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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sometimes, the thought of preparing a wholesome, homemade meal is exhausting. Regardless, you’re at the chopping board clutching the chopping knife. The herbs are misbehaving and flying all over the place but you continuously rein them in and persevere. Then you discover that a key spice ingredient has lost its flavour while languishing on your spice rack above your stove. Your fingernails reek of garlic and probably will do for hours if not the whole of the following day. On top of all of this you don’t have anything in the pan yet and dinnertime was 15 minutes ago.

Still, meal preparation needn’t be something you dread. You don’t need to be a chef or a foodie wizard to save some time in the kitchen and put a delicious meal on the table. You also don’t need cutting edge gadgets or assassin knife skills to shorten prep time.

Chopping herbs

When chopping your herbs, sprinkle a little salt onto your chopping board to keep them from flying about.

Crushing garlic

Place your garlic cloves inside a resealable plastic bag and crush them with the back of a knife. Crushing garlic this way will prevent your hands, chopping board and knife from reeking.

Storing spices

To keep your spices fresh for as long as possible store them in a cool, dark space such as a pantry, cupboard, or drawer. Never store them above your stove. Light, heat and humidity will cause them to lose their flavour as will moisture.

Cooking pasta

Make your pasta dishes even more flavourful. Boil your pasta until it’s almost cooked. Remove it from the pot and add it to your pasta sauce to finish cooking.

Seasoning meat and poultry

Chefs disagree about many things but seldom on basic food preparation techniques. However, when it comes to seasoning there is an ongoing debate about whether to season ahead of time or just before you cook. Whichever option you choose be sure to season your meat or poultry evenly so that every bite is equally delicious.

Juicing lemons and limes

Soften your lemons or limes by rolling them under your palm for a minute or so on a hard surface. Juicing will be quicker, easier and you’ll get more liquid from them.

Storing citrus zest

Store the zest of lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges in the freezer in plastic bags. Whatever your zesting method preference be sure to remove the thin coloured skin only. The white pith just underneath the skin has an unpleasant, bitter taste.

Testing oil heat for frying

If you want to find out if your oil is hot enough for frying hold a wooden spoon upright in the oil. If bubbles form around the wood your oil is ready.

 See 5 Foods That Should Never Be in Your Fridge.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Refrigeration is one of the modern conveniences many people cannot imagine living without. You shop, pop items in the fridge and forget about food going bad for at least a day or two. What we place in our refrigerators is based on a habitual belief that our foods will stay fresh and last longer. For the most part this is true. However, you might be surprised to learn that some of what is sitting in your fridge at this very minute has no business being there. In fact, fridge storage can diminish the quality of certain products and may even cause them to go mouldy faster.

Tomatoes

The tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant. Anyone who has grown these lovelies in some of their more than 7500 varieties know that they adore heat and detest the cold. Tomatoes need the sun to grow and to enhance their flavour. Even when removed from the vine they still don’t like the cold. So, if you store them in a fridge, they become uncooperatively floury and lose their flavour.

Potatoes

The argument goes that potatoes enjoy cool temperatures but don’t like cold temperatures. Rule of thumb is that they do best at room temperature. But room temperature can vary depending on where you are and few people walk about with a thermometer in their pocket.

Regardless, the point is this. A fridge is too cold to store potatoes. It increases the conversion of starch to sugar more rapidly, which in turn can affect flavour, texture and discolouration when they cook.

Onions

Onions are one of the oldest foods known to humankind. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, they really do make you cry, and they go soft and mouldy when placed in a fridge. They also perish when stored too close to the humble potato. Tatties emit moisture and gas, which cause onions to spoil rapidly. That said once peeled you can keep your onion in a covered container in the fridge.

Avocado

An avocado, like the tomato is a fruit. In fact it’s classified as a single-seeded berry. If you purchase an unripe, hard avocado you shouldn’t store it in your fridge. Avos need time to ripen and the cold will hamper the ripening process. However, ripe avos may be placed in the fridge if you are not intending to use them immediately.

Cucumber

This is a tricky one. There are arguments for and against refrigeration. Most fresh food experts would agree that they are best stored at room temperature but can tolerate up to three days in a fridge. Too long in a fridge and they develop water-soaked patches, pitting, and all around general decay ensues.

