Chef takes modern culinary route

PORT Elizabeth’s Ginger Restaurant chef Jonathan Hodder knows exactly what he would like to prepare for someone very close to him – and it has South Africa written all over it!

He explains why, and also shares with us some of the exciting new introductions at his popular eatery …

What is so exciting and special about the new menu at Ginger?

Ginger is a fine dining restaurant with local appeal and international flair. Our summer menu is complemented by a Diners Club award-winning wine list, a cocktail menu and, new for this season, sushi on the deck.

Our menu is varied and there is something for everyone from my prawn bisque risotto to the modern interpretation of our long-standing duck orange and Ginger dish. The menu pays homage to local favourites using the best ingredients that are available this season.

With the increasing popularity of cooking shows guests are more adventurous. They also have a finer expectation of food they want to try at home, so the chicken and bread sauce along with a few others hit that chord.

Can you briefly describe some of the kinds of dishes patrons should look forward to?

We have enhanced the dining experience through “a modern interpretation of fresh and familiar flavours”, so basically we use modern cookery methods to enhance favourite dishes, old and new. Not all of it is culinary alchemy, but there is a touch of innovation thrown in for good measure. Our oak smoked Norwegian salmon and roast loin of venison are but two examples.

With summer around the corner, what do you think is going to be the “fashionable food” this season?

I believe that the seasons predict the trend of food wherever you are in the world. There is a variety of exceptional seasonal produce available in South Africa, so what is on the menu this time of year is at its best. We can start to see succulent Karoo lamb coming through as well as crisp asparagus, waterblommetjies and lush strawberries.

A good friend, partner or close family member is celebrating a special occasion and you’ve been asked to prepare a dinner. Who would it be and what would you serve?

My dad, and I would do a braai. With a thick piece of steak and boerewors, English folk don’t really know what a proper braai is all about. The last time he cooked a “bbq” he wheeled out a giant toasty maker on a stand and plugged it into the wall, not a piece of wood in sight!

Please describe for us one of your most amazing dining out experiences.

It was at Restaurant Tom Aitkins in London. I took my wife there for her birthday. My friend is the head pastry chef there, so we were spoilt with some amazing desserts, a tasting plate of passion fruit, followed by a dessert that included pistachio done in five different ways.

We went big on this one having a different wine with each course, a few extras came from [Aitkins] as well, including an amazing Scottish smoked salmon with grapefruit caviar and fennel, which was one of many.

What are the essentials to making that out-of-this-world meal?

Three things are required – the best produce, love and passion.

What is one of your own favourite, simpler meals to enjoy with family?

A Sunday roast is unbeatable!

When you were a child, what was the best food you enjoyed?

Fish and chips. I grew up in Weymouth, which is right on the coast and there is a fish and chip shop that is facing the harbour directly in front of where the lobster pots are hauled in. There’s something about eating fish and chips by the harbour that is memorable to my childhood and is one of the things I miss about the UK. Being close to the Port Elizabeth harbour and the beachfront definitely helps.

What makes you passionate about your career?

The creativity and development of new methods and dishes.

Please share with us one of your more simpler, foolproof recipes.

Salt and pepper baby squid, with papaya, raw salad, orange and vanilla. This is quick and easy to do.

SERVES TWO. You will need a deep fat fryer or a deep pot filled 1/5 with oil on the stove.

INGREDIENTS

100g cleaned baby squid

Cornflour – seasoned with lots of cracked black pepper and sea salt ( the amount can be optional to suit your taste)

FOR THE SALAD:

1 cucumber

1 carrot

6-7 large radishes

15g coriander

40g papaya

1 bunch spring onion

Onion sprouts

Toasted sesame seeds

FOR THE DRESSING

225g orange juice

1 star anise

1 vanilla pod split in half

1 red chilli

5g lemon juice

90g groundnut oil

METHOD

Start with the dressing: place all ingredients, apart from the oil and lemon juice into a pot. Reduce by two-thirds and remove from heat, strain into a bowl making sure the vanilla seeds are extracted. Whisk in oil slowly; if you pour too fast the dressing will split. Now prepare the salad: It’s up to you as to how you prepare it. I like to dice the papaya, then using a potato peeler, peel ribbons of cucumber and carrot. Finely slice the radishes and spring onions and finish by folding all the ingredients together; add pinch of salt.

For the squid:

Roll the squid in the corn flour, gently dusting off any excess and deep fry on a medium to high heat, remove and drain on a kitchen towel

Place the salad in the centre of the plate, throw on the squid, and dress it up – the perfect summertime snack!

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