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.

Filtering by Tag: El Bulli

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


Jackie Cameron reveals her Carpe Funghi Signature Pizza / Durban News (p)

Jackie Cameron reveals her Carpe Funghi Signature Pizza / Durban News (p)

Col'Cacchio Celebrity Chef Series
The Mercury - Food and Wine

Jackie Cameron, pictured  above, head chef at Hartford House in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, has  designed a signature pizza as part of the Col'Cacchio Celebrity Chef  Series 2012. It's on the menu at Col'Cacchio until the end of May and  proceeds go to the Children's Hospital Trust.

Biggest achievement:

Well, this is difficult, as I have so many different foodie fields that make up my complete obsession for all things food. I would probably say being the head chef at Hartford at the age of 20, as this has allowed me to grow and strive for everything else that I have accomplished over the past nine years.

Biggest mistake:

Many years back I judged, after making this chocolate mousse cake, the recipe  for which I still use today, incorrectly what was and wasn't humanly  possible and let us just say the wedding cake was a complete disaster...  literally a flop! This still haunts me and since then I have become  even more pedantic on the finer details than ever before.


Ever garnish with curly parsley, or garnish the side rims of your  plates with chopped, mixed herbs or some sort of masala. A no no!


Be on time, be honest, be true to what you are cooking.

I love cooking with:

This depends on my mood... loads of fresh herbs,  tomatoes and cheese. And give me fresh fish over anything, any day!

Best advice:

Never trust a skinny chef... jokes, keep things simple, always highlighting the main ingredient. Never overcomplicate.

Favourite restaurants:

I have so many for different reasons. Locally  probably Le Quatier Francais as I am amazed by Margot and her team. They  strive for perfection in every sense. Internationally, I was blown away  by El Bulli and their unbelievable, detailed service - they researched  every guest who entered their restaurant - mind blowing! Obviously  together with Ferran Adria's amazing food combinations.

Favourite tipple:

Bubbles through and through! Love the texture on my  tongue and the flavour in my mouth.

My favourite comfort food is:

A big bowl of homemade soup with lots of  homemade white bread and lashings of butter. Takes me back to winter  school holidays when I use to spend most of my holidays at my  grandparents' house. Memories of warmth and full days of cooking, where  my obsession for food was rooted.

My dream meal - what, where and with whom:

My dream meal would be not  eating and enjoying, but cooking for Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela and  Georges Auguste Escoffier... Thomas Kellar, Ferran Adria - and why not include  Brad Pitt and George Clooney, together with friends and family I can  continue with my list...


On Summerhill Stud Farm in the Midlands on a beautiful summer's afternoon  in one of the paddocks, surrounded by all the nation's best horses.  Sitting on hay bales and serving the finest local produce in a relaxed  environment, lots of bubbles and an aflernoon-evening filled with extremely interesting conversation.

If I wasn't a chef, I would love to be:

For a few months I tossed with  the idea of being a pilot. l am clearly a sucker for punishment - both  having crazy work hours. But, to be honest, I wouldn't change the  industry I am in for any other.

Extract from The Mercury - Food and Wine


Rene' Redzepi - Noma Restaurant / Rockpool TCH

Rene' Redzepi - Noma Restaurant / Rockpool TCH

"The signs of coronation are obvious."

Hartford's celebrity chef, Jackie Cameron, is a much travelled girl. In 2010 alone, she made five sorties to the outside world, and as rewarding as any, was a trip to Shanghai in the company of Zandile Mchunu, a home-grown prodigy of the Summerhill community, where they represented South Africa at an international cooking exhibition. The trip though, which really opened the young Maritzburg lady's eyes, was to Copenhagen in 2011, where Cameron enjoyed the counsel of the world's newest culinary sensation, Rene' Redzepi, whose Noma restaurant had been recently voted Number One in the world at that time.

Shortly before, she had ventured to Spain, where she and Cheryl Goss sampled the treasures of Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, before its closure in 2010, the unassailable leader among the top 50 restaurants of the world. Unsurprisingly, Redzepi is a disciple of Adriàs, though their styles are as individual as a zebra and a buffalo.

There've been influential chefs for as along as there've been restaurants, but the idea of a sole cook standing at the head of the culinary universe is a recent invention born of two not unconnected phenomena: the unprecedented influence of Senor Adrià whose culinary revolution freed many young chefs to follow their own visions, and the newfound power of the fifty best list, which dares to rank something so ineffable as dinner. When Adrià announced two years ago that he was closing El Bulli, and Noma succeeded to the top spot on the list, Redzepi found himself ascending to the role of literal Top Chef. The fact that this role had not existed prior to Adria, hardly mattered. The king is dead: long live the king.

The signs of coronation are obvious. It used to be that more than 2 million attempted bookings annually at El Bulli, while only 60,000 of these could be seated, and if you didn't apply a year in advance (and at the same time enjoy the credentials to make the invitation list) you had little chance of getting there. While he was with us at Hartford and Lynton Hall, one-time South African No.1 chef, Richard Carstens, attempted for years to crack the nod, but as far as we know, he remained in frustration, notwithstanding that he was the undisputed local king of his idol Adria's deconstruction processes. Noma is travelling in the same direction: their tables are fully booked three months in advance, and while this is not quite in the class of El Bulli yet, the signs are obvious. Copenhagen is not quite as central or convenient as the Cote d'Azur, but critics adore the restaurant, and it's only a matter of time before the faithful flock in that direction in similar numbers. "The explosion of flavours and textures that ensue were simultaneously so subtle and startling, that nothing in a lifetime of tasting prepared me for it," wrote a reviewer for the Financial Times.

Yet the man who runs the best restaurant in the world, cannot afford his own home. Where many leading chefs seek to build empires, Redzepi wants only to dig deeper into his immediate surroundings. This helps explain why he stands in his restaurant kitchen, not offering a sceptical patron some truffle-covered delicacy from France or a pricey bit of sea urchin from Japan, but a plate of scuttling Danish ants. "They're delicious", he says, "and they're Danish". Does that ring a bell for visitors to Hartford? How many of you have heard Jackie Cameron talk about foraging in the neighbourhood, and the fact that 99% of what she dishes up here, answers her credo "local is lekker?".

How often do you find young Cameron, even on her days off, following her nose through the neighbourhood on foraging trips, inspired by the senses and the tastes of the wild plants of the region, and the bounty of its remarkable soils.

Jackie Cameron's been at Hartford House for almost ten years now, and when she came here, we didn't really have a "local" cuisine. "We're protestants in this neighbourhood, so food was just about sustenance, not really about pleasure. You'd eat your meat and potatoes in silence, and go back to work". But now she's led a revolution in the district which has elevated food to the same level as fashion, and it's affected our whole identity. She and her team are telling a new story about what it means to be local. She set out to learn how to integrate these ingredients so that she was cooking a part of our culture. She wanted us to taste the soil.

Cameron's habit of constant innovation comes from her apprenticeships at these and other great restaurants, and she maintains a friendly relationship with her former mentors. There is a parallel here in Redzepi's case, where all the world loves an oedible story, and many in the food media have tried to cast his tale as the nature-loving, terroir-based son overthrowing the hydrocolloid-obsessed, mad-scientist father. Without taking the similarities any further, and without putting our girl in the same league yet, the one thing besides the obsession with food which they share in common, is the fact that they both have their feet squarely on the ground, and they have always put the product first, and the money second. In the end, the one takes care of the other.