Hong Kong, Baby!

My husband Sean and I recently had the enormous pleasure of a trip to Hong Kong and Malaysia and while my credit card will take a loooong time to recover and this old body was PUNISHED but jetlag on both legs, it was a culinary delight.

 

Hong Kong is just fabulous for food.

From the Michelin 3-star restaurants (R8000.00 for 2 people for a tasting menu without wine and still on the bucket list) to Cantonese street food, it is all yum. The thing is you need to know where to go. Because of the exorbitant cost of property (and just about everything else – think R100 for a good coffee at Coffee Academics), Hong Kong is full of high rises with floors and floors of shops, restaurants and spas.

 

One such delight is the L Place at 139 Queens Road, Central. We started the night at The Social Place. They serve modern Asian food and we ordered far too much of the most delicious dim sum, flower tea, springrolls, dragon beard kale and other Chinese treats. The food just kept arriving and we weren’t disappointed. A highlight was the “mushroom” dim sum. Delicate puffs of mushroom filled dim sum that looked exactly like – mushrooms!

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Up the lift to Ten Feet Tall for a foot massage to end the evening. Heaven.

We spent a few days enjoying The Star Ferry, Soho, Repulse Bay – where our good friends have a breathtaking apartment, a delightful seafront restaurant in Shek’O Beach (worth the drive), and visiting the Big Buddha. Just as we were settling in it was time for out trip to Malaysia.

 

We began in Kuala Lumpur, famous for the Petronas Towers (very impressive). We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental but asked to be taken to the very vibey Jalan Alor in the Bukit Bintang area – a street full of outdoor restaurants, markets, stalls and massage shops. We found the busiest restaurant (a very good tip – usually the food is excellent) and weren’t disappointed. As usual we ordered too much and ate delights such as Malay prawn curry, frogs (yip), spicy duck and the ubiquitous fried rice. As usual, we ate too much, and ended our night with a glorious food massage – the best we had on this trip and one of my favourite things about Asia.

The next morning saw us on an early flight to Langkawi, an island of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea. We stayed in a remote resort called The Andaman – lovely, quiet and relaxing, but not ideal if you like the bustle of nightlife as it was an expensive R500.00 round trip into Cenang Beach for a taste of local culture and shopping. We did this once and again picked the busiest restaurant for another delicious meal.

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On our last night we treated ourselves to an amazing Malay curry dinner at the fabulous Datai Hotel adjacent to The Andaman. One day when we’re big we will definitely stay there! Their traditional kampong-style Gulay House curry restaurant was wonderful – I ate the best naan bread I have ever eaten. I literally wanted to dive into the bowl and float on the thing! The curry was lovely, but I must say that curry in SA is totally comparable to Malay curry – I guess it is our Malay heritage.

We returned to Hong Kong for one more night and an R8000.00 dinner for 4 at Isola at the ICC! Good Italian but OMG – expensive. 1 starter to share, mains for all and a dessert to share with coffees. Oh, and 1 mingy bottle of wine. I have never been more pleased to take my pitiful rands back to SA and I will never complain about our prices again!

 

All in all a really special trip but my credit card will not be the same for a while.

 

Nik

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Creative canapés

Canapés are enjoying a comeback at the moment. After a stage where they were left behind in menu design we are now embracing new ideas and flavours.

A good selection of canapés can really boost a run-of-the-mill function and add flair and creativity. So what makes a good selection? How can you arrange a menu that doesn’t let you down?

Be bold – but not crazy

Don’t settle for soggy, cold samoosas and store bought quiches. A good canapé should be quirky  enough and yet still familiar. We love taking old ideas and reworking them into new concepts. The trick is making it recognisable. We’ve played with some really interesting ideas but at the end of the day we’ve had to accept that a cocktail party needs good cocktail snacks – not a trip down the rabbit hole

Ideas we’ve tried which work include

Brie and fig springrolls

Baby beef wellingtons with horseradish cream

Mango and chicken wonton parcels

Mini fish tacos

Individual steak ‘sandwiches’ (see picture below)

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A new take on a classic steak sandwich

Speak to your crowd

When putting together a new menu one of the first things we ask is “Who is going to be there, and when is it?” This is vital. A very staid crowd won’t appreciate tofu and sriracha as the hipsters might. Early evening events with lots of alcohol will need meatier substantial options. When a crowd is very mixed (as with weddings) it is always better to stick to the tried and tested, done beautifully.

