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 Category: Restaurant Trends

DELI NENE : UNILEVER INSPIRING CHEF FOR 2010-2011

chef deli nene

Chef Deli Nene
(Photo : Patrick Royal)

"THIS IS WHAT GETS US UP IN THE MORNINGS"

You're never going to make an independent fortune from racehorse breeding or a small boutique hotel, but both of these are the hand which fate has dealt us. That said, we wouldn't change them for the world, because there are other rewards that make our pursuits worthwhile.

In September this year, one of our junior chefs, Zandile Mchunu was chosen from across the country to represent South Africa at an international culinary exhibition in Shanghai. She was the third from our disadvantaged community to be selected for such an honour, and the third to have benefited from the tuition of Jackie Cameron. Jackie's own achievements are the stuff of legend, a testament to the enterprise and energy of a young lady of just 27 years. This is not about Jackie Cameron though, for a change, as you can find all you want on her on Google, or by visiting various places on this website.

This one is about Deli Nene, a third generation member of the Summerhill and Hartford communities, and a proactive "player" in the affairs of our farm family. It was her turn this week to make the headlines when multinational Unilever selected her in their illustrious band of "Inspiring Chefs for 2010/2011".

According to Jackie, "her perseverance and commitment to the company speaks for itself, having started in 1995 as a hand in the horse division at Summerhill. Her role quickly transformed from a horse lady to looking after the Muir household for 10 years. Her love for cooking and food soon outshone her other skills however, and she obtained a domestic household cooking certificate, which opened her doors into my kitchen. Who would have thought her journey would take her to this accolade when she started helping out on her weekends off, and eventually progressed to being permanent cook at Hartford. Her culinary talent, leadership ability, teaching skills and enthusiasm to learn and work with others has been inspiring and refreshing to witness. These qualities make her the woman she is today, and the chef she has become over the last few years. A true pleasure to work with, as she knows no limits... the world is her oyster".

Here's Deli herself :

"I grew up cooking with my mom and I always enjoyed it. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a chef or cook but didn't have the money to go and study. This was the reason I started working on the farm. As a domestic in the Muir household, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do a quick-cooking course. This fuelled my wish to work in the Hartford kitchen even more so. So I decided to see if I could get a temporary job in Jackie's kitchen on my weekends off. Bit by bit I worked my way in. This was my long term plan. It took 10 years to finally get a permanent job at Hartford, and now this!".

hartford house logo

For more information please visit :
www.hartford.co.za

SHANGHAI WORLD EXPO 2010

Shanghai World Expo 2010 / Jackie Cameron (p)

Shanghai World Expo 2010 / Jackie Cameron (p)

"What an experience!"

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

Excitement aside, it was a huge compliment to be invited by South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to help with the South African Food and Wine week at the World Expo in Shanghai. Before we knew it Zandile Mchunu, who has worked with me for more than seven years, and I were winging our way to the Far East. The fair runs for six months and some 500,000 visitors come through the gates every day. Mind boggling numbers.

Our cooking adventure started with a desperate cry. "Chef, I have broken my arm!" We had been in Shanghai for exactly an hour and there was Zandile with a fractured wrist. The one-armed chef did a remarkable job. Her perseverance was admirable and a lesson in commitment. The South African food and wine events tested our skills to the limit because produce, equipment and kitchen space were extremely limited. It's amazing what a chef can pull out of the hat when needs be. Our traditional samp and beans, pap 'n vleis, Bobotie and Durban bunny chow featured on the menu we had created. They went down well, and we were proudly South African.

Between cooking, we managed to see and experience Chinese cuisine - nothing like I'd eaten back home. Every part of every animal is consumed! It made even me, an adventurous eater, nervous and squeamish! Language, as you can imagine, was an issue and we never knew exactly what was on offer. From my observations there was a lack of fresh, simply prepared vegetables and fruit. Tomato soup was my meal of choice most evenings.

