It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Christmas planning, new products to develop, a visit to Prince Albert, a charcuterie course to plan for next year, supper to cook for the Commander, shoe boxes to fill with presents and that’s on top of the usual daily routine. Which is why having a gourmet meal cooked by Cape Towns chef to the rich and famous, Neill Anthony, was such a treat. The Commander and I attended his master class at the Bosch showroom in Montague Gardens and our taste buds were dazzled by his delicious and creative concoctions.
The menu consisted of home made gnocchi with asparagus, baby chicken with broad beans and fennel puree and finished off with treacle tart and lemon confit. Sounds pretty simple and it was pretty simple and that is why it was so delicious. Each dish was made from top quality ingredients and Neill certainly understands how to combine food to bring out the best from each component without being too complicated or fussy.
How often have you gone out to a restaurant and been disappointed with the meal that was served to you. Personally I find that this is usually a combination of inferior ingredients, a lack of understanding how they fit together and a tendency to over complicate dishes. Of course don’t forget the obligatory 75 word paragraph on the menu describing each dish and every ingredient in it along with some culinary prose that would have made even the bard blush.
I prefer things to be simpler. Maybe that is a reflection of my character and I’m sure the Commander will have a few choice observations at this point. But don’t confuse simple with easy and remember that it takes a confident chef to put a simple item on the menu. Let’s take Neill’s starter as an example – Home made gnocchi with asparagus. The dish is made with three components namely the gnocchi, the asparagus and parmesan cheese. Simple indeed but here’s the rub:
– The potatoes are organic and are baked first before being mashed, boiling makes them watery requiring more flour in the gnocchi which in turn makes them chewy
– The asparagus come from urban
legend farmer Matt Allison and were picked that day and had not even seen the inside of a Bosch fridge
– The asparagus were grilled not boiled to concentrate the flavours
– The gnocchi were boiled then pan fried in butter to give them a delicious crusty outside and a soft creamy inside
– The parmesan was freshly shaved and liberally added to the gnocchi from a big wedge and was not those dried out crumbs that mice ignore
It is not a 5 minute meal and it does take a bit of planning and effort but it is not complicated and I really wish I could order it next time I have to go out for a meal instead of some boiled imported dumplings with canned sauce, sprinkled with cardboard droppings and a bowl of rehydrated garlic on the side. Sadly I know the only way to experience this again is to make it at home or get invited to the Anthony mansion. The Commander has recently moved from subtle hinting to outright orders so I think I will be making gnocchi this week.
Of course it does help to have a pocket limey sous chef called Matt doing all the hard work and burning fingers while peeling hot baked potatoes while the master swans around taking the credit and telling stories about the time he taught Gordon how to make a souffle but at the end of the day Cape Town could use a few more chef’s like Neill (with two ll’s) Anthony!
– The value of an idea lies in the using of it – Thomas Edison