Chef's Profile: Algoa FM's Charl Leslie

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Radio presenter and foodie personality Charl Leslie with his featured dish. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

THE Global Table blog is on to its newest mission – getting Eastern and Southern Cape chefs and foodie personalities  to share  their favourite recipes! Our goal is to find  recipes that not only look fabulous on the plate, but will be easy enough for home cooks to re-create in their own kitchens. And today’s recipe, by Algoa FM presenter and ardent cook  Charl Leslie, definitely falls into that category. It’s a self-saucing granadilla, lemon and white chocolate “pot pudding” which will have you polishing your plate, so don’t miss it – and a  question-and-answer session with Charl – on The Global Table today.

Port Elizabeth-based Charl is well known for his Charl Cooks programme which airs on Tuesdays at 2.30pm  and  has been running for  more than seven years. The recipes featured each week are then immediately available at www.algoafm.co.za.

He is  also no stranger to hosting cooking demonstrations and themed evenings and writing about food in a weekly cookery column.

“My cooking is generally homestyle, with a little bit of fancy every now and then,” he says. “I like to demystify food and cooking and  try to stay with the most popular commercial flavours and not too many hard-to-find ingredients.”

Charl’s love for cooking was preceded by a love of food from an early age – “and an ouma who was very capable in the kitchen”.

“I have fond memories of being roped in to help out, with the prospect of being allowed to lick out the bowl as payment afterwards,” he chuckles. “I’m not a qualified chef, but am committed to sharing tested recipes that have worked for me.”

Charl confesses he can be a bit of a whirlwind in the kitchen. “I’ve been accused of working messily and making my mom nervous to this day whenever I work with a knife,” he quips. Good knives, however, are vital in his kitchen. “Knives are a personal choice and you should spend the most you can, knowing it’s an investment in cooking better. Chances are that you, like me, do not chop at ‘chef speed’, but a quality knife kept sharp will make a huge difference.”

Another favourite foodie tip? Charl advocates using fresh herbs wherever possible: “The only exception is oregano, where dried is better.”

“While the supply of fresh herbs isn’t great everywhere, I encourage you to be ruthless in throwing away any mouldy, old dried herbs and spices that have been in your larder for longer than six months,” he suggests.

* Calling all chefs! E-mail  us at liebenbergl@avusa.co.za if you want to be considered for inclusion on The Global Table blog, which is updated  every Saturday. Don’t miss it!

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Charl’s recipe: Self-saucing granadilla, lemon and white chocolate “pot pudding”

One of the first two recipes featured in Charl Cooks was a ginger pot pudding (a bicarb and apricot jam version). Then, while doing some reading, Charl came across one of those old microwave self-saucing puddings, and wondered if the ideas could be fused. His first version was a Black Forest pot pudding made with chocolate and cherries, followed by a cocoa-free version for Charl’s mum, who is allergic to chocolate. That is the recipe he is sharing below. The dish is easy and relatively quick to make and is an ideal dessert for winter.

Ingredients

100g butter; 100g castor sugar; 2 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla essence or extract; 120g cake flour; just more than 1 tsp baking powder; a pinch of salt; 30ml milk; 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of very finely grated lemon zest; 100g white chocolate, chopped into 5-7mm chunks

For the sauce: 1 small tin granadilla pulp; juice of 1 lemon (around 60ml); 100g sugar; 300ml water; 30ml citrus vodka or liqueur (optional); whipped cream and chopped nuts for serving (optional)

Method

Cream the butter and sugar (up to 5 min) before adding the vanilla and eggs and beating well. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the other ingredients and mix in with the milk, lemon zest and half the white chocolate chunks.

Then heat together all the sauce ingredients except for the liqueur over a low heat. Once simmering or boiling gently, add the liqueur, before spooning the sponge mix over the top. Place the lid on the pot and allow to cook undisturbed for 10 to 15 min until a toothpick comes out of the sponge clean – even if some of the sauce sticks to it.

Scatter the remaining white chocolate chunks over the top, replace the lid and stand for a minute before serving with whipped cream and chopped nuts if desired.

Q&A with Charl Leslie

1) What does your preparation for every week’s Charl Cooks programme involve and what plans do you have for it?

Weekly it usually involves researching, shopping, testing, writing the recipe and styling the food for a picture, which I also shoot myself these days. I’m currently looking at turning the Charl Cooks Top 10 recipes (as voted for by me) into a DVD that shows how to make each recipe and illustrates the basic and more advanced cooking techniques.

2) What has been the most interesting or unusual function you’ve had to cook for?

I have fond memories of one of my first major cooking expeditions – preparing a five-course meal for a special evening with 20 guests at a guest lodge far away from any convenient shops – in a kitchen I had never seen before, and bringing with me all the common sense tools and produce… The avocado pears weren’t ripe enough, the rosemary ruined a stock that had taken hours, the mint was sourced from a nearby farm and oh, and the sorbet wouldn’t set… All was fine on the night though!

3) Give an example of a three-course winter menu you would prepare for guests at your own home.

Prawn bisque, stuffed whole beef fillet (often on the braai) and Black Forest pot pudding similar to today’s recipe.

4) When simply cooking for yourself at home, what do you eat most of the time?

I’m the king of the quick meals – open sarmies and omelettes.

5) Which chefs or foodie personalities do you admire and why?

Locally I’m a fan of Justin Bonello and what he has done to popularise cooking in South Africa with his Cooked series. I’ve also learnt a great deal from Bobby Doolooa, the ex-head chef at the Boardwalk. Internationally, I enjoy the approach and style of Rick Stein’s cooking.

6) What are your five favourite ingredients at the moment?

It’s hard to say as I’m not really into fads or fashion in food, but always try and take trends into account. I’d say chakalaka which goes with almost anything except sweets; imported paprika for its flavour and hint of smokiness; vanilla powder (the dried, ground pods are so much better than essence); stone-ground flour and healthy oils or fats like rice bran, macadamia and avocado.

7) Which kitchen tool or gadget can you not live without and why?

Sharp knives that scare my friends, especially a versatile Chinese chopper! Also, flexible chopping mats (portable / disposable), and my food processor – any recipe that starts with “rub butter into flour until mix resembles fine breadcrumbs” used to make me panic.

8  What are some of your favourite local foodie haunts and hunting grounds for ingredients?

In Port Elizabeth I enjoy Lalla’s for spices, the Vegetarian Centre, the Rice Bowl and Valley Harvest, and in East London, Baron’s Select.

9) When not cooking for yourself, what are your favourite Bay restaurants and why do you like them?

De Kelder, for the overall experience; the Stage Door at the Phoenix Hotel for its vibe and reasonable prices; and Vovo Telo Pizza, for its clever evolution of the brand and great quality ingredients.

10) How important is seasonal cooking to you?

I have mixed feelings about this, mainly because I like avo on toast all year round and frequently find myself paying the childish out-of-season prices with a heavy heart, while reasoning that everything is in season somewhere in the world! I do attempt to respect seasonality and not to use difficult-to-find ingredients, but supermarket chains like Pick ‘n Pay have made great strides in ensuring a reliable supply of high-quality ingredients and everything used in my recipes should be available from them.

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One Response to Chef's Profile: Algoa FM's Charl Leslie

  1. SANDY says:

    HI LOOKING FOR THE RUSK RECIPE MENTIONED TODAY. MANY THANKS SANDY

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