At the launch of the first book by Denise Cowburn-Levy at Bokeh Creative Space in Sea Point last night, I was lucky to win a copy of her book ‘Around my Table’, for knowing the answer to a question relating to Chef Liam Tomlin, described by Denise as her mentor. The 260 page book is part memoir, part travel book to the West Coast, Greece, Italy, and Thailand, and part recipe book, with food associations with each region and country of her travels, including those of Cape Town.
I had never met Denise, but knew of her Ginger & Lime Cooking School and event venue in Fresnaye. I learnt last night, through a Question and Answer session conducted with Denise by Cathy Steed, that she was an international model before she returned to the Mother City. Having been connected to international production companies via her career, she founded Cape Town’s first stills production company, becoming super busy. She had a family to care for, and therefore moved out of the industry, and started cooking, attending classes at Chef Liam’s first premises on New Church Street. Chef Liam in turn was a guest host at classes offered by Ginger & Lime when she opened the school in a beautiful house in Fresnaye, called The Peppermint Palace.
Denise loves travelling, locally to her West Coast home (West Coast creamy mussel pot, right), and internationally, having travelled to Greece to attend a writing course. She has added Thailand and Italy to her travel repertoire, loving the food in those countries. The Book documents her travel and food memories of these countries, and she shared that an idea for a second book is already taking shape.
The introduction to the Book shares the following : ‘Join Denise Cowburn-Levy at home in her kitchen as she reveals the stories, and shares some of her favourite recipes inspired by her passion for food and travel, and developed for her cooking school, Ginger & Lime. Denise invites you into her homes in Cape Town, the Cape West Coast and on the shores of Lake Como, Italy. Travel with her to Greece and Thailand as she shares the best traditional tried and tested recipes from each region for you to prepare with family and friends. Feel her intuitive style of cooking and get a sense of her essence, as she pours her heart into these dishes. These recipes have soul, they have lived and evolved over time, they have brought joy to the hearts of both family and friends, as well as her loyal Ginger & Lime clientele. These will become your favourites too, as they encourage the age old ritual of gathering around the table.’At this table, more than just our bodies are fed, our souls are nurtured; it is a safe and welcoming space where anything goes’.
Denise describes the kitchen as the heart of her home, and the table takes centre stage in her kitchen. ‘Around this table, the stories of our day are shared, our worries released, our souls unburdened’. She describes the recipes in her book as easy to prepare, being ‘real and extremely satisfying meals’. She emphasizes that she is NOT a cook, but rather a ‘composer of fabulous food’, what a lovely description! She carefully chooses the instruments which are the ingredients of her dishes, deciding how much and in which order to add them to her dishes.
The Book is divided into five parts, following the Introduction and background story:
# Ginger & Lime establishment, and a selection of recipes from her cooking classes, including Hot smoked salmon; Chinese five-spice duck breasts; a Moroccan Prawn, Date, and Tamarind coconut curry; Tomato and Pomegranate Salad; Griddled Haloumi with smokey olives and more; Tomato-based Fish Curry; Japanese Sweet Potato Salad; Chilli and Sesame seared Tuna; Cape Malay-style Fish; Ricotta cheese fritters; Salmon Sashimi with Coconut (Photograph); and Almo’s infamous Lemon Meringue Pie’
# Ancestral Heritage, sharing recipes of dishes from Denise’s ancestors, including Chicken Soup, Crème Caramel, Avocado Ritz, Baked Fish Loaf, and Last-Minute Pudding.
# Denise’s West Coast house and recipes, including the West Coast Creamy mussel pot, Mixed Shellfish Rice, Sweet Potato Bake, Seafood Pie, Four Bean Curry Salad, Steamed Fish, Karoo herbed lamb shank potjie, Barbequed sticky chicken wings, Whole roast cauliflower, Cape Seafood Bobotie, Pot Bread, and Braaied Banana and Nutella wraps.
# Greece, her time spent on the island of Lesvos, and recipes, including Grilled Sardines, Fried Calamari, Stuffed tomatoes and peppers, Greek Lamb, Aubergine dip, Baked White Fish, Prawns Saganaki, Grilled Feta, Red pepper and Sundried tomato hummus; and Greek Lemon yoghurt cake (Photograph, right).
#. Italy, location of Denise’s third home, at Lake Como, the Italian way, and recipes, including Aubergine Parmigiana, Seared Fish, Prawn Linguini, Mixed mushroom salad, Tomato and Lemon, Zucchini Carpaccio, Ribollita, Spaghetti ‘Vongole’, Gorgonzola Pasta, Charred Broccoli, Steamed Asparagus with olive oil, lemon, and shaved Parmesan (Photograph, left), and Potato salad.
# Thailand, the destination of special celebrations, and recipes, including Tamarind Prawn curry, Seared Thai beef salad, Kingklip poached in fragrant green curry sauce, Papaya and Mango salad, Thai Prawn salad, Asian seafood baked in a parcel, Roast duck in red curry, Salmon fish cakes, Chicken Laab, Thai Red Seafood curry (Photograph, right), Sticky pork belly, and Asian Coconut Broth.
‘Around my Table’ by Denise Cowburn-Levy, Ginger & Lime, Fresnaye, Cape Town. Tel 083 251 6282.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein