Former fashion editor and style guru Isabella Niehaus’s latest venture is an ode to oceanside eating and socialising – the West Coast way.
After years of being “allergic to kitchens” Isabella woke up one day to discover that not only could she cook, she was in fact jolly adept at it. Never short of ground-breaking ideas, she set up shop in her stylish Langebaan dune home in 2012 hosting langtafel Sunday lunches – an intimate anthropology told in beloved recipes.
She admits that these much-talked-about feasts are an improvisation, more jazz than symphony. For a limited audience of between 12 to 48, she riffs with spontaneity to serve up a memorable gastronomic experience, all while creating a community that lasts as long as the meal.
What makes the twice-monthly five-course lunches all the more exceptional, is that they’re not stand-on-ceremony kind of affairs. Some diners relax and chat; a few might happily lend a hand; others clear the table; and those who want to learn, get first-hand tips from a master cook.
When it’s all done, the dishes starring locally-sourced, fresh seafood reflects Isabella’s personality: joyous. She finds it difficult to list favourites, but says, “My mussel bobotie and smoked snoek cheesecake are guaranteed to blow minds.”
The adventure starts the minute you arrive at the top of the stairs to a breathtaking ocean vista from the stoep. G&T in hand and introductions all around, the atmosphere warms even more. Enormous platters of oysters accompanied by sparkling wine set the tone of much conviviality on the expansive deck. Oh, and on the side: that snoek cheesecake. Damn, it’s good!
Now seated at the langtafel, fat, juicy mussels enhanced in a soft masala curry/coconut cream sauce with one-bite vetkoek balls are a tip of the hat to the West Coast. Same for the angelfish in a soya/yoghurt sauce all but hiding the green salad which is a party of flavours. Braaied harders deliver an authentic taste of nearby Velddrif.
Finally, a blushing grilled rump with mushroom sauce is rounded out with golden sweet potato chips and crunchy bulgur wheat. Ah, and then the dessert: chocolate tarte and a Cointreau chocolate log has one seeing stars.
Knocking out plate after plate of the things she loves, Isabella maintains, “The food has to be simple, honest, delicious and beautiful.”
A few times a year the Gauteng crowd is privy to her epicurean spreads and she makes sure West Coast magic accompanies these events. It follows then that a cookbook was called for, so last year saw the launch of the aptly-titled Duinhuis. “A storybook of my life,” she calls it, “the people, the journeys and most importantly, the food.”
Also in demand as a teacher, Isabella finds time once a month to give seafood cooking classes both in Langebaan and Cape Town.
Although her prolific 23-year career as stylist and fashion editor for leading South African magazines is long in the past, she admits that she sometimes misses it. “It was a glamorous life indeed. But the time came to let go.”
At home Isabella is surrounded by a zoo of four dogs, three cats and when not competing in international kite surfing competitions, her son Taro. “Much as I love people, I absolutely need space-out time with my animals and books.”
To veg out I read
My pet place on the West Coast is my home in Langebaan
My favourite restaurants are Wolfgat and Noisy Oyster in Paternoster
I love eating mussels
My signature drink is a good MCC
Favourite reads are fiction, biographies and autobiographies
To book for Langtafel op die Duin or order the cookbook, call 083 2652147
All photos: Yvette Jordaan
So much to do, so little time. That pretty much sums up a day spent at Misverstand Dam’s Club Elani, 70 minutes from Blouberg, 12 km after Moorreesburg on the N7. Although the dam undoubtedly is the focal point, there’s an expansive grassed area for relaxing with a book, gnome gardens for kids and a clubhouse for eats and drinks.
Navigable for 12 km upstream from the dam wall along the Berg river, boat or canoe excursions are simply thrilling, while water-skiing features high on the must-do agenda. No boat? They’ve got your back. Captain Nic offers tubing, water-skiing and wakeboarding from his Regal Inboard. Oh, and the 12-metre double super-tube slippery slide is pure fun n games for young and old of all weights.
On the outskirts is a 20-km ATV off-road track with novice, medium and experienced courses and ATVs are rented at R80 pd. Even mountain biking enthusiasts are catered for along a route with marvellous views.
However, activities at Misverstand aren’t all high-octane. It’s also a well-liked spot for contemplative pursuits such as swimming and fishing to the haunting sound of the fish eagles’ cry. And anglers will be pleased to know that the barbel are well over 1 metre long. Other fish species include big-mouth, small-mouth and spotted bass; carp; blue and vlei kurper; bluegill sunfish; and mosquito fish.
Having too much fun and don’t want to leave? Stay over in one of the many basic cottages or camp in one of two campsites for a minimum stay of two nights.
Misverstand is run privately by the Serdyns. For bookings contact helpful Hendrien – email@example.com, or 083 6075863.
A day surrounded by flowers must surely count as one of pure happiness. Every year, on the first Saturday from May to November, Duckitt Nurseries opens its doors to the public. Here, 3 km south of Darling, from 9h00 until noon, you can gaze at the beautiful orchid and cut flower varieties such as Cymbidium, Ansellia, Cattleya alliance and Oncidium Alliance.
The nursery, which was established in 1979, constantly breeds and imports new varieties to accommodate the preferences of an ever-changing global flower market.
As one of the most diverse flowers, what sets orchids apart are their fragrance and delicate splendour. Love, beauty and luxury are the common symbols used for orchids. A less well-known fact is that their medicinal properties were lauded in some of the oldest Chinese pharmaceutical texts and during the Middle Ages they were used for herbal remedies and love potions.
Entrance to Duckitt Nurseries is free and visitors may also buy plants and flowers in the packshed. The three hours will pass in a jiffy and you’re then welcome to sit down to free coffee and tea, accompanied by Duckitt’s famous Presby pancakes. Believe me, it’s worth taking the trip for this alone!
For enquiries phone 022 4922606 or visit https://www.darlingorchids.com to buy online.
Food has a way of soothing us and nothing more so than a hearty potjie. So rope in the crowds for a gathering around the fire. Then sit down to the familiar but fabulous West Coast Curried Fish Potjie.
Ingredients: 100 ml oil, 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 1 peeled, chopped sweet pepper, 1 kg potatoes cubed, 4 carrots cubed, water, 30 ml curry powder, 5 ml vinegar, 1 kg cubed hake, 1 kg mussels in shell, 500 gm deshelled prawns, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 kg calamari cut into rings, salt & pepper.
Method: Heat oil in potjie, add onions, garlic & sweet pepper. Fry for 5 minutes. Add potatoes & carrots. Cook until done, adding small amounts of water. Add curry powder and vinegar. After 10 minutes add the hake and then the mussels. Season with salt & pepper. Add celery, calamari and prawns. Simmer for 5 minutes. Don’t stir the potjie too often. Serve with white rice or fresh bread.