10 Questions: Foodie personality Christine Cashmore

Picture: Nina Joubert

Christine Cashmore (Picture: Nina Joubert)

The annual Table of Peace & Unity is taking place in five cities in South Africa on Sunday, May 17, and for the second year running there is also a Port Elizabeth event. This annual fund-raising initiative was the brainchild of Christine Cashmore, a well-known foodie personality and philanthropist whose commitment to the project has seen it raise millions of rands for children’s charities. 

The Port Elizabeth Table of Peace will be in a marquee in Victoria Park on Sunday and the three-course gourmet luncheon will be prepared by two of SA’s top chefs, Martin Kobald and David Keir, who also recently featured on ‘The Global Table’ .  The luncheon, which includes top-notch entertainment, starts at 11.30am for noon. Tickets at R350 per person can be booked with Salome on 082-9070954.

1. How did the concept for the Table of Peace and Unity come about?

The first one took place 10 years ago with a single table on the slopes of Table Mountain. At the time of SA’s second general elections there was a mixture of concern, uncertainty and pessimism about the future, yet at the time of the first elections there was so much positivity and optimism.  What happened in such a short time? I believe that unity is achievable, and if we have unity we will have peace. Food is a good leveller, so I created a Table of Peace and Unity where all people could break bread together, and seek ways to contribute to building a united and peaceful South Africa.

2. How has support for it grown since the first table 10 years ago?

Today the event has expanded to five large tables in five gorgeous cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane. It’s a spine-chilling affair – in Cape Town, 750 people sit at one long table on Table Mountain.

3. You have international plans for the Table of Peace and Unity. What is your vision?

I’d love for the initiative to spread across Africa and, of course, the world. What’s stopping us from reaching out internationally with tables around the globe? It would link each and every member of the human race irrespective of nationality, religion or culture … and children of the world would benefit too.

4. You’re also heavily involved with the Good Food and Wine Show and with Gourmet SA. What does that entail?

The Good Food & Wine Show, an event within Gourmet SA, is South Africa’s largest food and beverage exhibition and is spread out across the year in three cities – Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. It’s a marvellous occasion where top international chefs come to network with SA chefs, where visitors can taste, create, buy, watch and enjoy the best offerings from the gourmet arena. I started this event 11 years ago, and it has become the most eagerly anticipated food festival of the year.

5. How did your passion for good food come about?

It stems from my childhood. It was the norm to have home-cooked meals using fresh produce. We always had a variety of vegetables. Once I was married and had children, I continued with what I knew and at the same time realised ‘you are what you eat’.

6. What are your favourite starter, main course and dessert?

I enjoy simple, quality food. A great starter is soup, or a hot or cold salad to open up the palate. For a main course I love fresh fish, and for dessert I prefer to keep it light.

7. Besides the Tables of Peace and Unity, what was your best-ever dining experience?

With my job, I’m fortunate to have been able to eat all around the world. Nothing is better than the simplest food made with the freshest ingredients, and of course the ambience and the company are important components. Corviglia Restaurant in St Moritz is a favourite … thinly-baked fresh pizza base topped with freshly grated black truffles with shavings of parmesan, mmm! Caprese Salad – buffalo mozzarella layered between bright red, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and olive oil – is simple but superb. Then there’s freshly-caught fish in a salt crust, baked on the coals, with the ocean lapping against my feet – it makes me feel privileged to be alive!

8. What five ingredients are staples in your pantry or fridge/freezer?

My fridge, freezer and pantry are stocked with many exciting products, but if I had to list only five, then the staples would be eggs, cheese, pestos, olives and an excellent bottle of wine.

9. Do you enjoy cooking and entertaining at home and do you have an approach that works for you? 

I love it – and I love designing new recipes. I design the menu so I’ll be able to spend as much time with my guests and not in the kitchen. I usually have the starter and the dessert ready when the guests arrive so I can focus purely on the main course when they’re seated. I try to make the dessert sensational, because it is their last impression of the meal.

10. Do you have a favourite restaurant and why do you like it so much? 

I have a few favourites which I like for their cuisine, ambience and service. Eating at Nobu is an experience you’ll never forget – and there’s now one in South Africa. We are fortunate to have so many excellent restaurants in the major centres of SA, as well as in country areas like the Karoo, Overberg and West Coast. If I could name all the tremendous restaurants in SA I would, but that would be unfair! I also love the specialities of the regions, visiting the markets and stocking up on home-made preserves and chutneys. I’m excited by the emergence of bakeries and delis. We have an abundance of fresh produce, dedicated chefs and superb wines.

Oriental chicken breast with toasted pine-nuts and  balsamic lime dressing

The starter to be served at the Table of Peace in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Judy de Vega.

Picture: Judy de Vega

This tantalising starter was gobbled down when chefs Martin Kobald and David Keir tested it on a group of media guests – including myself – at The Boardwalk in Port Elizabeth a few weeks ago. It is one of three courses to be served at next Sunday’s Table of Peace and Unity event in the Bay. Here’s how you can attempt to recreate this dish in your own kitchen. While no quantities for the julienned carrots, leeks and beansprouts are specified, I expect you can use however much you fancy – just use the picture above as a visual guideline.

Serves 6

Ingredients

300g chicken breasts, skin on; olive oil for frying; 30ml butter; 120g basmati rice, cooked according to packet instructions; 30g peppadews or piquant peppers; 20ml good-quality mayonnaise; salt and pepper for seasoning; some carrots and leeks, finely julienned; 30ml balsamic vinegar; fresh lime juice to taste; some bean sprouts for ganishing; a few coriander sprigs for garnishing; about 30g pine-nuts, lightly toasted, for garnishing.

For the chicken marinade: 300ml soya sauce; 60ml honey; 30ml sesame oil.

Method

Marinade the chicken in the marinade ingredients for about 1 hour. Score the skin with small incisions. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Fry for a few minutes.

Without turning, baste the chicken with the fat in the pan. Place the pan in an oven so it can continue cooking all the way through. Add a little butter at the end so the skin can get a nice golden brown colour. Cool and set aside.

Chop the peppadews or piquant peppers, mix these and the mayonnaise into the cooked rice. Season as desired and set aside.

Deep-fry the julienned leeks and carrots in hot oil until crispy; drain.

To assemble the dish, place one portion of the rice mix neatly onto each of the six plates. Slice the chicken breasts and fan a few slices out on the side of each portion of rice. Top the rice with the deep-fried leek and carrot strips.  Garnish with the coriander, pine-nuts and bean sprouts and drizzle with a vinaigrette made from the lime juice and balsamic vinegar.

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