At his food barn in Hout Bay, chef Quentin Spickernell spurns traditional Christmas turkey for more local flavours
“We can’t carry on rolling out the turkey year after year,” he maintains. “It’s such an alien bird. I think a nice wild fowl and berries should be the key components of a truly South African meal. We need to lighten our flavours and our style of festive cooking.”
Quentin rarely gets to share Christmas lunch with his three adult children, Gemma, Matthew and Claudia, and his life and business partner, Melanie Davidow. “I usually arrive home late on Christmas afternoon,”he says wryly.
Not that he’s complaining, after spending many years globetrotting while working as a private chef for hotel magnate Sol Kerzner, he returned home and opened a barn restaurant behind the historic Kronendal Estate. This was followed by a stint of running Dunes restaurant on the Hout Bay beach, where families scrambled for a table. But now he feels he has finally found his culinary home.
“At Dunes I was just managing waiters, and got to feel that I was missing the creativity of cooking. So when I heard there was this old barn up for rent on Alan Dorman’s farm, I leapt at the chance to create something truly ‘country’ and truly local.”
The farm holds a very special place in the history of Hout Bay. It was first granted in 1821, all 400 morgen (about 800 acres) of it, to Christopher Bird, then colonial secretary. He remained there until around 1842, during which time he built a gabled home called Valley Grange.
- 2 onions, chopped
- 100g butter
- 1 cup dried apricots (soaked overnight)
- stem of celery, thinly sliced
- 4 cups walnuts, chopped
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 tbs parsley, chopped
- 50ml medium cream sherry
- ½ tsp ground pimento allspice
- salt and pepper
- Duck and Glaze
- 1 large duck
- 1 tbs honey
- ½ cup apple juice
- 1 tbs vinegar
- 1 punnet of seasonal berries (blueberries or raspberries)
- Drain apricots and cut into small pieces. Melt butter in a pan, add onions and cook until soft, then add apricots, celery and walnuts.
- Cook about 4 minutes over high heat, stirring continuously, then turn into a bowl.
- When cool, add crumbs, parsley, sherry, spices and season to taste.
- Warm the apple juice, honey, vinegar. Remove from heat. Lightly bruise the berries with your fingertips and add to the glaze.
Return to the heat and briefly warm through for 3-4 minutes until the fruit softens.
- Pat the duck dry and pierce with a sharp fork, paying particular attention to the lower thigh areas where most of the fat accumulates.
- Stuff with apricot and walnut stuffing. Place in an oven tray and roast for 1 hour 45 minutes at 180°C. Every 20 minutes, brush the bird with the glaze, making sure to put some of the whole berries on the bird. Serve with a festive jelly sauce of your choice.
Wine suggestion: Stark Condé Stellenbosch Syrah
Words Di Wemyss
Photography Johan Wilke and Di Wemyss