10 Questions: Martin Kobald and David Keir

David Keir (left) and Martin Kobald. Picture: Nina Joubert   David Keir (left) and Martin Kobald. Picture: Nina Joubert

Martin Kobald and David Keir, two of the country’s most talented chefs, will be flying to Port Elizabeth to prepare the extra-special three-course gourmet meal they’ve come up with for Port Elizabeth’s second annual Table of Peace and Unity*, to be held in Victoria Park on Sunday, May 17. Martin is the president of the SA Chefs Association and a chairman of the World Association of Chefs Societies. Both he and David are award-winning chefs closely associated with Fedics – Martin as the company’s national executive chef and David as executive chef of Fedics Inland. 

* Read more about the Table of Peace and Unity charity lunch – and its founder Christine Cashmore – in Weekend Post’s My Weekend supplement of April 18, where you’ll also find details of the rest of the menu that has been devised for next month’s event. Scroll down The Global Table blog today for Martin and David’s recipe for the dessert to be served on May 17!

1. How and why did you become involved with the Table of Peace and Unity?

Martin: I firmly believe in giving back as much I can, and I’m glad and honoured that Fedics has decided they want to be involved big time in this very worthwhile cause. I also enjoy the challenge cooking a first-class luncheon, for a large crowd, from a makeshift kitchen.

David: Fedics got involved as a sponsor and I was asked by them to assist in the Table of Peace and Unity. Of course the answer was yes, as it is a great honour and privilege to be involved in such a function.  

2. How did you come up with the menu you’re going to serve in Port Elizabeth on May 17? 

Martin: David and I got together to design the menu. The main criteria for a function like this is to make it a day to remember. People will not remember the table décor or who was sitting opposite them; what they will remember is the meal. 

David: We needed to decide on dishes that would taste and look good, and be practical on the day, as we will be serving around 500 people from a makeshift kitchen.

3. You are both originally from other parts of the world – David from Scotland and Martin from Austria. Why did you choose to make your homes and careers in South Africa?

Martin: I originally I wanted to become a pilot but decided to become a chef as I didn’t have to learn English – at school I was really bad at languages. I completed my training in Austria and worked in several hotels and restaurants in Europe before immigrating to South Africa. I came here on a two-year contract with Southern Sun hotels and decided almost immediately that this was the country I wanted to live my life in. I must say I have not regretted a day.

David: My folks immigrated to South Africa when I was two. They have since gone back (to Scotland) to retire, but there was no way I was going back to that wet, cold place! This is my home and I love it. Viva Bokke viva!  

4. Have attitudes towards food changed at all in South Africa in recent years, and how?

Martin: Yes, yes, yes! It has changed tremendously in SA. Over the last 10 years I’ve done some extensive travelling around the world to experience international food trends and cultures. I can honestly say SA is on top of the world with our food trends; in fact with some of our initiatives we are regarded as trend-setters.

David: Absolutely. We certainly keep up with the rest of the world with food trends. Whether it’s food being served at restaurants or food that’s part of a lifestyle at home, we have seen a big change. Just look at how ‘TV dinners’ have progressed and how health foods have increased!     

5. Do you have a favourite South African dish or meal?

Martin: I don’t have a specific dish but I really enjoy Cape Malay-style dishes.

David: It has to be a braai.

6. What is a favourite dish that you enjoy making for your own guests?

Martin: A traditional South African braai.

David: I have built myself a pizza oven at home. It’s such a nice way to entertain – everyone builds their own pizza and cooks it themselves. It’s amazing – all of a sudden everyone is a chef and there are no complaints!

7. How do you as chefs manage to maintain international standards when cooking for large groups of people?

Martin: It’s all about planning, Your menus need to be practical with exciting innovations, but the design of the kitchen layout, and of course the team, are also important.

David: Let’s rather say “professional standards” and not “international standards” – otherwise it sounds as if we need to learn from the rest of the world. You need to plan, plan and plan.   

8. Which kitchen tool or gadget can’t you live without?

Martin: A stick blender.

David: A teaspoon. You’d be surprised how handy one is.

9. Have you cooked for any VIP’s?

Martin: Nelson Mandela, Will Smith, Michael Mann, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voigt … and my wife and kids!

David: My mother-in-law and of course Madiba!

10. What’s the best – and worst – part of being a chef?

Martin: The best part is the friendship and networking with colleges around the world – we’re one big family. The worst part … got to think about this … none!

David: The best part is getting involved with functions like the Table of Peace and Unity. The worst is serving someone who thinks they know more than you, when they don’t.