Individual beef wellingtons

 

Presentation is everything

Canapés look great on bigger platters. You don’t want to bunch them all together on a tiny plate. They need room to announce their presence. Garnish each one individually – even going as far to have them on individual mini-plates. This also works because guests can then pick one up and walk away, and not have to eat in one bite. Straight lines always look better – even on round platters. And arrange them all facing the same way to really push that wow factor.

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Big is not always better

Canapés are intended to be eaten quickly and with minimal fuss mostly to avoid awkward ‘taking a bite and having to answer a question’ moments. They shouldn’t require weird facial contortions to eat and should never need more than one hand – the other should be purely for drinks. Because they are usually eaten standing up messy items should be ditched. One or two bites, in the mouth and off we go.

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Always try to keep canapes bite size for ease when eating

What are your fail-safe canapé rules? If we hit the mark share this article on Facebook or Twitter.

 


The High Tea Party

Are any occasions more elegant than a proper high tea? We were asked to put together a menu for an 80th birthday celebration. It needed to be substantial and suitably festive and a high tea was suggested.

We LOVE a good tea party and this one was really fun.

The venue was a beautiful Westcliff house so we polished up the silver and brought out the cake stands. Roses dotted around the table brought it all together.

Everybody knows that the savouries are just as important as the cakes and we did piles of cucumber sandwiches, egg and cress rolls, smoked salmon quiches and blue cheese and onion tarts. For sweets we laid out cheesecakes, apple tarts, shortbread slices and good old jam scones.

Almost wish we could have stayed!

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5 Stunning New Johannesburg Venues

2015 was a fantastic year for Johannesburg venues. If you were looking for somewhere quirky and exciting the options were many. 2016 seems to be going the same way. Here we’ve picked the front runners for a fantastic event.

1. The Park, House of Events on 7

The areas surrounding Hyde Park Corner were always missing a great event space – not any more! The Park, House of Events on 7 (The Park on 7) launched in October and has rapidly filled that gap. Located on the seventh floor of the super luxurious Hyde Park Corner it offers a unique experience. Close to shops, masses of parking, seriously high ceilings (it replaced the old Imax theatre) and insanely gorgeous bathrooms are just a few of the great features. The Park on 7 is a blank canvas, meaning you can make it suit your event, from a corporate function to an over the top wedding.

Check out their website,  Facebook page or email [email protected] or [email protected] for more information

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2. Level 3

 Blackjack Events are well know in Johannesburg as the best in function and event staffing and now they have a venue to match! Situated in the very trendy Kramerville, Sandton Level 3 has an upstairs open deck that wraps around the venue, giving incredible views of Johannesburg. Level 3 has capacity for up to 550 guests in a cocktail style event, but also offers sit down events. Another blank canvas venue, Level 3 also offers smoking balcony, a decked rooftop area and secure parking.  And as the hosts of the fantastic monthly Wine Not Pop Up Bar how can you not love them?

Contact them via their website , or email [email protected] for more information

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3. Thirteen

Braamfontein already boasts a few great venues and now the Play Braamfontein team have joined with this really luxury offering. Promising an elegant experience, Thirteen sets a premium champagne and whisky bar with panoramic views of the inner city. But the highlight of this venue has to be the 385 sqm open air rooftop – unlike anything else in the inner city.

 

Have a look at Thirteen on Facebook and their website , or email [email protected] for more information

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4. The Tin Factory

Back to Kramerville, and this is the newest of the bunch. The Tin Factory is an industrial styled venue, set in a double storied ‘shed’. Don’t let the term fool you though, because The Tin Factory is big! With really high ceilings and concrete clad flooring it definitely harks back to the industrial era of Kramerville. This spacious venue is perfect for a variety of event types and is really versatile in terms of decor and lighting.

The Tin Factory can be contacted via Facebook, website or email 

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5. Dakota Lee

If you’re looking for a truly unique venue look no further. Dakota Lee is a bar set inside a tattoo and piercing studio which is only part of the charm. They call themselves “A perfect infusion of Tattoo Culture and Rockabilly lifestyle” and the stylish, on-trend interior is just that. Dakota Lee invite themselves to launches and industry parties more than weddings, but whatever floats your boat. 

