From the loving hands of gifted candy makers comes a selection of melt-in-your-mouth gourmet sweets that are seducing palates across the country.
Marie-Louise Trollip, the creative mind behind Mari’s Crumbly Butter Fudge, fell in love with fudge in her mother’s kitchen when she was little. “My mom cooked fudge using a traditional recipe handed down to her by my grandma.”
She remembers a big, thick-based pressure cooker pot, which was her mother’s trade secret. “We were four children and each of us would take a turn to stir the pot. We waited impatiently for the fudge to be ready, but I could smell when it started to caramelise. Then I knew the end was near and worth the long wait.” Her mother would pour the liquid gold into a big pan to set, making sure not to clean the pot out too much. “We all sat around the pot on the kitchen floor scraping and licking it clean until there wasn’t a trace of fudge left.”
Marie-Louise’s childhood memories were reawakened when she was expecting her first child and finances were tight; “I was six months pregnant and woke up one morning feeling very discouraged, wondering how we would be able to look after little Maya if we didn’t even have enough for ourselves”.
She scratched out her grandma’s irresistible recipe and got to work. Initially operating as Soete Sonder End (Sweet Without End), they re-branded last year. Today, five years later, Marie-Louise and husband Ivor employ six women in their factory in Riviersonderend and makes over two tons of fudge per month. They supply 250 shops across the Western Cape, Gauteng and Durban, including Tuinroete Agri, Beans About Coffee, various Spar stores and several farm stalls along the N2.
Despite their budding success, Marie-Louise insists she is a small-scale artisan who produces small, quality batches at a time. “Every batch is unique and each woman who makes a batch has her own particular touch.”
The range includes honey fudge, made with locally produced honey. “It’s my favourite because the honey makes the fudge extra creamy.” Marie-Louise is also extremely proud of her delicious chocolate orange fudge, which features her homemade candied orange.
The original caramel flavour is the bestseller. Hard to the touch, but forgiving to the bite; it is thick, dark and has that tell-tale powdery patina of perfect fudge.
Mari’s recently launched a flagship chocolate almond brittle, flavoured with salted popcorn. “People are hooked on it because it’s not as hard as most brittle.” The layered confection includes crumbly toffee embedded with salted popcorn and is topped with dark chocolate and roasted almonds.
Superior home-grown ingredients are a hallmark of their remarkable buttery fudge. “We source great local ingredients, including Lancewood butter from George, Jersey milk from a local farmer and we make our own full cream condensed milk,” says Marie-Louise. The couple use only natural flavours for the manufacture of their gourmet sweets and shun artificial additives.
When asked if there is a secret to Mari’s Fudge, the sweet maker humbly replies: “Patience and strong forearms.”
Knysna-based Hantie Gerber’s flavoured fudge is a favourite at the Wild Oats Community Farmers Market in Sedgefield and shops in the Southern Cape.
A master of the notoriously capricious and tricky art of fudge-making, Hantie says the science of good quality, melt-in-the-mouth fudge hinges on the correct crystallisation of the sugar. “Mass produced fudge is hard, grainy and just sweet,” she says, “that is the difference between factory and artisan products; the passion and the personal touch – and that, you can literally taste.”
She relies on her refined skill and senses: “I started out experimenting with different ingredients and in the end realised it’s all in the technique. The right temperature, the clean buttered sides of the pot, the cooling down before beating and the duration of beating are all essential components.
“Every piece of fudge goes through my hands. It’s not something you can teach someone to do, I think. You sense when the right things start happening. You see the toffee-like consistency change from shiny to dull. You can feel the smooth texture when the spoon goes through the mixture right before it starts setting.”
Hantie’s Homemade Fudge is available in twelve mouth-watering flavours, including Turkish Delight, Rocky Road and peanut butter. Demand for her confectionary has now spread to Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and she has begun to courier fudge countrywide.
She also produces other noteworthy foodie products, including three different flavoured salad dressings and a basting sauce that recently featured in the Ooh Box gourmet tasting group as well as the Kokkedoor Kardoes wine and food discovery bag.
Precious Pudge Fudge
Pudge Fudge matriarch Barbara Lee‘s confections have tempted many a sweet tooth on the Garden Route over the past 20 years.
A wall of buttery sweetness envelops visitors at Barbara’s quiet home in George like a warm embrace. The aroma comes from the Pudge Fudge factory adjacent to the family kitchen.
Humbly reluctant to disclose the secret of her success other than ‘hard work and dogged determination’, Barbara says: “I started with a microwave oven in my kitchen and 24 cans of condensed milk.” Now she has three full-time staff working in her kitchen and has much of her family employed in offshoots of the company, supplying fudge across the country.
“We have up-scaled,” she jokes. Pudge now buys their condensed milk in 10-litre buckets and has a cold room for storage. While production generates several bakkie loads of fudge every month, each piece is still lovingly made by hand; hand mixed, cooked, cooled and cut by staff whom Barbara regards as part of her extended family.
Her three daughters and four grandchildren swear by the fudge scrapings still warm out of the baking tray. “Once you taste that,” says her daughter Gillian Lee, “no other sweet ever really matches up. Mom banned us from eating the fudge when we were little, knowing that unlimited access could completely corrupt us, but we still managed to sneak some of the warm crumbly offcuts straight from the baking trays.”
Barbara is visibly proud of her successful sweet industry. “I love my business and am incredibly proud of it. It’s seen my family through tough times and now I can finally say all our hard work is paying off, and I can see my family and staff reaping the rewards.”
If you are up early enough in George’s industrial area, the delicious scent of warm honey in the air will lead you to the Milano’s sweet factory on Pearl Street – the home of the unmistakable Milano emblem of a smug teddy bear licking his muzzle.
Production manager Ivan Kotze is often hard at work by 5am, supervising his team of confectioners on the pristine air-conditioned factory floor. Honeycomb syrup bubbles on a gas stove and is whipped into a sticky frothing lava-like consistency. The mixture is then carefully poured into cooling pans and left to set. “Honeycomb is a difficult product to make and confectioners are careful to handle it quickly. If it’s beaten incorrectly there is a danger it will flop and develop a toffee-like consistency,” says Ivan.
In a cold room, one of Milano’s magic makers is dipping jagged and rustic lumps of broken honeycomb in a vat of melted chocolate.
Fresh batches of white, pillow-soft nougat are churned for hours before adding a selection of luxurious chopped fruit, nuts and coconut. The ingredients are delicately folded into the meringue base before being poured into cooling pans, lined with rice paper. Over 4000 bars are made at the factory every day.
Ivan is clear about what he has set out to achieve: “Milano’s nougat is chewy and fresh; it is the best handmade product on the market. We have succeeded in becoming a household name.” While locally best known for their delicious display at the Outeniqua Farmers Market in George, Milano’s also distributes nationally. “Milano’s handmade nougat is more expensive than mass produced bars in supermarkets because it is made with higher quality ingredients, including specially sourced cashew nuts, slivers of roasted almond, dried mango, plump figs, coconut and syrupy cherries.”
Some of the best summer memories involve ice cream, and yoghurt has advanced to a key lunchbox snack. In the Garden Route, the local artisan dairy scene has elevated playful science to an exciting niche with unexpected tastes and experimental flavours.
WORDS Grethe Mattheus PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré
“Ice cream is like a time machine,” says Paul West, whose philosophy it is that memories are linked to taste. Through his extraordinary flavoured ice cream, he is passionate about creating not only new memories, but sharing moments when a taste sensation takes a customer back in time.
After going to chef school at the age of 47, Paul and Su West bought Ice Palazzo in Plettenberg Bay in 2009 and ventured into an unknown new career. “The day you stop learning is the day you die,” says Paul.
I feel a bit like Charlie entering Willy Wonka’s factory as he tells of the weird and wonderful flavours that have seen the light in his kitchen. From a cherry and cinnamon apocalypse fire ball flavour, as a tongue-in-cheek ode to doomsday prophesies, to horseradish sorbet or brandy and coke, and cones filled with hot-cross bun or Christmas cake flavours that celebrate the festive season – the passion folded into each batch is contagious.
Working with local chefs, Paul takes every opportunity to redefine what should, or should not, be served as ice cream. “One of the craziest flavours I have experimented with was avocado ice cream. I then candied shrimp and made a shrimp infused butterscotch sauce. When the other chefs saw it, they said, ‘Paul, what have you done?’, but it tasted amazing. The only thing was, we could not decide whether it was a starter, main or dessert,” he laughs.
In addition to their shop in Main Street, Ice Palazzo ice cream is served at The Heads Café in Knysna, Pomodoro in Wilderness, Beacon Island Hotel and Summer Sands in Plettenberg Bay. They also make ice cream cakes and desserts for special occasions, and have a mobile unit for functions and events.
Try their tiger’s tail red orange and liquorice, vanilla, mango sorbet, or jack and black (Jack Daniels and chocolate). Effort is put into the detail of catering to a variety of tastes. Banters and diabetics can choose from five different diet-friendly flavours and in peak season they serve a 100% vegan sorbet, made from a non-GMO soya-based product. Paul is a firm believer in small businesses supporting each other and 80% of their products consist of ingredients from local suppliers, including milk, cream and butter from grass-fed and hormone- free Garden Route cows. They also make many of their flavour elements, such as brownies, honeycomb and salted toffee sauce on-site.
An uncompromising devotion to quality and the joy of serving others motivated Rudolph and Elizabeth Brown to start Elizabeth Brown’s Ice Cream Cafe in the Garden Route Mall in 2004. The shop has since been taken over by Jené and Francois Griesel, and the Browns now work from a factory shop in George Industria.
Rudolph’s experience selling soft serve and gelato at festivals and functions across the province for many years laid the foundation for their vision in a time when there were no local models to learn from. In the early years of the business, a supplier crisis before peak season forced them to make their gelato from scratch. “You need to be able to innovate quickly. Our final product was better than any imported base mixture and we now proudly source Jersey milk, strawberries, blueberries and other ingredients locally. Our approach is hands-on and it includes sometimes getting up at 4am to collect fresh milk from the farm,” he continues. Elizabeth believes these quality touches make an exceptional artisan product. “We are always playing to create new flavours and some of our most tasty triumphs have been Speculaas and Halva flavours.”
The couple recently introduced a new house brand designed for the food service and home use, with plans to distribute to quality shops and restaurants. “We have a great team of people and are excited about building the brand and continuing to explore new markets,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Brown’s Ice Cream Café factory shop has an Italian ice cream bicycle for special occasions, and offers gelato, soft serve and ice cream cakes for functions and events.
Jené and Francois share in this labour of love and the couple’s passion for food and beautiful presentation led to them taking over the Elizabeth Brown’s Artisan Ice Cream & Coffee kiosk in the Garden Route Mall in November 2015. “We believe the fact that the ice cream is produced in small batches, which ensures quality and freshness, and that there are more than 40 flavours rotating in the kiosk, means that we always try and offer a new experience to our customers. During this past year we were really surprised at the loyalty of our regulars, even in winter,” says Jené.
The kiosk’s fridge regularly displays limited editions and is known for signature creations like Ferrero Rocher and nostalgic milk tart flavour. Jené recommends one of her favourite dinner party desserts: pairing a glass of Grenache with their liquorice ice cream, topped with berries, chocolate crumble, crème fraîche and mint.
Janis Lister and her son Matthew brought their love of down-to-earth ice cream all the way from Coffee Bay to settle in Sedgefield in 2014. Since then they have been delivering wholesome classics at yearly events like the Karoo to Coast, Celtic Festival and Knysna Rowing Regatta. The colourful shop, Monkey’s Raindance, which also showcases the bright wares of Matthew’s happy clothing range, brings a smile to your face even before you start tasting the homemade creations.
Made with love in their kitchen in Elandskraal, they allow the bounty of local produce to inspire new flavours and an abundant fig harvest has led to this summer’s star, blue cheese and fig flavour.
They believe in a traditional approach, using farm fresh eggs and milk, and their range includes banting passion fruit, banana bread and a punchy lemon. With only five domestic ice cream machines in their production line, they work around the clock to keep up with demand and are one of the hidden gems of Sedgefield.
Monkey’s Raindance is available to cater for events, functions and special occasions.
Try a scoop of lemon paired with a scoop of honeycomb – it tastes just like lemon meringue!
A bowl of Milkwood Dairy’s rich Greek yogurt is simply delicious and an absolute indulgence. Newcomers to the Garden Route’s dairy treasure chest, farmer and foodie friends Georgie Muller and Tarryn Hampson started Milkwood Dairy products in February 2016 to address their own need for wholesome and natural options.
With milk supplied from the Mullers’ Milkwood Farm, the two families oversee the complete value added process, from calf to shelf. Milkwood Farm started in 1957 with only 17 cows. They have since grown to one of the oldest closed-herd Friesland farms in the country and they know each pasture-fed cow by name – literally.
Starting in their kitchen and sharing samples with friends, the two have had positive feedback since day one and the business has flourished. Their products are completely natural, with no stabilisers, thickeners, artificial flavours or preservatives, all of which sets their products apart. The live yogurt culture is added to hormone-free milk, fresh from the farm, and given enough time to thicken naturally.
Their super creamy Greek yogurt is a product of a lengthened straining period, which ensures it has a higher protein and lower sugar content. They are excited about consumers becoming more educated about the food they eat, and as they grow their business their strong values will remain the anchor in any new product development. “We are looking at twist products like adding a honey twirl or locally sourced blueberries to our existing range, maybe even frozen yogurt, but those are more long-term plans,” they both agree.
The Milkwood range includes plain full cream yogurt, Greek yogurt, labneh and kefir.
Buy their products at Nature’s Corner, Red Barn (online or at the Outeniqua Farmers’ Market), Hetta’s Home Food, Farm Fresh Direct and thriVe in Wilderness.
CONTACT Elizabeth Brown’s Ice Cream Café
Rudolph and Elizabeth Brown
14 Commercial Close, George
084 571 9596
Elizabeth Brown’s Artisan Ice Cream & Coffee Kiosk
Jené and Francois Griesel
Garden Route Mall [email protected]
In an instant world where preservative-loaded quick bake loaves have damaged the reputation of bread, the makers of ‘real’ artisan bread are standing up for its heritage, luxurious taste and health benefits.
WORDS Clare van Rensburg PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Mare
On a crisp spring morning, dawn finds Antoine Salnelle toiling in the bakery behind his café, La Patisserie, in George. He lovingly packs hundreds of freshly baked loaves for the Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market. The sun has barely touched the edge of the eastern sky as his three bakers leave after a night of intense labour.
The intoxicating warm smell of fresh bread hangs in the cool air. The buttery aroma of croissants adds a sweet top note and the deep heady scent of rye forms the base of a delicious bread perfume.
Baking artisan bread is a labour of love, the product of which is seductive, luxurious and inspiring. Wicker baskets filled with squat, scored sourdough loaves, long baguettes and seed covered sticks sit waiting to be devoured. These loaves were made to be slathered with the best farm butter and Fynbos honey. They were fashioned to be broken with friends and family, savoured with rounds of baked Camembert, syrupy green figs and glasses of Pinotage. One bite of the rough crunchy crust and the soft warm chewy centre of the sourdough becomes a clarion call to wholesome indulgence.
Handmade loaves originating from the best Garden Route bakeries find their origin some 100km west, on the rolling wheat fields of the Overberg platteland. Sustainable GM-free wheat is nurtured in African soil and ripened by the sun. Local co-operatives provide grain that is slowly and gently stone ground at Eureka Mills outside Heidelberg. The flour produced by this natural grinding process yields a whole flour, which retains all the healthy wheat germ, fibre, oils, vitamins and enzymes. It is coarser in texture than conventional flour, boasts a higher nutrient content and bakes superior bread.
The ‘goodness of the flour’ is a religious concept to Nico Steyn, miller and manager at Eureka Mills. “My biggest challenge is to educate people about the pride we have in our ingredient. Our farmers produce a premium product using practices that respect the land, employ crop rotation and minimise the use of chemical fertilisers,” says Nico.
Their mill grinding process is unique. “The grindstone generates little heat compared to commercial mills and none of the nutrients in the flour are degraded. In contrast, commercial flours are ground using 14 sets of steel rollers and leave the flour overheated and often stripped of nutrients.
