Fusion confusion leaves an awful taste in my mouth
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.
THE tiny Italian restaurant Stelle, in Johannesburg's Parkview shopping strip, has for years been famous for both its perfect regional Italian food and its scary decor. I have good news: the food is even better, and the decor is now toned down to give the food breathing space. It's quiet but amazing stuff. Handmade filled pastas must never be missed, and always leave space for the incredible home-made pastries and cakes. The peach tart is one of the best desserts I've ever had. Stelle, Tyrone Avenue, Parkview. Call 011-646-6996.
YET MORE CONFUSION
ALMOST all food is fusion food, of one kind or another: the inclusion of potatoes in the German diet once seemed exotic and odd, tomatoes were crazy-loco additions to the Italian diet until the mid-16th century, and only popular enough to be a national mainstay by the 19th century. Chilli was unheard of in India until the Portuguese shipped in the peppers, also around the mid-16th century. In Johannesburg, delicious so-called Indian dishes are often something more akin to an Afro-Paki-Indo fusion cuisine. Clearly, fusion is not the problem; it's insane fusing for the sake of novelty that gets everyone into trouble.
Locally, Asian food is often still the greatest victim. My two worst recent glimpses into the belly of the fusion beast were scary: a cream cheese and spinach so-called Cantonese dumpling, which was so wrong I almost started crying. I'm all for change, but it must work. And what's more, it mustn't go by the same name. Cantonese? I don't think so. This poor dumpling, however, was hardly offensive at all, compared to the maki roll I recently happened upon. Imagine this, if you can bear to: a maki roll containing kudu, kiwi fruit and feta cheese. One's mind just bounces off it, unable to comprehend the horror.
NOW here's an example of cross-cultural ingredients used in a way that's delicious to the point of being addictive.
Turkish Celery, Coconut and Lime Salad
FOR FOUR: 4 tablespoons thick creamy natural yoghurt / 2 garlic cloves, very finely slivered / 1 teaspoon grated lime zest / juice of one lime / 8 celery sticks, grated or very finely sliced (leaves reserved) / flesh of ½ coconut, grated; or ¾ cup coarse grated dried coconut (but a good fleshy type) / salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
HOW: mix yoghurt, garlic, lime rind and juice in a large bowl. Fold in celery and coconut, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into serving bowl and scatter chopped celery leaves over the top. This is brilliant with braaied lamb or chicken, or grilled brinjal.