Tag Archives: cookbooks

Meet Chef Jenny Morris of Yumcious : 2021 Top 10 Woman Chef!


Chef Jenny Morris is a household name, not only locally but also internationally, through TV cooking shows, a radio show, six cookbooks, and through her restaurant Yumcious and her catering company Giggling Gourmet – The Cooks Playground, both in the Cape Quarter.  Chef Jenny is one of our 2021 Top 10 Women Chefs. She has won a bottle of Adhara Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil,

Chef Jenny is planning to reopen Yumcious this week, after the sad passing last month of her dear husband and business partner David.

Jenny and David opened Yumcious six years ago. She writes cookbooks, the latest one being ‘Yumcious’, with another up her sleeve. She and Reza Mohammed have done cooking shows  on their Fabulous Food Academy on the Food Network.  She also is a regular presenter on Heart FM.

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RIP Tempestuous Food Writer Sonia Cabano!


I met Sonia Cabano ten years ago, ten days short of the exact date in May 2011. We had heard about each other, and connected twice in one week, I interviewing her about her latest cookbook, a story which detailed her background up to that point, a reference to those reading this tribute.

Yesterday evening it was announced that Sonia Cabano had been found dead in her house in Gardens, Cape Town, the cause of her death unknown.

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Franschhoek Literary Festival: ‘What’s Cooking’ highlights what’s bubbling under!

The fifth Franschhoek Literary Festival kicked off yesterday with a panel discussion on ‘What’s Cooking’, with writers of three cookbooks Reuben Riffel, Marita van der Vyver, and sisters Annalie Nel and Zuretha Roos, chaired by TASTE food editor Abigail Donnelly.  For food lovers considering publishing their own cookbooks, the message was loud and clear – one has to choose one’s publisher carefully, and be flexible to take directives, often conflicting with one’s own ideas.  Food trends evolve, and cookbooks document this.

Reuben Riffel is a Franschhoeker, who opened his first Reuben’s restaurant eight years ago in Franschhoek, and now owns two more, in Robertson, and at the One & Only Cape Town.  It is primarily his endorsement of the Robertsons spice range that has made him a household name and TV chef, but may have cost him his credibility as a chef.   His second cookbook ‘Reuben cooks local’ (R394) is the most recently published of the three books which were discussed.  Reuben talked about how big a step it was for him to open his own restaurant, having been taught by masters such as Richard Carstens. He reads a lot of books by Australian chefs, following their trends.  His grandfather was planting vegetables for their family eating, ahead of their time. Reuben was approached by publisher duo photographer Craig Fraser and Libby Doyle to do a cookbook, and he liked the idea, always having wanted to have a cookbook which he could keep on his own bookshelf!  Reuben liked working with this team, having had other approaches which had been more prescriptive, which he did not like.  The latest cookbook is about foods he likes to eat and the flavours he enjoys.  While it was hard work, it has been a great sense of achievement. Unusual in the book is the list of suppliers that Reuben uses, something he used to feature on his menus too. His cookbook is dedicated to his late father, and Jos Baker wrote the foreword.  He writes that he likes to combine seasonal ingredients and fresh flavours. Reuben spoke about his love for fresh ingredients, and that broadbeans and asparagus are the best thing about Spring. Reuben said he would never throw away a flop dish, always looking to add to it to improve it.  We asked him how he could reconcile the trend by top chefs to use fresh herbs with his endorsement of Robertsons’ bottled spices, and he replied that not everyone can afford to eat at his restaurant, or to buy or grow fresh herbs, nor are all herbs available all year round. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are needed all year round. Reuben’s favourite ingredients are Karoo lamb, snoek, naartjies, springbok, waterblommetjies, West Coast mussels, guinea fowl, guavas, and mielies. Reuben changes his menu every day, based on the fresh produce he receives on a particular day. The foods he grew up on include waterblommetjiebredie, ‘stamp en stoot’ (a mix of beans, white corn, meaty bones and marrow), and Karoo lamb chops, he writes.  His book contains 77 recipes of foods sourced from the ocean (Cape Malay mussel dish above), the field, the orchard, the earth, the wild, and the vine.  Few herbs and spices are contained in his recipes, and Robertsons spices and herbs are not recommended in the book.