“I want people to enjoy bread again. Our business is not just about money; it’s about creating a change in food culture.” He is excited by the current transformation in South African food values. “People are talking enthusiastically about bread again. Bread has become more than a vehicle for cheap margarine and processed cheese. Beautifully baked artisan bread stands alone,” says Nico.
This sentiment is shared by a select number of Garden Route bakers. Michael Amos from Delish in Heidelberg bakes exclusively using Eureka flour. “Commercial flours are stripped of nutrients, laden with artificial ingredients, flour enhancers and preservatives.” He bakes ciabatta, sourdough baguettes and herb loaves in a wood fired oven and is particular about quality. “As a nation, bread is our staple; we are eating too much bad bread. We should rather spend more on quality ingredients and eat less, or find a good bakery.” Michael’s philosophy is simple: “If I look at a packet and I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I won’t eat it, I won’t use it. We need to get back to the source of our food!”
Friends and business partners Jane Hops and Florence Chabanel from Le Fournil in Plettenberg Bay oversee the baking of a range of traditional loaves. Their ‘Boule Miche’ is made with local draft beer instead of water. The ‘Miche d’antan’ sourdough takes 24 hours to develop, allowing the full flavour of the bread to mature, ensuring longevity.
The country loaf is fermented using a natural sourdough, which the duo refined over the last 10 years from fermented apples. Their variety of rye breads use natural sourdough starters. At Le Fournil, baking centres on patience and respect. “In this fast food and disposable era,” says Jane, “these are qualities that have been lost in food. To us, artisanal represents an era where food was appreciated and savoured, took time to make and was eaten together around a table.” She laments the fact that this sounds old fashioned, but the use of additives and preservatives in commercially baked products has been linked to allergies and intolerances. Jane says these problems are often absent in their traditional methods of baking.
Claire and Antoine Salnelle of La Patisserie are equally obsessed by the quality of their ‘real’ bread. Baking artisan loaves is an intensively laborious process, explains French chef Antoine. “It takes at least a full day to bake a single loaf of bread.”
True French bread, he explains, consists of only four ingredients: water, yeast, flour and salt. The time honoured baking technique requires pre-fermentation of the dough overnight. Mixing is done by hand, the dough is divided into loaves, rested, then shaped in French linen to improve the flavour. Individual loaves are proved, developed and eventually baked. “Everything is done by hand. We are not pushing buttons on machines and setting timers here. We work through the night and with time. I learned to sleep standing up.”
Handmade bread focuses on the quality of ingredients, particularly the baker’s own sourdough starters. These microscopic communities of bacteria and yeasts are an essential component of truly amazing bread. And the best bakers nurture them like children. Antoine handles his humble looking sourdough starter with reverence. He has lovingly protected and fed it for 12 years. It is the cornerstone of La Patisserie. His wife, Claire, says it even has to be brought to France on holidays with the family as he trusts no one with its care.
Small producers like the Salnelles often struggle to make their businesses profitable in an industrialised era. “This business is not making millions. I can cut corners and make the loaves in two or three hours but it wouldn’t taste the same and I wouldn’t be able to stand over that product.” So the family keeps their business small. “We monitor the quality and enjoy our lives. I get to see my children grow up and ensure that they are well fed, and our employees are able to make a good living.”
Authentic bread baking requires monitoring a multitude of variables, from the quality of the flour and salt to the ambient temperature, humidity and the amount of yeast used. “There are no shortcuts, you have to keep the yeast happy. The baker must constantly adapt to the weather and monitor the quality of the dough. “For us the most difficult thing is to keep the bread the same. There is not one batch exactly the same as another.” However, one factor that remains constant is that the bread is healthy. “We work the dough slowly, the flour is not warmed up and the nutrient content is maintained. We respect our ingredients and try to ensure that all the goodness of the flour makes its way onto the plate,” says Antoine.
Garden Route artisan bread pioneer and chef Markus Färbinger of Île de Païn in Knysna reiterates this sentiment: “The best chef or baker can only be a good shepherd to the best natural ingredients. Our core priority is health,” he says. Île de Païn’s temporary pop-up style shop in Thesen Harbour Town, The Summer Shack, serves exclusively fresh, local foods prepared to order. They use Eureka’s stone ground flour to produce a crisp nutty baguette, a bold Companio and their speciality Vollkorn bread.
Île de Païn was the first artisan wood fired oven bakery in South Africa. Markus imported his skills from Austria where his family have been bakers for 300 years. The wood fire oven is an essential component of their bakery. “Fire tempers and transforms the loaf. It bakes the bread more beautifully than a conventional electrical oven. The colour, taste and texture are optimised, bread is less dehydrated and better risen. The baker is more engaged with and in tune with the bread.
“This type of baking takes real skill, focus, attention and an instinct for what maximises the energetic value of food. Bread like this is not expensive, it is valuable for one’s nourishment – body, mind and soul.”
Markus loves the simplicity of handmade bread, its honesty and humility. “If done well, it has potential to be as nourishing a food as it was thousands of years ago when the Egyptians first realised the fermentation of grain unlocks its energetic potential. Bread like ours has survived 6000 years and will continue to do so despite our shifting understanding of what ‘value’ is.” Markus and his business partner, Liezie Mulder, are currently rebuilding their bakery and restaurant in Thesen Harbour Town and expect their doors to open this summer (2016).
CONTACT La Patisserie: 26 Courtenay Street, George 044 874 7899 Ile de pain: Thesen Harbour Town iledepain.co.za Le Fournil de Plett: The Courtyard, Lookout Centre, Main Road, Plettenberg Bay Eureka Mills:eurekamills.co.za
As Garden Route coffee menus expand to exotic new flavours and brewing methods – such as delicious flat whites, microfoam-topped espresso shots, creamy cortados, rich macchiatos and smooth ristrettos – local aficionados no longer need to settle for a heap of dry froth on the surface of a bitter brew pretending to be cappuccino.
WORDS Clare van Rensburg PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré
Kelvin Appelgren of Caloroso Café in George is at the forefront of the coffee culture in the Garden Route. The artisan barista has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of coffee and a passion to match.
“Coffee culture has really taken off in the Garden Route in the past five years, and more people want to experience gourmet-grade coffee.” Kelvin has picked up on the growing trend towards variety and luxury; “I want people to experience the sophistication of coffee. We offer different brewing methodologies and a diverse range of bean experiences.”
The brew bar and café promotes a range of single origin beans roasted specifically to highlight their unique characteristics. Sample a plunger of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Let Kelvin intrigue you with his take on the unique citrus, jasmine and floral flavours. Taste the spicy Indian Mysore or try out the house blend, a unique and complex balance of Ethiopian, Indian and Costa Rican beans, supplied by Rouviere’s Coffee Roastery outside Sedgefield.
Kelvin has developed a passion for educating his clientele and encourages them to experiment by sampling increasing popular trends such as brewing with the AeroPress. Unlike the French Press, this single shot extraction technique makes full-flavoured coffee in seconds. “Locals have developed a more adventurous palate and are ready for a new taste experience, breaking away from the idea that coffee is just a vehicle for caffeine.”
Knysna coffee bar, Polvo, is another coffee snob’s mecca. The name derives from the Spanish for dust, a reference to the earthy ground coffee of South and Central America. Owner-manager James Fouché is a self-confessed coffee purist: “I’m pedantic beyond measure.” His exacting standards are exemplified by his year-long quest for the perfect house blend. A unique fusion of Guatemalan, Columbian and Costa Rican beans, Polvo’s Potente blend has intense chocolate and earthy tones. “It’s like taking a bite of Lindt chocolate, with a lingering touch of zesty fruitiness on the back of the tongue.” He makes a stunning Café Cubano, a traditional Cuban-style espresso in which demerara sugar is added during extraction. The result is a delicious, syrupy caramel-flavoured coffee. “One is allowed to be full of nonsense about coffee and wine,” says James with a grin.
He has a true love of coffee and a passion for sharing his knowledge. Polvo hosts coffee tastings by booking. This coffee buff is ruthless about the quality of his coffee, and serves the most expensive brand in the world – Kopi Luwak – at R150 per cup.
Polvo emphasises the need to repurpose their used coffee grounds. Their waste recovery effort involves making a zesty grapefruit soap from the leftover coffee grounds.
Peter Murray is the talented young barista at the helm of The Merchant Coffee, a trendy café in Mossel Bay. The 140-year-old former merchant shipping store on Bland Street was expertly renovated to preserve its heritage.
