Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses.

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

A Spanish-themed Birthday... Happy Birthday to Me!

Jonty and Tanya Nicolson - Nicolson's Country Cafe

My hosts; Jonty and Tanya Nicolson of Nicolson's
(Photo : Nicolson's)

"Nicolson's Country Cafe... one of my favourite restaurants."

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

I'm besotted with birthdays. Well passed childhood years, I still have a birthday 'worm' in my kitchen! Every day I tear a segment off the worm until my very own, one of 365 1/4 days, arrives! It's my dad's doing. As a child he and I would create a worm for all exciting or important events, such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas. You may say I have never grown up.

As I write this article the worm is very short and I have already started celebrating a birthday that is going to stretch over two weeks, with parties in Joburg, Hilton and in Cape Town. How cool is that... I've always wanted one continuous celebration; and now it has happened - quite by chance.

For my actual birthday I have invited family and friends from all corners of the globe to join me at Nicolson's Country Cafe on Garlington Estate in Hilton. It is one of my favourite restaurants so, if you haven't been there, I suggest you visit soon. It's a popular spot, therefore, be warned - booking is essential. Jonty Nicolson, the chef, and his wife, Tanya, are good friends of mine. It was their recently-opened tapas section that struck my fancy and led me to the idea of a Spanish-themed birthday. Appropriate too because I have fond memories of an invigorating holiday in Spain - a country that I shall certainly visit again. How sad El Bulli (number one restaurant in the world for three consecutive years) has closed its door. It offered a dining experience of a lifetime and added to my Spanish experience.

Without giving too much away - and spoiling the surprise for my guests - I asked Jonty and Tanya to send through recipes for a few of the dishes they will be serving so you can try them at your leisure. They are sufficient for four guests and are all Jonty's scrumptious creations.

First up are the croquettes. They remind me of my student days and therefore give me that warm, fuzzy feeling. The outside crunchiness and the smooth heat inside always excite me.

The mango-and-vodka gazpacho makes an interesting ice breaker. However, although tempting, we'll not need too much because most guests know one another. Hopefully this will be the only shooter I'll be having that evening. I have asked my friends to be kind to me.

Mussels always take me back to holidays at our beach cottage in Pennington. I'm looking forward to this dish which will be prepared with tantalising tomato and tarragon vinaigrette.

Jonty knows my weakness for chicken livers. As a birthday treat he has combined them with prawns and Harissa paste, specifically with me in mind.

Give me a doughnut... give me a pancake... and on this occasion give me churros. Anything hot with cinnamon sugar and I am a happy gal. They bring back memories of cheerful Sunday afternoons when my mom, my sister and I would cook up a storm and then dad would join us to feast like royalty.

I look forward to being waited upon as I sip bubbles and make more happy memories with family and special friends - all this with a touch of Spanish flair.

Childlike excitement has set the butterflies in my tummy loose as I remove another segment from the birthday worm!

Adiós until the next article!

spanish recipes