Marita van der Vyver was the best known writer, better known for her novels (‘Griet skryf ‘n Sprokie’ was her first book, and has been translated into more than ten languages).  She married Frenchman Alain Claisse, lives an idyllic life in Provence, and her husband seems to do a lot of the cooking for the patchwork family of his, her, and their children.  She admitted that 25 years ago she was barely able to cook an egg, nor bake. Publisher Kerneels Breytenbach came to visit, and they decided to prepare their everyday food for him, which her husband calls ‘French peasant food’.  He was so excited about what he ate with them that he invited them to publish a cookbook about Provence. Marita wanted it to be more of a storybook, but the publishers insisted that the recipes of the dishes written about were included, which cramped the style of both her and her husband.  Marita wanted the freedom to write her book ‘Summer in Provence‘ (R264) as she wanted to, and Alain is a creative cook who takes a pinch of this and one of that in preparing his dishes, never replicating any, and always experimenting and adding new dimensions to it.  Lien Botha came to France to do the Provence photography, and the dishes were recreated locally and photographed.  She told us that all food in France is seasonal, even the cheese!  All the recipes in her book specify ingredients which one can buy in South Africa. Marita says she misses waterblommetjies in France. They have not had a vegetable garden up to now, due to the good availability of fresh produce at the local markets, but having moved house recently, they now have space to start one. They have always grown herbs on their windowsill, and she would never cook with dried herbs, she said.  They cannot do without thyme, as it symbolises Provence. Marita’s policy on ingredients is “Beste Beskikbare Bekostigbare” (best affordable available).  The book covers recipes and photographs of the dishes and life in Provence, for asparagus, pumpkin, chicken, spanspek, trout, tarts, stews, cheese, risotto, fruit, polenta, couscous, berries, spinach, figs (photograph of her baked fig and nuts), chocolate, and more.  Marita has just had a new novel published, called ‘Just Dessert, Dear‘, not about cooking at all, but the main character is a food writer.  She said about the theme of her newest book: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”!

Zuretha Roos and Annalie Nel grew up in the Hex River valley.  Both were teachers, with a passion for food, and were approached by a publisher to write ‘Roast Duck on Sundays’ (R254).Their mother was a ‘splendid’ passionate cook, and served Muscovy duck weighing up to 7 kg on Sundays, her ‘piéces de résistance’, and now very hard to source.  Annalie had a catering business, and now experiments with recipes.  Zuretha used to be the cookery editor of the now defunct Darling magazine, and has written a number of other cookbooks. They had to use ‘ordinary’ duck for their cover photograph, they said.  The pages of the book have an interesting brown weathered look about them, and the photographs look like they come out of an old family photo album.  The book contains more than the Sunday roast duck – it also covers recipes for soups, breads, pastries, dressings, sauces, fish, shortcrust pastry, venison, cakes, and puddings.

No cookbook is prescriptive, and recipes should be amended to reflect one’s taste and the availability of ingredients. The altitude at which one cooks, one’s stove, the appliances, the quality of the ingredients, and a number of other factors can influence whether a recipe will be successful or not. There was quite a discussion about duck, and how difficult it is to source it with the right fat/meat ratio.  The audience laughed when Reuben said that duck fat is healthy!  Zuretha and Annalie said ‘that it makes the most beautiful roast potatoes’.  Increased usage of star anise and white pepper are two new spice trends, said Abigail.  Old-fashioned recipes are making a come-back too. Marita said that research has shown that a cookbook owner only uses 3 – 4 recipes out of a cookbook.  The great joy of writing a cookbook is that one can source one’s book all the time, to make one’s favourite recipes.  The reliable sourcing of fish is becoming more difficult, Reuben said. Guineafowl can be sourced from Wild Peacock, Reuben said when asked in question time. Kalahari truffles can be sourced from Melissas.  Abigail confirmed that ‘foodie’ is a term which is no longer acceptable to define foodlovers and writers.

What’s Cooking‘ was an interesting start to the Franschhoek Literary Festival 2012 yesterday, and in a way Abigail Donnelly, the panel chairman, probably would have been a better source of information on many of the questions she asked the panel.  She was well prepared, having read all three cookbooks, and Reuben and Marita were talkative, which made her task easier.  The two sisters Zuretha and Annelie were less communicative, yet charming in their honesty when they spoke.  All three cookbooks are likely to do well, all three being very different.

POSTSCRIPT 12/5: One wonders what Robertsons, the One & Only Cape Town, the Robertson Small Hotel, Quivertree Publishing, and other business partners would say about Reuben Riffel’s abusive reaction on his Facebook page to our Robertsons’ endorsement question at the Franschhoek Literary Festival yesterday (see the Comments to this blogpost).

POSTSCRIPT 13/5: Reuben Riffel has closed down his Facebook account!

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: Chef Reuben has reinstated his Facebook page, and has apologised for his disparaging comment on it, which we accept.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Recession brings the future of food back to the past!

I had heard of and spoken to Sonia Cabano almost a year ago, but we had never met, until last week, and we have done so twice in a week!   Sonia has a refreshing view on many things in life, and I was interested to speak to her about her love for food, and the cookbooks that she had written to date.  She is proudly South African in her love for local foods, and sees that the food preparation of generations past will become that of the future.

