Stella Delport is sous chef at our acclaimed The Werf Restaurant. Known for her creativity and deft touch with fresh, seasonal ingredients, she’s been with us for three years. Here, Stella shares her favourite recipe to pair with the elegant Chardonnay Pinot Noir, plus answers some of our questions about being a leading young chef in one of South Africa’s most established restaurants:
- What’s special about being a chef at The Werf?
I wouldn’t be able to do what we do here anywhere else in the world. Everything we cook with is sourced from the farm. I use fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, the chickens are ethically reared here and so are the Angus cows. In the kitchen, we cook with respect for our ingredients. And our guests can feel that I think. Chef Christiaan Campbell and I also have a great relationship. We worked together at Delaire Graff years ago and just clicked. So it’s great to be working together again at Boschendal.
- Favourite ingredient to cook with?
Sorrel – it’s going crazy at the moment, with beautiful yellow flowers. It’s a great garnish and I also use it in sauces. I love everything we get from the garden though. Every Sunday, Chef Christiaan and I set the menu for the vegetarian feast, which showcases Megan’s (in charge of The Werf food garden) beautiful ingredients.
- Is there lots of room for creativity?
Absolutely. It can be tricky living out the garden – we have to rely on the produce we get. You have to work with what you have and try to improve and create something new all the time. For example, I had broccoli in season every Sunday for a month. I had to work hard to keep coming up with ideas. I think my favourite was a broccoli relish: char the broccoli till tender, chop it up and mix it with good-quality parmesan, coriander seeds, lemon zest and garlic.
- What’s it like being a young chef in a leadership position in a top restaurant?
It’s an honour for me. I’ve worked hard for it. Learning how to work with people is part of the journey. Your team starts to follow you when they can see your passion and expertise. You can’t just inspire people with words; you have to show them.
- Why did you become a chef?
Because I was always hungry when I was small then my parents would cook something and I’d be happy. I grew up with ‘homemade mommy food’ – we had a farm lifestyle despite living in town. Fresh bread made by mom was a household staple. I learned a lot from my parents and always wanted to help out in the kitchen. That’s where the passion began.
- Why this recipe to pair with Boschendal Chardonnay Pinot Noir?
We love to incorporate freshness and sweetness into our foods and the acidity of the Chardonnay Pinot Noir gives this cured fish, oyster sauce and pickled mushroom dish a clean and refreshing mouth feel.
Stella’s recipe for cured fish, oyster sauce and pickled mussels:
Choice of fish can range from yellowtail and farmed kabeljou to sea bass.
Curing of the fish (fillets):
Yield: 500g fish
- 500g side of fish
- 100g coarse salt
- 20g white sugar
- Zest 1 orange
- Zest 1 lemon
- 5g black peppercorns
- Blend the curing salt together then cover the fillet with the mix for 20 minutes
- Rinse and remove bones and skin
- Slice the fillet or cut into small 1cm cubes
- I like to vacuum bag the small cubes with herb oil and drop these in a sous vide machine at 55°C for two minutes, for medium cooking. Top tip: most of us don’t have a sous vide machine so rather pop the fish into a sealable bag and cook this in a pot of water, brought to a similar temperature
- Remove from the bag and flash in the oven for one minute with burnt butter
Yield: 300ml sauce
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 5 bay leaves
- 60ml white wine vinegar
- 60ml white wine
- 500ml chicken stock
- 50g butter
- 10 oysters
- Sauté onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme
- Add vinegar and wine, allow to reduce
- Add chicken stock and allow to reduce
- Add the butter and strain
- Add oysters and blend; the sauce will have a foamy consistency
- Strain and serve
Steam mussels over a pot with white wine, water and a mirepoix (carrots, celery, garlic, onions and leeks), until they just open up. Remove the mussels from the shells, allow to cool then cover with the following pickling liquid for at least 12 hours:
Yield: 750ml sauce
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vinegar
- In a pot, melt the sugar with the vinegar, add the water and herbs and allow to cool before covering the mussels.
Plate it up:
Warm the fish in the oven with the burnt butter then place it on the plate. Heat up the pickled mussels with butter and finish these with parsley. Add to the plate. Then garnish with marog leaves or lightly heated samphire. Gently fluff the oyster sauce with a whisk then drizzle to finish the plate.