Monday, March 23, 2015


My column for Home Magazine focuses each month on one of my favourite flavours; here is "Lemony" taken from the February issue.

During the Clinton administration, along with young women from all over the world, I worked in an historical mansion on the banks of the Potomac River, just a hop and a skip from the political hurly burly of Capitol Hill.  There I learned “servant leadership” by mangling sheets in the basement, polishing marble floors, turning rooms and serving meals to visiting dignitaries and heads of state who had come to retreat, find refuge or broker peace in the Library or the Breakfast Room.

In the hush of the vast historical mansion, laying out a little plate of treats for a visiting former KGB officer staying in the Lincoln Room, I had my first encounter with a Lemon Square.  It was only the crust, but I had never before eaten such lemon perfection: butter, flour, sugar and slightly caramelized lemon: I closed my eyes and savoured the dense gooey bite: cool, sticky, sweet and quintessentially lemon!

I decided there and then that I would no longer waste my time with arbitrary, sitting-on-the-fence flavour.  If it is going to be lemony, it must be very lemony – lemony and sweet!

There are a few who might happily eat a lemon just so, a lemon wedge squished to teeth in an eye-rolling burst of sour.  Have you ever witnessed the puckered up face of a child’s first encounter with a wedge of lemon?   But for most of us, lemon is a team player. When is it is not brazenly showing off with its soul mate, sugar (lemon pudding, sorbet, curd, meringue pie), it is often the jester, somersaulting and cavorting through plainer flavours bringing brightness and playfulness to a palette, teasing out more demure flavours - a squeeze of bright lemon on fresh fish.  Sometimes it is the soprano carrying the tune for deeper chorus (cumin, Avgolemono, risotto, pasta and lamb).

One of my favourite lemon friendships is the trio of parsley, lemon and garlic.  My mother, Ruth, would make a wondrous Osso Bucco.  She would have me finely chop this threesome: lemon (clean), garlic (bright) and parsley (fresh) into a Gremolata topping.  What a revelation and testament to the redemptive power of lemon!  A formative flavour experience with the fresh lemon and parsley, coaxing out all the marvellous flavours of the meat!

Lemon’s nemesis is when it has no partner, however delicate, to balance it - no sweet oyster or asparagus, no salt or sugar to counter its tartness.

We know, of course, that in addition to a string of domestic uses, lemon prevents avocados, apples and artichokes from colouring.

And the propitious use of lemon zest is certainly one of my favourite devices: essential in crumbs and crumbles, brightening vegetables, soups and dressings, emboldening pulses, and calling out the flavours of the food that we love.

In the recipe for my Sesame Yoghurt Cardamom Cake, the warm syrup is poured over the cooled cake.  Its lemony sweetness makes it one of my favourite cakes ever.

  • 220g butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 tbsp honey
  • zest of 2 lemons, grated
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 220g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 220g Greek yoghurt
  • 2/3 cup sultanas
  • 1 tbsp seeds from approximately 25 cardamom pods
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • A few paper thin slices of lemon
Preheat the oven to 180ºC     .
Beat together the butter, sugar, honey and lemon zest until creamy.
Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
Into a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt.  Fold in the batter, alternating with the yoghurt.  Fold in the sultanas and cardamom seeds.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold carefully into the mixture.
Pour into a greased tin, 22cm in diameter, lined with baking paper.
Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.
Bake at 180ºC for 65 minutes.  (If you find that the cake is browning too much, cover loosely with a sheet of baking paper with a little hole cut in the sheet.) Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.

To make the syrup, boil the syrup ingredients together for 5 minutes, stirring to combine.  Pour the cooled syrup carefully over the hot cake or pour the warm syrup over the cake once it is completely cooled.

Delicious served with yoghurt or mascarpone cream and fresh figs.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Peter's Opening Speech for The Dining Room.

Meet Peter, a dear friend, masterly painter, wordsmith and musician: 

Many friends have been asking about Peter’s speech at the launch of Another Week in The Kitchen and the introduction of The Dining Room: 

Here is his charming and thoughtful gift to us: 


There are those who like to speak from the heart at public gatherings. I think this is in very poor taste. What ungovernable chaos there'd be if everyone went around speaking from the heart. I tried it once when addressing a Christmas gathering of the Veterans Widows Association at the Simonstown naval base, and it's a mistake I'll never make again. Nor will I ever forget the fear, and the cold, as I rowed frantically out into the bay that night, wearing nothing but a pare of half burnt underpants, as incensed old women threw stones at me from the pier.
Since then I prefer to speak from the mind, via the page, and draw your attention to the fact that the mouth is much closer to the brain than it is to the heart. But my desire to do this stems principally from my love of irony. I know this is a defence mechanism, but I don't care. I think some people's best attributes are their defence mechanisms. And to speak from the heart, at a moment like this, would be laughably unironic, because if ever there was a person who lives from the heart, it is Karen Dudley.

