The produce on our doorstep is undoubtedly, in my mind, some of the finest in the world. One of these producers is Swissland Cheese not far from Hartford House.Read More
Filtering by Tag: Swissland Cheese
The battle for the hearts and minds of foodies, local and international, is never-ending. Not so long ago, there was a timelessness to the culinary world, where the term "slow food", was a comforting thought for the designers and cookers of good fare. But all that has changed; the nano-second era in which we live these days underwrites a ceaseless demand for innovation, new creations and instant delivery, particularly if you want to remain at the top table of the nation's gourmet paradises.
While the distinction of being the only KwaZulu-Natal based restaurant in the national "Top Five" is one helluva honour, it also comes with a mountain of responsibilities and expectations. There's no basking in that glory, because in this game, you're only as good as the last meal you served. Hartford House may be the remotest of South Africa's leading eateries, but it's only a matter of 15 minutes off the busiest freeway in Africa, and every day it finds its way onto the "bucket lists" of more and more passers-by.
Running one of these places is like acting in, directing and enjoying the biggest show on earth, the human drama which is driven by the universe's five great judges, our senses. As part of their quest at maintaining their currency in this human comedy, our champions of the "local is lekker" cause, Jackie Cameron, Elaine Boshoff and Travis Finch sat down this week to compose their new autumn lunch menu, foraging through the neighbourhood for the finest and the freshest in seasonal ingredients.
It's a well-known fact that the Midlands is the "Beef Capital" of the world, so its unsurprising we should find our neighbour, Lowlands, is the source of our beef. Anyone who's made the pilgrimage to the Dargle Valley Pottery or to Neville Trickett's storied temple of design, St Verde, will tell you that the verdant home of our pork was well named, while the "bushveld" environs of Estcourt are the inspiration for some of South Africa's tastiest lamb. Swissland and Romesco supply the goat's cheese and the most delicious campfire olives, while every veggie and herb is either straight out of the kitchen garden or home-grown within a jiffy of our front gates. And you can quaff it all down with a fine bottle of viognier from Abingdon's Lions River winery.
It's a strange misconception that if you happen to be a "Top Five" restaurant (or a top twenty, thirty or forty for that matter,) you have to be expensive: while we can't speak for our colleagues in the culinary world, what we can say with absolute faith, is that the Hartford restaurant is as reasonably priced in its category, as any on the planet. On that score, I should mention that I was in Australia a week ago when three of us sat down for a casual meal at admittedly, a leading hotel. While the offering was decent enough, it was a long way from what you might expect to be served at Neil Perry's famous Rockpool eatery just down the stairs, yet the bill came in (before tips) at just on R4000, with a bottom of the range but quite acceptable, bottle of wine.
By contrast, you can reserve a place for a five course dinner at Hartford, recently counted by the senior food critic at America's Wall Street Journal, among the top three country restaurants in the world, and with an excellent bottle of wine, you can sign the bill off at around R1500. A comparable meal at a comparable restaurant in Australia (or anywhere else in the "civilized" world for that matter,) will cost you more than three times (and closer to four times,) what we pay at home. Take heart, South Africans, and come and see for yourselves. We'll be waiting to welcome you with our own unique brand of Zulu hospitality.
Seared local beef fillet with fresh horseradish plus creamed potatoes enlivened with horseradish, roasted garlic, juvenile green beans and herbs with a red wine sauce.(Photo : Sally Chance)
Derek Taylor dines grandly at the International Wine and Food Society's dinner at Hartford House an on, um, gourmet bunny chows. Yes, that's possible.
"After a marathon weekend of eating and judging, my most urgent ambitions have now narrowed down to two. First to get star chef, Jackie Cameron at Hartford House to enter a gourmet bunny chow at the next annual festival celebrating KZN's unique food contribution to the world.
Next, to talk the International Wine and Food Society's Durban chapter into launching at this successful celebration of good real food next year. The IWFS members are a delightful group of omnivores but the pleasure of strolling over the grass alongside a row of eager curry-makers' stalls may take some selling.
But first to Jackie's latest IWFS dinner. A chilly Midlands night honed the appetites for the five course dinner and Diemersfontein wine tasting - including a couple of Jackie's edible jokes.
First came a complex meeting of brown mushroom soup with shiitake mushroom powder and Midlands truffle oil. This was a welcome warming soup with a remarkable depth of flavour but I couldn't find much contribution from the shiitake powder. Nevertheless, an auspicious beginning enhanced by the perky flavour of the 2007 Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Shiraz which accompanied it.
On to a warm salad of springbok loin seared with pink peppercorns, spoom, candied walnuts, foie gras terrine and black lava salt. Spoom is a sort of Italian sherbet made with syrup and wine for fruit juice mix and then, when nearly frozen, lightened with a whipped in dose of uncooked meringue to give it air and texture. The dish was excellent, the meat cooked to perfection. Black lava salt is a new one to me, but whatever its provenance, it has a good earthy contribution to flavour.