View more of Dakota Lee on Facebook, website or email: [email protected]

Dakota Lee

Christmas Throwback – A Festive Affair

The year was 2006, and Fresh was still quite young. We had done a few editorials already and were approached for the Christmas edition. This is a shoot that still sticks in our minds. We loved being able to go a bit wild and show off some really special items. And we got the cover!!

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While some of it may have aged slightly we could still serve most of these today. We were so proud when we found this

Eclairs are now a huge trend and we called it in 2006!

We’re even thinking of updating them slightly and re-introducing them onto our menus.

Join us as we take a look back, and maybe you might find some inspiration for Christmas 2015?

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Recipe – Caviar Eclairs

Makes 16

25ml unsalted butter

75ml water

100ml cake flour – sifted

pinch of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

90ml creme fraiche

40ml caviar

1. Preheat oven to 180°C

2. Make the choux pastry: melt the butter with the water in a small saucepan. Once melted bring the water to the boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour and salt. Return the mixtre to the heat and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan (about 4 minutes.) Cool slightly.

3. Add the egg to the dough and beat until you have a smooth and shiny mixture

4. Put the dough in a piping bag and pipe 5cm lengths onto a greased baking sheet.

5. Bake for 10 minutes.

6. Allow to cool before slicing a slit in each one.

5. Spoon in the creme fraiche and top with the caviar.

Cooks tips: 

  • For ready made choux pastries ask your nearest bakery to make them without the cream and chocolate
  • The caviar will ‘bleed’ into the creme fraiche so don’t add it until you are about to serve the eclairs.
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The Secret Wedding

Last Sunday we were invited to prepare lunch for Kate’s 30th birthday to be held in her parents beautiful garden in Morningside. Once canapés were served and everyone had champagne in their hands, guest were asked to walk to a lower lawn level.

The 2 boards were covered until everyone got there.

They unveiled the boards and the surprise was out – they were getting married.

Everyone could not believe it! It was such a perfect thing for them to do! The groom had told his brothers on Sunday morning but his parents had no idea! It was gorgeous!
Vicki had enough cheese to quickly throw together a cheesecake which looked so lovely!
What a lovely day.

The bride sent us a message a few days later

“I have spent 3 days answering a lot of questions about exactly what a surprise wedding is. Clearly we are more original than we thought we were!

Thank you so much for being part of our day, and for taking so much of the admin and logistics and so many details off of our hands that we could just enjoy it- leading up to it, and on the day. I am almost a little sad our secret is out I was so enjoying day dreaming about all the different reactions people may have. Our day was perfect, and EXACTLY what we wanted. We know we threw you in the deep end a bit, but we wanted a celebration, not a wedding- and we got it!

As you can imagine, I got hardly any lunch, but what I did find time to eat quickly was delicious. Everybody has been raving about the food so I know it was as good as the other events of yours I have been to. Thank you so much, we really appreciate all your help from menu choices, to décor, flowers, bunting etc! I hadn’t even got round to thinking about chairs and tables and umbrellas, so thank goodness we had the meeting in the garden!

I am so glad you were there for the ‘big reveal’ and were part of our day

Love Kate”

All the pictures are courtesy of Charles Johnstone Photography

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Chicken Thighs with herby feta and spring salad

Chicken is one of those meats that is quite easy to tire of. It seems like everything has been done before! This recipe is fantastic. For one, it uses the brown meat as the main attraction, and it’s so easy to do. The prep time is a couple of minutes at most. It works brilliantly as a mid-week supper, or part of a bigger weekend lunch. Because it is so full of flavour it really doesn’t need many sides, so here we’ve paired it with a gorgeous Spring salad.

Hope you enjoy!

Chicken Thighs

8 x chicken thighs

2 x rounds of feta

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

2 x cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced

3 x leeks, sliced vertically in half

Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°C

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Mix the feta, herbs and black pepper with a fork until crumbly. Lift the skin from the thighs and put a dessert spoon of feta mix under the skin of each.

Place the leeks in an oven proof dish and the chicken thighs on top, skin side up. Grind salt and pepper over them and drizzle some olive oil over.

