The talented sisters Seline and Leandri, wooed our hearts on MasterChef South Africa 2013, as we watched week by week and willed them on to the competition finals. As a country we simply fell in love with them, just the right amount of sweetness and mischief and my, oh my, could these gals cook. It is only fitting that they brought out a cookbook together. Two, published by Penguin Random House South Africa, may have a simple title, but there is nothing simple about this delightful cookbook.
As an idea for a cook book it is different, spunky and brilliant, they wander their way through a number of ingredients, providing two recipes for each of them. For each ingredient there is an easier often family friendly recipe, followed by a more elaborate recipe cooks with more skills… Practicing the first kind of recipe would gain you entrance into the Masterchef competition and the second variation of the recipe will be those recipes you need to stay in the game. The photographs are crisp and clear, the recipes are genuinely new and innovative. This is a very fun book for the cook that thinks they have tried everything… really this book is packed with fresh flavours to try and new recipes to explore.
This book arrived with the best style that a cookbook has ever arrived with a beetroot lollipop and watermelon jam… the cuteness, have you ever!!! And so sweet. These little treats immediately give you an inkling as to what to find between the pages. There are some lovely and unusual ingredients, as well as a very few ordinary ingredients, the ordinary ingredients are of course dressed up for a full night out on the town. These girls have style and it shows in their choice of recipe time after time.
Se7en + 1 Recipes We Tried…
- Classic Mushrooms on Toast: Add some key ingredients like a chopped onion and cream cheese and ordinary fried mushrooms literally becomes a feast on toast. Yummy.
- Easy Mexican Milk Tart: Well this went down well, my family loved and adored it… they added buckets more chilli that the recipe required, dare I say a little proud of their chilli abilities!!!
- Traditional Steak and Ale Pie With Cream Cheese and Mushroom Pastry: Because sometimes dinner needs a wow factor and this recipe has the wow factor and wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. In fact we need to eat more pies.
- Perfect Buttered Popcorn: Who knew that you needed a spray bottle and a pestle and mortar to make the perfect popcorn… you do. Just saying!!!
- Traditional Coq Au Vin: To be honest if we do cook chicken I usually roast it, easy and minimal work. This recipe requires quite a bit more effort than I normally put into dinner, but so, so worth it.
- Gerda’s Plaatkoekies: I can see why these are a family favourite in the gal’s home… to be honest if I make these too often then some folk around here are going to insist that they become part of our routine!!!
- Earl Grey Shortbread with Lavender Sugar: I love recipes that require something from the garden, and lavender is one of those ingredients. Otherwise I have never thought to use the tea in teabags in a recipe. So many clever ideas to learn in this book.
- The Basics: This section at the back of the book has all sorts of little tricks and we needed quite a few of them… shortcrust pastry for the win!!!
And Now for the Scoop: An Interview With Seline and Leandri
Here we go, se7en + 1 questions we think our readers would like to ask you…
- Your cook book has everything from crayfish to mushrooms on toast, but if you had to choose a meal to come home to at the end of the day what would it be?
- You both learned to cook at home, and honed your skills while growing up. Did you think that those skills would see you all the way through to the finals of Masterchef or did you have other cooking training as well?
- You both have careers in engineering and yet you love cooking, did you enter Masterchef on a whim, to have some fun together and see how far you could go or did you think it was time for a new season in your lives and a fresh start?
- You obviously love traveling, your book is packed with traveling adventures… If you could go out for a meal, anywhere in the world, where would it be? And if you could invite your food/chef inspiration, who would you invite?
- Writing a cookbook is about as far as you could get from your usual day to day work, what was the best part about putting it all together for you?
- From your book, it is quite clear that you love food and a wide variety of it. What is your favourite ingredient to work with and while we at it, what is your worst?
- Is there a piece of kitchen equipment that you would really rather not live without? In fact what do you think is essential to any kitchen…
- While your book is a recipe book, it is simply packed with photos of your life and childhood, a beautiful photographic memoir… what flavour or aroma, takes you right back to your favourite food memory from childhood?
Seline: I’m a sucker for comfort food like roast chicken, with a couscous accompaniment… And something warm and chocolatey for dessert.
