Celebrate the season the South African way

2010-12-18 00:00

MY 10th year in the industry means it’s my 10th Christmas away from home. Making a festive season impression is a family tradition and this custom came with me when I started at Hartford House. This means Christmas lunch guests at the hotel can expect a lavish affair with many scrumptious tastings. The menu’s first draft is complete and now the trials begin so we can confirm the finer details of each course. This involves tastings and kitchen discussions. We all know there are busy days ahead.

Contrary to my family’s preference, I’ve planned a fine-dining braai and salads. They will be joining the celebrations at Hartford House, so the pressure is on. I believe in the old adage “when in Rome …”, so I’m encouraging you to do the South African thing. But you have to be innovative and present unusual and exciting dishes.

I’d like to share a few of the recipes on the Hartford House Christmas tasting menu — a sneak preview of the dozen or so courses, you might say.

One of the first dishes will be a garden-fresh pea soup with a bright-green pea purée, gammon “brawn”, bacon-infused panna cotta and a creamy crème fraiche — a delicious hint of Christmas. This dish may be a bit of overkill for those of you at home, but any of the options with the soup will work well.

Duck is a favourite of mine so I’ve planned a crispy duck confit with hummus, sultanas and local honey mead, the drink of the gods. Duck thighs cooked in their own juice for three hours are delicious. I prefer doing this on the stove rather than in the oven. It gives me full control and I like to witness the changes as they take place. Serving this with hummus (a crushed chickpea purée) takes the richness from the dish and adds a pleasing creaminess. The sultanas and the honey mead add a sweetness that balances the duck flavour.

A recent trip to Spain inspired the next dish, and is the basis of my Christmas menu. I had the most luscious beef tartare and foie gras tapas burger, served with a mouthwatering fresh truffle mayonnaise.

Hay-roasted midlands beef fillet with truffle oil aioli and beef tartare toasty with home-grown beef from the Summerhill farm coupled with the award-winning Hartford restaurant promise a world-class experience.

The cheese course, comprising Camembert with fresh asparagus, rocket and pear, delivers a savoury, light freshness with a slight sweetness.

This prepares the palate — and the mind — for dessert, which is still many days of preparation away, but it will include toasted marshmallows, chocolate fondants (oozing decadent Belgian­ chocolate) and lots of fresh summer fruits and berries.

Cheers to your Christmas celebrations. May they be the success we at Hartford House are working towards.

Send comments and food-related questions to jackie@hartford.co.za I always look forward to hearing from you. • Jackie Cameron is the head chef at Hartford House: 033 263 2713.

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