Christmas treats for early shoppers

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Christmas treats for early shoppers
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This weeks new installment from John & Lynne ford, owners of Main Ingredient, one of the many gems in Cape Town.
This week has been uncannily quiet for the wind-up to Christmas. We figure that by now you will have submitted your tax returns and you are all saving your pennies to spend them after pay day. We so hope we are right and that we will see lots of you really soon, because we have some really special new products for you, including Clement Faugier's tinned whole chestnuts, frozen chestnuts, unsweetened chestnut paste, and sweetened chestnut spread in tubes and in tins, all from France. You will find them in the attached product list.

The prices of these delicacies are lower than their prices the year before last, so do hurry to get them before stocks disappear.

To our absolute delight, John won tickets in a Cape Talk Radio competition for last Friday's Beaujolais Nouveau tasting at the French Embassy. The two possible winners had to SMS the name of the grape (gamay noir) used to produce this very variable wine. Adam Mason, winemaker at Klein Constantia, beat John by a very short head. Coming second is not always a bad thing! Lynne has had lots of experience of celebrating the Beaujolais race each year in London and has had some really terrible examples some years and some really rather good ones in others. This year it was drinkable but not exceptional. Beaujolais Nouveau is produced by fermenting the gamay grapes in a closed container under a carbon dioxide atmosphere (“carbonic maceration”) without adding yeast, and bottling it as soon as fermentation has finished. The wine is sold within six weeks of the grapes being picked, which makes it some of the youngest wine to reach the market anywhere. Lots of friendly food and wine people were there and we had a very entertaining evening. Upon arriving on French soil, Lynne was able to have what she always has in France, a lovely large Ricard Pastis. John, who likes liquorice, but is not a huge fan of pastis, ouzo, arrack and similar concoctions, was happy to enjoy a delicious glass of chilled red Beaujolais. After 8pm, a long table was laid with wonderful French charcuterie, saucisson, Jambon Persillé, patés, rillettes and ham and a marvellous selection of imported French cheeses. It was a bit of a scrum to get to the table, but very worthwhile when we did. We will definitely try to go again next year.

After enjoying a rare quiet weekend at home, we were invited to the opening of the new Waterkant Gallery in the Cape Quarter on Monday evening - lovely canapés, lots of Krone bubbly served straight or with Campari and an interesting exhibition of Cape Town photographs by a Belgian-born photographer, Dominique Logan.

On Tuesday, we were invited by the owners of Vanilla restaurant to join them for dinner. It was the perfect evening for dinner on the Piazza and we were very spoilt. John started with a Duck Confit salad, a generous portion of shredded duck meat in a bed of garden greens and baby tomatoes; it was paired with a glass of Kleine Zalze chenin blanc. Lynne's tasting mouthful had a distinct flavour of parmesan and she is not sure if cheese goes with duck. She chose Seared King Scallops with a sauce of crème Fraiche and dill and a veal jus. She is also unsure of this as a match for really excellent sweet scallops. She chose a glass of Durbanville Hills sauvignon blanc to complement it. John's main dish was seared Norwegian Salmon on a citrus and Vanilla risotto, which Lynne had had at the press lunch the previous week, and he agreed it was really succulent and an excellent match for the Bouchard Finlayson unwooded chardonnay.

Lynne opted for the Belly of Pork with cold Asian noodles beautifully cooked with good Asian flavours, if a tiny bit fatty. She enjoyed a Hazendal shiraz with it. We switched roles on the desserts, chocoholic John going for the rather prosaically named “nut dessert” a delicious assembly of small portions of nut-related desserts, the star among which was about the best pistachio ice cream we have ever had, made by their chef, Evan Coosner. Lynne had a taste and tried to convince the owner, Nigel Newhouse, that he should just plate up a huge portion of it in its own. Lynne had a wicked dark bitter chocolate mousse tart - heavy and dense and delicious, topped with a dark chocolate ice-cream. Coffee, in probably the best coffee cups we have used, ended a good meal. The wine prices are very competitive, with a fair selection of wines by the glass. John's glass of Bouchard Finlayson cost little more than a glass of KC sauvignon blanc at Tank; a wine which normally sells for less than half the price of the Bouchard.

