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Talking food & wine with chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen – Visit Winelands

Following the success of JAN, his debut television show on DStv’s VIA last year, the South African Michelin-star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, launched a luxury publication called JAN the JOURNAL recently. It will be published twice a year and is available at Woolworths and online at www.janhendrik.com. 

Today, he is passionate about South African food and wine and all his dishes served at his restaurant, JAN, in Nice, France, have some South African influence. In fact, a lot of them are purely South African dishes served in an interesting way. 

He has a Masters in Pastry and Bachelor’s degree in Applied Design with a focus in photography which gave him the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Cape winelands, where he discovered his  love for wine. 

Jan Hendrik Van Der Westhuizen Kitchen
South African celebrity chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen at home in the kitchen.

How important is the correct wine with a meal or do you believe people must drink what they love?

I find meticulous wine pairing a bit fussy. If it’s overdone, it can actually take something away from the joy of the experience. Wine and food have an ancient relationship and it’s always interesting to see how they interact with every new pairing, but it should never become too scientific or methodical, or you’re missing the point.

Which is your favourite South African wine and when and how do you enjoy it?

I can’t answer that question. It depends on the mood, the season, the meal. The great thing is that we have this abundance of wine in South Africa and you form a different relationship with all of them.

What is your most romantic food and wine memory?

When I lived in Paris and had no money, to eat dinner on the street corners and be happy with the simplicity of a baguette, butter and rosé.

Any good memory that you can share about a great experience on a South African wine farm?

I’m in love with Twee Jonge Gezellen in Tulbagh.

If you had to compare yourself to a wine cultivar, which one would you choose and why?

Noble Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer - I don’t know why… one of my favourite cultivars!

Do you serve South African wines at JAN?

Absolutely! We are proud to say we currently stock the widest variety of South African wine in France. South African wines are a big part of what JAN is about.

Jan Hendrik Van Der Westhuizen 2 Cropped
Photo by Joe | Dan Photography.

How difficult is it to develop recipes with South African ingredients while you live and work in France?

Where there’s a will there’s a way. It’s not always easy, but whether I have to smuggle it to France or whether we find new import-export channels, we make it happen.

Why the decision to launch a journal?

With a cookbook, the time it takes from its creation to going on the shelf is long and drawn out. JAN the Journal became a way for me to express my thinking around food in a much quicker, more responsive and relevant way. It’s not about responding to trends so much, but rather to address what food means to us right now. In the first issue, we explored ingredients, particularly South African ingredients, taking a look at where they come from and shining a light on the growers and makers that do this incredible work. To me, it became about the act of dining as way of celebrating these people and ingredients behind the food we eat. 

What is your favourite, fall back dish you make for unexpected guests?

Pasta. My favourite, foolproof pasta recipe is actually featured in Issue 1 of the Journal.

Which is your most treasured recipe of all times?

Mieliepap.

Jan Hendrik Mixer Cropped

Has the Michelin star opened doors for you in ways you did not expect or does it just bring extra stress to an already stressful job?

Earning a Michelin star has undoubtedly changed my life. Yes, it comes with a fair degree of stress, but it has also inspired me to dream even bigger and to do great work.

If you could invite one guest, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you serve?

My father. To serve him his last steak, which he never had.

What are the most beautiful words you ever heard about food and wine?

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” ― Galileo Galilei

Jan Sago Meringue Blackberry Cropped 2
Sago, meringue and blackberry art on a plate.

Jan’s sago pudding, meringue and blackberry recipe

Prep:  1 hour, cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Serves 6

Achieving the full effect of this dish requires an element of design: texture, flavour and structure all work in perfect harmony to create the big reveal. When breaking the meringue casing, a crimson compote atop a mound of sago pudding oozes into the dish, interweaving its tart flavours with the creamy, sweet taste of the ice cream.

Serve with Haute Cabrière Pierre Jourdan Ratafia.

Ingredients

For the Meringue

60 g Egg whites

120 g castor sugar

For the compote

1 kg frozen or fresh blue berries

100 g castor sugar

Juice of 3 lemons

2 vanilla pods seeds

For the sago pudding

60 g sago

400 ml milk

100 ml heavy cream

55 g sugar

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

2 eggs yolks

Pinch of salt

For assembly

Cream

Hibiscus powder

Good quality vanilla bean ice-cream

Method

For the meringue

1.            Preheat the oven to 80°C.

2.            Combine the egg whites and castor sugar in a stand mixer bowl.

3.            Place the bowl over a bain-marie prepared in a sauce pan. Whip the egg whites using a whisk until the mixture is hot and all the sugar has dissolved.

4.            Connect the bowl with the standing mixer and beat at maximum speed until light and fluffy, and the bowl feels cool to the touch.

5.            Prepare a silicon baking sheet with cooking spray and a dusting of corn flour. Tap off the extra corn flour and use a medium sized cookie cutter to mark each circle clearly where to pipe.

6.            Use a plain piping nozzle and pipe the meringue to create domes the size of a small hand palm. The size should be big enough to fill it with the filling of sago, berry compote and ice cream.

7.            Rest the meringues for 30 minutes.

8.            Bake the meringues for 2 hours.

9.            Remove and cool down.

10.          Then very carefully turn the meringue around and using a sharp knife point remove the bottom of the meringue hollowing out the inside and making space for the filling. Carefully place them back on the tray and reserve until needed. 

For the compote

1.            Mix half the berries and the full amount of sugar in a large pot and slowly cook the berries until tangy and thick.

2.            Add the vanilla seeds and lemon juice and continue to simmer until it reaches the consistency of a compote/jam.

3.            Add the remaining berries and cook for another 10 minutes on low heat.

For the sago pudding

1.            In a medium saucepan, add the sago, milk and cream. Bring to the boil then immediately turn the heat down. Simmer for 10 minutes.

2.            Add the sugar, vanilla, salt and the scraped vanilla pod and simmer for another 10 minutes.

3.            Take out some of the hot sago mixture and slowly pour it over the egg yolks, whisking continuously, then stir the egg yolk mixture into the sago in the pot.

4.            Using a spatula, continue stirring the sago for another 5 minutes.

5.            Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool. Transfer it to a dish and let it set until firm in the refrigerator.

6.            Transfer the sago to a piping bag.

To assemble

1.            Scoop roughly one tablespoon of the berry compote into the bottom of the meringue shell.

2.            Scoop some of the vanilla ice cream into the shell and pipe some sago around the ice cream to fill the meringue shell.

3.            Carefully turn the meringue shell onto a serving plate.

4.            Serve with cream and rose petals.