A book review by Franz Scheurer
With some excellent produce, a wonderful cultural blend and a history of wine making South Africa is beginning the slow evolution to a food destination, and at the forefront of this revolution is Franck Dangereux at La Colombe on Constantia Uitsig wine farm in Cape Town. Dangereux combines local ingredients with French know-how and experience in the Caribbean, North Africa and Asia. An extended stay on his uncle’s boat in Bali at the age of 11 whet his appetite for fresh seafood, eaten raw or cooked simply over an open fire and kindled his passion for cooking. Growing up in France nursed his love for quality and, after an apprenticeship and hotel school in Nice he reached the conclusion that “you can be passionate about food and a very keen eater…but if you don’t know the foundations, then your cooking will be limited. For every type of cooking in the world the basics are the same. It is like painting. Until you can perfectly draw your own hand, you will never be able to produce something abstract and beautiful. You have to know the basics.” His cookbook, Feast, will let you into the way Dangereux thinks, tastes and assembles, and it will teach you a lot of the basics of good cooking.
The book is divided into seasons with each season subdivided into ‘home’ and ‘restaurant’, then, at the end, an extensive section on the basics, or as he calls them: the foundation of pleasure.
The Summer chapter captivated me with a restaurant recipe of superbly presented ‘Terrine of Norwegian salmon in lentils and nori with sweet ginger and sesame vinaigrette’. It’s involved and laboursome, but absolutely worth the effort.
Autumn’s home recipe of ‘Brioche toast with parmesan, cèpe mushrooms and garlic fricassée & rocket salad with hazelnut oil’ made me drool, as did the ‘Baked venison pâté with warm rosemary butter sauce’. What a wonderful idea! In the restaurant section he surprised me with a new approach to an old classic: ‘Steak tartare façon La Colombe’, presented as a layer of meat (spiced with his ‘sauce’) then topped with a layer of his ‘herb paste’, leaving it up to the customer to mix.
Winter, the time of wood fires and serious cooking, takes us to his home with ‘Lambs’ tongues with devil sauce and crispy potato galette’ and to the restaurant with ‘Fricassée of quail with aubergine and leeks on toasted brioche with escargots in garlic cream and star anise jus’. It’s also interesting to learn that one of his favourite foods is a simple ham and cheese toasted sandwich, particularly the Spanish version called bocadillo, from which he evolved his fabulous ‘Parma ham, smoked mozzarella and wild spinach spring rolls with gewürztraminer cream froth’.
Finally Spring fires a cook’s imagination with tender new leaves and fresh, delicate colours. The perfect spring dish is in the restaurant section, a ‘Chilled bouillabaisse terrine’. It’s incredibly delicate and colourful. Although I also find it hard to go past the ‘Pan-fried duck foie gras with honey-braised endives and mead jus’…
I think this is a terrific book. Many of the recipes may be challenging, but as Dangereux says: “Never be afraid of food. Don’t ever think that you can’t cook something just because the recipe looks complicated. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes”.
I second that!
Published by Quivertree Publications, South Africa
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