The first verse of a song, the first few lines of a story, the opening scene of a show, those are the most crucial moments of my career. The same happens in my dining room. Whether you are preparing for casual visit, a formal dinner or a daily meal with the family, a wise beginning is everything. Call it an arrival snack, a starter, a first course, call it anything, the small bite that explodes with flavour, the gesture that shows your care and the fear of foolishness because of alcohol on an empty stomach, these things determine the success of any event.


Long storie: I originally served these savoury pancakes as part of a cold salad, sometimes topped with fresh vegetables and herbs, sometimes with lettuce and smoked salmon, sometimes with marinated, preserved or grilled vegetables. One day I was planning to serve a warm first course with pan-roasted vegetables, but after an unexpected phone call and some unwelcome interference in the kitchen, these little salads ended up being served at room temperature. More delicious than ever! The name: Instead of dotting the dressing around the plate like they do in restaurants, I like making bold patterns like those robust ones Matisse became famous for. Have fun!

(6 to 8 servings)



2 eggs

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

225ml full cream milk

125g self raising flour

1/2 tsp seasalt

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

extra grapeseed oil

Whisk eggs, oil and milk together

In a separate mixing bowl combine flour and salt

Mix in small amounts of milk mixture to create a smooth batter

Stir in parsley

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours

Heat 1 tbsp oil in pan over medium heat

Pour 3 tbsp batter in centre of pan to make medium-sized pancake

Cook until bubbles form on surface, turn over

Leave pancakes to cool or place in lukewarm oven until needed

(The few extra pancakes are still delicious the next day) 



1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tsp French mustard

juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1/3 tsp seasalt

1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried sweet basil

Whisk ingredients together

Cover and refrigerate until needed

Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving

(I often double or triple the quantities of the dressing, it can last for a quite few days

 in the refrigerator)



1 red bell pepper

6 zucchini, about 10 cm long

grapeseed oil


freshly ground black pepper

Cut pepper in half and remove seeds

Slice into thin strips, you need at least 24 strips

Remove ends of zucchini and slice lengthwise into quarters

Arrange with pepper strips on baking tray

Drizzle lightly with oil

Bake in oven at 180˚C (fan) until starting to brown, about 15 minutes

Cover and keep lukewarm



4 medium to large brown mushrooms

3 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp butter


Heat oil and butter in pan

Cut mushrooms into slices

Fry until golden brown on both sides

Season lightly with salt

Cover and keep lukewarm



fresh sprigs of basil

extra parsley, chopped

Place one pancake in the center of each individual plate

Place 3 of 4 slices of zucchini on top of each pancake

Place 3 or 4 pepper strips across the zucchini

Arrange some mushroom slices on top

Garnish with basil

Create your Matisse patterns with dressing around the plate

Sprinkle with parsley



With open mouths, red little tongues and outstretched arms, the olives on top of these retro-looking snacks are completing their latest opera, announcing a feast, welcoming guests and reminding you of your need for a beautiful bite.

(24 crostini)


8 slices brown bread

5 tbsp pecan oil

300g ricotta

2 tbsp thick cream

12 black pitted olives, chopped

100g preserved artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh chives

finely grated zest of 1 lime

6 green olives filled with red bell peppers

pink himalayan salt

freshly ground black pepper

extra chives


Use a champagne flute or glass with 5 cm mouth to cut 24 circles of bread

(Dry rest of bread and process into crumbs, store in airtight container)

Brush circles on both sides with pecan oil

Fry 12 at a time in hot pan until golden brown on both sides

(Can be kept in airtight container for 1 to 2 days)

Mix ricotta and cream together in mixing bowl

Stir in black olives, artichoke, parsley, chives and lime zest

Season with salt and pepper (Taste and adjust seasoning!)

Spoon teaspoons of mixture on top of crostini

Cut green olives (across, not lengthwise) into quarters

Place 1 slice on top of each crostini

Cut a few chives into 2,5 cm lengths

Press 2 outstretched little arms into ricotta on either side of each screaming olive



Too few people know that you can fry radishes. This slightly unusual snack becomes a favourite after the first bite.