Stark, rugged sandstone walls house the coffee shop and art gallery. “We are passionate about coffee and creativity,” says Peter. “We promise the aroma will match the reality of the flavour.”
It’s a lofty undertaking, matched only by their delicious tall cortada. Sample one on a Saturday morning when there is local live music. Relax and enjoy the arty vibe and innovative space. Embrace The Merchant Coffee philosophy; good coffee is a right!
Beans About Coffee is a speciality coffee roastery in George. Green beans from all over the world are hand-roasted daily while the baristi crank their espresso machine at a furious pace in the vibrant coffee shop. “Our main focus is on roasting and serving excellent coffee,” says owner Stefan Jamnek, who also distributes to espresso bars and restaurants across the region. He has identified an emerging trend for brewing gourmet coffee at home and stocks a range of 14 single estate varietals as well as house blends. Beans are sold whole, ground or in capsules.
Stefan is a stickler for excellence: “I only sell what I truly believe in, customers are guaranteed to get gourmet coffee, incomparably fresher than anything on a supermarket shelf. We distinguish ourselves by selling coffee that is not easily available elsewhere.” For example their Indonesian Arabica is grown on a small estate, the coffee cherries are hand-picked, Rainforest Alliance certified and the beans dried and rolled in a ‘wet-hulling’ technique that reduces acidity and brings out tropical melon, strawberry and paw-paw flavours. They also stock rare, full-bodied Cuban beans featuring caramel hues and smoky tobacco undertones.
Aharon Baruch is the grandfather of coffee roasting in the Garden Route. He imported his love of coffee from his home in Israel and has been perfecting the art since 1998 at Baruch’s Coffee Roastery in Mossel Bay. The master roaster oversees a serious coffee operation involving selecting beans, roasting daily in two drum roasters and meticulously blending. His son Josie is serving as an apprentice.
If Aharon has time he will give you a coffee tasting lesson. The entrepreneur maintains espresso is the real proof of good coffee. “It should stimulate all the senses,” he says as he dips his finger into the dense golden foam and inhales deeply. “Slurp the coffee all the way to the back of the tongue, while inhaling air gently. You should be able to see a beautiful crema, smell the aroma of the bean and taste it on all parts of the tongue.” He insists most people who start to appreciate ‘pure coffee’ will never go back to a sweetened flat white.
Aharon is passionate about the health benefits of the drink and points to research, which has proven coffee’s role in reducing the risks of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression and liver cancer. Coffee is rich in antioxidants and enhances memory.
Husband and wife team André and Tanya Prins manage Root, a boutique micro-roastery and coffee shop in George. They showcase a range of Asian, Central and South American and African coffee beans in bright red silos at their coffee counter. The couple believes there is a freshly roasted bean at Root for every palate and conscience. André is the perceptive analyst of the team and enjoys matching clients to the right brew. “It’s a little game we play, trying to read which of our coffees a person will love.” The duo will even allow you to sample the beans first, if the shop is quiet, and have a second grinder just for this purpose. Try the fruity and aromatic Indonesian Mandheling or see if you can pick up the minty finish in the Kenyan Blue Mountain beans. They take their environmental responsibilities seriously and have adopted a local business to repurpose their leftover grounds into a fantastic cacao and coconut body scrub.
Sisters Ali Brebner, Sue Dalzell and Les Rankin stock fair trade coffee at their European style coffee bar, Doubleshot, in Plettenberg Bay. The trio offers a sustainably produced and hand-picked blend of Brazilian, Columbian and Ethiopian coffee beans supplied by Espresso
Lab Microroasters in Cape Town. Ali Brebner says: “We are passionate about serving a drink that ensures producers are looked after and paid a fair price for their product.” The blend offers caramel, cherry and blood orange flavours, an impeccable companion for a slice of their warm Marmalade cake. Their artisan coffees are crafted on a rare Mirage Triplette coffee machine, complete with levers and foot pedal. For coffee junkies, this alone is worth the trip.
ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO COFFEE TERMINOLOGY Caffè Americano: An espresso diluted with hot water. Caffè Latte: A serving of espresso with about three times as much hot milk topped with foam. Caffè Mocha: Chocolate, espresso and steamed milk. Cortado: An espresso ‘cut’ with a small amount of micro foam textured milk to reduce the acidity. It is stronger than a cappuccino or flat white. Espresso: The soul of coffee. A 60ml (two-ounce) shot obtained by high pressure extraction of fine ground coffee. It should have a caramel coloured velvety crema, a textured body and a flavourful heart. Flat White Cappuccino: An espresso single or double shot, with twice as much micro foam textured milk. French Press: A brewing method that separates spent grounds from brewed coffee by pressing them to the bottom of the brewing receptacle with a mesh plunger. Lattè Art: Art created by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso. Macchiato: A serving of espresso ‘stained’ or marked with a small quantity of hot frothed milk. Pour-over: A brewing method where boiling water is poured over ground coffee in a filter. Ristretto: A ‘restricted’ shot, produced by stopping the extraction process before any of the bitter notes are allowed into the cup.
CONTACT Caloroso Café: 103 Meade Street, George 044 874 0482 Polvo: 50 Main Road, Knysna 072 025 6402 The Merchant Coffee: 78C Bland Street, Mossel Bay 071 203 7188 Beans About Coffee: 117 York Street, George beansaboutcoffee.co.za Baruch’s Coffee Roastery: Gericke Street, Voorbaai, Mossel Bay baruchscoffee.co.za Root: St George’s Square, George rootcoffee.co.za Doubleshot Coffee Bar: Checkers Centre, Plettenberg Bay doubleshotplett.co.za
COFFEE CRUSH We asked South readers where in the Southern Cape they drink coffee. [email protected] in Mossel Bay was the outright favourite in our Facebook poll.
“All you need is love and more coffee,” proclaims a sign in [email protected], the labour of love of Hennie and Soney Muller, who have been serving coffeeholics their caffeine shots since they opened their doors in Marsh Street last May. The couple is passionate about coffee and takes great care to source the best beans. They believe every cup should be just right. The trendy hot spot offers a variety of on-the-go coffees, a range of specialty teas as well as light meals and treats. Open Monday to Friday 7am to 3pm and Saturday 8am to noon.
56 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay 071 692 1641 coffeeatwork.co.za
Our readers also enjoy: MOSSEL BAY: Baruch’s Coffee Roastery, Carola Ann’s, The Blue Shed Coffee Roastery, The Coffee Club (Joan’s Bloemiste), The Merchant GEORGE: Beans About Coffee, Caloroso, Lala’s Vintage Coffee Shop, La Patisserie, Lauren’s, Meade Café, 101 Meade Street, Root WILDERNESS: Flava, The Green Shed Coffee Roastery SEDGEFIELD: Café Vienna, Deo Gloria, Slow Roasted Coffee, Tea 4 Two, Village Deli, Wild Oats Community Farmers Market KNYSNA: African Bean, Café Throbb, Chaplin’s, East Head Café, Lunar Café, Mon Petit Pain, Polvo, Seattle Coffee at Shell, Summer Shack/Ile de Pain, Tin House Café PLETT: Bocca Dolce, Doubleshot, Clare’s Cakes, Hola Café, La Caféteria, Le Fournil de Plett TSITSIKAMMA: Tsitrus Café OUDTSHOORN: Beans About Coffee, Cango Caves Estate, Mamash, Signature Divine
“I’ve been thinking…” he said. “Oh no…” she said. And so an eclectic open plan house on the Seven Passes road outside Hoekwil became a weekend bistro where the kuier is as good as the food.
WORDS Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPHS Desmond Scholtz
When Julio and Susan Agrella first saw the property, it was so overgrown with wattle it was difficult to see the mountain on the doorstep, but the couple recognised its potential right away.
“At school our son, also named Julio, told everyone his dad bought an estate with four houses and three cars. I had to explain the ‘estate’ was an abandoned smallholding, the ‘houses’ a workman’s cottage and dilapidated outbuildings, and the cars rusted wrecks dumped there,” Julio Snr says with a grin.
On the stoep of their barn-like, double-volume face brick home, the wood-fired pizza oven sizzles as the sun sets over the Outeniqua Mountains. Kids play on the lawn beside a fish dam and among fruit trees and veggie boxes. Four Weimeraner dogs momentarily go ballistic when Susan walks to the budgie cage.
