Crush Honours some Kitchen Divas for Women’s Day

Words: Crush

On hunting through the archives we found a piece (dates back to issue 12!) which Michael Olivier wrote on Divas of the Kitchen – Annette Kesler, Ina Paarman, Philippa Cheifitz, Lyn Bedford-Hall, Michelle Cranston and Nicky Fitzgerald.

We so enjoyed reading Michael’s potted-pen pictures of them that we thought we should share some of the article with you in celebration of great women in the kitchen.

Ina Paarman (Pictured above left) has become a legend in her own lifetime. I first met her over 30 years ago when she taught me a great party trick, to cook fish over the coals wrapped in wet newspaper. She has a huge following of devoted fans for whom she has made life in the kitchen so easy. She is an enormously special person and I am happy that she has been part of my foodie life for all these years. I have great respect for her food knowledge and great love for her as a human being.

Ina’s best new-found ingredient was tamarind, she would still like to cook a tripe curry – the way her mother did and she chose real food over El Bulli.

Lynn Bedford Hall (Pictured above right) had a regular weekly article in The Pretoria Daily News in the early 1970s and I was deputed to provide a black and white photograph of the dish. No, jpegs and emails to transmit the photo, the print was made in the studio, it had to be fairly black and white contrasted and then posted by registered express mail! Truly cumbersome stuff it was. She continued from there to produce a string of truly brilliant cook books, filled with the most sublime recipes for the South African kitchen.

Lynn, when questioned, also chose real food, admitted to having a ‘haunting sweet tooth’ and Quaglino’s in London was on her bucket list.

Michael described Phillippa Cheifitz as “One of the most devoted and honest food writers in the business. She has loved the years on magazines, the many cookbooks and is proud of the many awards she’s received. I have a collection of the many books she has written and always go back to Phillippa’s recipes because they are just so simple and easy to understand and operate. Currently Phillippa is writing for Taste magazine, sharing easy-to-make, delicious-to-eat recipes with her readers.”

Look out for Phillipa’s newly revised Lazy Days recently published by Quivertree Publications – stunning photography by Craig Fraser and delicious sounding summery recipes.

Phillipa cleverly selected real food for everyday and El Bulli for a great food experience and a revisit to Chez Panisse was on her bucket list.

Nicky Fitzgerald is way more than a kitchen diva. She has cooked in more different places than one can imagine. I first met Nicky in the 1970s – she was a gentle breeze then and since the 1980s has been operating like a hurricane. After the Arniston Hotel there was a series of fabulous restaurants, all styled by her – Blues – still a success story after many years, Trumps in Claremont, Squares in the city centre and then the piece de resistance, The Bay Hotel. With her unstoppable husband Steve, they ran for a number of years the award winning lodges and camps of a company now known as AndBeyond. And still they are busy, looking for greener pastures. But she is still Nicky, the most loyal wife and mother, the bestest of friends, the consummate hostess, style artist, and a fabulous cook with the most devastating smile.”

Nicky chose Ottolenghi as her favourite cookery writer, pomegranate as her new-found ingredient and lunch on a perfect day at La Colombe d’Or in St-Paul de Vence as her bucket list restaurant.

Phillipa Cheifitz (left) and Nicky Fitzgerald (right)

Annette Kesler is the doyenne of food writers in South Africa. 35 years the food editor for Fair Lady and probably one of the best travelled we have. Not much that she has not eaten or indeed cooked. Today Annette has her own very successful, very classy website called Showcook [] which is more than well worth a visit. Beautiful articles, beautiful photography and beautiful food. But then Annette’s food is always beautiful. Technically perfect in every way, good to look at and even better to eat. This is one special lady, whom I have known for forty years.”

Annette chose locally farmed salmon baked in a home made puff pastry with a magnificent creamy sauce made with our superb bubbly. A fascinating dish where the pastry lid is carefully removed, the hot sauce poured over and lid replaced and served immediately, as the dish that she would most like to prepare. Bertus Basson’s restaurant Overture was on her restaurant bucket list.

Annette Kesler and her Saffron and Fish Soup – click here for the recipe.

Here is Ina’s recipe for:

Prawn and Chicken Curry with Jasmine Rice


Serves 4

  • 500 g tiger prawns in the shells with heads on
  • Ina Paarman’s Fish Spice
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
  • 1 t (5 ml) Ina Paarman’s Lemon & Black Pepper Seasoning
  • 1 T (15 ml) flour
  • 1 x 400 g chicken mini fillets
  • 1 x 200 ml Ina Paarman’s Butter Chicken Sauce
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) coconut milk
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced and then chopped
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) coriander leaves
  • grated rind of one lemon

Defrost the prawns in lukewarm tap water. Pull off the heads and slash open along the backs, remove the black vein that runs along the back. Spread each prawn open and secure with a toothpick. Pack prepared prawns out on a platter and season the meaty side with Fish Spice.

Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan. Swipe the meaty side of the prawns through the oil and lay the prawns down on the sides of the wok. Cook until nicely browned and then turn. Remove the prawns, keep on one side – no need to cover or keep warm.

Shake the chicken mini fillets, in a plastic bag, with a mixture of Lemon & Black Pepper Seasoning and flour.

Cook the strips of chicken in exactly the same way as the prawns. Add the Butter Chicken Sauce and coconut milk (stir coconut milk before measuring, reserve the rest for the rice) to the chicken in the wok, bring to the boil, add the prawns and just heat through.

Mix the garlic, coriander and lemon rind and sprinkle over the dish.

Serve immediately with Jasmine Rice and the sambals of your choice.

Jasmine Rice with Coconut Milk

Serves 4

Jasmine rice is greatly under-rated, it has a lovely delicate aroma which blends perfectly with coconut milk.

  • 1 heaped cup (± 300 ml) jasmine rice
  • reserved coconut milk and water to make 2 cups
  • 1½ t (7,5 ml) Ina Paarman’s Lemon & Black Pepper Seasoning

Place rice in a medium size saucepan, add coconut milk and water mixture. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Switch off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Fork through the seasoning.

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