Once upon a chicken pie and other food tales, by Johan de Villiers and Len Straw
Len Straw and Johan de Villiers, authors and illustrators of the unique cookbook Once upon a chicken pie and other food tales have been blessed with creative spirits, minds and hands. Thirsty for inspiration and information, they love travelling. In bothersome, impecuniary times, they rely on books and magazines to keep themselves buoyant.
It was in the old Huguenot town of Franschhoek, in a tiny, elegant hotel that we met two uniquely gifted characters who were the heart and soul of the establishment. They managed everything to perfection. Their daily focus centred on the comfort and well-being of their guests as though it were their own home. Len with his infectious, effervescent nature was there to greet us and place us under their protection, while Johan with his gentle, smiling eyes welcomed us with all his heart. If a shadow of concern flickered across his brow, it was merely to be assured that everything was to our liking. I was so entranced by the beauty that enveloped me, I recall traipsing behind Johan like a puppy into his kitchen, his domain. And it was there, with the light streaming through the open windows, the heady aroma of the sun-ripened fruits and freshly harvested herbs piled in abundance on great platters like a Dutch still life, that I had found Nirvarna. This kitchen was a hive of happy industry where Johan encouraged apprentices while he stirred the pots, tasted sauces and conjured up his dishes. Try to imagine the pleasure of my first morning. Peacefully refreshed after our long flight, we came down to a breakfast table that Matisse should have painted: bunches of wild flowers gathered that morning and popped into a vase, an assortment of the prettiest flowered china rescued from bric-a-brac shops by the incomparable eye of Johan and Len during their years of browsing.
Brinjal Bake with tomatoes and capers
3 medium brinjals (aubergines)
3 ripe medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped
75 ml olive oil
40 ml pickled capers, drained
45 ml chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, crushed
a few grindings of black pepper
125 ml dry breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Slice the brinjals (±2 cm) lengthways. To pre-cook the brinjals, heat a ridged grilling pan well and grill them, approximately 5 minutes on each side. They do not need to be fully cooked at this stage. (If you do not have a grilling pan, you could fry them in a little olive oil in a frying pan.) Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, capers, basil, garlic and black pepper. Oil a shallow ovenproof dish large enough to arrange the brinjal slices in a single layer and pack them tightly against one another. Spread the tomato-caper mixture over the slices and finish off with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Bake for 45 minutes. Test to ensure that the brinjals are cooked through and tender. If not, bake a little longer. The topping should be deliciously brown; if not, pop under the grill for a few minutes. This dish is mouthwatering as it comes out of the oven, but if left for a day, the flavours will develop even further. Serve at room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and flatbread. Pure ambrosia! Serves 4 as a light meal.
This is an excerpt from the cookbook: Once upon a chicken pie and other food tales, by Johan de Villiers and Len Straw.
Title: Once upon a chicken pie and other food tales
Author: Johan de Villiers; Len Straw
Publisher: Random House Struik
Cape Town, South Africa 2010
ISBN 9781770078505 / ISBN 9978-1-77007-850-5
Hardcover, 20 x 25 cm, 192 pages, 215 colour photos
de Villiers, Johan und Straw, Len im Namibiana-Buchangebot
Once upon a chicken pie and other food tales is peppered with an array of mementos in the form of travel snaps, maps and recipes.
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