So much more than just a cookbook

2010-12-30 11:58

Justin Bonello is a stud-muffin who not only knows his way around the pots but also doesn’t ever really need the pots to create his culinary masterpieces.

Cooked Out Of The Frying Pan is another of Bonello’s fantastic offerings which is part cookbook, part travelogue and part advertisement for the fantastic delights of South Africa.

Cooked Out Of The Frying Pan, like Bonello’s previous cookbooks, ­includes breathtaking photos by Duane Howard and Louis Hiemstra of the landscape he travels through, restaurateurs, fellow cooks, ingredients, utensils, mouthwatering desserts and, most delightful of all, his fine self.

After the third series of his TV show came to an end, Bonello took to the road to try to regain his mojo and for three months he chopped his way through 13 kitchens alongside Franco Zezia and Ezio di Biaggi, Haji Hamit, Nompumeza Balani, Xie Gou Lie and Shaniel Dinna, to name a few.

If the names are unfamiliar, don’t fret.

Thanks to Bonello this book could equally work as a guide book to some of the ­country’s finest restaurants.

It begins at Magica Roma in Pinelands, takes a pit stop at the Table Bay Hotel, tootles along on the Blue Train, cools its jets at Sabie Sabie and eases towards the end of his journey in the ­Natal Midlands.

I’m a Bonello devotee because he never fails to introduce me to interesting ways of cooking local fauna I didn’t even realise you could eat.

His prickly pear and champagne sorbet sounds delicious and he insists that “this recipe needs very little PE, providing you have an ice-cream machine. Otherwise you’ll need to set aside some time for stirring”.

Bonello is a storyteller, so the cookbook is peppered with asides about his fellow chefs, the history of the eateries and lots of little tips about what to do with left-over bones from his slow-baked suckling piglet stuffed with Italian sausages.

He’s a greenie who is big on recycling and an advocate of buying local. His books are jam-packed with uniquely South African dishes like Impala loin with chermoula, pap and spinach, Rooibos ­panna cotta and lamb neck pooitjie.

But he’s also a dab hand at braised rabbit in white wine and tarragon, prawn and edamame pockets and scallops with corn veloute, gnocchi, quail eggs and bacon foam.

With the array of delights Bonello dishes up, it’s hard to pick a dish or a chef or a restaurant that stands out above the others. They are varied and wonderful in their diversity.

But the one that intrigued me sufficiently to be included on my “things to do in Cape Town” list was definitely Gold, owned by Cindy Muller and Jan van Huissteen and boasting an all-women team of chefs.

The menu includes dishes from Burundi, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and South ­Africa. Amid the recipes for ­familiar foods like couscous,

vegetable samoosas and fish frikkadels, Bonello includes a mouthwatering masala crayfish and madumbie putu pie, boeber (a dessert usually made during the Muslim holy month of ­Ramadaan) and a north African starter called dukkah, made from hazelnuts and a variety of seeds.

Cooked Out Of The Frying Pan will be another of those books I will always make sure I have a few copies of lying around.

His books make fantastic gifts, look stunning on your kitchen shelf and draw in even the most disinterested cooks with their fantastic photographs.

And the stories Bonello tells of old friends he has cooked with for many years and new ones he has made along the way add that extra spice.

I particularly love sending them to friends across the pond to ­remind them of the breathtaking country they have left behind and the mouthwatering food we make back home. 

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