Lynne had coffee at Vide e Café in Canal Walk on Saturday afternoon and their coffee cups are the worst she has ever used. Thick, heavy rims, and round fat handles you cannot get a grip on meant she burnt her mouth and her hands. Eventually she asked for a paper cup, decanted the coffee and was able to finish it. She won't return because of the awful cups. Designed by someone with heat proof hands and, obviously, no concept of fine china.

While eating in the Piazza in the new Cape Quarter we saw lots of people wandering about looking at the restaurants. We wondered why they don’t have their menus out on display as restaurants do in Europe, so that you can study the choices before deciding where and what you want to eat. Also, we are seeing more and more mention of where menu ingredients come from, like Chalmar beef, and it is something we want to see much more of. Localis lekker.

It will be John's 64th birthday tomorrow, so we are taking him to one of his favourite restaurants, Myoga, to experience their tasting menu. Watch this space for a full report.

Here is what he will be getting as a treat for his birthday; pancakes are quick and easy and he will be able to taste the marvellous Chestnut (Marron) cream.

Crèpes with Crème de Marron and Chocolate Sauce   110g flour - pinch of salt - 1 egg and 1 yolk - 290ml milk or half milk and water - 1 tsp brandy - 1 T canola oil

Mix together carefully, starting with the flour, salt and eggs and then gradually adding the milk and then the oil and brandy, stirring well to avoid any lumps, until you have the consistency of thin cream. Put into the fridge for half an hour or longer. Pour a tablespoon at a time into an oiled pan to make thin, frilly pancakes. Keep warm.

Chocolate sauce   50g Callebaut 70% dark chocolate callets - 150 ml water - 2 T golden syrup - 15g caster sugar - 1 T brandy - Crème de Marron chestnut paste Put the chocolate, water, syrup and sugar into a small pan and heat gently, stirring till the chocolate is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 30 seconds. Cool, add the brandy and serve.

To assemble: Put a good portion of the chestnut cream onto a pancake, roll up and place onto a warm serving dish - 2 per portion. Drizzle the chocolate sauce over and serve.

We have had several requests for the Marzipan recipe we gave you a few weeks ago, so it is repeated with this newsletter as an attachment.

NEW YEAR SPECIALS    We are assembling a list of restaurants who will be offering New Year specials. If you know of any, please send us the information soon.

CHRISTMAS AND CORPORATE GIFTS   The individual Christmas cakes are selling as fast as Lynne can bake and decorate them, as are our Christmas puddings. We are also ordering in lots of new stock for foodie Christmas presents and we have a good selection of boxes and wrappings to make your purchases even more special.

Food and Wine entertainment for you

If you will be in the Garden Route this Saturday, 28th November, you may enjoy visiting Oakhurst Food and Craft Christmas Market on Oakhurst Farm in Hoekwil, from 9am to 3pm. See attachment.

“The Magic of Bubbles” Cap Classique and Champagne Festival will take place in Franschhoek over the weekend of the 4th to 6th of December, sponsored by Investec Private Bank. R180.00 per person entrance fee allows you access to the festival, which includes a tasting glass and a complimentary booklet of 10 tasting coupons. Thereafter, all tastings will be charged on consumption. Purchase tickets by sending an email, but hurry as numbers are limited. Once the marquee is full, no further patrons will be admitted.

For a stylish staff party at R195.00 per person, Winchester Mansions in Sea Point will host staff parties until 18th December for small groups who do not want to hire an entire venue. The festivities kick off with a glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Brut, followed by a three course buffet while being entertained by popular jazz bands. Christmas crackers and party hats complete the party. Private venues and a selection of set menus are also available for larger groups. Contact Kathryn by email or by calling 021 434 2351 to book. They will also feature seasonal functions: Christmas Eve Dinner, Christmas Lunch and Christmas Day Dinner, New Year’s Eve African Extravaganza, New Year’s Day Hangover Jazz Brunch and New Year’s Day Dinner. For more information visit

Click on the highlighted hyperlinks to book for these events or to learn more about them.

Weekend market: Nelle and Jane will be on our pavement as usual on Saturday, with their delicious country goodies. Come and buy fresh farm eggs, fruit and vegetables, preserves and home baked breads, cakes and pastries from them and then come and visit us! We will be tasting wines, so do come in and have a chat and a taste and buy something great to cook with this weekend and a good wine to go with it. Wine and food are inseparable partners.


John & Lynne
Main Ingredient
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