled “Love on a Plate”, Jan Hendrik describes the food he grew up with, but, as to be expected from a magazine stylist, many of the dishes are a little jazzed up: chicken liver paté with a sherry glaze; baked sweet potato and chickpea salad with walnut mustard dressing; meatballs wrapped in cabbage leaves with an apple and sweet chilli sauce.
If you ever wondered about using loquats, there’s a loquat cobbler with vanilla crème anglaise. And if you haven’t tried making biltong, there’s a recipe for that too – plus ones for French pastries, vinegars, pickles, curds, jams and chutneys.
Quinces are in season: he dolls up his milk tart with cinnamon quinces. Other recipes, such as the rabbit and wild mushroom ragoût, oysters with Champagne cream; chicken breast with Sauternes (sweet wine) and preserved lemon; and a Turkish delight pavlova (developed during his time as a private chef aboard a yacht on the Côte d’Azur) reflect his Francophile obsessions.
His recipes are beautiful – I already have designs on many of them. Top of my list to try this weekend is the lemon verbena, coconut and lime ice cream – fresh, zesty flavours that speak of summer and sunshine.
7de Laan Celebrates
In co-operation with Danie Odendaal Productions and the SABC
Human & Rousseau R265
The hit multilingual soapie 7de Laan celebrates 13 years on our television screens, so those among us with an aversion to daytime dramas are not exactly the target market.
However, there’s plenty of material for fans, as 7de Laan Celebrates acts as an add-on to events in the soapie.
Celebration is the name of the game and 7de Laan characters are apparently always up for a party, whether a safari dinner, a 21st birthday, an elegant dinner, Champagne breakfast, Christmas lunch, church bazaar or rugby match.
The recipes are attributed to various characters, which is puzzling because I wasn’t sure if the actors had developed the recipes themselves, as they’re not named, or if the book’s recipes are based on fiction, written by the show’s producers.
The recipes, in fact, have been compiled by Catheryn Eybers, with the text written by a number of contributors. As such, it comes across as contrived. And I would be loathe to attempt the recipe for malva pudding with blue cheese.
Thankfully, most recipes are perfectly fine: springbok loin with cherry and chocolate sauce; waterblommetjie soup topped with candied bacon; roosterkoek; beer, potato and cheese soup; curried mince vetkoek; and boeber with meringue topping.
This is just the book for the local palate: accessible, not too way out, and friendly. Also available in Afrikaans.
Smitten – more unpretentious recipes
Stuik Lifestyle R250
First there was bitten, now smitten, food blogger Sarah Graham’s follow-up to her hit book.
Sarah, a finalist in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2012, now hosts a TV series, Sarah Graham Cooks Cape Town. She also regularly writes for food24, Getaway and YOU magazines.
(For her blog, visit http://afoodieliveshere. com)
In smitten, Sarah focuses on the “extraordinary; the creation of uniquely quirky yet still achievable, budget-friendly and oh so delicious food to share”.
For convenience, the recipes have been divided into categories such as Nibbles, Speedy Suppers, Feast and Slow.
It’s mostly geared at novices, with helpful hints and a meal planner with wine pairings. For me, her stand-out savoury recipes are the simple sweet potato smoorsnoek – a one-pot dish combining smoked snoek with its traditional accompaniment, sweet potato; harissa chicken with roasted baby vegetable salad; hoisin duck with pak choi and coconut jasmine rice; and BBQ pulled pork sarmies with red cabbage, pear and fennel slaw.
Her sweets section looks delicious: think dark chocolate and berry pots; dark chocolate and salted caramel tart; rosemary panna cotta with Earl Grey syrup; and a lemon sponge pudding are to die for. - Saturday Star