I was astonished by the variety of Dim Sum - the many tasty Wontons, steamed buns and Spring rolls. Wontons are different in shape, size and filling depending on where you are in China and can be steamed or deep-fried. The steamed bun has a spongy texture unlike anything I have had before and it normally accompanies noodles or soup. Did you know the origin of the spring roll is associated with caterpillar breeders in China; hence its shape? It is considered an auspicious sign for a good harvest.

In between all the cooking and eating, Zandile and I made time to see Shanghai. The striking temples, ornate jade houses, Yu Gardens and the many close-roofed markets all screamed Chinese. We also had the pleasure of experiencing a proper "monk's" tea tasting. What an occasion! The irresistible tailored-made suits and a feather-light 100% silk duvet made my baggage a little heavier for the return flight.

Our exhilarating trip ended with us nearly missing our flight to Johannesburg. We got through Hong Kong airport in 20 minutes which must be a record! We were mesmerised by a world so removed from ours and we came away enlightened and with many foodie stories to reminisce about.

Take these recipes and try them.

chinese-food.png

DIM SUM
STEAMED BUNS
PRAWN SPRING ROLLS
BOBOTIE

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
www.hartford.co.za
jackie@hartford.co.za
+27 33 263 2713

COOKED WITH JUSTIN BONELLO COMING TO HARTFORD HOUSE

justin bonello cooked in africa

Justin Bonello
(Photo : Cooked In Africa Films / Penguin Books)

COOKED WITH JUSTIN BONELLO  SELECTS HARTFORD HOUSE AS 4TH SEASON VENUE!

Hartford House has been selected as one of the prized venues to be featured in the new season of Cooked IV! Selection depends on the venue representing Exceptional Quality and Outstanding Service. These criteria are blended and upheld with the great pride and effort we put into the food and wine experience of our guests. 

"The hugely successful cooking and lifestyle show COOKED with shooting star Justin Bonello – South Africa’s Outdoor Cook, will present us and the few top South African restaurants and their celebrated chefs, while honing his skills under their expertise.

Watch us on BBC Lifestyle from August 2010. We are proud to be broadcast locally to almost one million DSTV viewers in Africa and internationally to over 100 countries.

Justin Bonello has produced 3 seasons of his original cooking and lifestyle show COOKED, the first season of the Getaway to Africa travel series as well as the Exploring the Vine wine series. In addition, the first Justin Bonello cookbook entitled Cooked In Africa which is published by Penguin was the Exclusive Books Book of the Year 2009!"

High Praise from Derek Taylor

hartford house breakfast

Breakfast on the verandas, with their garden and hill views, offers around 40 dishes including Hartford's variations and accessories.
(Photo : Sally Chance) 

"THEY DON’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS"

Derek Taylor, one of the nation’s foremost food critics, was a recent visitor to Hartford House. He took a shine to Jackie’s offering. A real shine.

When I win the lottery I’m going to buy a new Hardy’s trout rod and talk Clare into coming with me to live en pension at Hartford House.

That’s about as near to heaven as I’m ever going to get – for as long as Jackie Cameron remains at this unique heritage hotel as executive chef. And that looks like a very long time indeed, thank goodness.

She’s already been there for years, the youngest executive chef in the business, richly creative and a self-admitted “obsessive perfectionist”.

Having made this careful decision, I must also pay tribute to the Goss family who have restored this enchanting hostelry, now into its third century, in all its beauty and character for so long and so meticulously. Cameron’s food comes to you within its elegant Victorian dining room and the wide verandas with their huge bowls of fresh roses on the tables.

Although you could probably get any dish in the world from Cameron, giving her enough time to fly in the yak leg from Tibet and the blue potatoes from Peru or whatever, but there is no need here for a traditional á la carte menu with its ranks of old reliables.

Cameron’s irrepressible creativity changes her menus faster, almost, than the printer can follow. Her cuisine is solidly based on quality materials from twelve distinguished Midlands suppliers of every kind of meat to dairy, cheeses, chocolate and trout.

Someone wrote that Hartford House is unique in being the only world-class hotel neighbouring a world-class Stud Horse Farm (Summerhill). I think you can add the world-class talents of Jackie Cameron to that combination’s uniqueness.

