Comfort food or gourmet cuisine – just don’t burn it

RESTAURATEUR and chef Karen Dudley creates gourmet sauces and dressings for popularonline eateries. She ran a restaurant called The Kitchen until Covid-19 led to its closure. Herfamous customers included former US first lady, Michelle Obama. | SUPPLIED

RESTAURATEUR and chef Karen Dudley creates gourmet sauces and dressings for popularonline eateries. She ran a restaurant called The Kitchen until Covid-19 led to its closure. Herfamous customers included former US first lady, Michelle Obama. | SUPPLIED

Published Dec 31, 2023


Durban — Karen Dudley is a food poet. It’s not just what she cooks, but the way she speaks about food; making it sentient, colourful, erotic.

Her meals are “mostly vegetable-lead” and she wants those vegetables to “sing” so that dishes with strong character can “play nicely with each other”.

Dudley ran The Kitchen, a popular eatery in Cape Town’s Woodstock area, until Covid-19 closed it down and she threw herself into making sauces and dressings for online platforms like UCOOK and Granadilla Eats and cooking for her family.

Not many people can say they fed Michelle Obama, the former US first lady, but this is just one of Dudley’s many accomplishments.

A common refrain in all her books and interviews is that “food has the power to touch people” and nothing pleases her more than the sense of communion that comes from gathering people around a table. Despite her many exotic creations in Onwards, her latest book, Dudley writes that the only thing she ever longs for is a thin piece of toast with cold butter and that she “offers gifts of friendship by using the vehicle of toast”.

While her toast can be a gourmet meal in itself, it’s also the perfect antidote to all the rich meals people indulge in over the festive period.

As she says in her must-watch TEDx Talk in Cape Town, the collective endeavour of all the flavours has the power to wow. Here is what Dudley calls “the peace of toast”.

Bone Marrow Compound Butter

What you need:

1½ tbsp sunflower oil

16 marrow bones(+- 1.2 kg)

Salt and white pepper to taste

+- 250g soft (not melted) butter

½ tsp salt

Pinch of dried thyme (optional)

To Serve:

1 clove garlic

1 slice toast

Maldon salt, to taste

Sprinkle of chiffonade parsley

How to do it:

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius

Brush ½tbsp of oil on a baking tray lined with baking paper

Lay the marrow bones on the tray, drizzle with the remaining oil, and season with salt and white pepper.

Roast for 15-20 minutes until the marrow is bubbling and soft.

Have a kitchen scale ready. Place a container on the scale and tare the scale (measure the weight of the container alone).

When the bones are cool enough to handle, scoop out the marrow and place it in the pre-weighed container.

Weigh the marrow you have harvested, then place the marrow in the bowl of a food processor.

Weigh the same amount of butter as marrow and add the butter to the marrow in the food processor.

Process the marrow and butter together to form an exceptionally smooth compound food butter

Add the salt and thyme (if using) and store in an airtight container.

To serve, scrape a garlic clove over your toast. Spread the compound butter on your toast. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and chiffonade parsley.

Tomato Toast

What you need:

1 slice toast (or a flatbread)


20g cream cheese

Sliced tomato

Maldon salt and black pepper

Tahini dressing

Crispy roasted chickpeas or crispy lentils

Best extra-virgin olive oil to take it over the edge

How to do it:

Spread toast or flatbread with butter

Spread the cream cheese to the very edges of the toast and arrange sliced tomato over the cream cheese

Season with salt and black pepper.

Drizzle over the tahini dressing and sprinkle with crispy roasted chickpeas or lentils.

Drizzle with peppery olive oil to finish.

Dudley writes that alternative bedding or toppings “that would like to be with tomatoes” are caper sultana relish, anchovies and caesar wholegrain mayonnaise.

Garlicky Spinach

What you need:

Tossing a bag (or harvest) of spinach and a little grated garlic in a hot wok is a standard source of greens in my home. On toast they become unctuous. Add a poached or 6-minute-boiled egg and you have breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Drizzle over any dressing or sprinkle away.

Maldon salt

These are pyramid shaped sea salt crystals that have been harvested in the coastal town of Maldon, England, by the Osborne family since 1882. It has a slightly sweet taste. Here is a recipe from

Tomato, red onion and anchovy bruschetta with Maldon salt. | WWW.MALDON.COM

Tomato, red onion and anchovy bruschetta

What you need:

4 slices of sourdough bread, toasted

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

2 garlic cloves

300g mixed heritage tomatoes, chopped

1 red onion, finely sliced

Maldon salt

Cracked black pepper

1x 250g tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil

Basil leaves, to garnish

How to do it:

Start by toasting your bread – we like to use a griddle pan for this as the charred edges add a lovely flavour, but using a toaster also works well.

When the toast is still warm, drizzle with a little oil and then use garlic clove, cut in half and rub it all over the bread – this will infuse it and compliment the tomatoes.

In a small bowl, add the chopped mixed tomatoes and finely sliced red onion. Season this with the Maldon salt and cracked black pepper, and add the 2 tbsp of olive oil. Toss this together.

Spoon the tomatoes onto your prepared toasts. You could finish it here with some basil, however we like to add some anchovy fillets too.

Garnish with the basil leaves and serve while the toast is still a little warm.

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