Place the thighs in the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown

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Spring Salad

300g asparagus, trimmed
200g french beans
300g mange tout/snow peas
50g baby spinach leaves
1 spring onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 red chilli, finely diced
½ tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Salt

Steam the asparagus, green beans and mange tout for a few minutes then run cold water over.

Put all the greens in a large bowl and add all the remaining ingredients and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir gently, taste, add more salt if you like, and serve at once.

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Our new look

When Fresh started 11 years ago we knew we wanted to offer incomparable quality in both our events and food. After 3 moves (and a restaurant) our business continues to grow from strength to strength. Definitely time for a Fresh look!

What better time for a new look than Spring? We are very excited to announce our new website and blog. Here you can expect great recipes and tips for your next party or event. We’ll be keeping it updated with all our latest work, and you can sign up for our monthly mail so you don’t miss anything.

Thank you, so much, to everyone who has been with us over the years. Let’s see what the next 11 bring!

 


5 hour slow roasted lamb

It’s nearly spring and no-one is more excited than us! As celebration we are using the last of the winter veggies, and spring lamb. This recipe is a definite one for the arsenal. Cooked over 5 hours once the first bit is done you just pop in the oven. Perfect for Sundays when you feel like a roast but not all the chopping.

1 x large leg lamb – 2kg on the bone

Salt and pepper

6 rashers streaky bacon cubed

3 red onions quartered

3 cloves garlic – peeled, sliced

2 handfuls fresh herbs thyme, rosemary, bay, parsley

1 celeriac peeled and cut into chunks

6 large carrots, peeled and sliced in big chunks

3 parsnips cut in half lengthways

1 bottle white wine – dry white

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Brown the lamb in olive oil

Add the bacon, onion and garlic

Add the herbs, veg and wine

Add 750ml of water

Bring to the boil

Cover with foil and lid

Bake at 150 for 5 hours

Check liquid level and add more wine / water if necessary

Using a spoon, pull the meat away from the leg bone and serve with all the veggies and lots of sauce and chunky bread to mop up the juices

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Leave the potato out and then serve the dish on Mash potato

Add parsnips or celeriac to the mash for interest.

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Beginners guide to choosing a venue – What questions should you ask?

If you’ve ever thrown any sort of party then you know how important the right venue is.  Getting the right venue can mean the difference between a memorable or forgettable occasion. Sometimes a place with perfect view isn’t able to accommodate all of your needs.

If you are new to looking for a venue, or you have a special occasion coming up make sure you ask these questions and avoid despair later.

How many people does it hold?

Everybody has heard the horror story of a bride having to un-invite guests. Some venues can only take a very limited capacity – you don’t want guests to be standing at a sit down dinner. Make sure you ask exactly how many the venue can hold, and whether that is round tables, long tables or a cocktail set-up (with everyone standing). Remember, the venue organisers know how many people will comfortably fit. Don’t try to sneak in more than they recommend – this can pose a myriad of health and safety problems.

Can I bring in my own caterer?

There are venues that have very strict rules about bringing in caterers. They might prefer you to use their in-house service or one of their preferred suppliers who know the venue and has worked there before. If you have your heart set on a specific caterer find out before you sign if this will be ok. Most venues charge a deposit to book and you’ll end up losing money if you cancel.

Who supplies chairs and tables? Is linen included? Are there any hidden costs?

Some venues come just as they are and it’s up to you to supply everything that makes the function happen. In your first meeting get a written list of exactly what the venue will supply and what you will need to bring in. If they supply linen – tablecloths and napkins – ask what colours these come in, or are you limited to white? Check if there are any surcharges for bringing in the caterers you want, doing your own flowers or finishing late.

Which brings us to our next question…

What time do I have to be out of here?

Most places will have a strict guideline about what time you need to be in and out of there. Make sure you check exactly what these are, and if you can extend if you would like to. Ask about supplier delivery and collection times. Be sure to factor in your supplier’s set-up and break down period. For a simple event not much time is needed, but for more elaborate ones (like a wedding) your suppliers will want to have early access to get the set-up perfect for you.

Your venue will contribute to the success of your party or event. It’s very important not to overlook the smaller details.

Are there any questions we missed out here? Let us know in the comments below.