I have been blessed with some extremely special staff over the years at Hartford House. I consider myself very lucky. Pressure of work is a great tester, and while transactions build turnovers, relationships build value. If you can stand together in adversity, you can manage anything, and cooking together is the pressure tester for character building. My kitchen team is my second family and with any family, when one is in need, everyone jumps in to help out. My kitchen team was involved in the first "Taste of Durban", at Suncoast Casino, and we were attempting to run Hartford at the same time. Desperation is the mother of most inventions with me, and here was an SOS for help from past staff members. Hence, I thought we should get them to share their favourite home-cooked meal for you to taste this month.
Kezia Duke was my Sous Chef at Hartford, second in charge, for over two years, a true perfectionist. One just has to look at her handwriting to know exactly what she is about. Last weekend we celebrated her hen's/kitchen tea, and can you believe, after working with me that long, she still wants me to be her maid-of-honour! I do feel honoured. She sent through a recipe for a quick-and-easy bacon and courgette crustless savoury tart; wonderful for its simplicity. Use any of your favourite ingredients to make it your own.
Paula Mackenzie, where do I begin? She started at Hartford as a trainee from "ICA", a cooking school in Stellenbosch. Her roles changed significantly as the years went by, with short intervals elsewhere: from trainee, to pastry chef, to sous chef to manager, and eventually, to General Manager at the tender age of 24. Her passion for all-things hotel, not only the food side but the magnificent Hartford gardens and the award-winning wine list, convinced her to hang up her chef's jacket and step over, as us chefs say, "to the dark side." Milk Tart is as South African as Nelson Mandela, and it is appropriate that Paula submitted a recipe for this national favourite, because she too, is proudly South African and I believe her forté is pastry.
Robynne Balcomb, whom I refer to as "my little one," is a past trainee whose arm I have been trying to twist to leave her new-found passion for teaching children and to join us permanently. Her roots are still very foodie, she's an absolute "natural", and she jumps at any opportunity to help out. She recently assisted me in compiling my recipe book "Jackie Cameron at Home," which Penguin Publishers will have on the book shelves early next year. I couldn't have managed without her with all the food preparations for the photo-shoots, and her wonderfully creative food styling, critical to meeting our deadlines. More recently she was my "chef-model" for the launch of my 'all-female chef range' shoot. She sent through two recipes, which I can't wait to try. The cracker biscuits with her "Mum's chicken and broccoli bake" is wonderfully savoury and her coconut and yoghurt fridge tart of condensed and coconut milks, sounds like a hit in the Cameron household.
My right-hand lady, Elaine Boshoff, present Sous chef at Hartford, made the "Taste of Durban" exhibition possible for us, as she held the fort, immaculately, as she always does, while I was trekking between Durban and Mooi River. While running Hartford's kitchen, she was prepping up stock levels and doing my daily demonstration preparations for the show. Our favourite staff or home-cooked meal is our ultra-rich lasagne, an irresistible Elaine speciality.
Here we were, a gathering of my past assistants, aged from 21-30, all in retirement as none of them are cooking professionally these days, and we had a "ripper" of a time; I just hope I can rope them in again next year. The cherry on the top was the visit of Deena Naidoo, Masterchef South Africa, and his wife Kathy, who made the special effort to come and visit us and meet my team. A superb weekend, don't miss it next year; it's one of those not-to-miss dates in the "foodie" calendar, and is bound to grow from strength-to-strength. As cherished a weekend as I can remember in my culinary adventures, time spent with lovely people, doing what we love most. The recipes they have shared with us will bring you the essence of their personalities.
Take these recipes and try them.