Pointing out to chef that he was much prettier than the Master Chef judges and that he had better hair than Pete Goffe-Wood did not seem to make any impression at all on him, and we were not the outright winners.
I had ordered perch from the dinner menu without a clue as to what it was like and I was astonished to be presented with a plate of what must have been 20 or so of the little critters, flour-dipped and panfried in butter and then served with parsley and lemon. Crisp, soft and wonderful, they remain one of the most memorable yet simple fish dishes I’ve tasted anywhere.
This is something that Gautengers do not seem able to understand. To many from north of the mighty Vaal, where weather is presumed to be as regular as the daily afternoon thunderstorm, there are thought to be two Cape seasons – one constantly windy, the other constantly wet.
Offal is such an ironic food, if you think about it. It’s the cheapest red meat going, to be found at the bargain bin end of the supermarket or butchery fridge. It’s eaten by the poorest people of the world, and often thought of as “peasant” food, not that we would apply the term in South Africa, although they would and do in France.
RICHARD Carstens is looking very much as though he is on top of his game – on top of the world, in fact. The world’s view from his lair in the mountains above Stellenbosch stretches all the way to False Bay and Table Mountain, but his cuisine journeys far more widely than that, with influences that stretch as far afield as the eyries of culinary genuises like Ferran Adria and Heston Blenthal – who was so delightly misnamed by a contestant in an episode of Come Dine With me as ‘Blumen Heseltine”.
Other old people have started permeating my dreams: Madonna (13 years older than me and able to do the splits); JK Rowling (six years older than me and worth £560 million or R6 038m); my mother’s 95-year-old friend, who can drink more red wine at lunch than a gaucho.
For the past three days, I’ve been like a set designer, trying to create an environment that doesn’t resemble reality. I even used a glue gun. And sugar soap. And a new mop that folds in the middle and leaves two trails on the floor like a dismembered snail.
There’s something about a T-bone. (The meat-shy might like to look away at this point.) It’s a quartet of things. The T-shaped bone gives the meat attached to it more flavour. The layer of fat, which must be left on so that the meat near it can absorb its tenderising essences.
I would sooner leap off a cliff backwards singing Climb Every Mountain than lie under a car in Table View on a Saturday afternoon with a rugby commentary plugged into my ears, a spanner in my hand and the knowledge that if the jack dislodges itself, my beer boep will keep the car up. I have more understanding of cooking, because it makes more sense to me, techno-challenged as I am.
By the time I had popped the potatoes into the oven it was too late to go out again and buy more cream, as our guests were about to arrive, so I checked my ingredients and decided I’d have to make a sauce using only butter, sugar, chocolate and Kahlua, that dreamy coffee liqueur that everyone was drinking in the Eighties and which became the second choice for an Irish coffee if you ran out of whisky. And that, if you’re old (or sober) enough to remember, was just before everyone took to drinking Sambucca as if it were an alcoholic’s mother’s milk, but you really don’t want to know about the time a friend and I devoured an entire bottle of it in a series of flaming Sambucca shot dares.