Leandri: Out of our book? I love mushrooms on toast and could easily eat it every day! Outside of the confines of our book, I’d probably say some kind of chicken and chickpea curry with naan bread and some great rice. I love Punjabi cuisine.
Seline: We grew up cooking for fun, and not being allowed by our mother to watch cartoons, we found a lot of cooking shows to fill our “TV time” with… This included old shows like “MasterChef goes Large” and “Ready, Steady, Cook!” It sounds silly, but I entered MCSA on a whim, thinking to myself “I’ll never get in anyways – what are the chances?” If you have been doing things your whole life, you don’t necessarily realize that you are “good” at it – you just assume that everybody knows how to make a bouillabaisse from scratch 😉 On a serious note though, you’re not allowed to enter MCSA if you’ve had ANY training, so no – we just went in with what we knew… And then we learnt a LOT on the show and afterwards from chef and industry friends who mentored us; something we’re very grateful for.
Leandri: Ditto. What she said.
Seline: I famously told Leandri that she “owed me” and HAD to come with me to auditions. “It’ll be fun”, I said. “We’ll never get in”, I said… And the rest is history.
Leandri: Seline needed a change – and I was in between volunteering up in Africa and starting a Masters degree.
Seline: I LOVE travelling and have really spent my youth exploring the world – something that I hope to continue doing until I die. If I could eat anywhere in the world I’d eat at Eleven Madison Park in Mew York City. This restaurant by Chef Daniel Humm is super experimental and cutting edge, and booked out a year in advance. I tried getting a booking when I was in NYC 2 years ago, but the website kept crashing when they opened for bookings… I would invite Chef Richard Carstens (from Tokara) to come along – that man is such a huge inspiration to me and so far ahead of his time… Plus, he’d probably be able to explain the techniques and ingredients of every dish, just from taste so he’d be a huge asset!
Leandri: I want to go everywhere! Right now, I think I’d like to head off to Noma (Rene Redzepi) before it closes its doors. The chef inspiration I’d take along is someone I haven’t met but would love to – Kobus van der Merwe who runs Oep ve Koep in The Cape. He forages and knows ingredients so well – his enthusiasm would be contagious.
Seline: Look, we’ve wanted a cookbook since we were little girls. Our mother used to buy us children’s cookbooks before we could even read and we both have a cookbook collection that is treasured (although varied due to our different personalities!). So writing our own was a dream come true, especially with a publisher as huge as Penguin Random House! It was so much fun to develop the concept behind the book and then to come up with all of the recipes – and working along somebody as brilliant as Leandri just made it that much more entertaining.
Leandri: It was a creative release – I needed to work on my Masters dissertation at the time of our manuscript deadline but I found working on our book a lot more captivating and satisfying! My best moment of the process was during our photography with Sean Calitz and Brita du Plessis – they are so incredible. We made the cumin steak with a coffee sauce and the leftovers we left for the MD of Penguin Randomhouse, Steve Connolly, and the next day he sent a message to us to let us know it was the best sauce he had ever eaten! That was an incredible compliment!
Seline: My favorite ingredient in the world is watermelon
And I’ll eat anything except coriander leaves… To me it tastes like stinkbugs :/
Leandri: I love adding lemon juice and zest to dishes – it brings necessary brightness to most dishes, especially pasta. I dislike cheese, in particular blue cheese – the smell remains with me long after I have handled it – yuck!
Seline: Sharp knives… And you don’t know what a sharp knife is until you buy a brand new Opinel, Global or Wusthof straight out of the box. It makes the world of difference!
Leandri: A good nonstick pan is a must. It saves my life over and over again – pancakes, omelets, fish… everything is just much easier to prepare.
Seline: The smell of frying plaatkoekies (flapjacks) will always remind me of Sunday mornings as a kid, with mom willing us out of bed before church with the wonderful smell of these goodies. And she always had the largest array of toppings, although a simply spread of some butter would usually be more than enough for me. Precious memories…
Leandri: We grew up with naartjie, peach and nectarine trees in our back yard, so the smell of stone fruit, and having the furry fluff prickle my nose as I smell a cling peach takes me back to summer days in Mafikeng.
We would like to thank Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with a copy of this book to review. And especially thank you to Seline and Leandri for taking the time for such a fab interview. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed in it are as usual, entirely our own.