Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cumin, garlic, walnuts and pomegranate molasses

There are no waiters at the Cedar restaurant, only the owners, David and Marlene. And although they charge corkage, it's advisable to bring your own wine.

It's not a glamorous spot by any stretch of the imagination. You will park outside a very drab building (that always puts me in mind of my local police station) right on busy Sommerset Road in Sea Point, ring the buzzer and then climb a grotty stair case to the second level, where you will find the restaurant. You may have had low expectations about the decor to begin with, but even so you will probably be disappointed.

And yet...

And yet this is one of my favourite restaurants. Has been for years. I love the cloth that adorns the roof, bedouin-style. I love the plastic tables, the quaint 'big five' bronze artworks, the large mural of broken pillars and countryside. And the food... The fried cauliflower, soft homemade pitas, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanoush, kibbeh, the most addictive hummus topped with coriander, garlic and olive oil, crispy sardines, eye-watering Turkish coffee...

But this isn't a restaurant review, believe it or not.

Last time we were at the Cedar, David sat chatting with us after the meal, keen to impart a little of his not insubstantial knowledge on Lebanese food. I inquired about the pomegranate molasses he uses and where he buys it, and he told me he imports it — and sells it. So of course I bought some.

It's thick and syrapy, obviously, but the flavour is quite extraordinary — a bit like sour figs.

Then David made me memorise four ingredients — walnuts, cumin, garlic and pomegranate molasses — that, when combined, can be used as a marinade for chicken and any kind of red meat.

So, a few days later, I crushed five cloves of garlic, toasted a generous tablespoon of cumin and combined these with 100g walnuts and about three tablespoons pomegranate molasses with a pestle and mortar.

I rubbed the paste all over a deboned leg of lamb and left it to marinade overnight, then roasted it to perfection. The result was a glorious, distinctly Middle Eastern flavour, which was beautifully complemented by lemony full-cream Greek yoghurt. I suspect it would also work a treat slathered over cauliflower florets before roasting.

Just putting it out there... Use it. Don't use it. It's an unusual combination of ingredients, one I'll be revisiting soon.

The Cedar: 021 433 2546

Pssst: I would like to apologise for an inaccuracy in this post that I've just corrected –  I originally said that the Cedar does not charge corkage, when, in fact, they do. R30. A cheek, since they don't really have a much of a wine list, but there you go. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This one's for all the food bloggers out there... #fbi2011

Warning: those sensitive to a little gratuitous self-congratulation and shameless link-love should avert their gaze.

The 2nd Food Blog Indaba SA happened on Sunday, and I must say it was jolly good. Idyllic venue Monkey Valley provided a meeting place for about 150 (I’m guessing) food-obsessed bloggers and Tweeters, and it was fun watching folks connecting with people they’d previously only had online contact with.

‘OMG! R u (insert blog title/Twitter name here)? I luv yr blog!’ and so on. (It is quite something to hear people talk in SMS speak.)

Personally, I was delighted to hook up with Ishay of The Food and the Fabulous, Matt from I’m No Jamie Oliver, Marianne of Cape Town By Mouth, Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious, Amelia of Notes From My Nest, and, finally, the one and only Colleen Grove (Brownie Girl), who organised the entire event. I don’t think there is a single person who attended who doesn’t feel a deep sense of warm, squishy gratitude to her for that (though I have a sneaky suspicion she has vowed never to do it again).

There were speakers. SA foodie legend Phillippa Cheifitz was a highlight, as was Abigail Donnelly, Eat Out's ed, whom I think we all agree has possibly the coolest job in the world. Jeanne of Cooksister’s dirty jokes were a hoot, while I think none there will ever be able to shake off the sneaking sensation that Jane-Anne Hobbs’s hilarious creation Bertie is looking over their shoulder when writing a blog post. Andy Fenner of Jamie Who? (who'd had just enough alcohol to be able to get up and speak, but not too much), gave me a lot to think about — with the help of two insane-looking cakes from Charlie's Bakery.

