From Garden to Kitchen to Table at Leopard’s Leap
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at Leopard’s Leap, you will be familiar with their generous serving style at their harvest table and irresistible rotisserie lunches. The Franschhoek-based wine estate is a real gem; graced with mountain views that stretch on for days and set amongst lush lawns and thriving vineyards.
Currently, it supplies the busy restaurant with roughly 60% of their produce. It features everything from sorrel to carrots, tomatoes and courgettes, onions, butternut, strawberries, a variety of herbs and even figs and pomegranates. Quite a feat for a garden that is roughly six years old.
Oom Dirk is in charge of the garden and works with head chef Pieter de Jager to ensure that the garden produces as much fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables as possible to be used in the restaurant. The relationship between kitchen and garden is an organic one that sees Pieter and Dirk sitting down at the start of each season to discuss the restaurant’s needs and what veggies are to be planted. Along with planting desirable produce, Dirk also knows what plants work best on the vineyard’s soil. That is why things like carrots, beetroot, lettuces and onions will always be planted, because they grow so happily.
One of the most unique aspects to Leopard’s Leap is their cooking class offering led by chef Pieter and his team. The classes cover a variety of topics and give avid foodies a chance to experience a ‘masterclass’ with a professional and learn invaluable tips and tricks. The Crush team visited Leopard’s Leap on a sunny October morning to enjoy a real harvest to table experience. It doesn’t get any fresher than picking ingredients right out of the garden and that is exactly where we started. Chef Pieter gave us a tour of the impressive garden, imparting some real nuggets of information.
If gardening is meant to be therapeutic then picking fresh veg out of the ground and cooking with it must surely be meditative.
This is a real harvest to table way of life, showing that putting love and care into something will yield only the best results. The produce we picked was of a quality you simply can’t buy in a store, ready to be transformed into a veritable feast.
Pieter makes for the ideal teacher, guiding the demonstration part of the class with ease, ensuring involvement starts then with guests being invited to smell, taste and inspect ingredients being cooked.
He got our appetites going immediately with a nutty and decadent granola, homemade and served with fresh berries, still warm from the sun. Following that with zesty avo on sourdough toast and pea hummus served with seed crackers. Moving on to the cookery part of the day, he’s never too far away to answer questions and swiftly remove pans from the heat that may be over reducing. Just in case he may be elsewhere engaged, his jacked up kitchen assistants are on hand to step in.
Pieter’s technique was a cinch, putting to bed the notion that gnocchi is time consuming and finicky.
We simply combined roasted sweet potato with a few gluten-free flours and after a quick knead, they were ready to portion and gently poach. This ridiculously quick and easy gnocchi was topped with a heavenly Napoli sauce. We’re not fans of being overly verbose, but this napolitana was perfection. The process was simple and the combination of a nutty butter base, combined with roasted tomatoes, freshly grated garlic and then more butter to finish resulted in a rich, deeply-flavoured tomato sauce. We were also shown how to pan fry our local trout, which was to be paired with a tasty melange of asparagus, finely chopped and avocado that was gently warmed through in the pan juices. The shining star of this dish, however, had to be the carrot veloute, which Pieter had prepared for us.
Despite his sound instructions on how to use the espuma gun, one of us still managed to pull the trigger a little too zealously and sprayed bright orange veloute all over the kitchen!
Being the well-oiled machine that Leopard’s Leap is though, any traces of the mess were swiftly wiped up.
Keen to see just how simple and delicious these recipes were? Try out some of Pieter’s stellar recipes here.leopardsleap.co.za | Facebook | Twitter
Delicious produce is grown in healthy, living soil. #Harvesttotable series brought to you by Reliance Compost.