I met Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen in France on the French Rivera (in Nice, to be exact) while I was filming my new TV series for Food Network called ‘Jenny Morris Cooks The Rivera’s’. Someone mentioned that there was a South African Chef in Nice setting up a new restaurant, so I asked my producer to try and find him as it would be wonderful to film a fellow South African on my show.
It was wonderful meeting him and we talked up a storm, including a little Afrikaans here and there – I loved that. See you Frenchies – I can also speak a foreign language.
Jan Hendrik told me that he had a love affair with France and its culture of good food, and was so inspired by the fresh produce from local markets and the dishes he encountered on his travels through these epicurean surroundings that he decided to write a book called ‘The French Affair’.
He said that his love of food was nurtured by his mother and grandmothers, and this family influence and his South African roots are reflected in his recipes for Ouma se Soetkoekies (spice and sweet wine biscuits) and Milk Tart with Cinnamon Quinces.
Dishes such as Cauliflower Roquefort Soup, and Creamy Chicken and Corn Pot Pies are inspired by his student years in Stellenbosch, while Rabbit and Wild Mushroom Ragoût, Sticky Tarte Tatin and Croque-Monsieur à la Banane clearly show the French influence. Oysters Baked with Champagne Cream and Turkish Delight Pavlova reflect his time spent as a private chef on a yacht on the French Riviera. There is also a chapter with basic recipes for pastry, pasta, jams and preserves.
This lovely book is a feast for the eyes and nourishment for the soul and it fully reflects Jan’s passion.
Sweet Wine and Vanilla Jelly with Pomegranate Seeds
- 3 cups dessert wine (Muscat or similar style)
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2/3 cup caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean split lengthways
- 8 sheets or 5 tsps. gelatine powder
- ¼ cup boiling water
- Pomegranate seeds
- Place the wines, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan on medium heat and stir for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to the boil and cook for about 2 minutes until the syrup thickens.
- Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for garnishing.
- Soak the gelatine and water in a large heat-proof jug and whisk until the gelatine has dissolved.
- Stir the wine mixture into the gelatine mixture.
- Divide a small amount of the liquid among eight glasses or moulds of your choice. (Jan Hendrik uses martini glasses for a more classic look.)
- Refrigerate until set, then top with fresh pomegranate seeds and the rest of the gelatine liquid.
- If the leftover liquid has set slightly, reheat quickly to fill the rest of the moulds.
- To finish off, top with another layer of pomegranate seeds.
- Cut the discarded vanilla bean in quarters and use as a garnish.
© Jan Hendrik V an Der Westhuizen 2013