Chef's Profile: Christie Handley of Thatchwoods

Picture: Salvelio Meyer
Christie Handley of Thatchwoods. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

THE Global Table returns to its current theme this weekend – that of profiling both established and upcoming chefs and foodie personalities from the Eastern and Southern Cape and sharing their favourite recipes and kitchen tips.
Today we are featuring Christie Handley, a former catering equipment industry expert who for the past decade has been running popular Bay restaurant and functions venue Thatchwoods at Holmeleigh Farmyard in Kragga Kamma.
“My family and I bought Thatchwoods and Holmeleigh Farmyard 10 years ago,” said Christie, 32. “My mom and dad, Andre and Bernie Kitching, run the farm while my husband, Roy, and I run Thatchwoods. Roy and I have a passion for food and a passion for people.”
A mum of two, Christie conceded working with family was not always easy but added “we make a formidable team”.
“I help co-ordinate the functions and food with the help of our kitchen staff, Thelma and Alice, and Roy organises the bar and keeps the guests happy. We have two children, Tyler, 9, and Chad, 8. They love living on the farm, but do sometimes moan about us having to work on weekends and special occasions like Christmas.
“When customers come to Thatchwoods for a wedding, birthday party or Sunday lunch, they enjoy excellent food, good old-fashioned hospitality and brilliant service.”
The former Collegiate schoolgirl used to work for Bosch Siemens in Cape Town and in Germany,  supplying leading chef schools like the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch with equipment.
“I had to teach the students how to use the appliances and had to learn the finer cooking skills with them. I also did a cookery course through Bosch at Traunreut in Germany, where they have their oven and hob factory, and I did a course with Yvonne Romano, of Mediterranean Villa in Cape Town.” Christie met Roy in Cape Town and they were married in 2000, the same year they bought the farm with Christie’s parents. She will be sharing one of her favourite recipes on the blog today – chicken breast stuffed with fresh spinach and feta and served with a creamy pepper sauce. Scroll down for the recipe and a Q&A in which she shares some of her favourite ingredients and kitchen pointers.
* Calling all chefs! Mail  us at liebenbergl@avusa.co.za if you want to be considered for inclusion on The Global Table, which is updated every Saturday.

Picture: Salvelio Meyer
Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Recipe: Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta

This recipe is enough for four people and Christie usually serves it with a creamy pepper sauce.

Ingredients

4 deboned and skinless chicken breast fillets (butterflied); 1 bunch fresh spinach; half a cup of feta; salt and pepper to taste

For the pepper sauce
Make  a basic white sauce and add a generous helping of ground black pepper or green Madagascar peppercorns.

Method
Clean and chop the spinach; boil it in lightly-salted water till cooked. Drain and allow to cool.
Crumble in the feta and mix gently with your fingers; then stuff the butterflied chicken fillets with it.
Place the rolled chicken breast on a baking tray and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
Slice into medallions, pour over the pepper sauce and serve with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables, or a side salad.

thatchwood 002
Thatchwoods’ Christie Handley (left) with her right-hand in the kitchen, Thelma Mdluli. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Q&A: Christie Handley of Thatchwoods

1. Where and how did your love of cooking begin?
I come from a big family and food was always the centre of a special occasion – and there were many of those!
2. Who are the people that you have learnt the most from in your career when it comes to cooking?
Letitia Prinsloo from the Institure of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, and my mom and dad.
3. Where do your ideas and inspiration for innovative dishes come from?
Listening to people and what they like to eat, magazines and the BBC.
4. Name some of the dishes that guests at Thatchwoods most enjoy.
For starters, our spiced potato cake with roasted cherry tomatoes and slivers of cucumber, drizzled with Bulgarian yoghurt; then, for mains, roast lamb with a rosemary and red wine jus. Finally, malva pudding and custard!
5. What is the most valuable advice you can offer other would-be chefs?
Love food, love people, but be prepared to put in long, exhausting hours too!
6. When cooking at home, for yourself or your family, what sort of food do you typically prepare?
My children must have Italian blood. Their favourite meal is lasagna or Spaghetti Bolognese (and I’m glad they like it, because it is quick and easy to prepare!)
7. If you had to choose a final meal on earth, what would you most like to have?
Definitely dessert! I have a very sweet tooth and I think it would have to be my malva pudding and custard.
8. Which celebrity chefs do you enjoy the most and why?
I admire Gary Rhodes for his traditional British cooking, James Martin for his desserts and his smile and Nigella Lawson just because she has such good tips and looks so good while she cooks.
9. Which five ingredients will one always find in your kitchen store cupboard / fridge/ freezer?
Beef mince (only from Tony at Settlers Butchery); deboned and skinned chicken breast fillets; fresh thyme; trio of peppers; canned tomatoes with herbs.
10. Which kitchen tool or gadget is your current favourite and why?
Always a good, sharp knife.

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