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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MODERN SOUTH AFRICAN CUISINE (article first published : 2005-05-1)

“To define a cuisine is to confine it” are the all-embracing opening words of Modern South African Cuisine by Garth Stroebel. Looking at the multi-layered nature of South African cuisine, the superbly-presented Modern South African Cuisine is a must for anyone seriously interested in cuisine within a South African context. Utilising the vast natural bounty available to us from the sun-ripened tropical fruits, exotic vegetables and high quality fish and meat, to the not to be forgotten “biggest bird in the world – the 2 metre tall, 85 kilogram low fat ostrich”

The Foreword is written by colleague and friend, Dr Bill Gallagher, who is Honorary Life President of both the World Association of Cooks Societies and the South African Chefs Association. Recognising Garth’s reputation as a master craftsman, he notes that he has also been a mentor to hundreds of young chefs in South Africa.

Formerly Executive Chef for the African Collection of Orient-Express Hotels, Garth is described as being at the cutting edge of South African gastronomy. Winner of numerous awards, he recently received the prestigious Pinnacle Chef Award for a lifetime achievement in the fields of training and culinary expertise. He now heads the South African Culinary Academy in Cape Town in partnership with Paul Hartmann.

A passionate surfer in his youth, Garth’s early career started in Durban where he joined his elder brother who had already embarked on a successful career in hotel management. “I wanted to be a beach bum – not a chef,” he says ironically, acknowledging that he “certainly wasn’t a star pupil” and chuckles at being hailed as “The Father of Modern South African Cuisine.”

He maintains that his book is a celebration – one paying tribute to the exciting cultural and historical mix that makes up South African food, but bringing it right up to date with the country’s modern life style requirements which demands lighter and healthier dishes in line with international trends in cuisine.

The very expensive look to this book makes me feel that I would be loathe to use it in the kitchen.

However, Garth asserts that if you are an inexperienced cook :“Prop this book on the kitchen table and I’ll guide you with some easy-to-prepare recipes that demystify the cooking process – there is nothing intimidating about food; there is a certain sleight of hand in presentation, but artistic flourishes can be learned.”

Some of these flourishes look pretty daunting to me but they do lend a wonderful appeal to the finished dishes. Maybe I will attempt a dinner party consisting of the Salad of Confit of Tomato, Asparagus and Smoked Ostrich; Baked Fillets of Yellowtail with Pine nuts and Black Olives and perhaps Amarula Tiramisu with a Berry Sorbet or the truly artistic Apple and Ginger Tatin served with a Van der Hum semifreddo and almond sugar crisp to finish off.

Neil Corder’s excellent colourful photographs are minimalist and beautifully presented. The chapter headings and some of the recipes are accompanied by miniature images, which provide an informative yet offbeat touch.

Modern South African Cuisine is a masterful, superbly laid-out publication and there is an elegance and style about the design. Published by Struik, it retails at R289 ISBN 1 86872 988 5 – Cherry MacIldowie




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