From the drought-stricken Cape to chaotic Colombo

SRI LANKA – WHERE THE JUNGLE MEETS THE OCEAN

My desire to visit Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, was all about the food and tea, and I was not disappointed. In spite of the poverty and political unrest, it was a gentle country where we found all people to be really welcoming. I was lucky to be experiencing it with my best friend, Anne, otherwise known as Thelma from our previous experiences.

After two flights via Dubai Thelma and Louise landed in Colombo, and once we had cleared customs (note to travellers, you apply and pay for your visa online and then quickly collect at passport control) we were hit by the heat as we stepped outside. Climbing into the cool of the air-conditioned airport shuttle, Thelma, making polite conversation with our friendly driver, asked him if drivers use their hooters much in Colombo. A moment later I laughed hysterically as we snaked our way through the congested, chaotic streets in which the biggest bus gets right of way, and everyone hoots constantly! Whilst there is a high level of chaos, somehow it seems to work, and no-one gets aggressive. We quickly got used to buses overtaking cars and tuk-tuks, all at the same time. Single lane roads make travelling long and laborious, but never dull! Landing the day after the state of emergency had been lifted, we were pleased to see that a feeling of peace pervaded.

An obligatory overnight stay in the capital city of Colombo was delightful. We stepped out in light rain to walk to the Pettah Market area, along the way admiring architecture that pays homage to Dutch, Portuguese and British influences in their history. Here locals shop for everything from food to clothing, and the aroma of spices interspersed with traffic fumes, made for a stimulating afternoon. Jumping into a tuk-tuk (a three wheeler with a canopy powered by petrol) we headed down to the Galle Face Hotel, a landmark next to Galle Park, where locals fly kites and eat from the many food hawkers along the seafront. We sat and sipped gin and tonics watching the sunset. As the sun dipped below the horizon the sound of bagpipes filled the air, and we watched a man in a kilt lower the Sri Lanka flag. Note to self- read up on the Scot influence in their history!

By now we had worked out that for every 100 Sri Lankan rupees we were only spending R7,60, which stopped me haggling with the tuk-tuk drivers. The Dutch hospital, opposite our very satisfactory Fairway Colombo hotel in the centre of the city, houses a few interesting restaurants in the corridors and courtyard. By night the atmosphere is romantic, and although one can barely see what you are eating, know that it will be delicious. We settled at a table in the courtyard and ordered a crab curry, hot and spicy and really yum, washed down with local beer. By the end of it we looked like we had been in a food fight, but it was worth it!

Wiping the sleep out of my eyes I made Thel some coffee to get her going, but sadly without my glasses I emptied a few sachets of sweetener, instead of creamer, into her coffee, so off we set in search of a coffee shop whilst waiting for our airport shuttle. Another hour’s drive to the airport but this time to catch the fun float plane. It really is an exciting ride, with great visibility, and we were delighted that we had three stops before landing at Weerawilla, to catch a shuttle to what would be our beautiful home in the bush for two nights.

We are thrilled that our first Sri Lankan cookery course is fully booked. Looking forward to welcoming our gourmet guests tomorrow to enjoy a fun-filled morning.

TESTING, TESTING

For those of you who have not yet booked for The Drought Kitchen at The Test Kitchen, then do so now. It will live up to all expectations, and no doubt exceed them. If you would like to read more about it visit my online article on Food & Home Entertaining’s blog:www.foodandhome.co.za/entertaining/drought-menu-test-kitchen-invitation-innovation.

If you are feeling extravagant, then book for chef Luke Dale-Robert’s pop-up Test Kitchen at the Shangri-La Le Touessrok in Mauritius, from 12 April to 26 May. I’m not sure when last I’ve been so excited – I feel honoured to be heading there for the opening night next week. Having awarded The Test Kitchen three plates in the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide™, we know that this is world class destination dining, worthy of a flight. How wonderful to be witnessing this first hand. Stay posted and you can drool too – Jen’s Journeys will be first with the scoop!

Start dreaming of Sri Lanka and more

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Having just returned from 10 days of feasting on curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Sri Lanka, I am inspired to dangle a carrot and tell you that yes, it is worth a visit, and yes, you will love the cuisine. And the people, and the scenery, and everything else on this gorgeous, gentle teardrop-shaped island. It was fish all the way, and I took many photographs, from stilt fishermen to those catching fish, weighing fish, selling fish and of course, the edible art of serving fish.

