Last week Wednesday, in honour of Heritage Day, I had the opportunity to forage for my food with The Urban Hunter Gatherer, Charles Standing and Chef Jocelyn Myers-Adams, of Camissa Brasserie at The Table Bay Hotel. Just how much foraging the event entailed, I had no idea, and so I still opted for my regular work attire. Possibly not the best idea. Luckily for me, the foraging was kept local with the clue being in the ‘urban’ part of Charlie’s blog title. Urban foraging, I had zero knowledge on, however I can now spot a variety of edible leaves, many of which are sitting close to our sidewalk.
We started off at the Table Bay Hotel, where we met our group of 5, including Charlie and Jocelyn. The pair have recently formed a foraging-cooking team, in which Jocelyn creates inventive dishes using foraged produce from their excursions. Jocelyn’s creations are slowly mulled over as her and Charlie forage. She evidently has a knack for pairing up indigenous flavours found in the surrounding grounds of the Waterfront.
We didn’t venture too far out, starting on the Promenade near the lighthouse, and slowly picking our way back to the hotel. I was completely astonished at the bountiful selection of plants we gathered. I drive and walk past the promenade and around the Waterfront area often and had no idea that much of the shrubbery is edible! Of course this is after a very substantial wash. And not only are these plants sitting on the coastal front, but across South Africa.
Plants foraged included sour figs, mallow leaves, confetti bush, nasturtiums seeds, dune spinach, wild spinach, sout-slaai, wild rosemary, water berries and the list goes on. We were now ready to enjoy the findings, and watched as Jocelyn prepared all the greens and berries, cohesively separating them into separate containers. Washing and soaking the leaves and berries is key, and laying them out helps combine flavours mentally, and match them to the meat that would lead the dish.
The starter dish was a Blue fish tartar with suring stems or Cape Sorrel, accompanied with blanched seaweed, dressed in olive oil and lemon. The whole dish embodied a freshness that most chefs strive to achieve. Foraging encourages this fresh style of cooking as well as cooking with what you have, so produce is seasonal, and flavours are robust.
The main course was a beef fillet, sealed with a mallow leaf, served with a side of greens including sout-slaai, dune spinach and pickled agave buds, stopped with pickle nasturtium seeds and wild garlic. My my, this was a dish with textures and flavours that were completely new to me. The mallow leaf had a slightly similar texture to burnt sage, while the agave buds had a tangy, pungent taste which surprisingly went well with the rich red wine sauce poured on the plate. The spinach had been wilted with butter, yet it retained its crunch better than your typical Swiss Chard, having a thicker consistency.
The highly anticipated dessert for me was exquisite. This is most likely due to my unfailing sweet tooth and the fact that I couldn’t find a connection between our foraged goods and a successful dessert. Jocelyn however has developed an impressive knack for this through her practical research over the past few months.
Dessert : chocolate brownie with wild dagga (and no - it's not the dagga you are thinking of!), white chocolate hibiscus mousse, Natal plum and wild rosemary puree, milk chocolate mousse and raspberry caviar. This dish really showed off the extent to what foraging has in store: a variety of cooking opportunities with the discovery of new and accessible flavours.
Chef Myers-Adams and Charles Standing are continuing their foraging and dining expeditions, and invite the public to take part. On 29th October they will host a dinner event at Camissa for around 60 guests. The 3-course meal will be finalised just prior to the night depending on what has been harvested.
One thing I can say is that snails will be on the menu!
To book a place at the dinner contact the Camissa restaurant at The Table Bay Hotel.
- Ceili McGeever
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