The couple bought the property in 2000 and spent time there on and off until 2011, when they packed up in Cape Town and moved into the renovated worker’s cottage on the small holding. After clearing the alien vegetation, they started thinking about what they wanted in a house.
“We had some ideas about living in a church, or something that resembled a church. We liked stained glass windows, high ceilings and the idea of one large space made up of grouped sitting areas,” says Susan. “It also had to be large enough to house the furniture, art and trinkets we had collected on our travels. We are ‘crows’ and like to collect things with character and a story.”
The house design grew organically with their ideas of a place that would reflect their easy-going lifestyle, space for Susan’s leather workshop and her fencing exercises, a large kitchen and a wide stoep where time could be whiled away in easy conversation. They called it Celeiro de Agrella, which means ‘Agrella’s barn’ in Portuguese.
Not long after the couple moved into their church-like barn, Julio sat on the stoep with a cup of coffee appreciating the view and thought what a pity it was that others could not enjoy it too. Then he started thinking…
Surprisingly, his wife was quite open to the idea of sharing their house and hospitality with others. Susan, an instinctive and innovative cook, liked the idea of opening their house to visitors for cake and coffee during the summer holidays. The turnout far exceeded their expectations and the humble teas initially intended when they opened doors in December 2013 turned into three-course Sunday lunches – but by appointment only and on their own terms.
“When leaving here, people feel as if they have visited friends at their house, which of course they have,” says Susan. “We only take one sitting per meal and never overbook. Initially we felt too bad to turn people away, but learnt the hard way that overbooking is not worth the experience for the guests or us. It is important for us that it feels intimate and like a second home. If people are going to drive more than 20km from the N2 to get to us, it must be a destination worth lingering at.”
The entrance to the Agrellas’ house reflects Julio’s Portuguese heritage and interest in the icons of the different denominations within the Christian faith including Catholic, Protestant, Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian artefacts.
Patrons are greeted at the door by an apron-clad Julio and Willem Smith, a long-time friend and experienced restaurateur who helped the Agrellas set up the bistro and stayed on to host and serve.
Guests are seated at tables in the family lounge, on the stoep and lawns. They are welcome to don any of the many hats on the hat stand, and read the books and magazines on shelves all over the house.
The décor is cheeky, imaginative and homely – a fake rat peaks from an old upholstered chair, a butter churner shares space with books on a shelf and parts of a piano are nailed to the wall. Susan’s fencing gear and swords hang alongside works by world-renowned leather artist Beatrix Bosch. Retro couches are covered in leather and velvet, and Persian carpets adorn rugged floors. If you pay attention to detail, you may also spot mounted dentures, a dodgy garden gnome, sewing machines and Russian samovars.
Julio and Willem walk among the tables and, between orders, take some time to chat. “While there are always new faces around, locals support us throughout the year, and in summer particularly we are booked at least two weeks in advance.”
Another summer treat is the fish dam in which kids, and even dads, have been known to swim. “We just hose them off when they are done,” says Julio.
The menu varies from week to week depending on what is available in the garden, specialist shops and the Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market outside Sedgefield, where most of the ingredient shopping is done. Susan’s innovative salads are a case in point. “A salad need not be predictable when there are peaches, nectarines and pomegranates growing outside the door. It is fun to combine flavours as we go along; whatever is in the garden is probably going to land up on your plate.”
Even dessert promises to be interesting. Homemade ice cream flavours include date and chai, and red fig and Amarula. The cheesecake is like nothing you have tasted before: butternut dark chocolate, fresh pear and white chocolate, orange and white chocolate, salted caramel, cardamom and saffron, and mint, lemon and smoked chili. Susan has also been collecting teas from around the world, and hosts an unforgettable tea tasting with pickings from nearly 50 flavours.
In October 2014, Julio and Susan asked their French qualified chef son, Julio Junior, to join the Bistro Celeiro team. “Junior’s experience in Europe has given us even more reason to experiment, using methods and tricks he has picked up in his studies and work.”
More recently the family extended their invitation into their home to Fridays in summer when a pizza oven is fired up. In addition to standard Italian toppings, the team has devised innovative gourmet pizzas topped with imported cheeses, cured meats, fresh herbs and more. Burgers and quesadillas are also on the Friday night menu.
As if two nights a week of visitors are not enough, the Agrellas are likely to agree to hosting small functions on Saturdays. “We have hosted weddings, a funeral and birthday parties. It is a privilege to share profound moments in other people’s lives and a compliment that they feel comfortable to do so in what is essentially somebody else’s house,” says Susan.
Open Fridays (except winter) for pizza, burgers and quesadillas from 4pm onwards.
Open Sundays for á-la-carte lunch from noon. Booking is essential and recommended long in advance. 044 850 1026
Bistro Celeiro is not licensed, but also don’t charge corkage for glasses and ice.
Get there: turn inland from the N2 at the Hoekwil turn-off east of Wilderness. Drive about 19km and look out for signage on the right.
On a smallholding outside Klein Brak River two proudly Afrikaner tannies are making history by producing the country’s latest superfood – rosella flowers. Their hibiscus products have turned out to be unexpectedly successful.
WORDS Clare van Rensburg PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Mare
Arriving at Latchet farm in the sleepy district of Klein Brak River on a warm December morning, my task is to sample the Garden Route’s newest superfood: rosella flowers. Best friends and business partners Anina van Tonder and Helen Malan offer a warm greeting as they guide me past rows of beautifully tended juvenile hibiscus bushes. Although only knee-high now, this crop will provide a rich harvest in only a few short months.
The two entrepreneurs have prepared a feast of flowers – crimson blooms fizz in flutes of ice-cold sparkling wine. The sweetness of the floral sheath is the perfect complement to the crisp tartness of the wine.
Syrup soaked flowers are filled with Lancewood cream cheese and served on a tapas platter along with local olives and green figs, while a melting round of ripe Fairview Camembert is drenched in rosella syrup. The magnificent scarlet shade of the rosella is also used in a luxurious sparkling wine jelly.
The blossoms provide delicate decoration on a traditional custard trifle and are blended into the rich creamy filling of a gourmet cheesecake, all washed down with a refreshing glass of rosella iced tea.
Rosella flowers have a unique taste and texture. Sweeter than rhubarb, but more sour than strawberry, their flavour hints at lemon and sits on the tongue as smoothly as a ripe raspberry. The preserved flowers bear a resemblance to decadent cranberry sauce. The product follows a growing global trend for locally produced, small-scale artisan fare.
Last year the Malan smallholding produced 2500 jars of preserved flowers from less than a single hectare under cultivation, and their products are proving to be a huge hit in the Southern Cape. “Our stock is flying out the door. Just when we think we’ve made enough stock, somebody rings and needs another 350 bottles for a wedding.”
Of the hundreds of species of hibiscus found around the world, only Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Wild Hibiscus, produces the edible swollen red floral cases, known as calyces or roselle. The dried calyces are brewed into a tea in Sudan; used in the production of juices, jellies and jams in Europe; colourants in the United States; and made into a cooling lemonade in the Caribbean. Wild Hibiscus has been cultivated in India, Indonesia and tropical Africa for centuries and is particularly rich in calcium, niacin, vitamin C and iron. In addition, this superfood contains cancer fighting antioxidants. Rosella tea is used in folk medicine to treat high blood pressure, stimulate the liver and digestive system, reduce fever and fight infection.
Seeds of success
Anina and Helen, friends for over 22 years, are registered nurses, proud grandmothers and now successful entrepreneurs. Three years ago they began to grow and bottle rosella flowers as a way to earn retirement income.
Anina discovered the gourmet delicacy by accident on a trip to see her daughter in Australia in 2010. “One evening we went on a ladies night out and our hosts greeted us with beautiful rosella flowers in sparkling wine.” After a three-year search for the flowers back home, she found out they grow wild in KwaZulu-Natal, but it was impossible to source affordable seeds.
With the help of NGO Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products, Anina’s daughter brought 100g of seed from Australia in 2012 and the business, African Rosella Flowers, was born. Today, 600 lovingly tended plants produce thousands of flowers in a single growing season.
Helen and Anina share a hard working nature. “We do everything ourselves – from planting to bottling. Afrikaner women never stop working!”
