Why cookbook author Georgia East is a big fan of the Cape West Coast
The West Coast is one of the few places left in the Western Cape that is devoid of pretension, says Georgia East, who pays tribute to the region in her new cookbook, 'West Coast Wander'
Self-taught photographer and food stylist Georgia East has shot numerous campaigns, menu imagery and social media content for brands and projects, including her first cookbook, West Coast Wander (Penguin Random House).
Confessing to “having the diet of a seal”, East currently divides her time between Cape Town and Velddrif on the Cape West Coast.
We chatted to her about the inspiration for – and production of – her newly launched cookbook.
Did you always want to be involved with writing about food and creating recipes?
I have a degree in journalism and English literature from UCT although I was very involved in fashion in my early twenties and had a clothing label for a few years.
About five years ago I began my current blog – East After Noon – and really started exploring my love for cooking.
I had previously dabbled in recipe development and would take awful smartphone pictures of my creations and post them to social media. Friends and family would request my recipes and so I decided to develop a more permanent platform on which to showcase them.
Cue three different blogs, three cameras and a lot of experimentation later and East After Noon has grown to be a sort of ongoing portfolio for my work.
I’m now a professional recipe developer, food stylist and photographer. I’m also a freelance food and travel writer for various local and international publications.
Can you tell us more about your new cookbook, West Coast Wander?
West Coast Wander is a passion project born from my seemingly relentless adoration for the Cape West Coast. I wanted to develop a book that veered away from the more traditionally historical representation of the area and offer readers a glance at what the West Coast of today looks like.
Instead of including restaurants, I wanted to highlight the farm-to-table aspect, creating awareness and appreciation for the people working with food in what is often an unforgiving landscape – both topographically and economically.
[Because it offers] the same semi-arid conditions and sunny climate as most of the Mediterranean, I linked places like Elands Bay with the Aegean and incorporated flavours from Greece and surrounds into traditional West Coast recipes. My aim was to simplify dishes and make them more appealing to modern appetites.
I also wanted to show the versatility of the area through use of local ingredients like farmed mussels, Sandveld potatoes and wild asparagus.
When you started work on West Coast Wander, you went off to live in Velddrif to produce it. Why did you think this was essential to producing the book?
To me, the West Coast provides unfiltered inspiration. I knew I had to write the book on location – so when dreaded writer’s block reared its head, I would have the option to simply leave my desk and find motivation from the landscape.
I spent the time really immersing myself in small town life – getting to know people, listening to their stories, taking long walks at dawn and dusk, driving off with no distinct destination in mind, discovering who bakes bread, who makes cheese from home, when the snoek start running.
In short, I feel that writing the book on location gave my words authenticity and weight.
What was your favourite West Coast discovery or best moment during that time?
The food! I spent every Saturday at the Mill market in Hopefield – a small community produce market supplied by farmers, home cooks and artisans in the area. Their bread, veggies and baked goods are fantastic, and I would stock up on organic chicken liver pâté, fresh eggs, locally grown fruit and artisanal cheese.
My best moment was during the final weekend of my tenure – a friend had dived for a few crayfish and although I don’t usually eat them and haven’t featured them in the book, cooking them over the coals and enjoying them with a glass of flinty Sauvignon Blanc and a fiery Sandveld sunset was truly something special.
Do you have a personal favourite recipe in the book?
My top three would have to be the Lannice Snyman-adapted recipe for Crispy Harders, my Greek Easter Lamb and the Simple Fish Paste for Toast.
Why would you tell people they should visit the West Coast?
The West Coast is one of the few places left in the Western Cape that is devoid of pretension. It's real, it's raw and it's not always pretty. To truly appreciate it, one has see it with the right kind of eyes.
The West Coast is one of the few places left in the Western Cape that is devoid of pretension. It's real, it's raw and it's not always prettyGeorgia East
I would urge anyone wanting a West Coast experience that goes beyond the diluted concept of whitewashed fishing cottages and azure ocean to head further north – take in the towns of industry, eat fish and chips in a working harbour, see how snoek is vlekked and talk to local faces.
The people of the West Coast are hardworking, honest and ambitious – it’s time we as visitors start looking for authentic experiences through them over those aimed solely at the affluent.
What tastes remind you of your childhood?
Fresh basil from my mother’s kitchen garden, lemon cordial that never seemed sweet enough for my taste and icy litchis eaten straight from the fridge.
Which three pieces of kitchen equipment should no one ever be without?
A single-blade mezzaluna, a fish filleting knife and a fine grater for garlic.
What's your current favourite restaurant?
I can never quite seem to get enough of Dias Tavern’s peri-peri chicken.
What would your last meal – and last drink – be?
A whole chicken, roasted golden in wine, fresh herbs and garlic and served with fine green beans doused in anchovy butter, crusty bread for mopping and a bottle or two of flinty West Coast Sauvignon Blanc.
• We’ll be featuring a few must-try recipes from Georgia East’s 'West Coast Wander' in the next week or two – to make sure you don’t miss them (or any of our other recipes, restaurant reviews and food features) simply click here to find out how to sign up for the Sunday Times Food e-mail newsletter — it's fast and free!