Yuppie Chef generously gave a Wusthof knife to all who attended, and it’s already my new favourite kitchen toy. Other gifts were kindly provided by Verlaque, Fillipio Berrio and The Greenleaf Olive Company. (There were a whole bunch of others but I couldn’t be bothered to list them.)

On the whole the event was a great success, though I think Monkey Valley’s publicist should be fired: +-150 food bloggers descended on their venue, and were fed greasy onion rings, limp, wilted salad leaves with smelly boiled eggs, chicken pieces (which actually looked okay), potato chips and some strange saucy vegetable substance that seemed to contain zucchini but beyond that was unidentifiable. Talk about a missed opportunity.

Okay that’s it. Thanks again to Colleen. Normal programming will resume shortly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tarragon and porcini sausage, figs, torn croutons, salad greens


Sunday morning I innocently paid a visit to Cassis (Kildare Centre) to procure some of their addictive bread­ — two blocks from my house, and half-price on Sundays, don’tcha know. I was pleased to discover that they’ve taken over the premises next door and now offer a proper café where you can sit and eat a meal, rather than having to scoff the spoils from their patisserie at home.

I was just departing when my eye caught a little blackboard off to one side, proclaiming: ‘Prawns, whole duck, duck breasts, duck leg confit, petit poussin, whole quails, pasture-reared chicken’. There was a little doorway just behind it — an entrance I had never really been aware of, and above it was written ‘Gogo’s: biltong, braai meats and other delicacies’ (a title that, I admit, would not have hooked me were it not for the blackboard outside. I like biltong as much as the next person, but it’s more of a road-trip staple for me, rather than everyday eating.)

Inside I stepped, and lo, there was a tray or two of said biltong, but past that... Dear reader, how can I explain to you what I felt? Delighted surprise, sure, but also great gushing excitement, joy and relief — here now was a purveyor of duck legs preserved in duck fat (confit), whole fresh duck, leg of lamb, and a host of other carnivorous treats.

It’s not that these things are particularly difficult to get hold of, but to have such a selection — free range wherever possible, I am told by Sam and Deidre, the proprietors, and reasonably priced — virtually on my doorstep, made me rather giddy. (Later, the Guinea Pig gave me a worried look on my return home, noting the crazed glint in my eyes and sheen of cold sweat on my brow — unmistakable symptoms of early-onset obsession.)

On the spot I purchased two duck legs, and a packet of the most exquisite tarragon and porcini pork sausage, with which I made this salad (in the same trip I popped into Melissa’s, which had the plumpest deep purple figs). It’s quite a rich salad, so I recommend having it as a meal in itself, with lashings of chilled rosé (I do go on about rosé a bit, don’t I?).

Tarragon and porcini sausage, figs, torn croutons, salad greens
Serves 2 as a main

4 ripe figs, torn into quarters
About four good quality pork sausages (try to find something special – Giovanni's sometimes sells an amazing wild boar variety)
Half a loaf of ciabatta, torn into bite-sized chunks
100g salad leaves (radicchio, rockets, lettuce, endive... whatever tickles your fancy)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp English mustard
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & black pepper, to taste

1. Toss the bread with about a tablespoon of olive oil (use your hands to get each piece evenly coated).
2. Lay the sausages on a baking dish and place under the grill (but not right under — I use the middle shelf in my oven), and cook until half done, about five or seven minutes.
3. Remove the baking tray from the oven and push the sausage to one side. Add the bread pieces to the baking dish and move them around so they absorb all the lovely juices from the sausage. Return to the oven and grill until the croutons are golden and crunchy, about five minutes. Check that the sausage is done and cook a little longer if necessary (remove the croutons if there is a chance they'll burn).
4. Set aside the croutons and sausage to cool, then tear the sausage into chunks.
5. Arrange the figs and leaves on a serving dish, along with the sausage and croutons. Drizzle with the salad dressing and serve.

Gogo’s, Biltong & other Delicacies
Kildare Building
Newlands Village
073 578 0685