Tips to store fresh foods

  • Store tomatoes on your counter (away from direct sunlight) and eat them / cook with them when ripe 
  • Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place and should outlast most if not all other fresh veggies
  • Keep your unpeeled onions in a cool, dark, ventilated space in order to keep the outer layer dry and papery until ready to use
  • Store avocados at room temperature until they’re ripe or you can place them in a brown paper bag with to speed up the ripening process
  • Keep cucumbers on a counter away from your tomatoes, bananas and melons 

Most of make use of a fridge with limited knowledge of the types of food that should be refrigerated. We see a fridge and our brains immediately associate it with food conservation. Now that you know otherwise you might be encouraged to try some new storage methods. In fact, you may well have some fresh food storage tips of your own. Feel free to share them with us.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Carnivorous plants are predatory flowering plants that capture and digest animals to obtain nutrients from their corpses. While most species grow without digesting prey they grow quicker and tend to flourish better when consuming animal nutrients.

Leafy flesh eaters prey on everything from insects, spiders, and other small soil and water inhabiting invertebrates to lizards and rodents. They seduce their food with various alluring species-to-species features including vibrant colours, nectar-producing glands, sticky guide hairs, and/or leaf extensions. Their specialised leaves act as handy snares.

Read all about it

On 28 April, 1874 an article in the New York World announced the discovery of a man-eating tree on the island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Southern Africa. The article included a horrific description of a local woman sacrificially fed to the tree by members of her Mkodos tribe. It was based on a letter received from the German botanist Karl Leche, who provided a chilling eye-witness account of what transpired.

A gothic tale of Frankensteinian proportions

Fourteen years later it was revealed that the story was a work of fiction. Neither Leche nor the Mkodos tribe was real. In spite of this revelation, the tale continued to circulate as gruesome fact. For decades explorers continued to venture into the wild and overgrown interior of Madagascar - a land unknown to outsiders - in search of the elusive cannibal tree.

While the tree never materialised, its popularity spawned various similar fictitious man-eating trees in other parts of the world. It also led to reports of actual carnivorous plant discoveries.

What Darwin had to say

Carnivorous plants are seductive and often beautiful living organisms, which could be said to dangle a frond in both the animal and plant kingdoms - at a stretch of the imagination that is. After all, one doesn’t usually associate plants with eating flesh. Darwin himself believed that the movement-sensing organ on the sundew, a particular species of carnivorous plant, is more sensitive than any nerve in the human body. This belief was based on his numerous experiments.

In spite of horror movies like “Little Shop of Horrors” and H.G. Wells novels and bizarre dining habits carnivorous plants do not bite or gobble people. Quite the contrary, they are completely harmless to humans. Still, the thought of a seemingly motionless plant organism ensnaring and consuming its prey is more than just a little unnerving.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Our planet is populated with magnificent creatures from microscopic organisms to colossal land, air and water dwellers. At the top of the colossus scale, coming in at approximately 180 tonnes and 30 metres (100 feet) in length, the Blue whale is the largest animal on earth and the heaviest. Its tongue alone is said to weigh as much as an elephant.

African Elephant

On the subject of elephants, Africa has its own impressive list of large creatures including the African elephant, the planet’s biggest and heaviest terrestrial animal. Much larger than its Asian cousin, shoulder to toe the African elephant stands more than 3 metres (10 feet) and weighs up to 7 tons.

Ostrich

From trunks to beaks. At a height of approximately 2 to 2.7 metres (7 to 9 feet) and weighing 100 to 160 kilograms, the ostrich is the largest bird in the world. Although unable to fly, what it lacks in levitation it makes up for in speed. The ostrich also has the distinction of having the largest eyes of any land animal.

Crocodile

Since the time of the dinosaur, Earth has witnessed countless gargantuan-scaled beasts including the crocodile. Thought to be around 200 million years old it outlived its fellow dinosaurs and invokes both fear and fascination in humans.

The saltwater crocodile is the largest species and is found in various parts of the world including Africa. The longest captive saltwater croc was a chap called ‘Lolong’ from the Philippines. From snout to tail he measured 6.17 metres (20 feet and 3 inches) and weighed 1075 kilograms.

Not to be outdone, the Nile crocodile is the second largest croc species in the world. Legendary man-eating ‘Gustave’ of the African country of Burundi is estimated to be about 6 metres (20 feet long) and still growing. He has never been captured.

