Chefs tell us what's been cooking at hotels since lockdown began

Hilary Biller spoke to chefs Hope Mdakane and Kerry Kilpen, who each shared a recipe

17 May 2020 - 00:00 By Hilary Biller
Chef Hope Mdakane enjoys harvesting fresh ingredients from the Saxon's vegetable garden to use in his dishes.
Chef Hope Mdakane enjoys harvesting fresh ingredients from the Saxon's vegetable garden to use in his dishes.
Image: Supplied

CHEF HOPE MDAKANE

Mdakane is a gradute from the HTA Culinary Academy in Randburg, Johannesburg. He works at Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Sandhurst.

I'm the only chef still working at the hotel and I live on the property. My role is to manage the kitchen and prepare meals for the small team of staff overseeing the hotel during shutdown. I'm used to being part of a kitchen brigade of 34 at the hotel and right now I'm all alone in the kitchen and more than happy as I'm learning way more than before.

The hotel has given me the opportunity to try out whatever I like in the kitchen and I feel privileged and honoured.

I set a menu for each day and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for the team, who critique my meals.

Each day I'm learning in more depth about elements that were not part of my day-to-day job and have been focusing on menu planning, stock rotation and -taking, ordering and hygiene.

The hotel has an extensive vegetable garden where I harvest produce to cook and prepare dishes. Right now I'm picking lots of eggplant, cocktail tomatoes, baby marrow and basil, which I use to create my current favourite dish, ratatouille pizza (recipe below). It's the first time I've made a pizza dough and it's been such an eye-opener and everyone loves it.

When the lockdown is over the first thing I'm going to do is to go and see my family. Although we've been in contact daily, I miss them very much. And I'm going to McDonald's! for my favourite takeout, the grand chicken spicy burger followed by a caramel McFlurry, I can't wait.

Ratatouille pizza.
Ratatouille pizza.
Image: Supplied

MDAKANE'S RATATOUILLE PIZZA

Makes: 6 pizzas

Pizza dough:

430g bread flour

230g semolina flour

5g instant yeast

About 400ml water

15ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

15ml (1 tbsp) salt

Napolitana (tomato) sauce:

5 tomatoes, peeled and cubed

1 white onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 celery stick, diced

10g tomato paste

10ml (2 tsp) sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ratatouille vegetables:

1 large white onion sliced in circles

6 baby marrows, sliced in rounds

1 yellow and 1 green pepper, cored and sliced

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 aubergines, sliced

360g grated mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves, as a garnish

Method:

  1. For the dough, combine the flours and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the water slowly, then the oil and salt and beat together on medium speed for 7 minutes. The dough should be soft with a good development of gluten.
  2. Cover and leave to rise till double in size, about 40-50 minutes.
  3. Knock back the dough and divide in equal portions of about 100g each, shaped into rounds. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. For the sauce, saute the onion, garlic and celery until translucent in a small pan over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and cook for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes then transfer mixture into a blender and puree until smooth then leave to cool.
  5. Preheat the oven to 260°C. Remove the dough from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.
  6. Sprinkle a little flour on the kitchen surface and roll each ball of dough into circles and transfer onto greaseproof paper on a tray or a pizza pan that has been dusted with semolina flour.
  7. Prick the dough using a fork and spread a small layer of the napolitana sauce in the centre and then around the dough.
  8. Divide the ratatouille vegetables between the pizzas and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake the pizza until golden brown around the edge, approximately 3 to 4 minutes, and serve.
Chef Kerry Kilpen.
Chef Kerry Kilpen.
Image: Supplied

CHEF KERRY KILPEN

Kilpen is a graduate of Silwood College in Cape Town. She's the executive chef of Steenberg Wine Farm in the Constantia Valley.

I'm the daughter of a pineapple farmer from the Eastern Cape and have always had a love for food and knew I wanted to go into the food industry from a young age.

As the executive chef of two restaurants on Steenberg estate, Bistro 1682 and Tryn, I've been surprisingly busy during lockdown and find I'm working harder than I've ever done and I haven't even really started cooking.

Initially the plan was to do menu planning during this period and preparing winter
menus, but this has all gone out of the window as we don't believe we'll be trading much
until summer.

Although we are not operating, in the height of the season we were preparing up to 600 meals on a busy day. I've found lockdown very stressful and quite difficult to get into a creative headspace and at the moment the team want to be busy and want to do something.

Last week with a small team of senior staff we went back to work. We are operating from Monday to Friday and have created a small Steenberg@Home delivery menu offering restaurant food to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.

There are two options to choose from: Heat, Plate and Serve with items like beef tataki, pulled beef and red wine jus, roasted pork belly and braised lamb neck (recipe below) and two kiddies items. And the Semi Prepared Dinner, which offers dishes with all the ingredients and sauces pre-prepared, which makes putting the dish together very easy.

Although a small menu it's food that is prep intensive so there may be no thrill of service but the core staff and I are busy and loving being back at work.

The stories emerging out of lockdown, especially in the hospitality industry are very scary, and when you hear that a neighbouring wine farm may be closing down it's hard to believe this can be happening.

I'm yearning for some good sushi and fish and chips when this is all over. We enjoy visiting Constantia Uitsig Estate where as a family we meet friends, sit on the lawns, watch our kids play, glass of wine in hand and enjoy their version of fish n chips.

Lamb neck stuffed with ricotta and herbs with lemon jus.
Lamb neck stuffed with ricotta and herbs with lemon jus.
Image: Supplied

KILPEN'S LAMB NECK STUFFED WITH RICOTTA AND HERBS WITH LEMON JUS

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

200g ricotta cheese

10g chopped basil

10g chopped parsley

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1kg deboned lamb neck (or use a deboned shoulder of lamb)

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

1 litre stock

100g butter

To serve:

Roasted butternut

Method:

  1. To make the stuffing, combine the ricotta, herbs and zest and juice of one lemon in a food processor and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Open the lamb neck up and season with salt and pepper, inside and out. Lay the neck "skin" side down and spread the stuffing over the entire surface of the meat. Roll up like a Swiss roll and secure the meat with butcher's string.
  3. Prepare a roasting tin with the chopped vegetables and stock. Lay the lamb neck on top of the vegetables.
  4. Braise in a preheated oven of 160°C for 2-3 hours or until cooked. To know if it's ready, place a skewer in the meat and if it has no resistance, it is done. Remove meat from the pan and allow to rest.
  5. To make the lemon jus, combine the vegetables and stock from the roasting pan in a blender and blend. Pour into a pot and bring to the boil. Add the zest and juice of the second lemon and the butter. Season with salt and pepper and strain.
  6. Serve the sliced lamb on a bed of roasted butternut and drizzle over the lemon jus.