(24 crostini)

8 slices brown bread

6 tbsp grapeseed oil (for brushing crostini)

250g cream cheese, removed from refrigerator 30 minutes ahead

1 tsp tomato paste

5 preserved sundried tomatoes, chopped

handful fresh basil (15g), chopped


1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

6 red radishes, quartered

freshly ground black pepper

Use a champagne flute or glass with 5 cm mouth to cut 24 circles of bread

(Dry rest of bread and process into crumbs, store in airtight container)

Brush circles on both sides with grapeseed oil

Fry 12 at a time in hot pan until golden brown on both sides

(Can be kept in airtight container for 1 to 2 days)

Mix cream cheese and tomato paste together in mixing bowl

Stir in chopped tomatoes and basil

Season lightly with salt

Heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil with butter, vinegar, cumin and coriander in pan

Add radishes and fry until white sides become golden brown

Place on kitchen cloth to cool

Spoon small heaps of cream cheese on top of crostini

Carefully press down a wedge of radish, red side up, into cream cheese

Season with black pepper




In the world of food recipes or chefs often insist on certain very specific ingredients because this or that happens and nothing else will do. And then I follow their instructions like a puppy and when it comes to the eating I cannot FOR THE LIFE OF ME taste the difference! This recipe sounds like one of those, but I promise you, the use of real French Champagne (Yes, it’s not Italian, the world has shrunk) turns this simple risotto into a light and elegant dish that will crown any table, taste bud, occasion or guest. I serve this as a first course, summer, winter, formal or informal.

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup Arborio rice

500ml organic vegetable stock

pinch of salt

400ml excellent champagne

4 tbs finely grated parmesan

1 tbsp butter

3 chives, chopped

extra chives


Heat oil, onion and garlic in saucepan

Stir for 1 minute

Add rice and stir until rice is coated

Add 100ml stock and pinch of salt

Stir over medium heat until liquid has been absorbed

Add stock – and later champagne – in small quantities and stir until rice is cooked and creamy

Stir in parmesan

Stir in butter

Remove from heat and stir in chopped chives

Serve with extra chives



These can be served hot or cold, with or without all kinds of dipping sauces, at the table or the picnic, as snacks, starters or lunch box essentials. Or fry them on the spot at the local bake sale.


Caramelize onion and garlic with butter in small saucepan over low heat,

about 40 minutes

Cut butternut into squares and arrange on oven tray

Drizzle lightly with oil and bake in oven at 165˚C (fan)

Cover loosely with foil if butternut browns too much

Let cool and mash in mixing bowl

Stir in onion and egg

Stir in flour

Chop chilli finely (remove seeds if preferred)

Stir into butternut with parsley and coriander

Grate 1/4 tsp nutmeg, stir into batter

Season with salt and pepper

Stir in parmesan, cover and let stand until ready to fry, at least 15 minutes

Heat enough grapeseed oil to cover bottom of pan

Spoon batter into pan, enough for 4 pancakes at a time

Fry over medium heat until golden brown on both sides

Serve with small bowls of chutney, sweet chilli sauce and/or barbeque sauce






Years ago, when I used to do long runs at the Centurion Theatre, my friend Mia ran the kitchen and everything else at the restaurant next door. Unlike these days, I NEVER went home after the show, Mia would be waiting with chilled white wine and one of my favourite after-show dishes, one of which was grilled halloumi. In all the years since then, I never had halloumi. Until melancholy recently made me put together this salad!

grapeseed oil

180g young spinach leaves

100g fresh rocket leaves

4 slices country bread, cut into squares

400g halloumi, cut into strips


freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp honey

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Add bread and fry until golden brown, transfer croutons to kitchen cloth, wipe pan

Arrange spinach and rocket on large serving plate

Arrange croutons on top

Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Fry half the halloumi over medium until golden on both sides

Season very lightly with salt and pepper, keep aside, fry remaining halloumi

Add 1 tbsp oil to pan and fry tomatoes over high heat until skins burst

Arrange halloumi and tomatoes on top of salad

Add 4 tbsp grapeseed oil with the honey and lemon juice to warm pan

Whisk with rubber whisk over medium heat for 30 seconds, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over salad

Sprinkle with parsley



Forgive me, everytime I find I can use something to create a pattern, I do it, it's an addiction. Then it ends up looking really old-fashioned and people think I cannot afford to buy new cookbooks. But I am tired of stacking food and I like symmetry. By the way, this salad is delicious.

1 red onion

2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

240g small carrots

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp honey

pinch of salt

4 oranges

2 grapefruit

100g soft goat cheese

80 fresh rocket

3 tbsp mixed peppercorns, crushed


Slice onion into thin rings or strips

Mix with sugar and vinegar, let stand for at least 30 minutes

Slice carrots lengthwise into quarters, then into lengths of 6 cm

Heat carrots with oil and honey in pan over high heat

Stir for 1 minute until carrots start to brown

Lower heat and let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes

Season lightly with salt and let cool

Peel oranges and grapefruit and cut into slices

Arrange 6 slices each on 6 individual plates

Arrange onions and carrots on top

Break goat cheese and place on top

Place small bunches of rocket in center of each plate

Drizzle with Dressing and sprinkle with peppercorns




1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp French mustard


freshly ground black pepper


Whisk first 4 ingredients together

Season with salt and pepper


This recipe is for 12 small roti, a wonderful snack for 4 to 6 guests. I often double the amounts and serve these as a first course.