Never has nature made someone better suited to being a restauranteur. When I think of Karen I think of the phrase: “Try this.” . I picture her going door to door with her two children.
Ben's job is ringing doorbells. When a door opens Maggie holds up the salad bowl, that it is her job to carry, and Karen scoops out a spoonful of chicken and chickpeas and lifts it to the stranger's lips saying “Try this.”
This sort of behaviour might raise the eyebrows of some therapists, but I say thank the Lord for anyone whose passion is of such immense benefit to the rest of us. If Karen had a passion for paragliding, or playing the tuba, or collecting stamps, we here gathered would benefit very little. But mercifully her passion is to feed us, and this is something we would be complete idiots not to encourage. So I'm glad there's a good turn out tonight.
The only person I sometimes worry about is Karen's husband Dave. I picture him late at night, snoring peacefully in his Bart Simpson pyjamas, when suddenly he's woken by K, sitting bolt upright in bed, clutching his arm in a panic, and declaring, from under her frilly night cap:
“David I'm not feeding enough people!”

You see Karen suffers from UTF, or Urge To Feed. I witnessed a similar condition in the tannies on my father's side of the family when I was growing up. Food was the language with which those loving matriarchs most eloquently expressed their love, and they weren't happy until you'd had your seventh helping. Until you could no longer support your own weight getting back to the car.
Karen's thrill has more to do with quality than quantity, but still, Dave rolls over, half asleep. He takes K's hand and patiently explains for the hundredth time that dropping parcels of artisanal salad over the city from an aeroplane is not only impractical and expensive, but dangerous.

And so there had to be a recipe book, so that David could sleep at night, Karen becalmed by the knowledge that while her and her staff slept, at least in other time zones, other provinces and countries, people would still be making her food themselves.

But what about space issues at the Kitchen?

Anyone whose been at the Kitchen during a busy lunchtime knows that it can get so crowded you suspect that some or other by-law is being broken.

“Do you think David,” whispers Karen in the dark, careful not to wake the children, “that clients would mind terribly if I employed someone in a lovely uniform to push people in from the door, as they do on the trains in Tokyo?” And what if the people feeding themselves in other time-zones run out of recipes?

And so of course, or should I say, of second course, Another day in The Kitchen had to be printed, and The Kitchen followed by The Dining Room.

After all, what did you think was going to happen?

Where did you think all that love, and life-force was going to go?

And I think Karen is just warming up...

Personally I'm hoping that The Dining Room will be followed by The Sitting Room, and finally The Bath Room, when Karen takes over management of the Longstreet Baths, and we are fed fascinating titbits as we steam our blissful flesh, or drift about on lilos, as waitresses swim out to us with trays of treats balanced on their heads...)

But to return to earth: I know I have shown an almost quaint lack of self-discipline in allowing gastronomic metaphors to litter my speech, like so many sprinkled pumpkin seeds, but I have used them as a fairy tale trail through my forest of nonsense, to lead to the most profound and ironic gastronomic metaphor of them all: HUNGER.

One doesn't cook, in the true sense of the word, to suppress hunger. Just as a good restaurant is not a place you go simply to appease your hunger. I put it to you that Good Food should be a celebration of hunger, physical or aesthetic..

Or to put it differently:

What does it mean to be full? Like orgasm, being full is so desired, yet so fleeting, and ultimately, empty. It is HUNGER that drives us to our greatest inventiveness, physical and spiritual, and ever since our humble human beginnings, it is hunger that always has.

So to Karen I say, may your restaurants be always full, but may you yourself continue to be hungry.

In your dreaming and striving and giving, you are an inspiration to us all.

Long live hunger!

Long live Karen !

And long live The Dining Room!

I hereby declare it open.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Small Taste of Delicious Things to Come

As you know it's our book launch on Friday! We really are so happy with this book and wanted to share just a small taste of the many delicious things to come with one of the recipes you'll find in "Another Week in The Kitchen". 