Giraffe

With an elongated neck of 2 metres (6 feet) or more accounting for almost half its vertical height, the giraffe is the tallest land animal. At an astonishing 18 to 20 inches (45 to 50 centimetres) its prehensile (capable of grasping) tongue is among the longest in the world.

Nile perch

Of the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Nile perch isn’t the largest in the world. Still, at a length of 6 feet and weighing up to 230 kilograms it certainly features in the top 10. Found in lakes and rivers not just in the Nile Delta but also in the Congo, Ethiopia and parts of the Mediterranean it could be argued that it isn’t strictly African although it is commonly referred to as the African Nile perch.

African Goliath beetle

Occurring practically everywhere except for Antarctica beetles are the most common type of insect. Based on weight and bulk, the Goliath beetle is a worthy challenger for the largest insect on Earth title. There are others that are slightly longer but these contenders are lighter and pack less of a punch in terms of strength. This heavyweight can lift more than 800 times its own weight.

Six-eyed sand spider


This whopping largest in the world collation of African animals covers the five vertebrate groups (amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles) and one of the two invertebrate groups (insects and spiders).

While Africa is no slouch in the large specimen eight-legged department it doesn’t feature on any world’s largest top 10 lists. However, the Southern African Six-eyed sand spider features on practically every most dangerous Arachnid list, dangerous to other animals that is.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Malawi is a geographically diverse landlocked African country with a massive glittering lake, the third largest in Africa. Lake fish are plentiful and form an important source of food as do a variety of vegetables, maize-based nsima, rice, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Sim-Sim (sesame) balls are finger food consisting mainly of sweet potato with cinnamon for spice. Sesame seeds provide the crispy coating on the outside. This recipe includes cheese for piquancy.


Recipe by: GOLD Restaurant
Makes: 40 Sim-Sim balls (ideal as a snack food)
Difficulty: Easy
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

Ingredients

T = tablespoon
t = teaspoon

3 large sweet potatoes peeled
½ cup water
5 t sugar (white or brown)
1 t salt 2 t cinnamon
2 t mixed spice
6 t corn flour
200g grated cheese
¾ cup white sesame seeds
Vegetable oil for frying

Method

Roughly cut the sweet potato into chunks.
Simmer the sweet potato and water in a covered pot over a low heat.
The sweet potato should be soft and dry when cooked.
Remove from the heat, remove the lid, and leave to cool.
Add the sugar, salt, cinnamon and mixed spice, and mash.
Add the corn flour if the mixture is too soft - some sweet potato varieties retain more water than others.
Lastly, add the grated cheese.

To shape the Sim-Sim balls:

Scoop out the mixture into your palms and roll into walnut-sized balls.
Coat each ball with sesame seeds – continue rolling the sesame seeds onto the outside of the ball so that they stick and cover the surface area.
Repeat the rolling until all the mixture has been used.

To cook the Sim-Sim balls:

Heat the oil in a pot over a medium heat until hot but not smoking.
Gently deep-fry the balls until golden brown.
Drain on paper towel.

Tip: For a sweeter variation leave out the cheese and add more sugar.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town is famously known as the institution where the world’s first human heart transplant took place. It is also where Andrew Phumlize Lulama Marion Mnweba was born on 21 October 1973. Sadly, the transplant patient passed away from pneumonia 18 days after the operation. Andrew on the other hand is very much alive and working as the General Manager at GOLD Restaurant (link to restaurant website home page).

Growing up in the townships in Cape Town

When asked about what he was most afraid of as a child, he says, “nothing”. The dynamics of “growing up in a township make you strong. You see things you couldn’t possibly imagine would happen”. And that’s just it. It really is impossible to imagine a life within an informal township settlement unless you’ve lived there. That said, if you look beyond the poverty and the dilapidated corrugated dwellings typical of an informal settlement you will encounter what some people refer to as the real South Africa, the resilient beating heart of the nation.

A heart of gold and spine of steel

Andrew’s father was a driver at a factory and his mother worked at a hospital as a nurse’s assistant. It was the way of things in apartheid South Africa. Skilled employment opportunities for black South Africans were limited but this didn’t muffle Andrew’s ambition or his mother’s belief in her children. 

When Andrew was 10 his parents divorced. From then on Andrew and his sister had infrequent contact with their father, sometimes visiting him once or twice in a month. His mother’s relatives took them in and they survived on their mother’s love and strength, and her single parent income.