The two friends planted their hardy, drought-tolerant seed stock and monitored the plantlets carefully to ensure they didn’t fall prey to insects, vervet monkeys and baboons. “We were so excited when the plants started flowering,” they say of their first crop, which bloomed in 2013.
The business was not without its challenges. “Initially we struggled to find the right formula for preserving the flowers. We realised that we needed to conserve the blossoms in sugar and water syrup, but our first attempts failed as the flowers crumbled or wilted,” says Helen. With the help of culinary arts specialist Francois Ferreira, they perfected their processing technique and lovingly bottle their produce without the need for artificial preservatives or colourants.
The entrepreneurs are acutely conscious of using farming techniques that protect the environment and limit the impact of their crop on local biodiversity, sourcing minimal irrigation water from a local stream. While most local animals don’t like to eat the plant, a Cape Mountain tortoise has to regularly be removed. “My husband drives him over to the game reserve at Botlierskop,” says Helen, “but he must find the flowers delicious because he somehow always finds his way back. He is eating our profits, but we recognise that he was here first.”
The process of growing, harvesting and preserving the plants takes months. In July, Anina sows the tiny seeds by hand. By September they are resilient enough to be planted into the ground on Helen’s smallholding. Once the flowers bloom in January, the women prepare for their harvest. By mid-February the flowers have died back, leaving their seed pods. Seasonal workers strip the bushes of the ripe red calyces. Each bush produces hundreds of blossoms and each roselle has to be trimmed off individually with scissors, and the seed case removed by hand.
The day immediately after the flowers are harvested, the processing begins; the swollen red seed cases of the hibiscus have to be bottled immediately. This is an incredibly labour intensive process. The friends work from a small, one-room factory on Helen’s property through-out February, March and April. They boil the delicate scarlet seed cases in sugar syrup, before bottling them in jars. “We are so busy during this time that Anina banned her son from getting married until June,” Helen says with a laugh.
Helen and Anina share a bond many business owners would admire. They cite friendship, passion and communication as the keys to their growing success. “We are able to talk a thing out,” says Helen. “We haven’t had a single fight in 22 years,” adds Anina.
Their favourite part of the business is delivering the season’s new stock in the autumn. “We make a lekker outing out of our deliveries. We start in Plettenberg Bay early in the morning and visit all the farm stalls. We’re not that young anymore and by the time we get out of the car at the end of the day, we are really hobbling like old people,” says Anina.
Although they joke about feeling ancient, they are as vibrant as their flowers. They have clear plans for the future. “We will retire on these flowers,” the women say.
CONTACT African Rosella Flowers 044 696 6737 africanrosella.com
Stock available at farm stalls and speciality food stores from Franschhoek to Stellenbosch and around the Southern Cape. Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP)
Elton Jefthas, Country Director, ASNAPP South Africa (Southern Africa)
021 808 2918 [email protected]
This organisation aims to improve indigenous plant product industries on the African continent. The NGO works with rural communities, horticulturalists and entrepreneurs.
Specialised food producers, organic farmers, world-class chefs and award-winning farmers’ markets have raised the region’s foodie profile significantly over the past decade. South asked two chefs to pack picnic baskets with the best of what the Garden Route and Karoo have to offer.
PHOTOGRAPHS Lisa Leslie, Louis botha
THE GARDEN ROUTE BASKET
Packed by Sedgefield-based chef Alma Oosthuizen, the Garden Route basket was selected from choice suppliers, many of which have stalls at the Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market outside Sedgefield and the Outeniqua Farmers’ Market outside George.
Start with cold meats and biltong from Greeffs Butchery, pickled curry fish from Fiela Vis and venison pies from Hetta’s Home Foods. Add some flavour with tangy p-dews from John’s Food Market and bacon chutney, onion and olive marmalade and mustard Piccalilly from Little Herb Garden.
The cheese board includes the best of Ganzvlei outside Sedgefield: Blue Moon, Vastrap Mature Cheddar and Goukambert and Lancewood: cream cheese wedges with chives, Jalapeno chutney dip and top, and balsamic and onion dip and top. Bread from Ciabattini and Banting seed loaf from ChefAlma Country Foods.
Ice cold craft beer from Robertson Brewing Company in George will quench your thirst and keep you cool. The Classic Weissbier, Reggae India Pale Ale, Celtic Scottish Ale, Gaelic Irish Stout and Soul Witbier are all great choices.
Choose Aiden Pomario’s famous cheese cake, strawberries from Redberry Farm and choc chip cookies from ChefAlma’s cut and bake cookie logs for something sweet.
About the chef
The talent behind the increasingly well-known ChefAlma Cut & Bake cookie logs, Trail Mix bars and Banting pre-mix ranges, Alma Oosthuizen is an award-winning chef and part time lecturer at the Francois Ferreira Academy. She also caters and gives private cooking classes.
ChefAlma has a stall at the Outeniqua Farmers Market every Saturday from 8am to 2pm.
083 630 3333 [email protected]
WHERE TO FIND IT
Greeffs: 45 Waterfront Drive, Knysna 044 382 2607
Lancewood: Shops countrywide and factory shop in Ironside Street, George www.lancewood.co.za
Little Herb Garden: Deli shops across the region 082 3726723 www.littleherbgarden.co.za
Robertson Brewing Company: 1 Memorium Street 082 659 2650 www.robertsonbrewery.com
Fiela Vis: Deli shops across the region and 14 Trein Street, George 071 597 2589
THE KAROO BASKET
Packed by Gavin Memper, chef at African Relish recreational cooking school in Prince Albert, the Karoo basket showcases extraordinary produce in and around Prince Albert.
Salty snacks include biltong and droëwors from Chic Karoo with table olives, olive tapenade and olive chutney from O for Olive. The cheeseboard boasts award-winning cheese including mozzarella, Gouda, cheddar and feta from Gay’s Guernsey Dairy and Deli – her yogurt and drinking yogurt is delicious. The seeded loaf and rusks are from Lazy Lizard. They also make a delicious carrot cake. Fresh and dried figs and jams from Weltevrede Fig Farm offer another sweet option.
A Fernskloof Organic Wines 2013 Chardonnay brings out the flavours best.
WHERE TO FIND IT
Fernskloof Organic Wine: R407 outside town 023 541 1702 www.fernskloof.co.za
Lazy Lizard: 9 Church Street 023 541 1379 www.lazylizardprincealbert.co.za
Chic Karoo: Church Street 082 878 0240
O for Olive: Swartrivier Olive Farm, Kruidfontein Road outside town. 023 541 1917
Prince Albert Olives: Hope Street 023 541 1687 www.princealbertolives.co.za
Gay’s Guernsey Dairy and Deli: Christina de Wit Street, Bo-Dorp 023 541 1274
Weltevrede Fig Farm: Weltevrede Road outside Prince Albert 023 541 1229 www.figfarm.co.za
Picnic basket and linen provided by Cinnamon & Grace, 32 Church Street 072 320 8421
Painted plates and mugs provided by Prince Albert artist Amanda Cliengen 084 452 7906
About the chef and African Relish
A passionate and adventurous chef, Gavin Memper’s cooking reflects his many travels – from the French Alps to the Serengeti, where lions lived in his herb garden, to yachts in the Mediterranean, adventures in New Zealand and villages in Thailand. Visitors to African Relish can learn from Gavin and guest chefs in recreational cooking courses and master classes. 34 Church Street 023 541 1381 www.africanrelish.com
As lifestyle-related health problems, including food intolerances, type 2 diabetes and obesity increases, more and more people are turning to healthy and balanced eating to cure their ills, rendering food a form of preventative medicine.
WORDS Candice Ludick photographs Melanie Maré
As people make better dietary choices for a healthier lifestyle, Garden Route health food producers are noticing a market trend towards more conscious dietary choices.
Organic farmer Lello Incendiario, owner of Quarry Lake Estate outside Plettenberg Bay, completely changed his eating habits and overhauled his health. “We are the first generation where parents are outliving their children due to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, stress and malnutrition – many of which can be prevented or managed by clean living,” he claims.
Lello and his family moved to their farm about eight years ago as they pursued optimal health. He says as restaurateur in Gauteng his health was compromised by the typical South African lifestyle of braaivleis, beer and readily available, unhealthy food. He suffered shortness of breath, headaches and nausea. After spending around R160 000 over 18 months on doctors’ visits and diagnostic tests to try and find out what was wrong with him, Lello turned to a naturopath. Tests revealed his system was too acidic. “My body was not functional, it was not absorbing oxygen,” he says.
