On arrival at the South African Chefs Academy in Cape Town I don full chef's attire and report to Garth Stroebel in the hot kitchen. Garth is a legend in South African food circles, with a list of enviable international achievements to his name. Together with Paul Hartmann, they simulate a real life environment with lots of practical learning opportunities as I would soon find out.
I’m here for a lesson in cooking fish. Chef Stroebel proudly presents us with a shiny Norwegian salmon, which was “still swimming in the fjords a few days ago”.
While filleting, he quickly whips up some salmon tartare. Chopped gherkin, capers, red Spanish onions, parsley and the soft salmon meat is mixed with a bit of mustard. We get to taste it on top of a cracker and I can taste the sea and the tang of the individual flavours.
Chef prepares the sashimi while we get on with the tataki and confit. First we cure our salmon in a salt and sugar mixture. We then wash and sear it, before placing the fish on a piece of plastic wrap together with a small amount of marinade and wrapping it up. We dip the parcels in iced water to stop the cooking process and later on we will slice it into rounds through the plastic holding it together.
In the meantime we make a cucumber and chili salad with vinaigrette and slice half a fennel bulb, "like angel's hair". I learn the claw method for slicing, which involves running the blade up and down the middle part of my middle finger, while the rest of my hand is safely clawed away. We add boiled water with a bit of rice vinegar, a bay leaf and peppercorns to the fennel and let it stand.
The confit we prepare by covering the last pieces of salmon in oil and poaching it in the oven at 60 degrees. This locks the flavour inside; nothing can escape so it doesn't dry out and the goodness is preserved. We do the same with some rosa tomatoes, to bring out their sweetness.
For the garnish we press and dry fry the salmon skin before cutting it into strips. We also deep fry rice noodles and tie it with a nori ribbon. I create a mat of sliced cucumber on the serving plate and add salad as a base for the sashimi, garnished with wasabi. Together with soya sauce, wasabi has the dual purpose of flavouring and killing bacteria on the raw fish. Chef inspects my plate and I'm chuffed that I whipped up this trio of salmon with just a little guidance.
The best part, though, is tasting the meal afterwards and exploring the different textures and flavours that we have achieved through different styles of preparation. I will never look at cooking salmon in quite the same way again. Anyone for dinner?
For more information about the workshops contact email@example.com
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Summer in England is such a pleasure (when the sun is shining, that is). Flower boxes and the smell of roses everywhere. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit in the tiny village of Ewhurst, which lies between Cranleigh and Shere in Surrey. Here my cousin and his wife share the village with stars like Eric Clapton and Kenney Jones of The Who. Not that they've met them - yet.
Cycling seems to be a popular pastime when surrounded by the Surrey Hills and there are many stunning cycling routes throughout Surrey. The Hills have been classified an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a title which is given to rural areas in the UK valued for its landscape aesthetics. I quickly decide to join in and explore the area by bike. After all, if Surrey is good enough for the 2012 Olympics Road Cycling event then cycling in Surrey is good enough for me.
Reasonably close to Herman and Lalie’s cottage in Ewhurst, lies a stretch of MoD (Ministry of Defence) land. This unspoilt area is set aside by the Ministry of Defence for Armed Forces training. However, they also share the rolling hills with the general public, who use the footpaths to walk their dogs and, as in our case, to cycle through the woods.
After a breakfast of fresh strawberries, scones and clotted cream, Lalie and Herman take the lead through the streets of Ewhurst. They easily cycle up the steep, muddy slope from their cottage in Ewhurst to the MoD park. It is clear that they do this often and have managed to conquer the hill. I am relieved and a little embarrassed by the time I eventually reached the top, but more than happy to see that the hills from here onwards look a little gentler.
Soon we are surrounded by leafy trees, ferns and lush grassy vegetation dotted with white and yellow flowers. We also pass the ruins of a small fort and quite a few other cyclists, joggers and hikers before we have to stop to fix Herman’s tire. Good timing, as we've reached a view point and it's worth lingering. The view from here crosses quite a few counties and, says Lalie, on a clear day you can see the London skyline.
Later we toast to our cycling efforts with some fruit ale, on the grass under the apple tree outside their cottage. Time for a well deserved meal of beef bourguignon and salad, with fresh herbs from the English garden. Ah, on days like this I do tend to agree with Bill Bryson.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
It was with the utmost curiosity that I agreed to join my cousin and his wife to a car boot sale in Surrey on a surprisingly sunny Saturday morning. I took the 30 minute train ride from London to Guildford and imagined a little patch just out of town with a few antiques floating around. So I was admittedly overwhelmed with the scale of what I saw when we arrived. Not that this is the biggest car boot sale in England by any chance.
As far as the eye could see, cars were parked in rows on a grassy field; car boots open, trestle tables out. Some even had their goods packed out on blankets on the grass or hanging from industrial rails. Lalie and Herman clearly know their way around these markets and headed off with a mission to look for specific items that they had in mind. I found myself wandering aimlessly between collections of mismatched silver cutlery, well loved My Little Ponies and some velvety Sense and Sensibility dresses.
My forehead must have spelled confusion when I saw an old toilet seat. Lalie explained that some of these oddities often become fashionable, such as the current trend of using old washing basins as flower pots in the English garden. It was certainly hard to believe that anyone would want to buy some of the trash at this trunk sale. Yet the variety of goods was mind blowing. From tools and bicycles to bird baths and broaches.
Once I managed to gather myself I figured I might as well hunt for a few treasures. It was easy to bargain and since it was already almost time to pack up many things was selling out for £1. Such as the tiny Finnish porcelain tea cup which was my first buy. I also found an anthology of love poems, a pair of vintage leather gloves, an Audrey Hepburn style head scarf, a silver butterfly ring, a shiny bracelet and a dress suit.
All for £14. I cannot think of anywhere in the world where I could find better value. Or have more fun discovering pretty things and the stories that make them interesting. Lalie found her bird feeder and Herman got a tool box for his garage, at a fraction of what it would cost new. Fabulous way to shop indeed. I will be back!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The only thing I really, really, wanted to buy in London was a corset. See, I just don’t need the Kate doll, the vintage gloves and the God Save McQueen scarf.
An hour glass shape, however, that; of course, is something I do need (want? whatever). At the end of the 20th century women lashed out at the corset and rebelled against forcing their bodies into a shape that pleased men. I pretty much think that stuffing myself into such a theatrical fashion item would please me more than anyone else, for that matter. I know it hurts but there are few things as much fun as donning some false eyelashes, glitter and feathers and indulging in a few flirtatious moves. Bring on the burlesque.
In London corsets go back way beyond the Victorian and Edwardian eras so I thought it would be quite the cultural experience to shop for one. After all, I had done the Big Ben, the Tate, Madame Taussauds, Harrods, all on previous trips, tick, tick tick – and was up for something a little more interesting this time round.
So, besides a full time working week or two in this busy town (it was quite the challenge trying to coordinate the tubes, trains and buses to a time schedule on the way to the office and back!) this was going to be my week of finding a corset somewhere in the city.
And yet – no such luck. Google wasn’t much of a help either as most of the stores I tried to seek out closed or moved. Admittedly I did not have all the time in the world to look around. My last attempt was a general stroll around Camden early evening hoping to stumble upon a little corset shop in a side street somewhere before they all close, but no. No corset for me.
I did, however, find The End of the World (see picture), at the end of a long week, in London’s Camden Town. A most fitting conclusion to the inevitable drama that ensues when I. Just. Can’t. Have. What. I. Really. Really. Want.