He says, “whenever things go bad in my life, I always remember where I come from, the things she did for us as children, alone, without support from my father. Then I know. Whatever it is. It will pass”.

Rising discontent in 1980s South Africa

Discontent was rife in the 1980s. Anti-apartheid uprisings were on the increase. More and more school going children were taking to the streets to defend their right to equal education. While not immune to the struggle, Andrew made a conscious decision to fight for change through learning. He says, “we believed that through education our minds could be liberated” and so too would the country be liberated, and that “ we would need to produce quality leaders”.

It takes courage to grow up

In 1985 they moved to Kayelitsha township. Andrew attended Luhlaza Senior Secondary School. In spite of an inferior ‘Bantu’ education system often lacking in basic resources and facilities, Andrew worked hard. He and his classmates achieved a 94% matric pass rate, a gargantuan achievement under repressive circumstances.

While still at school Andrew met coach Chris. Like everything else at the time sport in South Africa was racially segregated. The three main sports were, and still are, rugby, cricket and soccer. While soccer was played by the black majority in the townships and rural areas rugby and cricket were associated with whites.

Chris introduced Andrew to cricket and tennis and Andrew spent his weekends bowling and batting or striking tennis balls. Andrew in turn was one of the first to introduce sport to his school and became cricket captain. He also spent time with friends listening to Afropop music mostly Brenda Fassie, and trying to look fashionably cool as typical teens do.

Living with possibility

Under apartheid job opportunities were prescribed in favour of the white minority. Andrew was aware of the expectation that statistically he should settle for becoming a labourer, miner, domestic worker or perhaps a more skilled position (albeit lower paid than his white counterparts) as a nurse, social worker, teacher or even a lawyer, Regardless, Andrew was hopeful. In fact, he initially wanted to study law but there was no money to further his studies.

Still - and he credits his mother with this - he believed that opportunity would present itself. He says, “my greatest hope is to live life to the fullest with no regrets. My greatest fear would be to be presented with an opportunity and not to make use of it”.

Success starts with hard work

After school Andrew worked small jobs. In 2000 he joined Fedics at Grandwest Casino and Entertainment World, part of the Sun International Group. He completed a three-month hospitality course and started his career in the industry as a waiter. In a short space of time he was working on a rotation schedule for the Quarterdeck Restaurant and Salon Privé.

In 2002 he was selected to attend a skills building supervisory programme. While on leave he heard about interviews being held for internship opportunities for people on the supervisory programme in the broader Fedics Group.

Somewhere beyond the sea

Fedics supported a feeding scheme, whereby leftover food from the Quarterdeck Restaurant and Salon PrivĂ© was supplied to Christel House, a children’s school in Cape Town. The school is part of the global Christel Group children’s charity founded by a billionaire from the United States.

The Christel Group had a hospitality academy, from which only five participants were selected for one-year internships in the United States. Andrew was one of them and in December 2002 he embarked on his first trip out of the Cape and out of the country en route to South Carolina.

In the heart of Low Country

Arriving at the prestigious private Belfair Golf Estate on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, Andrew didn’t really know what to expect. He says, “the transition to the United States was an eye opener. The people with whom I interacted were generally unaware of what goes on outside of their borders”.

In spite of finding himself in a foreign country with no family or friends, right from the beginning Andrew decided to immerse himself in the experience and to embrace it as a career, cultural learning, and personal growth opportunity. He worked during the day and studied at night. He worked as a hospitality supervisor at Belfair for six months and then having moved on to the Holiday Inn Oceanfront for the remainder of his internship returned to South Africa in November 2003.

Back in the land of his birth

From 2004 to 2009 Andrew worked at Moyo at the popular Stellenbosch franchise. He started as front of house manager and observed and learned all the finer details of running a successful large establishment. In February 2009 he was transferred to Moyo in Durban where he worked as assistant general manager. He says, “In my career I have always aligned myself with people from whom I can learn, managers with similar values, bosses that don’t spoon feed, leaders that allow me to research and find things out for myself”. By 2010 Andrew was general manager.

In 2013 he resigned citing personal family reasons and homesickness as the main factors for his decision. Prior to resigning he had discussed with his directors the possibility of something being available for him within the Moyo business in the Cape but there were no opportunities at his level at that stage.

