We Cape Townians are not very brave in the face of winter. We stay indoors, layer up and wait until the winter rain gives way to the summer sun. But in doing this, we miss out on cosy winter warmers we can only experience for three short months of the year.
There are many gems hidden around Cape Town to help fend off the winter blues. Last night we had the winter solstice – the longest night and shortest day – and instead of tucking into my bed with my comfy socks, I opted for an evening of interactive cooking and wine at Ginger & Lime in Fresnaye.
Despite the looming cold front, this cosy comfort was just what I needed. We were a group of twenty individuals all snug in the open plan kitchen of the family home. We were a little tentative at first, freshly awoken from our hibernation. But in no time we were giggling and sharing in the warmth – thanks to the Game Reserve wine range supplied by Rooiberg. This from a conscious background and supports biodiversity organisations.
What’s nicer than making food with a glass of wine?
For those of you who know me, I am not much of a chef. I do dabble in the kitchen from time to time, but my food is far from the remarkable delicacies we prepared tonight. I do, however, share the sentiment of cooking… the ritual of it. It’s a good way to end your day and reflect. It is also a great space for bonding and friendship.
My sentiment was shared by head chef Denise Levy, the conductor of the whole event. She reminded us why the kitchen is indeed the hearth of a family, in the famous words of Lidia Bastianich.
“The kitchen is the heart of the party and the soul of the family. Ginger & Lime is extending that to include you in the experience… The kitchen table was where we gathered every day. We ate, we shared our food, our stories and our lives.”
After we had been introduced to the two other chefs heading up the cooking, Almo and Paulo, it was time to dig into our first course: the Indian Spiced Tomato Soup. As per André’s advice, the winemaker from Rooiberg, I paired it with the Chardonnay. The pairing went down most wonderfully! The soup instantly warmed me up, leaving me flushed in this modern kitchen.
After that, it was time to get dirty and help prep the next dish: Comforting Sea Food Cottage Pie. For the benefit of everyone else, I decided to stick to the eating and the drinking. And what a warm atmosphere it was! People were collaborating, teaming up, laughing and sharing life stories. The kitchen did as Lidia Bastianich foretold.
The salty and sweet Thai Panaeng Beef Curry followed the cottage pie. It was a six-course meal, so I took small helpings to ensure space for it all.
As the evening grew later and the wine bottles fell empty, I forgot about the Cape Town chill and the raging winter cold fronts. Cape Town can also get lonely at times, and what better way to bond and make new friends than around the kitchen table? It was a feast of people from across the world: Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Joburg, Blouberg and more. What an exciting melting pot of languages and culture that we find in South Africa!
The next three dishes went down just as well. The slow roasted curried lamb shoulder with fresh mint was paired with Moroccan roasted sweet potato and carrots, with yoghurt, mint and pomegranate. This dish was a feast for the eyes as much as it was a dance on the tongue. I am also not a wine fundi, but on André’s advice, I coupled it with the Pinotage.
“Anything goes with anything in my books. Feel free to taste any wine with any of the food. I normally pick a bottle of wine, and if it doesn’t work with the food, it wasn’t the right food.”
The night’s menu was perfectly crafted with the audience in mind. It was exotic and warming – a perfect combination for this time of year. The evening was rounded off with baked malva pudding and custard, and a little Muscadel. Not too much – but just enough tantalising sweetness to leave you wanting more.
So challenge yourself to go out and experience winter warmers in your area. Although we have to hibernate, it is also lovely to try new things. You never know what surprises may lie in store.
In the closing words of Lidia Bastianich: “Why do I dedicate my life cooking for family, friends and strangers? Why am I so gratified doing this? It all goes back to the kitchen table. It was the centre of the kitchen and the home.”