Thursday, March 18, 2010

South African Dining: La Petite Ferme

The view from our table at La Petite Ferme

La Petite Ferme might well be one of the best restaurant I've ever been to. Nestled in Franschoek in South Africa's wine valley just outside of Cape Town, it offers the most singularly stunning views I've ever witnessed in a restaurant. From our table on a lovely covered porch, we could stare off to the nearby vineyards and the rugged mountains in the distance. There is a lush green yard that surrounds the restaurant where families and young couples lounged on blankets and pillows in the sun, sipping on wine brought to them by the gracious wait staff. Does it get better than that?
It was several months ago when I dined there, but I realized I had missed the opportunity to wax poetic on its many glories. Aside from just the stunning setting, the food was also beyond reproach. My honey and mustard rabbit with herbed polenta and roasted parsnips was heaven on a platter. Often rabbit is too boney to be worth the trouble, but these African rabbits must be super sized. My portion was enormous and nary a bone got in my way. Even better, the sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, the kind of sauce I've fantasized about perfecting since that glorious November day.

And of course, I can't forget to mention the prices. For all of this wonderfulness, we paid so very little. My rabbit, which I kid you not, was so good I still think about it fondly 4 months later was $18. Of course we indulged in a bottle of wine (oh wine at lunch, how lovely!) and Mr. AT's beloved Malva Pudding, too.

Oh why oh why can't I live closer to a luxurious, beautiful and cheap wine region?! If you go to South Africa, you simply must go to La Petite Ferme. So for all of you world cuppers out there, make your reservations now. You'll be glad you made the quick trip from Cape Town. All the better if you can stay around this gorgeous wine region for a few days!
FYI Malva Pudding is ubiquitous in South Africa. It's not actually a pudding in the American sense, it's a spongy caramelized cake soaked through with a delicious custard sauce. Want to make your own? Try this recipe from Oprah's personal chef!

Created by Art Smith Published on January 01, 2006
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam (or preserves, chopped very finely)
  • 5 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter (a generous tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh cream
  • 3 1/2 ounces butter
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat or whip the sugar and eggs, preferably in a food processor, until thick and lemon colored. Then, add the apricot jelly (or jam) and mix thoroughly.

Sieve together the flour, soda and salt. Melt the butter (do not boil!) and add the vinegar. Add this mixture, as well as the milk, to the egg mixture in the processor, alternately with the flour. Beat well.

Pour into an oven-proof dish, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. In a pot, melt together the ingredients for the sauce. When the cake is halfway baked, take it out of oven. Make holes in cake and pour the sauce over the pudding. Return to the oven.



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