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 spring onions, chopped

3/4 cup boiling water

grapeseed oil


Mix flour, salt and spring onions in bowl

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add boiling water

Dust work surface with a little extra flour and kneed dough for 1 minute

Form 12 balls and roll out into 12 small roti

Heat enough oil in pan to just cover bottom (medium heat)

Place 2 or 3 roti in pan, press down with spatula

Fry until golden brown on both sides, taking care not to let roti burn

Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with Garlic Cream Sauce





1 garlic bulb, wrapped in oil and oven baked at 170˚C (fan) for 45 minutes

250g cream cheese at room temperature

2 tbsp sour cream

freshly ground black pepper

6 small sprigs of fennel

6 whole spring onions


Mix cream cheese and sour cream in mixing bowl

Cut off top of garlic bulb and squeeze out flesh

Mix into cream cheese mixture

Spoon into 6 small bowls, season with pepper and garnish with fennel

Place bowls on 6 large individual plates

Cut roti in half and arrange next to bowls

Garnish each plate with a spring onion





600g cauliflower

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

3 large brown mushrooms, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup self raising flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground paprika

1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated

1 tsp ground turmeric

3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped

extra grapeseed oil for frying

1 cup Greek yoghurt

3 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, coriander leaves, basil)

finely grated zest of 1/4 lemon


Steam cauliflower until cooked, keep aside

Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Fry mushrooms and onions until cooked

Place cauliflower in mixing bowl and mash with fork

Stir in mushrooms and onion

Beat in eggs

Add flour, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg and turmeric, mix well

Stir in 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Heat 3 to 4 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Spoon 1 heaped tablespoons batter into pan

(It is best to make no more than 3 to 4 blinis at a time)

Fry 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown, add oil if needed

Place on kitchen towel

Season yoghurt lightly with salt and pepper, stir in chopped herbs and zest

Serve with blinis



This salad is a complete meal, but also perfect as a beginning to a long, leisurly lunch with many small courses. This is also great to take to work, school or any outing. The vegetables look like tiny, colourful jewels, a playful visual feast!

1 1/2 cup quinoa

3 cups water

1 aubergine

6 small or 4 medium zucchini

1 yellow bell pepper

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

12 cocktail tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon


freshly ground black pepper

6 fresh mint leaves

3 spring onions


Heat quinoa and water in saucepan

Let simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes

Remove from heat, cover with lid and let stand for 15 minutes

(This is the most important step for perfectly cooked quinoa!)

Cut aubergine, zucchini and bell pepper into small cubes

Heat grapeseed oil in pan and fry vegetables until just cooked and still brightly coloured

Spoon quinoa into mixing bowl and add fried vegetables

Cut tomatoes into quarters and add to quinoa

Stir in olive oil and lemon juice

Season with seasalt and black pepper

Roughly chop mint and spring onions and mix into salad

Serve at room temperature



For years, when you walked into Topsi Venter’s Franschhoek restaurant, a small plate with a few slices of bread was the first thing brought to your table. This was the best bread I have ever tasted and I begged Topsi to let me have the recipe, but never got it. There was a recipe for a similar bread in her cookbook and between that one and my memory of the one I tasted hundreds of times, I arrived at this recipe. To this day, this is the only bread I bake.

2 cups brown bread flour

1 cup Nutty Wheat (3/4 cup plain flour plus 1/4 cup Wheat Bran)

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups mixed nuts, chopped

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

2 tsp sesame seeds

2 tsp poppy seeds

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

2 cups plain yoghurt

2 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp honey


Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl

Work into a sticky dough

Divide between two lightly greased medium bread pans

Bake in oven at 165˚C (fan) for 50 minutes

Cover loosely with foil if breads start to brown too quickly


(I usually serve one loaf immediately and freeze one for later.)




These are basically old-fashioned croquettes, but I do not have the time on this earth to try and shape these into perfect little logs, so now they enter the dining room as cakes.