My only worry about going to live there, courtesy of the Lotto people, would be that after a few weeks I might have to be transported between table and trout streams in a heavy-duty wheelbarrow by two or three very strong men.

Verdict: Superb creativity, cooking, materials and atmosphere. Outstanding good value. Highly recommended.

IF YOU’RE CURIOUS, READ ON ……

Part II

Breakfast on the verandas, with their garden and hill views, offers around 40 dishes including their variations and accessories. The full deal offers the lot to choose from for R150 (including Jungle oats with dash of Jameson whisky if you like and known locally as the Killick special).

Dinner is a feast of five courses for R325, a menu that changes every day. Here’s a typical combination: Jerusalem artichoke soup with smoked salmon ice cream, herbed croutons and crisp sage leaves.

Balsamic seared chicken livers, Erwin’s Parma ham, Swissland’s goats’ cheese and kiwi with red onion. Pepper corn crusted Springbok with onion-flavoured polenta, baba ganoush, wilted lettuce and ruby port syrup.

Dijon blackened beef fillet, shitake butter, a potato cream infused with truffle oil and similarly sauced, fresh broccoli tips.

Chai latte with summer fruit compote, spiced doughnuts, Belgian chocolate sauce and “crackle” pop-icecream.

The wine list is an intelligently varied, award-winner.

Lunch is a clever offering of some 25 dishes in which mains can be starters and starters mains. It’s the kind of meal where you can choose two or three starters or a single, main or any combination – whatever you fancy. Well-briefed waiters tell you which dishes can be shrunk or enlarged.

Prices range from R32 (oven-roasted marrow bones with vegetables, capers, fresh lemon and chives) to R135 (Shitake-crusted beef fillet with caramelised onions, Amandine potato rolls and mushroom duxelles with red wine sauce). Portions are satisfying. The service is informed, warm and cheerful.

We lunched there this week with our highly impressed God-daughter Catarina from London and three roaring appetites on a polished-bright day of 15C with a gentle waft from a patio-heater on the veranda to keep us from any little breezes.

We had two soups of the day: magically reduced flavours of mushroom and onion, infused with truffle and textured with central “ice creams” of intensified tastes. Served in deep bowls with home-made breads on the side they produced ladylike gasps of satisfaction.

I reluctantly passed over the home-made brawn with brioche, cherry tomatoes glazed in balsamic with rocket and an English mustard aioli until next summer. (How often do you see good brawn on a menu, these days?)

Instead I took the Gorgonzola capalletti – hat-shaped ravioli containing the cheese – with more of the cheese dotted about, smoked olives, green beans, fried apple, toasted walnuts and walnut oil. This was a great warmer and a real feast of flavours. The “campfire” olives were new to me and a great taste.

Catarina’s 19-years-old appetite, dealt with the formidable slices of shitake fillet of beef in style. Clare, fulfilling a long-held ambition, enjoyed big, meaty frogs’ legs. They had been poached in a Chinese master stock and then seared with Chinese five-spice and were accompanied by pan-seared spinach, asparagus, crisped potatoes and a sauce reduced from the stock.

My five-spice confit of duck with candied onions and Asian vegetable spring rolls came with a red wine sauce and was delicious. Confit is a much abused word in many restaurants these days and can often turn out to be bits of meat stewed to paste in fat.

But this was a true confit, the duck tender and full of flavour.

Despite their excellent desserts of the day -- tiramisu and espresso parfait with marscapone and cinnamon ice cream; fresh berry-frozen cheesecake with nutty biscuits, berry sorbet and a coulis with hot berry tea – Clare and Catarina rather forcefully volunteered to share my cheese platter.

It was the best I’ve enjoyed for years. Six excellent local cheeses came in absolutely perfect ripeness with citrine candied onion, cheese and herb chutneys, pickled ginger, lemon sage, biscuits and the delightful house health bread. Why is it most restaurants serve unripened cheese, fridge-hardened and with about a tenth of its flavour potential?