Meet Hebron’s Steve Oldroyd

Whether you’re aiming at the Cederberg and Namibia or heading south to Cape Town, pull off the N7 at Piekenierskloof at Hebron where Steve Oldroyd rules the pass…

Words: Tudor Caradoc-Davies
Pictures and video: Daniella Zondagh

What can you not live without in your kitchen?

I can’t live without three things. One is my sourdough starter. The starter is now over five years old. It’s fed by whole-wheat rye flour which is a by-product of the rooibos tea production process. When handled correctly by my baker, Noret Kamanga, it produces these amazing old-fashioned loaves made with a mixture of brown flour, local white bread flour and the rye starter.

The second thing is the plethora of citrus from this wonderful valley. Like the late-season mandarin Nadorkott which are bred for flavor and size. I am very fortunate to have forged some relationships with farmers in the area. So this is a swop job.

I go and give some products from my farm like flowers and other things I make like peach BBQ sauce made from their peaches last year and I’m allowed to take a few creates of these beautiful fruits home. We as an example go through about 80kgs a week in juice at the restaurant.

The third thing is the produce that we have from the vegetable garden. It was something that was started by my mother-in-law Jenny Fulford when she set up the farm as part of the community project to help feed kids in the informal settlement in Citrusdal. It’s run by Augustine and we use it in the restaurant.

I have not bought salad in about three years. And we use it in our feeding programme which we run with all the restaurants and hotels in town where we feed two creches in town three times a week. All of that beautiful food goes into nutritious meals for children of people who work in the citrus industry.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I think it’s probably a bit of a smash up of my influences living in a Cosmopolitan city. There’s lots of Asian influence, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern but I think it’s routed very much in our life here (in Citrusdal).

People often ask me if I want to open a restaurant in Cape Town and while I would be able to it would be a step further away from where I want to be from this area.

What we are doing here is drawing from my cosmopolitan chunk of my life with local produce and what I am learning about local techniques. So there’s a lot of Malay techniques because a lot of what we know as Afrikaans cuisine is actually Malay. Hence preserved lemons go quite well with a bredie because of the balance of sweet and sour.

If you had to put a word on it, I’d say it’s South African soul food. It’s using some old Afrikaans and old South African techniques with a few more modern things but it’s comforting.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?

I have three in Europe. One would be a dim sum place in Bayswater where we used to go with the kids on Sunday.

The other one would be this little Lebanese place around the corner from where we lived in Queen’s Park where they did rotisserie chicken in garlic sauce.

The third one would be this place outside of Madrid where the godfather of my second child took us for baby lamb cooked in a wood oven. I also loved having a plate of hummus and pita breads in Tel Aviv on the side of the road. They smear the hummus on the plate and make a little rim of olive oil and Zhul a lemon, chili and coriander dressing. It comes with a plate of those Israeli pitas.

Do you have a fantasy food holiday destination?

Vietnam, Thailand and Japan. I’ve never been there but would love to go.

Where do you get inspiration from? Do you have a cookbook Bible?

We use Moro quite a lot. Ottolenghi pops up and I used to get a lot of inspiration from the weekly papers in the UK. All the chefs used to write there. Now most of the inspiration is at the back of my head. Nothing is truly original, you have to be honest about it. That’s why I don’t mind sharing my recipes because some of it is not mine anyway.

Some of the recipes come to me in my sleep. If you asked me to do something for you tomorrow and I have no idea, I can go to bed and in the morning it becomes something.

What would your last supper be?

On the West Coast somewhere on an Indian Summer day in late February with that sparky blue sea. I’d be with my wife and children, because that’s the summary of your life. It would involve seafood definitely. Oysters because I have not been able to eat them for 15 years after I developed an allergy. I’ve been yearning for a Saldanha Bay oyster for years. A glass of Champagne (it is my final meal after all) and a big braaied fish like a snapper with some fiery chili, lemongrass dressing and salad and then chocolate cake. Oysters, grilled fish, chocolate cake, champagne and maybe a post-lunch reach around.

Now try Steve’s recipes for:

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