A Tarte Tatin to savour
Andre Burgener has been immersed in all things food since she took over the making of the family's lunch box sandwiches aged eight (her mom could make a mean creme brulee and a staggering souffle, but could never butter the bread all the way to the edges.
BETTER THAN QUICHE
TARTE Tatin is usually in sweet form: apples, pears, sometimes a more exotic fruit. This savoury version, using slow-cooked onions, a sprinkling of anchovies and thyme, is less often seen. Of course, onions are the perfect thing to use in a Tarte Tatin: the effect of slow cooking and butter combining to create that same caramelised toffee effect, which fruit produces, is what onions were born for.
Onion Tarte Tatin with anchovies (serves 4): 30g unsalted butter / 2 teaspoons caster sugar / 4 to 5 onions, peeled / 1 teaspoon fresh thyme / 1 cup chicken stock (good, liquid type store-bought if necessary) or salted water / 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar / 4 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped (optional) / ½ roll butter puff pastry / sour cream, black pepper and chives to finish.
How: Heat oven to 180°C. Melt butter in a heavy, 25cm oven-proof frying pan or pan-like container. Scatter sugar over the base and remove from heat. Peel and chop tops and tails off onions. Cut each onion in half, to create two thick wheels. Arrange as many as possible on the butter layer, then cut the others in half or quarters to fit in the gaps. Pour the stock or salted water over and sprinkle with the vinegar. Scatter anchovies and thyme over. Place in oven for about 45 minutes or until the onions are golden buttery caramelised coils and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Take out of oven, cook on stove top until nearly all remaining liquid goes. Cover with a circle of puff pastry tucked all around at the pan edges.
Bake for another 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Place a plate over the pan and flip both over so that the tart lands onions up on the plate. Do not fear the flip - any onion pieces that fall out or get stuck on the pan can easily be wedged back into position.
Cut into four slices and serve posthaste with the sour cream and chives dolloped on top, or with fresh soft goat's cheese. Eat with a big leafy salad, quite sharply and plainly dressed.
Braeside Butchery in Parkhurst, Johannesburg - yes, I do keep singing their praises, but they're head and shoulders above most butcheries in the city for well-reared and delicious meat - is the place to find the magnificent Dargle duck.
The Dargle farm in the Midlands is something akin to a luxury spa for its free-ranging ducks, which even have a landscaped garden with bridges and waterways to frolic (or perhaps waddle) about in. If this sounds barmy, just taste the duck, and you'll know what good farmers know: well-reared animals taste the best. Braeside Butchery: 4th Avenue, corner of 10th Street, Parkhurst. Call 011-442-6614.
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS IN THE DARK
After another restaurant shift where every diner arrived at the same time, and ordered at more or less the same time (do they phone each other before, I often wonder?), I think it's my duty to clear something up, something that might make your long wait for food in a busy restaurant more understandable (and so perhaps less annoying).
One irate man last night asked: "But it's only a salad and a soup; how long can that take?" Good question. A question I asked myself, too, before I worked in a restaurant kitchen.
But it's the wrong question. The question you should be asking is this: how long can it take for the kitchen to do the orders for two wokked quail, one steak tartare, three gnocchi, five rump, two charcuterie boards, three wok noodles, two spinach, one hoisin duck, four salads, four lamb curry, two affogato, a halva dessert and five banana fudge that came in just before yours?
And the answer to that, as any hungry diner knows, is, of course, infinity.