Under the Influence of Gardens at The Cellars-Hohenort

Spend enough time in a garden with a friend and you will witness something rather peculiar take place. A sort of transformation… Because it’s not possible to enter the space of enchanted forests and blossoming rose orchards and not feel a change take place inside you. I noticed this in my own nearest and dearest on a stroll through the gardens at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town.

While my camera and I immersed ourselves in the estate’s rose, herb, vegetable and citrus tree gardens, I couldn’t help but notice something a little less expected.

I saw friends, usually quiet and composed, frolicking like fairies. I saw the talkative turn silent. I saw city folk soften with the touch of nature. I saw the tired come to life. I saw followers become leaders, racing along the winding paths and encouraging others along. I saw children where adults once stood.

Quite simply, I’ve noticed, you never leave a garden the same person you enter as. Of course, it isn’t just any garden that creates such an effect. It takes one like The Cellars-Hohenort’s – with its bougainvillea, agapanthus, plectranthus, hydrangeas, clivia, camphor trees and daffodils; its resident porcupine and duck family, Cape Dwarf Chameleon colonies, squirrels and Cinnamon Dove, Cape White-eye, Lemon Dove, African Paradise-Flycatcher, and Forest Canary; and its 950 wine-producing vines.

While initially birthed under the curation of Liz McGrath and with the caring hand of co-creator Jean Almon, today the gardens are maintained by Head Gardner Leigh-Ann Louw and her team.

We’ve caught up with a few of the greenfingers that have contributed to the making of The Cellars-Hohenort gardens over the years – namely Jean Almon and Niall Mckrill – and today we share insight into Leigh-Ann, the woman helping to transform all who walk through one of South Africa’s most beautiful gardens.


Q&A with Leigh-Ann Louw

What’s your favourite part of The Cellars-Hohenort garden?
There are so many… but I have to say the herb garden because as soon as you step into it, the scent of all the different fragrances is so amazing. I also enjoy having the chefs of The Conservatory and Greenhouse invading the garden too.

What are some of the summer highlights in the garden?
It’s the flowering time of many of the plants, and I love the sound of the bees buzzing around the blooms.

What’s popping up in the veggie garden at the moment?
Lovely fresh spinach, cabbages and green peppers.

Do you have a favourite gardening quote to share with us?
‘Gardening always has been an art, essentially.’ – Robert Irwin

Your perfect day looks like…
Coming in early in the morning and walking around the property to think about the week ahead. I have a wonderful team where I set out the work for each gardener as well as for myself. Just working in the gardens makes my day more than perfect.

Your top three Cape Town gardens are…
The Cellars-Hohenort
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Green Point Urban Park

Any advice for novice gardeners wanting to improve on their gardens?
When you pick your plants choose ones that are adapted to your climate, the soil type and the amount of sunlight that enters your garden. It’s always best to do the research first. And… never forget to take a moment to look and smell at whatever you’re growing in your garden.

Describe yourself in three words
Honest, trustworthy and a hard-worker

Seybrew Beer-Battered Fish & Chips – A Recipe from the Seychelles

“Recipes are by nature derivative and meant to be shared – that is how they improve, are changed, how new ideas are formed. To stop a recipe in its tracks, to label it secret just seems mean.” ― Molly Wizenberg

In the name of sharing, of innovation and kinship, North Island in the Seychelles has shared with us the recipe of one of their guests’ favourite dishes – the freshly-caught Job fish battered in one of island’s finest brews, and served with tartar sauce, saffron mayonnaise and French fries.

Caught sustainably from the waters surrounding the island, Green Job fish is a white, fleshy fish, popular in the Seychelles. When cooked, it is very tender, flakes beautifully and has a lovely subtle flavour. Learn how to make your own Seybrew Beer-Battered Fish and Chips in this recipe from North Island below.

Ingredients (Serves 4):

Beer-Battered Fish
800g Job fish (or sustainably-caught local white, fleshy fish)
Pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper
250g Tempura flour
350ml Seybrew beer (or a local beer)
2L Sunflower oil
500g Potatoes, cut into French fries
Mayonnaise
2 Free-range egg yolks
30ml White wine vinegar
15ml Dijon mustard
500ml Sunflower oil
Pinch of Maldon salt and cracked black pepper
Tartar Sauce
100g Red onions, finely chopped
100g Capers, finely chopped
100g Gherkins, finely chopped
15ml Italian parsley, finely chopped
Mayonnaise
Saffron Mayonnaise
Pinch of saffron strands
Mayonnaise

Method:

  • First make the mayonnaise by placing the egg yolks into the blender along with the mustard and white wine vinegar.
  • Add the oil in a steady stream and keep blending until all the oil has been incorporated.
  • You can also make this by hand in a bowl by whisking at the same time as adding the oil in a steady stream.
  • Divide the mayonnaise into two bowls.
  • Place the onions, gherkins, capers and parsley into one bowl, stir in some mayonnaise and check the seasoning.
  • Place the saffron into the other bowl and add some strands of saffron, stir to bring the colour out.
  • Place the oil into a frying pan and heat gently.
  • Once hot, fry the French fries and cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and keep in a warm place.
  • Cut the fish into smaller pieces, roughly 100g each, to make it quicker to cook.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
  • Place the tempura flour into a bowl. Add the Seybrew local beer and stir until combined.
  • Dip the fish into the batter and drop it gently into the oil. Make sure the oil is hot by testing a piece of battered fish first.
  • Fry the remaining fish until golden brown and drain on paper towel.
  • Serve with the tartar sauce and saffron mayonnaise as well as wedges of lemons and limes.

Discover more about North Island on the Relais & Châteaux website.

Rooibos – The Wonder Plant

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.” – Chaim Potok

There is a right time for tea and a wrong time, I have been told. When having drinks at a bar or while dining out, the taking of tea is not socially acceptable. I know this, because people have made comments, as I sip my Rooibos and they their Pinotage. The right time for tea appears to be at breakfast or afternoon tea, or should someone “pop in for tea”.

I’m all for “socially acceptable” when it comes to napkins and toothpicks and cellphones, but not tea. Rooibos is too delectable to restrict. It tastes very good between G&Ts, in fact. And in the bathtub, in a meeting, on a plane, with chicken or beef. Its the perfect nightcap, calming and warming the drinker before bed.

I grew up with Rooibos like some do siblings. “Here,” my parents said to me as a young only child, “drink this, you’ll feel better.” And I did. Always. And I still do. Always. Because Rooibos is a wonder plant. It has untold benefits for body and mind.

The next time someone scoffs at your fancy for tea, simply quote Thomas de Quincey to them… “Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities, will always be the favourite beverage of the intellectual.”

Or tell them to read this blog. Because, below is a look at this uniquely South African plant, as explained by Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat,  one of the best places in the world to find and enjoy Rooibos in its many forms.

Rooibos is as much a part of the Bushmans Kloof experience as the warm, caring service and hospitality. They serve jugs of iced Rooibos tea on arrival as a signature welcome drink, while steaming pots of Rooibos tea are popular at High Tea.

“Where there’s tea, there’s hope.” – Arthur Wing Pinero

History

The indigenous Rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis), has received praise from across the world for its delicious taste and proven health benefits. This wonder plant grows naturally only in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape and can be found growing wild across the expanse of the reserve.

It was first discovered by botanists in 1772, and was named ‘red bush’ by the Dutch settlers. The ancient Khoisan civilization that lived in and around the Cederberg used it as a herbal remedy for many different ailments, and it’s believed that they were the first to discover that the needle-like Rooibos leaves could be used to make a refreshing brew. The Rooibos pioneers used axes to harvest the plant in the wild, after which they then bruised the leaves with hammers, before leaving it to ferment in heaps and then dry in the sun.

Today the plant is harvested and processed in very much the same way, although more sophisticated equipment is used of course.

Its modern history started in 1968, when a South African mother, Mrs Annetjie Theron first put the spotlight on Rooibos, claiming that it soothed away her baby’s colic. She published a book on her findings and went on to launch a full range of health and skin care products with Rooibos as the basic ingredient. Rooibos then made headlines in Japan in 1984 as an anti-ageing product, and has since been used in many anti-ageing body and skin care product ranges.

At The Spa at Bushmans Kloof, extracts of the Rooibos plant can be found in many of their therapeutic face and body treatments, and it’s integral to the signature B| Africa product range, which combines indigenous African plant extracts with the natural resources of the sea.

The Benefits and Uses

Nowadays, enjoying Rooibos as a tea is perhaps its most recognized form – a delicious, healthy and caffeine-free drink that is packed with anti-oxidants. It has a unique, sweet and slightly nutty taste, which has a soothing effect on the digestive and central nervous systems.

Executive Chef, Charles Hayward is big fan and is fond of using Rooibos tea as an ingredient in some of his Cape Country dishes. Previously, Bushmans Kloof has contributed to Rooibos Limited’s cookbook, ‘A Touch of Rooibos’, voted the best single subject cookbook in South Africa, and the third best cookbook in the world at the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

One of only a few indigenous South African plants to have become an important commercial commodity, Rooibos tea is still produced mainly in its natural distribution area – the districts of Nieuwoudtville, Clanwilliam, Citrusdal and Piketberg, and then exported all over the world.

RECIPES FROM BUSHMANS KLOOF

“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.” – Lu T’ung

Discover more in Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat‘s  blog.