Emzini Restaurant in Westdene
South African cuisine is a melting pot of eclectic flavours because our collective history includes diverse local and international influences that contributed to creating a uniquely South African flavour profile.
Bobotie, boerewors, braaibroodjies, bunny chow, chakalaka, koeksisters, melktert, malva pudding, potjiekos, vetkoek, and so many more dishes, are uniquely South African. Some people may try to claim them as part of their personal heritage, but the truth is that they are a blend of our collective South African heritage. Admittedly, with a few delicious twists for good measure.
Chef Richard Griffin was my ideal person to collaborate with because we are as different from each other as we are similar to each other. We share the same values but we have different ideas. We are the yin and yang to each other, and in many ways, a blend of each other. Richard also has an impeccable background as an Executive Chef at the Mount Grace Hotel and the former Founder and Creative Director at Madame Zingara. Most importantly, he can cook better than I can talk about it.
I approached Richard by explaining that I wanted to feature him as a flavour hero in the community. He has given so much to the community through his restaurants; previously, Reception in Kensington, and currently at Emzini Westdene, despite the hardships during the COVID pandemic lockdowns when restaurants couldn’t even seat customers.
We met at Richard’s restaurant, Emzini, in Westdene, where we discussed our options. I had ideas about his dishes that I wanted him to reimagine using Nederburg’s new Double Barrel Reserve 2020.
Fig and Gorgonzola Pizzetta
Emzini makes amazing thin-crust pizzettas so I suggested we create a uniquely South African-styled pizzetta topped with Peppadews and biltong, but Richard thought it was a bit cliched and suggested we push the envelope further by using seasonal figs, locally sourced Gorgonzola, and onions caramelised in red wine.
The goal: Reimagine a savoury sweet condiment using caramelised onions and red wine. Richard achieved this by sauteeing the onions to a jam-like consistency before deglazing the pan with a splash of Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve.
The result: The figs and caramelised onions were unashamedly sweet but they were soon subdued by the tang of the Gorgonzola. Richard also garnished the pizzetta with some arugula to give it a fresh and peppery bite. The cherry and oak flavours from Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve were subtly brought forward in the caramelised onions because Richard only seasoned them with salt and pepper.
I was concerned that it wouldn’t register as typically South African, but Richard pointed out that the caramelised onions were a play on South African chutney- and that was South African enough for me!
The verdict: The Fig and Gorgonzola Pizzetta served a rainbow of flavours that swerved from savoury to sweet to spice. Each bite had me salivating for the next.
Emzini’s Royal Meat Platter
Emzini’s Grilled Fillet served on a creamy bed of mushrooms and cranberries, or their Springbok Shank cooked in red wine, honey, and Ras El Hanout, would have paired perfectly with Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve, but I wanted something more accessible to all South Africans: a braai!
Unfortunately, Richard wasn’t about to trust me with his recipe for the marinade he uses in Emzini’s Royal Meat Platter.
The goal: Reimagine a braai marinade using Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve. Richard gave his Emzini marinade the Nederburg treatment by blending his marinade with a glass of Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve and marinading our meat overnight.
The result: The Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve complemented the smokiness of a braai while cutting through the fattiness of the meat. Marinating your meat in wine helps to tenderize it while imparting flavour but it is important to use a wine that you would drink and not one you’d pour down the sink. Nederburg is a premium South African wine, and South Africans love their meat, so it is a natural choice to pair the two together.
Richard’s red wine marinade was so versatile that he used it on steak, chicken wings, and boerewors. To amplify the flavour he reserved some which he reduced to use as a basting sauce.
The verdict: The South African braai is a source of pride and deserves some respect. Serve it with a wine that you can be proud of!
Triple Chocolate Korrelkonfyt Brownie
We needed intense flavours in our dessert because Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve boasts bold blueberry and cassis aromas followed by black cherries and spicy oak on the palate.
A Black Forest Trifle (substituting the kirsch with a red wine syrup) would be fun, but Richard wanted to make something sexier than trifle!
The goal: Reimagine the complex flavours of a Black Forest gateau in a South African context using Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve. Richard created a Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie swirled with korrelkonfyt!
The result: A dark chocolate brownie studded with milk chocolate, white chocolate, and korrelkonfyt. Surprisingly, it didn’t register as an overly sweet dessert because the bitterness from the cocoa neutralised the sugar. The chocolate chips were frozen beforehand to ensure that they would retain some texture on the plate. A scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sweep of berry compote ensured that this dessert was not for the fainthearted!
Korrelkonfyt is an Afrikaans recipe for grape jam that Richard uses in his Rosewater & Halwa Ice Cream, but he swirled some through the brownies to homage South Africa’s wine industry. He also added some blueberries to reference Nederburg’s Double Barrel Reserve’s flavours and aromas, and a splash of their Double Barrel Reserve to the korrelkonfyt to create the compote.
The verdict: A showstopper dessert that exceeds expectations. Deceptively simple in its presentation, yet profoundly complex in flavours. Some people might say that it’s just a brownie, but this one left me speechless!