500g young potatoes, 

cooked or steamed with skins

2 tbsp fresh cream

2 tbsp self raising flour

3 eggs

150g salmon, oven roasted or tinned

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano


freshly ground black pepper

3 tbps plain flour

3 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

grapeseed oil


Remove half the potato skins

Mash potatoes, mix in cream

Whisk one egg and add to potatoes

Mix in self raising flour

Add salmon, nutmeg, basil and oregano, mix well

Season with salt and pepper

Roll into 2 to 14 balls

Whisk 2 eggs in small bowl

Place flour and breadcrumbs in two more separate bowls

Roll each ball in flour, dip into egg and roll in crumbs

Refrigerate for 30 minutes

Heat 4 to 5 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan over medium heat

Flatten each ball just a little, fry in oil until golden on both sides



This is a robust, picturesque, mouthwatering, satisfying experience that everybody enjoys. Nobody has ever refused this salad.



1/2 cup olive oil

2 tbsp honey

juice and finely grated zest of 1 small lemon

1 tsp strong mustard

1/2 tsp paprika


freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Whisk ingredients together

Cover and let stand for 1 hour




2 red bell peppers

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

3 eggs

2 tbsp milk


freshly ground black pepper

pinch of chilli powder (1/8 tsp)

pinch of nutmeg

1 small red cabbage

2 heads of gem lettuce (about 200g)

140g large corn chips

Cut bell peppers into strips

Toss with 1 tbsp grapeseed oil

Arrange on oven tray, bake for a few minutes in oven at 170˚C (fan),

keep aside

Whisk eggs and milk together

Season with seasalt, black pepper, chilli powder and nutmeg

Heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil over medium heat in non-stick pan,

move pan to cover surface with oil

Pour eggs into pan, bake until top starts to set

Fold over and slide onto a plate or cutting board

Let cool and cut into strips

Cut cabbage and gem lettuce into thin strips

Transfer to serving plate or large shallow bowl

Arrange bell pepper strips and corn chips on top

Arrange omelette slices on top

Drizzle dressing over salad just before serving





3 small square ciabattas (9cm x 9cm)

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

Cut each ciabatta into 4 slices (keep ends to make salad croutons!)

Heat oil in pan over medium heat

Fry 12 slices until golden brown on both sides

Wipe pan with cloth




3 eggs


1 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tsp butter

12 chives, chopped

3 tsp green pesto

freshly ground black pepper

6 extra chives for garnish


Whisk eggs and and season lightly with seasalt

Heat oil and butter in pan

Add eggs

As soon as bottom of eggs start to set, push spatula through eggs

Add chopped chives

Remove from heat while 1/3 of eggs are still liquid

Keep moving spatula slowly until eggs are cooked but soft

Spoon teaspoons of egg on top of each slice of bread

Place very small amounts (about 1/8 tsp) of pesto on top of each slice

Season with black pepper

Cut extra chives in half and place on top

Arrange on serving plate

Serve at room temperature



500g baby potatoes with skins

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

250g cream cheese, at room temperature

fresh chives, tied in knots



Cook potatoes and let cool

Stir parsley, dill and pepper into cheese

Halve the potatoes and cut a sliver off the bottoms

Spread cheese mixture over bottom of each potato

Garnish with knotted chives

Season lightly with extra black pepper



Delicious, creamy, dreamy, unusual and simple! Use your best plate!

250g soft cream cheese

250g ricotta

3 tbsp crème fraîche

1/4 tsp seasalt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

40g pistachio nuts, lightly roasted

40 pomegranate seeds

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp olive oil

Mix cream cheese, ricotta and creme fraîche together 

Season with salt and pepper

Spoon onto serving plate

Sprinkel with nuts and pomegranate seeds

Drizzle with honey and oil

Serve with small toasts, biscuits, crackers or sliced fresh vegetables



4 large wholewheat tortillas

75g pecan nuts

50g baby spinach

70g fresh rocket

70g fresh watercress

240g blueberries

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon


freshly ground black pepper


Cut tortillas into strips and arrange on baking sheet

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) until golden brown, this happen very quickly

Coarsely chop nuts, roast in a dry pan

Arrange greens on a large serving plate

Sprinkle nuts and berries over

Arrange tortilla strips on top

Whisk olive oil, syrup, vinegar and juice together

Season with salt and pepper

Sprinkle over salad just before serving



1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp seasalt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Place pumpkin seeds, parsley, basil, garlic and Parmesan into food processor

Pulse a few times until ingredients are finely chopped and mixed

Season with salt and pepper

Add olive oil slowly while food processor runs at a low speed

Cover and store in refrigerator

Serve with mini toasts, sliced vegetables or french fries