Altar food: Recipes from Neil Stemmet

Neil Stemmet Altar Foor | Elle Decoration South Africa

With the movement to eat real food, especially in the country where we get to know our farmers, fishmonger and butcher we cook food in a simple biblical manner.

Just fire, to cook the delicious country produce. We respect ingredients in the country – I love pears that show marks, scorns of the sun. I love sweet potatoes that have got the earth on them when I buy them. The winter sun touches my soul when I roast lemons and blood oranges.

We respect our food and when we prepare the meal for our table, it is sacred self-time. We place the food in front of our guests as offerings, elevating the produce as altar food – the future of food indeed lies in the past.

Neil Stemmet Altar Foor | Elle Decoration South Africa
Beetroot soup with lemon yogurt

 Beetroot soup with lemon yogurt

Oven roasts 1 kg fresh beets until tender. Skin. Gently fry a finely chopped onion, ½ tsp of cumin and 2 garlic cloves in olive oil and butter until tender. Add the beets. Add 500 ml of vegetable stock. Season with salt and white pepper. Dollop with double thick Greek yogurt that you have mixed with lemon zest.

Neil Stemmet Altar Foor | Elle Decoration South Africa
Raw red cabbage salad

Raw red cabbage salad

Make a buttermilk dressing: pound 2 star anise pods in a pestle and mortar until fine, add 1 tsp sumac, 1 tbsp whole grain mustard, milled pepper, salt and 2 cups of buttermilk or amazi.

Finely slice a medium size red cabbage, press the juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange over the cabbage. Dry fry pumpkin seeds until toasted. Cube the best Roquefort cheese that you can get. Cut a pear into slices and toss in lemon water. Slice a few spring onions.

Arrange the salad; add the cheese, pears and onions. Pour the dressing over. Top with toasted seeds and sliced Clanwilliam oranges.

Serve this delicious fish with Pernod, fennel and caper cream, roasted sweet potatoes, grilled blood oranges, buttered lemons and pan friend green beans.

Altar Food by Neil Stemmet | Elle Decoration South Africa
Oven roasted Kabeljou

Oven roasted Kabeljou

Dry the kabeljou, season with salt and black pepper.  Pre-heat your oven to the highest possible temperature. Heat a buttered and oiled griddle pan under the grill. When the pan is smoking hot take it from the oven, place the fish skin side down on the pan and take back to the oven. Roast under the grill for no more than 8 minutes. Serve with Pernod, fennel and caper cream

Pernod, caper and fennel cream

Add 500 ml crème fresh or cream to a saucepan; add 1 tbps Pernod; reduce by half. Add 150g of cold cubes of butter that you whisk in one by one. Add 1 tsp fine chopped fennel leaves and 2 tbsp of capers

Neil Stemmet Altar Foor | Elle Decoration South Africa
Delicious Pear and Coconut Pie

Delicious Pear and coconut pie

One of the dishes I remember from childhood is my mother’s pear pie. It was regularly served on greyish-white Noritake side plates with cream from the farm. She made delicious tea in the silver teapot, set the tea table with the silver sugar pot and milk jug, tiny apostle forks and teaspoons, small tea serviettes and a posy of garden flowers next to the tea. Then we sat down and imagined that we were royalty.

Core and cook 10 winter pears in a little water for 15 minutes – remove from the heat and cool.

Mix 4 large farm eggs with 2 cups of white sugar and 1 cup of desiccated

Coconut. Add 3 tablespoons of melted butter and half a cup of full cream milk. Sift 2 cups of self-raising flour three times and stir in the sugar mixture little by little with a wooden spoon. I always do this using the figure-of-eight method – then the mixture is nice and fluffy.

Pour the mixture into a buttered pie dish and add the pears. Now

Sprinkle over a spoon or so of brown sugar and off to the oven it goes. Bake at 180C. After half an hour, you can lower the temperature to 150 C. Bake until the tart is done in the middle.

Add one tin of evaporated milk in a small saucepan together with 1 cup

of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of vanilla (if you can get fresh pods, so much the better) a pinch of fine white pepper and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Heat and pour over the tart when it comes out of the oven.

Serve hot or cold with vanilla ice cream

Production and text Neil Stemmet Photographer Greg Cox

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