Sonia (de Waal) became a well-known advertising model for Lancome, Mary Quant and Yves St Laurent after leaving Brandfort, living in Milan, Paris and London for twelve years.  She grew up in a food-loving family, with her mother being an amazing baker and cook, says Sonia, and her family ate in the way Sonia proposes we should all go back to – they had a vegetable garden at home, and meat came from a smallholding her dad owned.  They ate organically then, not giving it a name, but by its principles. Sonia was always in her mom’s kitchen, and helped her mom, and now her children do the same when she prepares food.

It was in London that she was asked to cook for clients, word having spread about her wonderful dinner parties.  She loved the supply of fur and feathered game in the city, and London’s specialist shops, something she would love to see more of in Cape Town.  Her love for shopping at food markets stems from this.   Her dream to study cooking at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris did not materialise, but her second best option was to go to London’s top restaurants and ask for an apprenticeship, and it was Bistrot 190 and Kensington Place that gave her places in their kitchens.   When many left the country in 1994, it was the year that Sonia returned to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically.  She started a catering company, but closed it down after five years when she had her children.

She received a call out of the blue to audition for SABC 3’s “Pampoen tot Perlemoen” food programme, was hired, and made four series with them. She added food writing to her activities, for VISI, TASTE, Sarie, Insig, and House & Garden.  To this she added writing cookbooks, and two have been published to date:

*   ‘Kombuis’ – was written in Afrikaans for Afrikaans foodlovers.  She said she found it harder to express herself in Afrikaans, as cooking terms have not evolved in this language.  The book contains traditional ‘boerekos’ recipes interpreted by Sonia, and she included a chapter on how to larder.

*   ‘Easy, Simple and Delicious’, which she says is the easy way to make fresh staples in the lazy and fast way!

Her newest book, to be called ‘Relish’, will be published in September.  It will focus on sauces, seasonings, and condiments to make at home.  It includes making preserves, as well as cheeses, such as ricotta and mascarpone.

Sonia wants to share her passion for local food, and wants to keep her readers out of supermarkets for basics, which she would like them to make, like pasta sauce, instead of buying them out of a tin, and/or containing preservatives and colourants.  She includes chef’s tips in her books too. In addition to writing, she does cooking demonstrations, and is a recipe development consultant.   She wanted to set up a Slow Food shop, but could not find the right venue for it.

She espouses the principles of Slow Food, and it ties in with her food philosophy of “Tradition is Modern”!   She feels it important that small food and wine producers be encouraged and supported, and that a small food collective be organically nurtured to become a valuable resource.   Sounding similar in her food philosophy to Neil Stemmet, Sonia talks about “Kontreikos”, which is eating seasonal food from one’s region and which the farmer has been fairly remunerated for.  Sonia is very anti-supermarket, and proudly told me that she has not stepped into a Woolworths in six months. She sees supermarkets as ‘dehumanising’, pushing their wares down consumers’ throats, and Woolworths in particular does not practice its environmentally-friendly claim it proudly advertises inside its stores.   She supports ethical production of foods, and wants us “to live in harmony with nature”.  She would love us to go back, and she wants to document, to how the ‘old country ladies’ made foods like butter, and beverages in the past.  She would love Capetonians to get out of their homes again, and to connect in the neighbourhood, not just with their neighbours but also with the local shops in these areas.  She thinks that the recession is fantastic in making us all return to basics, to discover what is essential, and to no longer be shopping-driven.

Having rejected it initially, due to the disparagement she had seen on it, Sonia has now taken to Twitter, and finds it a fantastic tool for networking, for sourcing information, for the immediacy of response, and to communicate and share one’s thoughts and feelings about anything and everything!

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:  The comment by Maria has upset Sonia, and she has been contacted by 12 persons, she says, who all claim that we wrote the comment as “Maria”. Michael Olivier of Crush! made this claim to Hetzner last year, when he tried to get our blog closed down!  Sonia sent an sms today that she felt that she ‘was being set up’ by me in having interviewed her, writing the blogpost, and then writing the ‘Maria’ comment – it is an absolutely ludicrous allegation, as we have the blog in which we can write what we like, and we do not have to resort to writing comments on our own blog, nor on anyone else’s. I would not have spent the money and time in inviting Sonia for lunch, had I not been interested in her as a person, and her writing about food.  It is sad that such nastiness goes around in Social Media, and that people talk about others without having met them.  Sonia has decided to block us on Twitter as a result, from having been in praise of us getting her starting on Twitter only three weeks ago, and being happy with our blogpost about her when it was posted on Thursday.

Sonia Cabano. Tel 071 674 0222. www.soniacabano.co.za Twitter: @SoniaCabano1

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage