I heard the stories, read the restaurant reviews and packed my bags with antacids and stretchy pants in preparation for what I knew was going to be an exciting foodie experience. I had heard that the food in South Africa was a force to be reckoned with, and I was ready!
But Cape Town kicked my butt.
We ate pate with caramelized onions and crusty bread in the vineyards of Franschoek and a Vichyssoise that left some people at our table (one in particular) experiencing something close to, what I can only describe as, an orgasm.
We savoured tuna tataki, devoured the octopus ceviche and gulped down fresh oysters that still tasted like the ocean. Gooey Spanish cheese with spicy chorizo reminded us of the small restaurants in Spain, eating tapas al fresco and sipping on sangria. We consumed mounds of fresh pita with labneh, topped with grassy olive oil and crunchy pistachios to help cool our mouths from the spicy Cape Malay curries.
I felt like I was spinning out of control. Where has this food been all my life? Why did everything taste so freakin’ amazing? I needed to find out why.
Cape Town streets are lined with multi-cultural restaurants. Colonialism brought in the food cultures of the English, French, Dutch and German. Mixed in with African influences, Cape Town’s restaurant scene had become diverse and unique. Put simply, I’ll never be the same again. Cape Town has become a beautiful melting pot for all things delicious with its growing populations of Chinese, Portuguese, French, and other European settlers.
But really, the answer is in the ingredients. The incredibly fresh ingredients, no sooner pulled from the earth than on my plate, don’t need much more than a rinse to bring out the flavours. South Africans are proud of their food – it’s obvious. The flavours hit your taste buds and you know it’ll never be this good again. It’s not hard to make food taste ahh-mazing when you have great ingredients and South Africans know this.
So here is my tribute to Cape Town. Fresh beets, roasted only in olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt with crispy potatoes piled onto a plate with fresh dill and homemade creamy, tangy labneh. Labneh is super easy to make. Grab a sieve, coffee filter or cheese cloth and place the yogurt over it until the water drains out and you’re left with this incredibly creamy, thick yogurt to eat as you please.
- 1½ cups greek yogurt
- cheese cloth
- 5-6 beets cut into chunks
- 5-6 fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped dill
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- extra zest and dill for garnish
- Place a sieve over a bowl. Place the greek yogurt in a cheese cloth and let it sit over the sieve in the fridge overnight. Squeeze out any extra water.
- Preheat the oven to 400C. Toss the beets and potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper. You can roast them separately so that the red beets don't stain the potatoes. Roast in the over for approx. 20 mins or until cooked through and crispy on the outside
- Make the dressing by combining the 4 tbsp of olive oil, chopped dill, lemon juice and zest.
- Place the roasted beets and potatoes on a plate. Put dollops of labneh over the plate and then pour the dressing over top.
- Add extra dill and zest over the salad for garnish and serve!