These I would like to paint, inspired by artist Anita Lamberti Fuchs who painted these three beautiful artworks – perfect for your beach house or restaurant. Her work sold well in the “Art with Heart for Hospice” last year. Contact her on anitafuchs@iafrica.com if you want to know more. Keep your eyes peeled on our blog as I take you on a journey through Sri Lanka in the upcoming weeks.

MICHELANGELO CHEF’S TABLE 

I’m delighted that whilst I was drinking tea one of our team was drinking wine and eating up a storm back in Jozi. Rosanne Buchanan tells more:

The kitchen brigade at The Michelangelo hotel in Joburg recently hosted a memorable Chef’s Table to showcase seasoned Exec Chef Trevor Boyd’s ethos in the kitchen – to have fun and to promote his talented team. The guests included an intimate group of 10 people, including the Gourmet Guide contributor Rosanne Buchanan, who was duly impressed with the fresh, Asian flavours and classical techniques displayed by the team of chefs.

Highlights from the eight courses included the Asian calamari noodle salad amuse bouche, the Monkfish ceviche with a Kimchi dressing, a classical lamb Wellington served with a North African spiced lamb shank, smoked mushroom soufflé and cauliflower and mushroom purée – not to mention the hotel’s signature raspberry Crème Brulée, theatrically served on dry ice.

But it wasn’t all about the head chef…Trevor introduced his star sous chef, Kulpesh Hansjee, and pastry chef Mercedez Karlse, and they presented us with some of their own inspirations, like a spiced beef benedict with a miso Hollandaise and coconut vanilla sponge and strawberry mousse with Turkish delight ice cream and coconut marshmallow.

Each dish was paired with the sommelier’s selection – including delicious wines like Nitida Pinot Noir, a Oneric Sauvignon Blanc and a limited edition Van Loveren Christina Brut.

DEN ANKER

It was wonderful to hit the ground running and whip off to the very busy V&A Waterfront for some meetings – first one over coffee surrounded by books at the Exclusive Books café, then on to Den Anker, a restaurant featured in the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide, for lunch. Here the winning combination of stimulating company, a glorious (the best in town) view of the Mother City’s mountain plus delicious seared tuna in a sesame seed crust, and I was happy to be home.

This weekend I shall be perfecting the recipes I managed to extract from chefs on the island, for the first of our Sri Lankan cookery classes taking place on Saturday 7 April in Bakoven – of course with a view of the sea. I will also be writing, eating and then sharing my tales of tea, sea, safari and luxury in Sri Lanka with you from next week.

Easter offers something special for everyone’s appetite, from pickled fish and hot cross buns on Good Friday, to roast lamb, simnel cake and chocolate. For me personally, chocolate, preferably Swiss chocolate. We have been very busy in our office this week ensuring that the SWISS Culinary Innovation Award winner, chef Chantel Dartnall and her partner, will be winging their way to Paris in June for a special experience – a day at Taittinger Champagne house. She will share the details of her experience with you when she and her team return. I have no doubt that the holiday will be incredible from the moment she climbs on board. The focus on fine cuisine from the cantons of Switzerland is one of the distinctions that makes this airline stand out.

Meanwhile, enjoy the long weekend and drive safely. Happy Easter to our Christian followers and Pesach to our Jewish readers!

If you are not sure what to do this weekend, here are some delicious ideas…

FABER has always been in sync with the seasons, and this Autumn sees a new chef stepping up to the plate. Chef Dale Stevens was born and raised in Mossel Bay and has worked with some of South Africa’s top chefs like George Jardine, Luke Dale-Roberts and Eric Bulpitt, co-founder of Faber. “Dale is a very talented young chef with an intuitive talent for cooking and flavours. He is a natural leader and I believe that he is one of South Africa’s young chefs to watch,” says Eric.

Faber is on the 300-year-old, family-run biodynamic Avondale Estate in Paarl. The setting is breathtaking, especially at this time of the year as the leaves on the trees and vines change colour from bright greens to orange. My last Autumn visit to Faber inspired a few paintings! Open for lunch from Wednesday through to Sunday between noon and 14h30 and for dinner from Thursday to Saturday.

Tel: 021 202 1219

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GRANDE PROVENCE HERITAGE WINE ESTATE in Franschhoek are inviting families to join them for a fun-filled relaxed Easter Sunday on 1 April 2018. Enjoy a serene picnic for the family or opt for the selection of lighter foods – think bubbles and oysters, filled paninis and home-made ice teas. Children will be kept entertained with lawn games and an Easter egg hunt. Fabulous wines will also be on offer with a wide variety of delicious country-style eats.

Tel: 021 876 8600

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