The dessert to be served at the Table of Peace. Picture: Nina Joubert

The dessert to be served at the Table of Peace & Unity. Picture: Nina Joubert

Hazelnut ice-cream in a tuile basket

David Keir and Martin Kobald will be serving this beautiful dessert with strawberry coulis and nut brittle in Port Elizabeth on May 17. It may seem a bit complicated but if you prepare the various elements in stages it shouldn’t be too challenging. Of course, instead of making the hazelnut ice-cream from scratch, you could cheat a bit and buy good-quality hazelnut ice-cream, while tuile baskets can also be bought ready-made.

Serves 6

Ingredients for hazelnut ice-cream (4-6)

120g shelled hazelnuts; 4 egg yolks; 170g castor sugar; 280ml milk; 280ml whipping cream.

Method for hazelnut ice-cream

Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until their centres are a pale biscuit colour. Turn the nuts on to a cloth and rub off the skins.  Cool, then process them in a food processor. Set aside.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Whisk until the mixture is very pale and falls back leaving a trail when the beaters are lifted.  Gradually beat in the milk.

Cook this custard carefully in a heavy saucepan over a low heat, or cook it in the top of a double boiler, stirring it constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Take the custard off the heat and set it aside to cool, stirring it from time to time to prevent a skin forming.

Stir the ground hazelnuts into the cold custard.  Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks and fold it in. 

Freeze, vigorously whisking the partially-frozen ice at least once during the freezing process.

Ingredients for tuile baskets

100g flour; 100g icing sugar; 3 egg whites at room temperature; 100g butter (melted). 

Method for tuile baskets

Sieve together the flour and the icing sugar. Add the egg whites while beating to a smooth paste; mix well.

Gradually incorporate the melted butter, mix well; then allow the mixture to rest/chill for at least two hours for best results.

Spoon a little of the batter onto a non-stick (or buttered and floured) baking sheet; alternatively greaseproof or silicone paper or silicone mats can be used.

Use the back of a spoon or a plastic scraper to spread the batter out very thinly into circles or whatever shapes required.

Bake at 180C (preheated oven) until they go just a light golden colour (about 3-4 min). Remove from the oven and immediately remove from the tray with a spatula. Shape as required while still warm, but if they start to cool too much just pop them back into the oven for a spell to soften.

Ingredients for strawberry coulis

125ml water; 125g castor sugar; 300g hulled and halved strawberries; 30ml brandy. Optional: 1 tbsp orange-flavoured alcohol.

Method for strawberry coulis

Bring the water and caster sugar to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the strawberries and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until soft. Purée the mixture and, if desired, stir in the orange-flavoured alcohol. Store in the fridge for up to two days – you can also serve it with ice-cream or pancakes.

Ingredients for nut brittle

2 cups granulated sugar; 1 cup light corn syrup (Martin says if you battle to find this then use normal golden syrup – it’s really just to soften the brittle a tad bit so you don’t chip a tooth on it!); 2 tbsp butter; 1/4 tsp salt; 1/4 cup water; 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, chopped cashew nuts and roasted sesame seeds; 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Method for nut brittle

Butter a 20-inch length of heavy aluminum foil.

Combine sugar, corn/golden syrup, butter, salt and water in a large non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil. Whisk to dissolve the sugar.

Reduce the heat and cook gently until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees F on a sugar thermometer) – this takes about 20 minutes. Stir in the nuts and simmer until tthe mixture caramelises. This is known as the hard-crack stage (290 degrees F on a sugar thermometer) and takes about 15 minutes.

Add baking soda and whisk until the bubbling stops and the mixture settles. Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared aluminum foil; spread 1/4-inch thick with a wooden spoon. Let it set for at least 20 minutes, then break into pieces. 

Plate the dessert as per the picture above.

For garnishing, some melted chocolate drizzled over the ice-cream wouldn’t be amiss, plus you can add a fresh, sliced strawberry and mint leaves to snazz it up even more! 

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2 Responses to 10 Questions: Martin Kobald and David Keir

  1. Julio says:

    Hazelnut ice-cream in a tuile basket … a spectacular dessert!, very interesting mixture of ingredients perfect for to drink later a spanish dessert wine like “Pedro Ximenez”. Congratulations again for the Global Table team, I´m supported from spain. Congratulations for the new photographer in the team, very good pictures!

    Some works in spanish for my friends Louise and Salvelio.
    Esta pagina va genial seguir así, el equipo lo está haciendo fenomenal se me hace la boca agua con las recetas. Saludos

  2. Nico says:

    Hi Louise, Lovely blog and interview. Will have to set aside some time to try the recipes! Cheers

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