This week's Slow Route Food Journey takes us to Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant at Lakeside Lodge, situated on the reed-fringed banks of the Swartvlei Lake, just a few kilometres from the Slow Town of Sedgefield. The view alone sets it apart from many other restaurants in the area, but aside from that, they recognise and implement many of the slow food principles which we are seeking to promote on this culinary journey. Their mouth-watering bill of fare is inspired by the seasonality and availability of locally produced ingredients.
Early every Saturday morning at the iconic Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield you will find Benguela's Executive Chef Kelly-Anne Pietersen on a mission. With her astute chef’s eye, she seeks out the freshest, most eye-catching seasonal produce available, and then designs her menu in accordance to what she manages to source. Other fresh ingredients are ordered directly from local farmers within the Greater Knysna or George area.
Kelly-Anne is best known for taking familiar French classics and putting her individual creative stamp on them by giving them a local, contemporary twist. She trained under several well-known local chefs and has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in South Africa, including the Cape Grace Hotel, Sofia’s Restaurant at Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate and Bertus Basson’s award-winning Overture Restaurant.
Kelly-Anne changes her menu every two to three weeks. This is due not only to the fact that her dishes are based on seasonal, available produce, but also because she needs to constantly feed her creative passion for culinary arts.
Benguela Brasserie serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, which can be enjoyed either indoors or out (weather permitting), where diners can soak up the splendour of the Swartvlei's broad liquid landscape.
Breakfast and lunch are entirely informal affairs and in-line with the typical Brasserie style of dining. So guests of the lodge or locals can head here before or after a day exploring the area and enjoy a casual meal outdoors. It may be “casual dining”, but the attention to detail is notable and the quality of the dishes is consistently high.
For dinner, they take it up several notches. The owners of Benguela Brasserie, (who also own Benguela Cove, a leading producer and wine destination at the start of South Africa’s Hermanus Wine Route) saw a need in the area for a fine-dining experience and therefore decided that they would place strong emphasis on ensuring that every single aspect of a person's 'dining experience' is catered for. Dinners here can best be described as an unhurried, sensory feast. The service is exemplary, the ambiance beautiful and the food fare sublime. And all the menu items can be perfectly paired with one Benguela Cove's award-winning wines.
For more information visit: http://www.bengueladining.com
“I am passionate about the environment”. This was one of the first things Tanith Christie Scott said when we met to discuss her locally produced Vintage Vinyl Café range of vegan and vegetarian cuisine. She has been a keen advocate for plant based diets for almost 20 years and her delicious food fare is testament to her unyielding passion for both the earth and optimum health.
Vintage Vinyl Cafe epitomises the ethos behind the Slow Food movement. All the produce used in this range is seasonal and sourced locally and ethically. The majority of her recipes include what she terms 'clean ingredients' and are suitable for a variety of dietary requirements, such as gluten free and sugar free and serve not only to nourish the body, but also mind and spirit.
Veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the world. More and more people are moving away from diets rich in animal products and moving toward plant-based diets both for health and environmental reasons.
Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of The Vegan Society explains: “The reasons behind the rise of veganism are numerous: the positive portrayal in the media has contributed to its changing image; documentaries on the shocking realities and consequences of animal agriculture have gained prominence; delicious-looking vegan recipes have multiplied online and on social media as society becomes increasingly health-conscious; and top vegan athletes keep proving that you can be fit and healthy on a plant-based diet. Going vegan is the best thing any individual can do for the animals, the planet and your health.”
The Vintage Vinyl food range can currently be found at the Green Road in Sedgefield, Totties in Rheenendal and Muse in Knysna. I was fortunate enough to sample a few of her mouthwatering recipes such as zucchini marinated and then baked in a dark chocolate, date and chilli sauce; Pepperdew and sundried tomato hummus and a chocolate, lemon, ginger & mint vegan mousse pot.
Tanith has big plans for the future. A year ago she moved from Cape Town with her husband Shane and their three young children after purchasing a smallholding in Bibby's Hoek, which sits right on the fringe of Knysna's indigenous forest (“we are merely guardians of this precious land”, she reminded me with a smile.) They live entirely off the grid, and are in the process of becoming as self- sufficient as possible. She plans to grow most of the fresh produce she needs for her recipes, on their property.
