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


When you can feel that what you are eating or drinking comes from a good place, it makes an already delicious thing that much more irresistible. 

We have been watching and waiting with barely repressed excitement for the launch of BOS Iced Tea!  Richard Boucher and Grant Rushmere and their team have crafted their product with tremendous care.  Their Headquarters are across the road from The Kitchen in the old Fairweather Building in Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock. You just don’t get more local than this!

BOS Iced Tea is so good it is destined to be a South African icon!  The packaging is completely irresistible – think pure and virtuous and uber sexy at the same time!  And the flavours are truly delicious:  first grade organic rooibos, natural healing ingredients (gingko biloba, panax ginseng, gotu kola and guarana to name a few) and none of the bad stuff.  Read about BOS country and come and taste for yourself at The Kitchen.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Origins of the Love Sandwich

When I used to run my catering company from my home in Woodstock, there were always people dropping in: friends, suppliers, family, clients collecting their dinner party food.  Quite often, people would linger to watch and chat, sometimes even participate.  Because it was a working kitchen.  And there was Industry.  We were in the process of creating something delicious, something good.  Having a restaurant?  That is quite beyond me.  Just terrifying!  But having a kitchen and sharing our work – now this we could do!

Now when friends would visit, I would offer a Love Sandwich.  A brief discussion would follow for me to ascertain my friend’s state of mind or heart.  What was needed here?  A Sandwich of comfort?  A Sandwich of inspiration?  A Sandwich to nurture?  A Sandwich to woo?  A Sandwich to nourish?  A Sandwich for some grounding?  Another brief discussion would ensue:  is there anything that the friend could just not abide?!  Now we were getting somewhere and we were almost ready for execution.  Warm or Cold?  Crunchy or Smooth?  Fortunately, we would always have some lovely ingredients to hand which could make a sandwich quite exceptional.  But the Love that was needed could well be a Peanut Butter Sandwich on fresh seeded bread.  Or the plainest plainest cheddar sandwich on a crispy roll.  Butter and Bovril Sandwich with the crusts cut off.  It was all about the attention and listening with which the Sandwich was assembled. 

Nowadays at The Kitchen, I have a full arsenal of delicious things with which to make a Love Sandwich.  Sometimes we may be guilty of giving a bit too much love.  Perhaps a little more restraint is in order!  But for myself, making the Love Sandwich is a privilege and it gives me immense pleasure.

Here’s how a make my own favourite Love Sandwich:  
Anchovy Tomato Toast
2 Slices of Duen’s Dumpy Wholewheat Bread (not pre-sliced – you need to be able to slice it a bit thinner than that with your own long serrated bread knife)
Toast these in your toaster.
Once toasted, butter lightly and add a drizzle of Love Potion or your favourite Salad Dressing.
Then layer: a few Anchovy fillets, fresh Tomato (not wimpy slices), a good splash of Olive Oil, Maldon Salt and Black Pepper.
Stick your 2 slices of toast under a hot grill till the tomatoes are a bit grilled.
Remove from the grill, put on a big plate (it will get messy) and add a splash more Love Potion (dressing or vinaigrette) and torn fresh Basil leaves.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The New York Times, ek sê!

This week, friends from all over the world mailed to say, “The Kitchen has been reviewed in the New York Times!”  And we have been savouring a little of our moment of glory!  The New York Times

In this world of smooth slick veneers and glam establishments that have loads of money to throw at appearances (nice as they may be!), readers of the New York Times are celebrating the honesty and authenticity of our humble establishment in Woodstock!  Hooray for the Love Sandwich!  Hooray for the Almond Croissants!  Smell the Honey Mustard Sausages straight out of the oven!  Yes to local produce!  We love Woodstock!  And a big thank you to the wonderful community of people who gather in The Kitchen daily for lunch and treats and friendship!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hippie Salads

When I was young, my parents sent me to a little art studio called Mud Pottery Studio in the Main Road, Diep River, for art classes.  They suspected (quite rightly) that we were not getting much by way of creative outlet at the quite decent “coloured” government school my brother and I were going to at the time (the mid-70’s).  It was here, I think, that I was exposed to a bit of the hippie culture of the time… art teachers with shawls and long petticoat skirts and loose Indian florals and those leather sandals and lots of stuff with mushrooms and brown rice.  I was bewitched!

In my constant quest to find new and arresting flavours for salads and accompaniments at The Kitchen, I pulled out an old hippie classic, The Moosewood Cookbook sister to another favourite, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  Mollie Katzen, was a pioneer of healthy, green and sustainable cooking at the time and the fact that I find her recipes so amazingly contemporary and enduring, is testament to her passion and their honesty.  And there is a treasure trove of them.  Some are a tad too healthy and granola-y/mung bean sprouty for me but I have selected a few (with our spin on them, of course) for The Kitchen and they are delicious!  Today, we want to trim down the number of ingredients.  We are looking to show off the integrity of each vegetable.  We want to cut our vegetables a bit chunkier.  And as always, we are looking for clean, interesting flavours.

Mollie’s books are all beautiful “hand lettered” quirkily illustrated works.  They are classics.  And an indulgent celebration of vegetables!

We make her Indonesian Rice Salad with Brown, Fragrant and Black Rice (for interest and colour). The salad involves tossing the warm rice in the cold dressing so that it takes on all the delicious flavours (a good tip).  And we make her Thai Salad with a nice peanut dressing.  Her Lentil Bulgar (tabbouleh – like) Salad is another goodie. So fresh.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Autumn day at Tokara's Deli-CAT-essen

There really is a slip of autumn in Cape Town.  Today we saw some autumn… We chose the N1 to reach Helshoogte (I love saying that name almost as much as I like saying “Gratin Dauphinoise”  and “Vichysoisse” – also great autumnal exploits) and then Tokara and Tokara’s Deli-CAT-essen: a truly beautiful celebration of contemporary winelands architecture.  It was a wonderful place to be today, bathed in that lovely autumn light…. Look kids!  See the colours of the trees: red and gold and brown and orange and olive!

People often say, “Don’t you find it very hard as a food person to go out to other establishments?”  I think they assume that I would be terribly picky and persnickerty.  In the same way, people say, (especially when I am secretly angling for a dinner invite) “You are such a good cook, I would be terrified of inviting you to dinner!”

And here is my answer:  I love going out and eating out!  My only thing is that I abhor pretentiousness or situations that are overly contrived.  Places that have great promise but disappoint…  Most often, I think, as in our visit today to Tokara’s Deli-CAT-essen, it is the general sense that attention has been paid that wins me over.  I love the experience of simplicity and the sense that the experience was good value.  And then, of course, what parent is not wow-ed by people who really have thought out the children’s experience of the visit to their restaurant.  We all want our children to enjoy the experience of eating out and eating well.  What a treat: really good children’s food and a great safe space for children to run around in.  Joy!  David and I ate boards of Antipasto and Cheese and Charcuterie.  I was eating shamelessly.  Like the foxes in Fantastic Mr Fox  This was on account of drinking most of my delicious glass of wine and getting slightly tipsy! (Yes.  On one glass. Cheap date, says my Sweetheart.  We don’t get out much!).  All that delicious olive oil and marvellous bread, still warm from the oven…