When it came to the 2007 Diermsfontein Carpe Diem malbec - a rush of big flavours, most satisfying. This is a most interesting growth and hard to find on its own and hard to find on its own : most malbec goes to invigorating other growths in blends.
Then a tartare of Norwegian salmon with Swissland goats' cheese (Swissland is a glorious Midlands source of goats' cheese in several styles,) campfire smoked olives, micro herbs with lemon croutons. This excellent train-crash of flavours and textures with Dimersfontein's Carpe Diem chenin blanc 2009 was a pleasing and lively young partner.
The main dish of seared local beef fillet with fresh horseradish plus creamed potatoes enlivened with horseradish, roasted garlic, juvenile green beans and herbs with a red wine sauce won my instant gratitude. I am an unsuccessful fresh horseradish addict doomed to a life of mostly disappointment in my search for the magic root. The beef was outstanding - obviously grass-fed with some grain finishing from its flavour and texture. A declarative, brightly flavoured 2007 Diemersfontein pinotage supported the dish well.
"Peanut butter and syrup on toast" was Jackie's jokey introduction to the dessert. In it she had combined peanut butter with maple syrup ice-cream, sugar-glazed bananas and a vanilla crème anglaise into an intriguing nougat effect within and around the melange. A good joke, delicious in fact. A nicely edged 2009 viognier from Diemersfontein contrasted effectively with this excellent end to a memorable dinner.
Jackie Cameron is one of our top 10 national chefs and still surprising her fans. We are lucky to have her here".
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SUNDAY TIMES FOOD AWARDS
The Sunday Times, in association with Foodcorp, is looking for South Africa's hottest talent in the kitchen. The partnership is committed to supporting South Africa's chefs and food innovators through the awards.
Now in its fourth year, the competition aims to recognise and reward the country's top chefs - and it offers the largest prize money in South African chef competition history.
There are four categories in the competition - Sunday Times Chef of the Year, Sunday Times Young Chef of the Year, Sunday Times Chef School Challenge and a new category, Sunday Times Stalwart of the Kitchen. In each category, entrants are required to submit a menu using uniquely South African ingredients from a predefined list.
Hartford House's own award-winning chef Jackie Cameron is one of the judges for the competition and was interviewed recently by Hilary Biller. Following is an extract from the article published in yesterday's Sunday Times :
Q : You are listed by SA Tourism as one of South Africa's young and upcoming chefs to watch. How does this make you feel?
A : Recognition always inspires me to continue re-inventing myself. It also increases the pressure of not wanting to disappoint the many people who have and are working with me.
Q : Has it been difficult being a woman in a male-dominated arena?
A : Definitely not. This has in a way pushed me to prove my worth. My parents, especially my father, brought us girls up knowing that anything is possible and that we have to work just as hard as any man if we want to get anywhere in life. Hard work and determination are the keys. But, at the same time, we girls should never lose our femininity.
Q : Hartford House, where you are executive chef, is known as one of South Africa's gourmet destinations. What gives the hotel the edge?
A : It's the only one in the world situated on a world-class stud farm.
A : Of course Adrià is one of my food heroes. Who would not be inspired by his creativity and absolute devotion to the cooking industry? I heard the other day that 90% of anything new in the world that a chef claims he or she created was inspired by something that has already been done.
Q : The emphasis today is on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. List three of your favourite suppliers.
A : I love keeping it local : Swissland Cheese for their goat milk cheese, La Petite France for their superb camembert and Wayfarer Trout for their fresh trout.
Q : What are three things every cook should know?
A : When in doubt, strain.
A : Any ingredients that grow under the ground, such as potatoes, must be cooked in cold water to start and anything above the ground, such as cauliflower, must be cooked in boiling water.
A : Always cook with the best quality ingredients you can afford. Never compromise on quality.
Q : If your kitchen was on fire, what would you grab?
A : The hand-written recipe books I have had in my kitchen, at Hartford House, for nearly eight years now. Each page tells a new story with all the different writing styles. Nearly every person who has been through the kitchen has written something in these books.
Q : Like all famous chefs, you must break down occasionally. What is your favourite takeout?
A : Mine is Chinese food, but I realised recently, after a trip to Shanghai, that the Chinese flavours I enjoy so much in South Africa are not necessarily the flavours one finds in China. I love "South African Chinese food", such as sweet-and-sour pork with noodles and fried rice.
Q : What dish have you failed to make successfully?
A : Putu pap. I never seem to make it as well as the ladies in the kitchen.
Q : What dish has your name all over it?
A : Our soups at Hartford represent my main basic principle about food - to always keep things simple and always highlight the main ingredient. Never over-complicate and confuse flavours.
Q : As a judge in the Sunday Times Food Awards, what advice would you offer prospective entrants?
A : Cook what you know and cook it well.
Q : What is the value of entering chef competitions?
A : It is a brilliant way to showcase a chef's talents and allows one the opportunity to grow and develop.