There is an old wooden structure on the property which they are in the process of renovating and which is set to become the Vintage Vinyl Café, where they will offer a vegan and vegetarian inspired dining experience around the warmth of an old wood stove, with music from eclectic genres (from her collection of over 1000 vinyl records) playing in the background.
Tanith is a trained jewellery designer, DJ and artist and her exquisite Vintage Vinyl Café journey has become yet another creative outlet for her and a positive way in which she can help promote a vegan lifestyle.
For the first blog of our Slow Route Food Journey, we paid a visit to” Green Road “(situated next to the Mosaic market in Sedgefield) which serves as a non-profit central hub for a wide range of healthy, free- range, organic and organic-in-conversion produce. Everything they do at this humble food fare gem is guided by the fundamental principles of the Slow Food movement and truly epitomises that which we are seeking to explore and promote on this journey.
The Green Road has a wonderfully understated charm about it. The majority of the fresh produce available comes from local small-scale farmers, some of which are accredited organic farmers, while others are undergoing what is termed 'organic-in-conversion'.
Fruit and vegetables are not wrapped up in copious amounts of plastic and styrofoam and they are based primarily on seasonal availability. So you won't find fresh guavas in summer nor asparagus in winter. The fresh produce available for purchase was most likely picked fresh from a local farm earlier that morning or within days before. Because much of the produce is farmed organically, it isn't always unblemished as is the produce found in many large supermarkets. It may not always look perfect, but it is gloriously untainted by harmful chemicals. They sell a wide range of healthy snacks made by local home industries, which we will feature individually on our journey. They also stock organic pulses and legumes and grains, free range and grass fed meats as well as biodegradable household and beauty products.
Green Road is a food system from seed to plate that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability. There is a serious disconnect in our modern world between the food we eat and where it comes from. When you buy cheap produce from a profit driven supermarket, have you ever considered what hidden costs are involved? Was the farm worker compensated fairly for his or her work, was the environment respected during the process, was the animal's welfare taken into account and if the produce is laden with harmful ingredients, what is the future cost in terms of your health?
The Green Road concept allows us to take back our power as consumers; where we can be fully mindful of our food consumption and where the consumer and the farmer have a direct and meaningful relationship. In a nutshell, the concept strives towards a symbiotic relationship whereby the farmer takes responsibility for the health of the consumers and the consumer takes responsibility for the livelihood of the farmers. Through direct trade via an open supply chain, farmer development, participatory guarantee systems and a common economy, we as consumers can start to take responsibility for healthy soils, plants, animals and people. It is that simple.
By linking conscious consumers directly to local organic farmers Green Road is helping to build healthy and sustainable communities. 'Know your farmer, know your food'. It will be to the benefit of all - The farmer, the consumer and our precious Garden Route environment. This is food that does not cost the earth!
Knysna & Partners is setting off on an exciting journey of discovery, with the launch of a blog series titled “A Slow Route #FoodJourney”. Our stories will highlight food producers and destinations which strive towards the fundamental principles of the Slow Food Movement, which seeks to transform both our relationship with food and the way it is produced. In uncovering these local foodie gems, we hope in turn to promote food tourism in the region and the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.
The ethos behind the movement is simple. 'Slow Food is good, clean and fair food'. In other words, the food we eat should taste good and be free of harmful additives; it should be produced in a way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
There is a growing shift globally with regards to the way in which we view our food and the environment as a whole. The food production and consumption systems most common today are destructive to the environment and to the peoples that inhabit it and simply not sustainable. More and more people are seeking to embrace the principles of the slow food movement and it is certainly a growing trend in the Garden Route. This is apparent when visiting any bustling Farmer's Market in the region.
There are several ways in which each of us can adopt the philosophies of the slow food movement. These include:
• Avoid fast food – which damages our health, social fabric and cultural food traditions.
• Get back into the kitchen – Start cooking meals from scratch with food grown locally.
• View meals times as an opportunity to connect and engage with friends and family.
• Buy locally produced food fare - this is a key element to being a Slow Foodie. We are spoilt with wonderful farmers markets, where you can buy fresh produce grown by local farmers. By buying local produce you also radically reduce your carbon footprint.
• Buy organic and free range wherever possible
• If possible, grow some of your own produce, it is incredibly rewarding harvesting food you have grown to feed your family.
Join us on this journey. If you know of any businesses in the Greater Knysna area which are striving towards the ideals of the slow food movement, please let us know about them by emailing