How you can make one of the restaurant's recipes
Real food, anytime, from Ile de Pain’s Liezie Mulder
Knysna chef launches cookbook and shares beloved eatery’s new ethos, writes Louise Liebenberg
Her fondest memory is of sitting on her grandmother’s steps as a little girl while assiduously cutting out recipes from magazines. Liezie Mulder of Ile de Pain fame still loves doing just that, only now her inspiration also comes from her and her husband Markus Farbinger’s many travels around the globe.
The couple established the renowned restaurant on Thesen Island in 2002, and in the last two years have not only completely reinvented the Ile de Pain space following a devastating fire in 2015, but Liezie has also written an inspiring new cookery book called Anytime.
“I wrote my first book in 2009 as a recipe collection,” Liezie recalled during a recent Q&A session with Bay restaurateur John Burger at the GFI Art Gallery, where the book was launched to a local audience. “The concept was old-fashioned recipe cards that were in a black box. We printed only 500 copies and sold all 500 over Christmas.”
Liezie began writing Anytime in 2012 and continued working on it, on and off, for a few years.
“When we re-opened the new, ‘grown-up’ Ile de Pain in 2016, I said to Markus, ‘If I don’t finish this book now then I’m not going to do it’.”
Published by Quivertree, it’s a visually arresting collection of no-nonsense, approachable recipes all soundly based on fresh local ingredients. Anytime has been well received and fans of the restaurant will be pleased that many of the inclusions also feature on the menu.
“Another reason for the book was that I get so many requests for recipes,” Liezie said. “People eat and then ask ‘can I have this recipe’. Now I can say, ‘It’s in the book!’ ”
Former landscape architect Liezie and Markus, a fifth-generation baker from Austria, try to head overseas twice a year and “everything revolves around where we are going to eat each day”, she chuckled.
They were on holiday in New York when they received the dreadful news, in May 2015, that their beloved restaurant had been destroyed by a fire caused by an electrical fault.
“We had just arrived and I still laughed because I thought it was a joke,” she said.
“We did consider giving up; I was pretty gatvol.
"It’s not an easy business to be in; we looked at how it made us feel to be in that position and not really have a life, and all the things that go with it.
“But we saw [the fire] as a sign to take a step back; to look at the last 13 years and ask what was good and what was bad. Someone said to me it’s not often in your life that you’re at a point where the world is your oyster.
"You can make any change; you can do whatever. You’ve got the space.”
Liezie, who studied culinary arts in the US and whose father was part of the development team for Thesen Island, would not be rushed into making any snap decisions. She would take a six-month sabbatical instead and, though it didn’t take quite that long to make the decision to re-open, “it was a good time and a good space to be in to re-assess everything”.
Only Liezie and Markus decided they would do things differently this time.
“Even though it was tragic that the restaurant burnt down, every cloud has a silver lining,” she said. “We made a conscious decision to re-open only if it worked for us physically and spiritually. Whatever we decided about the way we run the business, the way we work with our staff and people who come to the restaurant, opening times ... everything had to work in support of our lifestyle.
“That energy filters out. If we want to continue we have to do that or we’ll burn ourselves out in the next five years again.”
Thanks to this new philosophy Liezie feels more passionate about her path than ever. “I can’t think what I would do if I can’t cook,” she said.
“But I’ve also learnt my strong point is managing the restaurant, whereas for the previous 13 years I was in the kitchen all day, every day. Now we have strong chefs and can give them space to grow.”
The old Ile de Pain began on a shoestring and over time the space became cramped, with staff having to manoeuvre around one other.
“When we did the new Ile de Pain my brother was the architect. I said, ‘Think glass house. Spacious. Easy flow. Double volume ceilings.’ Now it is clean and open, and it makes me feel like I can breathe.”
Opening additional restaurants is not part of the plan: “We are super-satisfied with what we have and we’d rather keep that as a base and do videos, books and events, teach classes and be involved in the community.
“Things like that inspire us and our staff, and keep us excited.”
- Anytime is available from Fogarty’s at Walmer Park and other leading booksellers. It retails for R450.
Naked Veggie Burgers
Try this recipe from Anytime.
Mulder says that, somewhere along the line, the restaurant menu became predominantly vegetarian.
“It might have been after my first trip to Bali,” she says. “I have never been a big meat eater, so for me this was a natural progression as we eat the majority of our meals at the restaurant. I added a veggie burger option to our menu and this one remains the favourite.”
Liezie says it’s “naked” because it is served without a bun. “However, being a baker’s girl, to me a burger isn’t a burger unless it’s served on a bun, beef or no beef!” she chuckles. But I’ll leave that up to you.”
The recipe makes 8 patties.
½ cup quinoa
2 small red onions, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups oats
1 can (400g) chickpeas
1 can (400g) white beans
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups whole-kernel sweetcorn
1 bunch coriander, chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons tamari
Cornflake crumbs and flour, for coating
2–3 tablespoons oil, for frying
Baby lettuce leaves
1 scoop tzatziki
1 scoop salsa fresca
1 scoop smashed avo
TIP: If the oil is properly sizzling hot, the patties will absorb less oil during frying and will not need to be drained on kitchen paper.
- Bring 2 cups of water, quinoa and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 15 minutes).
- Fluff with a fork. Tip into a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Cook the onion and garlic in oil. Season with salt and pepper, and add to the cooked quinoa.
- Grind the oats into fine crumbs using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Add to the quinoa mix.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and mix together with your hands, so that some of the chickpeas and beans get a bit mushy.
- Add this to the quinoa mixture and blend it all together until it has a chunky cookie dough consistency.
- Divide the mixture into eight portions and form into 180g patties. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Mix the flour, cornflake crumbs and a pinch of salt together in a flat dish.
- Crumb each patty by firmly pressing it into the flour mixture on both sides. Shake off the excess and place onto a baking sheet or plate.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan. Cook each patty on both sides until golden-brown and heated through.
- Serve “naked” (no bun) on lettuce and topped with tzatziki, salsa fresca and avocado.