After three weeks of drinking wheatgrass daily, as the naturopath suggested, Lello noticed a difference in his energy levels. This dietary change made him realise he could change his life by changing his lifestyle. He eliminated meat and alcohol from his diet, becoming a vegetarian for the next ten years. Six years ago he ditched dairy and made the transition to veganism. Lello says he noticed a difference in his health after cutting out dairy and has not needed a medical consultation since changing his eating habits.
Lello advocates clean living. “It is the difference between being 70 at 48 and being 48 at 70,” he says. He is fanatical about living in balance with nature. He developed six acres of organic gardens on his farm and proved pesticides and chemical fertilisers were unnecessary. Instead, he uses solar lights set up away from his crops to attract pests, which are then disposed of by natural predators. He plants annuals, perennials and fruit trees to create a natural eco-system that mimics nature’s balance. He also produces organic mulches and compost. Quarry Lake Estate produces wheatgrass trays, sprouts, dehydrated kale chips, root vegetable chips and organic herbal teas. He also sells natural produce and vegan delicacies at the family’s coffee shop, Bocca Dolce. On Saturdays and Sundays a harvest table showcasing the finest calibre of vegan food is available. He is proud to bring products to the market that he believes will not cause illness. “Sometimes people fail to see the connection between diet and health, and that’s something I aim to change.”
The freedom of baking
All things Annabelle produces wheat, gluten and dairy-free baked goods. Knysna resident Anne Watson established All things Annabelle after a health scare that led her to make the connection between diet and optimal health. After being diagnosed with endometriosis shortly before her first pregnancy, a magazine article prompted her to eliminate red meat, alcohol and wheat from her diet. The change resulted in a marked improvement of her symptoms. However, she found the commercially available wheat and gluten-free products prohibitively expensive and simply not satisfactory. “I began experimenting with wheat-free recipes, researching and refining them as I went along.” When her second child suffered from eczema and was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance, she added dairy-free products to her repertoire. She sells her products at the Harkerville Market in Plettenberg Bay on Saturdays, or by order. “I have noticed a growing market for my products, which I think can be attributed to an increased awareness of the health risks associated with wheat and dairy intolerance.” She is working on a recipe book to help those who want to move to a healthier lifestyle.
The Grain Mill Organic Bistro in Knysna serves food made from natural, organic produce. Organic products are not always readily available in South Africa but Adelheid Schmid, originally from Germany where she ran an organic bistro, sources the finest free-range, hormone-free, locally farmed foods. She also introduced spelt products to Knysna. Imported from Germany, the spelt is milled on-site to make spelt pastas, breads, bread rolls and pizza bases for the bistro. “Wheat-free but not gluten-free, this ancient grain has none of the negative impact wheat does on the bodies of those who are intolerant. Many people are becoming aware of spelt in South Africa, resulting in a growing demand for these products,” says Adelheid. The bistro has vegan, vegetarian and meat options on the menu.
The Banting bandwagon
As more and more South Africans climb onto the Banting bandwagon to increase their energy and drop weight with a low carb, high fat diet, the demand for carbohydrate-free foods has increased. Prof Tim Noakes, author of The Real Meal Revolution, proposes Banting as a more natural way of eating. Noticing a market trend and demand for low carb alternatives, Sea Food at The Plettenberg Hotel introduced a Banting menu. It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner options, which must be booked 24 hours in advance. The menu features fish, roasted pork belly, rib-eye steak and springbok loin served with cauliflower rice or cauliflower fries.
“An increasing number of guests started asking for Banting options during the last December holiday season and we decided to make a Banting menu available,” says Kevin Coetzer, Head Chef under Executive Chef Grant Parker.
Lello’s vegan potato and spinach gnocchi
250g (2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp salt
Boil the spinach and leave to cool, squeezing all the water out and mince finely.
Boil, steam or bake the potatoes in their skins until tender. Leave to cool slightly, then peel.
Finely mash the potatoes and add the spinach. Mix well.
Using your hands, lightly work the flour into the potato mixture.
Roll pieces of the dough into small cylinders, about 1.5cm in diameter.
Cut the cylinders into gnocchi, around 2cm long. Press lightly with a fork to create grooves for the sauce.
Place on well-floured dishcloths (to avoid sticking).
Cook in small batches in boiling, salted water. The gnocchi are ready when they float to the surface.
Serve with a simple sauce (sage and butter or tomato). Vegan Parmesan sprinkles give it that cheesy taste.
Contact Grain Mill Organic Bistro
cnr Waterfront Drive and Union Street, Knysna
Weekdays 8.30am – 4.30pm
083 635 7634 Bocca Dolce coffee shop at Quarry Lake Estate
Daily 9am – 3.30pm
083 562 7236 All things Annabelle
Harkerville Market on Saturdays
Makes to order
083 779 4119
SeaFood at The Plettenberg
40 Church Street, Plettenberg Bay
Daily for breakfast 7.30am – 10.30am; lunch 12 noon to 2pm; dinner 6.30pm – 10.30pm. Booking essential
044 533 2030
Disclaimer The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Personal chef services are becoming increasingly popular, also on the Garden Route where locals are making the most of Plettenberg Bay’s “party town” status.
WORDS Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPHS Grace Harrison
For Ritchie Rorich, becoming a personal* chef was the culmination of passion, work and life experience. “A good personal chef doesn’t just walk out of chef school and start cooking for small groups. The required skills set extends beyond putting a decent meal together – including interpersonal skills, business acumen, administration and marketing.”
A trained chef with more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Ritchie believed in the potential of personal chefs on the Garden Route long before it was all the rage. “Not only did many patrons of establishments where I worked have the financial resources to afford a personal chef, they also had a real appreciation for good food – it seemed ideal to me.” He eventually made the leap early last year and hasn’t looked back.
“Diners have become increasingly dissatisfied with the overall restaurant experience. Multiple disruptions, crowded restaurants, unsatisfactory service, parking issues and ambient noise are just some of the reasons why more and more people are calling in personal chefs. By hiring a personal chef, clients can have the benefits of someone else doing the cooking within a controlled environment and without concerns like drinking and driving.”
The restaurant environment also makes it difficult to ensure dietary requirements are met. “The chef at a restaurant may just be an employee, cooking the recipes of someone else with produce that was delivered in mass. A personal chef can be more expressive and takes personal responsibility for every plate he delivers,” Ritchie says.
A personal chef also has the opportunity to share his passion and raise awareness about the importance of responsible and sustainable living. “When I cook, I tell guests that everything on their table – including the spices and the crockery – is locally produced. I source all the food myself, mostly directly from the producer. Everything is free-range, organic and fresh.”
Raised in Gauteng, Ritchie travelled extensively after school, starting on a Kibbutz in Israel. “The exposure to multicultural influences changed my approach to food entirely.” Working in different hospitality jobs in the United Kingdom, restaurant kitchens nearly put him off the career that would become his destiny. “The kitchen is a volatile place and I really did not like the chefs who came across as rude, abusive and arrogant.”
Back in South Africa his time in the Eastern Cape – which included earning a living from baking bread and cake – made him realise he was happiest cooking for others.
In 2005, at the age of 25, Ritchie started training at HTA School of Culinary Art under Stephen Billingham, the current President of the South African Chefs Association. He worked at The Ritz Carlton Naples in Florida (the hotel group’s signature hotel) and the six-star cruise liners Crystal Cruises, finished off by four months in Brazil. “I loved eating with the locals and went around with a notebook, asking the mothers and grandmothers their cooking secrets.”
A weekend stopover in Knysna would turn into permanent residency and work, first at 34˚ Degrees Tapas and Oysters and then at the Hunter Hotels’ Zinzi restaurant. When his daughter was born, Ritchie sought a different pace and used his local connections to spread the word regarding personal chef services.
“Interestingly, my experience in Israel in particular would become significant as a large Jewish community live, work and play here. Not only do I know their traditions and their food, I also know how to run a kosher kitchen.
“Being a personal chef is very rewarding. Every client is different and challenges are as diverse as travelling with every kitchen utensil you can think of, to catering for fussy children. Every empty plate is a compliment and every referral a blessing.”
