Christmas shopping, restaurants, prawn recipe

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Christmas shopping, restaurants, prawn recipe
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This weeks new installment from John & Lynne ford, owners of Main Ingredient, one of the many gems in Cape Town.
To begin with giving thanks - not only for having survived in pretty fair condition to an age which used to be considered “old”, but for having a wonderful family and friends and to all of you who were kind enough to send John birthday greetings. It was greatly appreciated and your messages brightened his day immeasurably.

Christmas shopping is top of many minds right now, though we sense (and hope!) that we are experiencing the lull that precedes a storm. But there’s a danger in this. Too many of our suppliers take a Christmas break from about the 15th and supplies then become unobtainable. In a difficult year like this, we don’t have the resources to order massive stocks hoping that you will buy them all. We have to buy as we sell. So don’t wait – you will probably be too late if you do.

Our dinner at Myoga was very special. Even though the Vineyard Hotel is being enlarged and, to a degree, remodelled, with building operations in evidence as you arrive, the restaurant areas in general and Myoga in particular are still tranquil refuges. Myoga has very large windows, which give a view of the beautiful garden in the evening light which welcomes arriving dinner guests at this time of the year. The kitchen is open to view but the activity there is subdued and does not intrude on the restaurant atmosphere. A quirky note is TV monitors in the very high tech loos, which give one a view of the kitchen from a most unusual perspective.

We chose to follow the spring special tasting menu, which will have been replaced last Tuesday with a summer menu offering similar value. We were promised details, but they have not arrived. The menu lists 12 courses. There are, in fact four flights, each of three small dishes, and these are paired with three tasting glasses of wine with each flight. The spring menu featured Constantia wines. At first glance the portions seem tiny, but they are all delicious with complex combinations of flavours and we were not hungry at the end. This is not a great choice for anyone wishing to satisfy a gargantuan appetite - the restaurant has plenty of options for the very hungry - but it is a very good journey through a symphony of flavours and textures and we all loved it. The wines were well chosen and all matched the food perfectly. The service was discreet but there when needed and was gracious and very well informed. We’ve been there several times and will return happily.

It is lovely to eat outside in this glorious weather. On Sunday, we went to Allée Bleue near Franschhoek to share their picnic with friends and family. At R145 a head, each basket (for two) is packed full of marvellous food such as: Snoek Pate; Chicken and Liver Terrine; Avocado with prawns in an olive oil mayonnaise; Cold Roast Beef with Rémoulade and Pickles; Health Bread sandwich with Salami and Basil Pesto; Caprese Salad; Smoked chicken salad; Cape Cheese Platter with Biscuits; Fresh Fruit Kebabs; Chocolate Mousse. A freshly baked baguette in each basket is an excellent complement to the patés, terrine and cheeses. Two of our friends had the vegetarian option and they loved it.

The grass werf (green is perhaps the best translation), between immaculate Cape Dutch buildings and surrounded by oak trees, is arranged with white cloth-covered tables and French café chairs, lots of umbrellas and proper napkins and cutlery, so it is very civilised and very relaxed. We drank the very good Chenin Blanc, very fruity and tropical and their rather dark Rosé – which is more like a light red wine and has quite high alcohol content, so we added ice to soften the flavours and impact. Copious jugs of cold water were willingly provided. Coffee and a nap on reaching home were all that followed.

We have just returned from a tasting of Rudera wines at the Hatfield Deli in Gardens. Rudera now belongs to Jasper Raats, who has returned after a successful wine-making career in New Zealand. We tasted the superb Rudera and Robusto chenins, the equally excellent shiraz and juicy cassis cabernet and just managed a sip of the delicious chenin noble late harvest, a delight of honey, apricots and a hint of tangerine. Freshly baked breads from Knead with cured Karoo Jamon style ham and Spanish styled cheeses helped to balance the experience.

Late last week, John went to the launch of a new MCC sparkling wine, Genevieve - a brunch at the Cape Royal Hotel’s rooftop Sky Bar in Green Point, a quick taxi ride from our shop. It is a very good first effort by Melissa Genevieve Nelsen, whom we know from her time marketing Wildekrans near Bot River. Her wine is made (with help from Ross Gower, who has made many of our favourite wines) from chardonnay grapes grown in the cool area near Bot River and it was very well received by the assembled group of writers, wine fundis and other aficionados. It is a classic blanc de blanc, with a full but gentle mousse, typically chardonnay lime and lemon flavour with a toasty undertone. The flavours are well balanced and the waiters who circulated, refilling our glasses, made sure that we knew it would not cloy after a few glasses! It will be more expensive than most MCCs, but is recommended if you are in the mood to treat yourself and your friends.

We all seem to be getting into the swing of Christmas so we thought you might like another recipe if you are running short of ideas. This week: a super starter. We are doing large prawns this year and hope you like this variation.

Creamed King Prawns

12 to 16 king prawns - 2 egg yolks - 250ml good mayonnaise (home made if possible) – 1 T cream – ½ t Spanish paprika – 2 cloves garlic, crushed – black pepper- 1 chopped chilli

Remove the shell from the tails but leave on the heads of the prawns. Remove the black “vein” digestive tract. Whisk the yolks and the cream into the mayonnaise, then add the paprika, garlic and pepper. Taste. Add salt if necessary. Bush a baking sheet with oil and place the prawns on it. Spoon the mayo mixture over the tails and put under a hot grill till brown spots appear. Serve with lemon or lime wedges. If you like a bit of heat, add some chopped chilli to the mix.

Oded Schwartz is one of Lynne’s favourite gurus on preserving and jams and we have been stocking his wonderful preserves, chutneys and harrief for a while. On Tuesday evening, Oded and Lewis, his business partner, opened their new venue, Oded’s Kitchen, at the Biscuit Mill in Salt River. Do go and see what is on offer. He also does cooking lessons. We wish them great success.

Our list is growing of restaurants who will be offering Christmas and 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.

Loch Fine Smoked Salmon from Scotland is available now but on order only. Rather pricy but the quality is outstanding. If you have been looking for this product, phone us for a quote. Orders take 4 to 5 days to arrive. They also have undyed Scottish kippers but they only come as 3.4 kilo packs. We had kedgeree last night made with the sample we were given and it was delicious – light and smoky.

Food and Wine entertainment for you

“The Magic of Bubbles” Cap Classique and Champagne Festival
will take place in Franschhoek this weekend, the 4th to 6th of December, sponsored by Investec Private Bank. R180.00 per person entrance fee allows you access to the festival. This includes a tasting glass and a complimentary booklet of 10 tasting coupons, after which all tastings will be charged on consumption. Purchase tickets through, 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, until 18th December, Winchester Mansions in Sea Point will host staff parties 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 on 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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