Panning for GOLD

Andrew took on a management position in a restaurant chain, which didn’t work out in spite of his efforts to boost morale and make necessary changes. He then worked on contract for a well known hotel chain, which promised to make him permanent, a commitment that never materialised. In December 2014, while still on contract, Andrew and his wife started a small cleaning business, which took off and is still in operation today.

In 2015 GOLD Restaurant advertised a general manager vacancy. Andrew applied, became the new general manager and started work on 26 October 2015.

What makes a GOLD experience unforgettable

People are hungry for unique dining experiences and they expect good service. GOLD provides this but there’s something very special about the way in which guests are treated. Andrew says that the staff dress the same but it’s not the uniforms that make them a team. It’s the way they behave towards one another.

He says co-owner, “Cindy has a passion for business, for Africa and the people who work here, and it shows. She’s an inspiration to all of us. Our people come from all over Africa they are proud to be African. Being here at GOLD is like becoming part of a unified family. As Africans, GOLD is home. 

In fact, there are people working at GOLD who have been there from the beginning. Guests know that recognisable, friendly faces will be there when they return.

Why GOLD has a handwashing ceremony

Andrew explains that in Africa there’s a story behind everything. This includes GOLD’s pre-dinner handwashing ceremony. He says, “back in the day Africa comprised of villages. People would travel from one village to the next on horseback or on foot. When they arrived at their destination they would be welcomed with a bowl of warm water to wash their feet. The restaurant cannot wash people’s feet so we use the handwashing ceremony as a gesture of warm welcome to our guests”. 

Happiest and saddest memories and the road ahead

Happy memories are much easier to talk about and Andrew smiles when he talks about his two children and the fact that he and his wife have been together for twenty years. His saddest memory is when his father past away. It left an unhealed void in his life.

Still, Andrew has learnt not to dwell on things. He says that if he had his life over again he wouldn’t change anything except spend more precious time with his family. He maintains that where you come from, your environment, family, the people you meet, and life experiences shape who you are. It’s important never to look down on yourself and to look at obstacles as challenges. He says, “obstacles excite me. I get ignited. There’s always something new for me to overcome”.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

South Africa is brimming with natural beauty, vibrant people, unrivalled wildlife, historical intrigue, world-class food, and award-winning wines. It really is a land of incredible contrasts and variety. Contrary to popular belief that there’s no such thing as an ‘everyone market’, the rainbow nation can honestly claim to have something for everyone. That said, in addition to all the things for which South Africa is well known there are some fun facts that many people might not be aware of.
  • The Cape winelands embodies the longest wine route on the globe (approximately 1000 kilometres and spectacularly scenic)
  • Cycling enthusiasts can participate in the world’s largest individually timed cycle race (the Cape Argus)
  • South Africa was the first country to voluntarily dismantle its nuclear weapons programme
  • Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize winners lived not just in the same neighbourhood but on the same street in Soweto
  • An astonishing figure of more than 2000 shipwrecks are to be found off the South African coastline 
  • Of the six floral kingdoms on earth, the Cape floral kingdom has the highest known concentration of plant species on the globe with fynbos, meaning “fine bush”, having more species diversity than a tropical rainforest
  • Hand-dug during the diamond rush of the 1870s, the 'Big Hole' in Kimberley is the size of eight football fields, which makes it the biggest hand-dug pit on earth
  • Arguably the world’s greatest ultramarathon, The Comrades Marathon is certainly the largest and oldest on the globe
  • The first human heart transplant was performed at Groote Schuur Hospital by South African surgeon, Dr Chris Barnard
  • In South Africa you can spot the largest bird (ostrich), the fastest land animal (cheetah), the tallest animal (giraffe), the largest fish (whale shark), the largest antelope (eland), the biggest and heaviest land mammal (elephant)
If your appetite for all things South African is not yet satisfied have a look at the following:

12 of South Africa’s Popular Afrikaans Food Words Explained
The Stories Behind Three of South Africa’s National Symbols
How the Wellington Boot Became an Instrument of Protest
Useful Xhosa Phrases for Visitors to Cape Town
South Africa’s Legendary Hole in the Wall
How Table Mountain Got Its Table Cloth
5 Typically South African Township Foods
Mampoer: A Taste of South Africa’s Fiery Heritage
Why Boerewors is South Africa’s Favourite Sausage
5 of South Africa’s Favourite Breads
What’s So Great about Biltong? (includes recipe)
Chicken Feet: A Traditional South African Township Delicacy


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