At 5.30am during summer holidays, when all-night partygoers drag themselves into bed and dedicated runners head for the beach, Nadia Beutler and her team go shopping. “It is quite surreal to be working at full steam when most others are in holiday-mode but after several years of having Christmas in November, our family is now used to it,” she says with a grin.
Nadia owns Eden Hospitality Group, a company that supplies a wide range of services including personal chefs, personal shopping, catering, wedding and event coordination, hospitality training and more. “When you live on the Garden Route, it helps to be a jack of all trades.”
She has been cooking for private clients since 2011 and has seen the niche grow exponentially over the past few years. “This past season, we served 19 families in Plettenberg Bay and Knysna over a four-week period, seven of which were personal chef services for at least two meals a day. Some families use our services every year and they have become friends.”
Depending on the client, Nadia will stay discreetly behind the scenes or engage enthusiastically. “Breakfast clients often like us to prepare the meal and leave before they get up, but some are happy to sit in their pyjamas and chat with us over a cup of coffee. A typical evening meal would be a selection of large platters and salads where everyone can sit around a table, nibble and chat. On good-weather days we do braais and sundowners on the beach.”
But personal chefs are no longer just a holiday or special occasions treat and an increasing number of permanent and semi-permanent residents are making use of their services. “It’s not uncommon to get a phone call from someone not in the mood for cooking, or wanting to host friends over a weekend.”
It is also not as expensive as one may expect and locally compares in price to a three-course meal in an up-market restaurant. “Just think how much more intimate a marriage proposal could be, or how much longer that dinner party could last if you need not consider noisy restaurant guests and kitchen closing times.”
While perhaps strange to cook in a kitchen that is not your own, the majority of clients’ kitchens are well equipped. Most clients require that the shopping is done as well. The service includes cleaning up afterwards.
“Personal chef work is so much more than putting a plate in front of a guest. It requires fine-tuned people skills that can determine a client’s insecurities, moods and needs. The balance between respecting client privacy and being available for service is very fine.”
Born in Somerset West to German parents, Nadia inherited her dad Horst’s passion for food. “While dad prepared food he bought from a delicatessen, I enjoyed decorating the table. I understood from an early age that food was meant to be an experience.”
Being able to speak German ensured her casual work from the age of 16 at nearby Hunter’s Country House, where she first worked as hostess and later as concierge. She moved to the Cape Winelands after school to pursue experience in the hospitality industry and worked for top establishments such as Arabella Hotel, Haute Cabrière and 96 Winery Road Restaurant. When she fell pregnant with her daughter Crystal, Nadia returned to Plettenberg Bay.
Nadia landed her first personal chef job while working as office manager of Lunchbox Theatre, with which she remains associated as chairman of Tshisa Talent. “The English family wanted Yorkshire Pudding, which I thought was a dessert of course. They nonetheless enjoyed my honesty and my food, and personal chef services proved to be a relatively unexplored niche market in Plettenberg Bay. Our association with Plett Villas, an agency renting out luxury homes, has been a valued connection. These days it fills our summer calendar from November to April, and bits and pieces in between. The remainder of the year is made up of weddings, training and consulting. It has become a full and rewarding life of service and fun.”
*There is an international distinction between a personal and private chef, the latter is usually dedicated to one client.
Alje van Deemter has been serving his award-winning cheese for lunch at his off-the-beaten-track Tsitsikamma home for 18 years. South visited Alje to learn why he is known as the Alchemist of cheese.
WORDS Candice Ludick PHOTOGRAPHS Lisa Greyling
Tucked away in the heart of the Tsitsikamma lies one of the Garden Route’s best kept secrets. Internationally renowned, multi award-winning cheesemaker Alje van Deemter’s Fynboshoek is a haven from the demands of modern life, reminiscent of a simpler time when food was central to human social structures.
His philosophy on life and business is pinned on the fridge in his old-fashioned farm kitchen: “Whoever comes are the right people. Whenever it starts is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. Whenever it is over, it is over.”
Alje’s passion for food and his journey to greater sustainability evolved into creating a space where people could learn about their relationship with the food they eat and develop understanding, respect and appreciation for the process. “Cheese-making has never been about making a living for me but rather about making a life where my actions are in harmony with my heart’s guidance.”
After inheriting his family’s holiday farm in Tsitsikamma, he moved here from Cape Town 21 years ago and began experimenting with all things cheese. Trained as a microbiologist, Alje initially approached cheese-making with an exacting scientific regimen. Through trial and error he learned that far better results were yielded when he embraced the unpredictability of artisanal cheese-making instead of trying to control the process. The result was a variety of subtle flavours determined by the season, weather and a myriad of elements working in unison to create world-class produce.
Alje says people who tasted his cheese wanted to know the story behind the treasure, which ultimately led to him serving by-appointment-only cheese lunches at Fynboshoek in 1997.
He serves lunch on indoor and outdoor patios to the sounds of smooth jazz and birdsong on the edge of the Tsitsikamma forests. He welcomes guests into his home – shared by his beloved Ridgebacks, chickens and cats – with warm-hearted hospitality. The fragrance of freshly baked bread and roasted coffee peppered with an assortment of culinary high notes fills the air, and Alje’s attention to detail ensures his food is as visually appealing as it is tasty.
Lunch consists of a variety of raw goat and cow milk cheeses served with home-baked bread and organic salads. This year Alje planted wheat, which will later be milled into flour, to achieve his vision of a lunch produced entirely on his land.
Alje’s desserts are equally famous and include homemade Italian ice-cream made with vanilla pods from Madagascar. Artisanal coffees and teas finish the meal.
He serves the meals himself and lingers at tables to chat. The conversation most frequently turns to the cheese-making process. “People have a desperate need to understand the process. As a modern species we have become so far removed from where our food comes from. If the producer and consumer can look each other in the eye, there is a lot less chance of mischief.”
Alje has a herd of 30 Saanen goats that he milks by hand, often by candlelight in an old sod structure on his farm. Ethical standards are of utmost importance to him. “Many of my friends who follow a vegan diet in objection to widespread cruelty in animal-based food production are comfortable eating my goat milk cheeses because they know how I treat the animals.” His cow milk cheeses are made from milk sourced from neighbouring, equally ethical, dairy farms.
A chance meeting with another cheesemaker led to him entering his Formosa Goat’s Milk Cheese into the World Cheese Awards in 2003. He came away with a Bronze against artisans who had been making cheese for several generations. “I was blown over when the result came back, until then I had never really contemplated comparing my cheese to others.” Since then an array of Alje’s cheeses have won national and international awards, including three Golds at the World Cheese Awards and two international Slow Food Artisanal Cheese Citations.
Continued interest from his patrons led to Alje’s latest initiative, cheese-making demonstrations. Ideal for those wanting to learn about the cheese-making process, the demonstrations include an opportunity to experience the daily rhythm of farm life and the making of whatever is currently being produced.
Artisanal cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, quark (cottage cheese) and yoghurt are among the produce made on the farm. The cheeses demonstrated may vary depending on the needs of the farm at the time as Alje produces for the eatery and supplies to restaurants around the country.
Day one includes a demonstration on how to make quark and yoghurt, to be eaten with a farmhouse breakfast on day two. After breakfast, participants view more cheese-making processes and enjoy a leisurely cheese lunch. Two nights’ accommodation is provided for participants in Alje’s recently completed sand-bag cottage.
Intentionally electricity-free, gas and solar power provide the basics. The well-equipped kitchen and living area boasts a large fireplace ideal for a respite from the pressures of daily life. “I hope visitors to Fynboshoek will leave not only rejuvenated, but also with a better understanding of their relationship with food and respect for the process,” he says.
VISIT FYNBOSHOEK Lunches
Served daily between 12pm and 4pm, by appointment only. Bookings no later than 11am on day of arrival. Maximum 20 guests.
Lunch: R150; Dessert: R50 Coffee: R15 (2015) Accommodation
Cape farm style cottage sleeps up to four people in one double and one twin room.
Minimum stay of three nights in season.
R1 000 to R1 500 per night. (2015) Demonstrations
One person: R3 500 pp; two people: R2 325 pp; three people: R2 000 pp; four people: R1 750 pp. (2015)
Rates include two nights’ accommodation.