In June and July six talented chefs battled it out for the Madame Zingara 2nd Annual Chef’s showcase, week by week presenting their delicious handiwork to diners at the Sidewalk Cafe in Cape Town. Ultimately, the brilliant chef Christopher Ditch came out tops with his menu getting the most votes! We recently chatted to Chris about his winning menu and his passion for cooking… Firstly, congrats on taking first place at the Madame Zingara 2nd Annual Chef’s Showcase! What do you think it was about your menu that won people over? I think, generally speaking, South Africans are big meat eaters so the fact that I had lots of rich, luxurious meats to choose from could have helped (pork belly, oxtail, lamb racks, black pudding). How would you describe the type of food you like to cook? I like to cook whole, hearty winter meals, using lots of rich flavors, and the best cuts of meat. You’re originally from the UK. How have you incorporated British foods and flavours into your dishes? One of my favourite things to eat is black pudding (very common in England). I think the crunchy richness of pork or black pudding goes very well with fish, especially shellfish. One of the key criteria you were judged on was getting food pairings spot on. What do you think the secret is to successful food pairings? The perfect food pairing would be a good balance of flavour and texture. I believe texture is 50% of flavour so you can’t achieve one without the other. We’re thrilled about the fact that Madame Zingara is taking the best recipes from the 6 menus and adopting them into their restaurants. Which of your dishes can we expect to see and savour ourselves? My favorite dish on my menu: French trim lamb racks (see recipe below) served with a harrisa and spring onion mash and cauliflower puree. It’s served with garden vegetables and a Sailor Jerry jus… What is your favourite thing about working with the Madame Zingara group? The best thing for me is the family feel; everybody in the company is looked after, and looks after one another. Somehow the boss always knows what’s going on in everybody’s lives both inside and outside the workplace. As a result your colleges become your friends and, in time, your family… Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs who want to excel in the business? Work hard – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. With our August Luxury issue currently on shelf, which dish or ingredient do you feel exudes a sense of luxury? I think truffles (black or white) are one of the most luxurious ingredients – everything about them is lavish. I think as soon as you smell a truffle you know you can’t go wrong. How would you define ‘luxury living’ in your books? Honestly I don’t know how to answer that question properly, but I think luxury living is about being overly content all of the time.
Lamb Racks Recipe
Ingredients for harissa mash:
- 7 potatoes
- 1 teaspoon of Harrisa
- 1 bunch of spring onion, sliced
- 100g of butter
- 100ml of warm milk
Ingredients for cauliflower puree:
- 2 heads of cauliflower
- 50g of butter
- 100ml of cream
Ingredients for lamb and marinade: (needs one day to marinade)
- 2 small sides (1,5 kg in total) of French trimmed lamb racks
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 quartered lemon
- 1 chilli
- olive oil (+/- 750ml enough to cover the lamb)
Ingredients for Sailor Jerry jus:
- 2 carrots
- 2 onions
- ½ a celery stalk
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 200g lamb bones
- 2 lime leaves (optional)
- 1 vanilla pod (optional)
- ½ bunch of mint stalks
- 2 shots of Sailor Jerry
- 1 litre of red wine
- 1 litre beef boullion
Method for harissa mash:
- Peel and boil the potatoes until they become soft.
- Make a mash with the potatoes by adding in the butter and pouring in the warm milk.
- Fold the harrisa through the mash and add the sliced spring onion.
- Just before you serve, season to taste and reheat it by using butter in a pan.
Method for cauliflower puree:
- Roughly chop all the cauliflower and place in a deep pot.
- Pour the cream into the pot and ensure it covers the cauliflower.
- Allow the cream to boil for 10 minutes until the cauliflower becomes soft.
- Use a blender and blitz the cauliflower until it becomes a smooth puree.
- Season to taste.
- Just before you serve, slowly reheat the smooth puree in a sauce pan.
Method for the lamb marinade:
- Add all the ingredients and marinade the meat for a day in the fridge.
- Allow the flavours to infuse, and if possible, try stirring the meat every few hours.
- Once the marinade has infused, remove the meat from the marinate and season.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Lightly fry the lamb in a large pan until the fat has turned golden brown.
- Once the meat becomes golden, remove the pan off the heat and into the pre-heated oven. Let the meat cook for about 10 minutes for medium rare or longer if desired.
- Allow the meat to rest for two minutes, then slice the meat in-between the bones and serve.
Method for the Sailor Jerry jus:
- Fry off carrots, onions, celery, garlic, rosemary, (lamb) bones, lime, mint stalks (lime leaves and vanilla pods optional).
- Deglace with Sailor Jerry (and vanilla essence optional).
- Add 1 litre of red wine.
- And 1 litre of bouillon.
- Take the mint leaves and boil them in 1 litre of water and add the infused water.
- Reduce the sauce to a thickness of your choice.
- Strain the sauce and season.
- Optional to add fresh lime zest and chopped mint, then serve.