This really is a beautiful book filled with flavours and wonderful photos by the incredibly talented Russel Wasserfall. We're taking things up another level, and can't wait for you to see the results!

Crisp Cottage Cheesy Kitchen Salad

My friend and neighbour Nazeem, from Woodstock Vintage, swears that the old Zerban’s Restaurant used to make a cottage cheese based salad similar to this.  I could not bring myself to include canned peaches but I love the fresh crunchiness of this salad. The toasted sesame does extraordinary things with the cottage cheese.  You could add alfalfa sprouts and toasted sunflower seeds and edible flowers from your garden.

4 c cottage cheese
3 T Gomashio or toasted Sesame Seeds
3 young carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 stalks of celery, sliced, some leaves reserved
3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
2 Israeli cucumbers, sliced on the diagonal (optional)
½ red or yellow pepper, finely sliced (optional)
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
A splash of olive oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
20g mint, picked and sliced

Start by placing the cottage cheese in the middle of your serving platter.  Season generously with the gomashio or salt and toasted sesame seed.

Sprinkle the sliced vegetables over the cottage cheese. First the spring onions, then the celery and finally the carrots and celery leaves. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.  Scatter the shredded mint over the whole salad and serve chilled.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner 2013: So Much to be Thankful For!

Our American friends will be celebrating Thanksgiving later this month, and here at The Kitchen we have so much to be thankful for what with our new book "Another Week in The Kitchen" coming out in less than a week's time (official launch date Friday 8 November) ... and ... our new restaurant the Dining Room!

So we've decided to make Thanksgiving Dinner 2013 our first official dinner at the Dining Room! If you're free on Thursday 28 November, and would like to be part of this exciting evening then drop Karen a line to make a booking at 

We'll be serving a few delicious treats from the menu below, and this menu can also be ordered for private Thanksgiving parties should you wish to host your own event and share Thanksgiving with those you love at home.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Thursday 28 November 2013

The Turkey, roasted to perfection
(brined for 3 days for super moistness with ginger, orange, star anise etc)
Gravy, Cranberry Sauce

Handsome Roasted Root Vegetables
Or Sweet Potato Bake with Marshmallows

Accompanying Salads 
(choose 3)
Classic Roasted Potatoes (we set them up, you roast them)
Indonesian Rice Salad or Turkish-ish Koshieri Rice Pilaf
Beetroot Apple Coriander Salad
Or Beetroot Orange Feta Salad with Watercress
Or Beetroot Rocket Walnut Pesto Salad
Green Medley Salad (petit pois, sugar snaps, mangetouts)
Or Grilled Broccoli Salad
Brusselsprout, Grilled Apple, Goats Cheese Hazelnut Salad
Wholewheat Salad with Mushrooms, Celery & Rocket
Pickled Cauliflower Salad or New Cauli Salad with Capers, Raisins and Crumbs
Gazpacho Salad or (Turkish) Shepherd’s Salad with Pomegranate and cos
Fennel Red Onion Date Salad
American Diner Salad (croutons, blue cheese, iceberg wedges)
Jeweled Slaw with beetroot & caraway
Or Clear Day Slaw
Royal Potato Salad
Roasted Aubergine & Potato Salad with lemon and chili

Pumpkin Pie
Or our Selection of Treats
Little Lemon Squares
Little World Peace Brownies
Cheesecake Squares
Prosperity Bars

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Little Cultural Exchange.

It’s been a few crazy weeks at The Kitchen.  Even now, a few weeks after Michelle Obama, America’s first lady, graced our establishment, I am still moved by the cleverness and the generosity of her visit, and her powerful endorsement of what we are about and what she is about.
We have always been a busy and popular eatery but since her visit we are even busier, with loads of new faces coming from far and wide to see our tiny shop and sample our offerings.  Best of all has been the tremendous swell of goodwill from all our regular customers and the community about.  It is a powerful and wonderful thing.  We openly accept all the kind wishes and compliments and the sense of vindication about our whole operation.
On the morning of 28 June, I received a call from an aide on Michelle Obama’s ahead team telling me that she might be visiting for lunch.   Of course, we had to be completely discreet.  I gathered my troops and briefed them about the day: we would make the food we had planned for the day but we would need to spruce and polish fast and trade as though it was a regular day in The Kitchen.  Since we really can only seat about 15, we would need to make some space, move some furniture to accommodate the First Lady.  We were to expect about 25 guests with all her entourage.
For a few days before the visit, American visitors had lunch with us and asked unusual questions about The Kitchen.  How many people could we really seat?  Would we ever close our shop?  One of these visitors appeared three times in one day.  I knew Michelle Obama was visiting Cape Town but I decided to not get my hopes up: Woodstock must be a security nightmare!  And besides, we were too small for such a visit!  But do you know what?  Michelle Obama wanted to come to The Kitchen!  And she CHOSE to come to The Kitchen!   And her formidable security machine swung into action as smooth as can be to make it happen!
Secret Service contingents arrived around 12:10pm and we started quietly moving furniture and encouraging customers to decide on take-aways or to stay!  We did not want her to come to an empty shop devoid of all the usual hustle and bustle of lunchtime trade.
Next thing, some very large vehicles with Washington DC number plates pulled up outside our shop.  There was a strange excited silence as we waited.   Sir Lowry road was cordoned off during her visit.  And then Michelle Obama arrived.  I greeted her in the entrance to my shop and welcomed her warmly.  Next I gave her “the tour” of what we had for lunch that day, something I do regularly with countless first time visitors to The Kitchen.  I looked up for reassurance from my trusty crew usually stationed behind the counter to see a phalanx of international press.  Their work done, they shuffled out, the music went on and yay! my girls swung into action putting together lunches and sandwiches for Mrs Obama and her family and all her entourage.  We were having a party!
My Sweetheart, who I had called in (Baby, you’ve got to make us a playlist!  Help us move furniture!) said that there was a perceptible moment in which, during my introduction to the food and our shop, Mrs Obama switched from public relations mode to “I like these people.  This is going to be fun!”  There was laughter and buzz.
My mom, who had doggedly fought/charmed her way through the security cordon, was there too.  She was telling the first lady about the song that the Klopse composed especially for her that was being played on the radio.  Mrs Obama thought my mom was beautiful (which she is!)
The whole visit was marked by Michelle Obama’s warmth and genuineness.  There was a sense that she really wanted to be with us and give us the gift of her visit.  Only she could mobilise her formidable machine to make this happen.  How cool was she to choose The Kitchen?  We are the symbol of what she is on about:  yes you can!  You can make a once dire and dangerous little stretch of Woodstock buzz with wholesome energy and fantastic food!  A successful woman-owned business can inspire and be a force for good!  We can be true to being local and delivering great value.
Mrs Obama and I had a great encounter.   Her comfort in who she is allows those around her to feel comfortable too.  There was a great warmth between her family (what moral fortitude to keep a semblance of sanity and reality!) and her staff appear galvanised by clear purpose.
There were pictures with all my staff and some chatting and then she was ushered away.  But in the 40 minutes or so that she and her people spent with us, we had a party!  We managed to feed all the peeps and have them pay.  Phew!
Michelle Obama had been to The Kitchen!
What Michelle Obama ate:
Koshieri Rice Pilaf
Aubergine Ratatouille
Sumac Parsley Slaw
Beetroot Apple Coriander Salad
Chopped Turkish Salad
Barley Rocket Walnut Salad
Falafel & Hummus

Beetroot Apple Coriander Salad
4 Medium Beetroot boiled until tender and grated
4 Medium Granny Smith Apples, roughly peeled and grated
(equal quantity of beetroot: apple)
½ cup Vinaigrette
1 T honey (optional)
70g of chopped coriander
Salt & Black Pepper

Combine all together with wooden spoons or salad servers (you don’t want to mutilate your salad)
Arrange in a deep serving platter or bowl.

See 'The Tour" here:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

At Table

We are colonising the pavement.  We believe that in the interests of creating a cooler, safer, new improved Woodstock, we have put new specially made trestle tables on the pavement outside The Kitchen!  People want to enjoy their lunch or coffee and watch the Woodstock world go by.

Because The Kitchen is small, our long tables allow people to sit beside each other on benches or stools but not really around a table.  Which I think works happily for our establishment.

I grew up eating supper around a table every night.  Besides my mom (Ruth) and dad (Bernard) and brother (Gavin), we often had visitors (missionaries, travellers, people who lived with us for periods of time).  And whether it was just the four of us or guests as well, the experience was formative. 

As we gathered around the table (often the kitchen table), there was a certain communion in sharing a meal.  We got to talk about our daily experiences and our interpretation of them.  We engaged in general discussion, sharing opinions and knowledge and we grew an interest in the wider world.  Unconsciously, we were being taught the art of listening and being interested in other people – the foundation of friendship and conversation.  We learnt table manners.

David, Ben, Maggie and myself, eat together at our table most nights.  It is true that the conversation at this point does not go much beyond, “Maggie, eat your supper”.  “Ben, please don’t wipe your hands on the tablecloth”.  Some nights, I am even rewarded with, “This is deeeeliscious, Mom!”  David and I hang on every little story.  Oh that we would be good listeners and grow kind, compassionate and interested children!

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.

from The Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor
(Poetry and often quirky historial information sent to your mailbox daily)

Friday, July 2, 2010


Most people have a stopping device with potatoes: “Gosh, these are delicious, but I think I might explode if I have a third!”  Me?  I have no stopping device.  Potatoes in any shape and form.  Chips (Hout Bay’s Mariners Wharf Fish & Chips I rate the best), Pommes-frites in Belgium (oh die and go to heaven!  There are no bad Pommes-Frites in Belgium), fluffy mashed, Sunday Roast Potatoes, large crispy skinned baked potatoes with paddles of butter and other evil bits… and then of course, Roasted New Potatoes with Preserved Lemon and Rosemary from The Kitchen…(see recipe below)

Here are some things to know about potatoes:
  1. They are not all the same when you buy them.  Some are good for baking, some for roasting, some for salad.  Just act ignorant and ask, “Are these good potatoes for baking?”
  2. Potatoes are all about surfaces.  Consider a just boiled potato (you’ve boiled it whole).  If you slice it, you have a flat surface.  A flat almost glassy surface.  How is your delicious mayo, or tarragon dressing or butter going to penetrate and become acquainted with the potato?  You slice it with a knife and that’s all you’re ever going to have: a flat impenetrable surface, longing hoping for a delicious engagement.  If you could be brave and break the spud with your fingers… even pierce it with a small knife and then tear it, let it burst open to release it’s starchy inside, creating surfaces ready to absorb your favourite potato Lure.  This is true for the roasted potato too.  You want to create maximum surface for the oil to penetrate so that you get multiple crispy surfaces exposed for roasting.
  3. The other thing about potatoes is that one can’t be shy with salt and seasoning.  I tend to be quite circumspect with other vegetables, especially with organic ones, because they tend to want to show you their flavour.  It takes only the tiniest bit of coaxing to let them be what they want to be. But potatoes, I feel, are destined for flavouring.

K’s Family Potatoes
This treatment tends to work well with almost any kind of potato.  What wouldn’t…

6 medium to large potatoes boiled til soft.
You can pour off the water and give them their treatment in the pot or transfer them to a large deepish bowl so that you can work with them freely.
The potatoes will be quite hot to work with so you may need a small sharp-pointed knife to help you open them up.  You could also wait a bit for the potatoes to cool down but not too much.  Gently tear or open your potatoes, allowing
A minimum of 4 Tablespoons of butter (about a 2mm slice off a block of butter), a generous shake of fine salt and white pepper to paddle and spread with your wooden spoon over every thirsty surface of potato, spreading the love.   If you want to go OTT, you could add a ¼ cup of warmed cream to the steaming heap.  You could even just pour it over for dramatic effect.  The potatoes and your family will gobble up every last bit.

Roasted New Potatoes with Preserved Lemon and Rosemary
2 kg baby potatoes or small potatoes
1 ½ cups sunflower oil
½ preserved lemon, pith removed and sliced finely in long strips
4 short twigs of rosemary, their leaves pulled off and squashed a little with your fingers.

Boil the potatoes in plenty of water until tender.
Pour off the water and empty the potatoes onto a shallow baking tray.  We line our trays with baking paper.  Squash the potatoes with a wooden spoon or squash them with your fingers to reveal their fluffy insides.  Pour over the oil and toss the potatoes with the preserved lemon and rosemary and finally spread the whole lot out evenly on the tray.
Bake at 220˚C until deeply golden and you have some decent crisp bits (40 - 50 mins)
Sprinkle generously with Maldon Sea Salt, toss gently and serve immediately.

Some of the Potatoes we do at The Kitchen
Picnic Potatoes
Gremolata Potato Salad
Patatas Bravas
Tarragon Horseradish Potatoes
Darts-in-the-Garage Potatoes (curried dill)
Lemon Atchar Potatoes
Russian Salad