... Many suppliers, and indeed retailers, have tapped into the consumers' demand for differentiated products. Speciality cheese makers, who are on the rise in South Africa, believe that there is a lot of space to grow with artisan cheese. "When introducing new products , such as speicality cheeses, a customer needs to be able to taste, feel, smell and see the product - packaging and promotional stands should all lend themselves to enhancing the customer's experience in the future, "says Ursula Ostuni, owner of Puglia cheese.
Puglia cheese was born out of necessity, says Ostuni, after finding a lack of truly authentic italian cheese whenever they holidayed in South Africa. " We believe the South african market is starting to get a taste of what Europe has to offer and loves it, but not enough is being done to promote the benefits of cheese, "she says. The health benefits need to be made clear to consumers and other vehicles of promotion are very necessary, such as the annual Cheese Festival.
Louisa Holst is looking for everything that is beautiful and tasty for your kitchen.
JUST LIKE IN ITALY
At La Masserie Agriturismo you eat food the way it's made in Italy. Here you won't just enjoy a fantastic alfresco lunch, but their own cheeses and smoked meat which is available to buy from the deli. Try the Mozzarella Fior di latte and Ciliegine, or their speciality cheese, burrata, prepared on pasta with spinach and pinenuts. They also offer cheese making and pasta making classes. They are in Klein Schuur op the R44 just outside Stellenbosch. Tel: 021 881 3654
Miki, the owner of La Masserie Agriturismo, is a dear friend of Puglia cheese. She produces many semi-mature and mature cheeses of her own, crispy traditional 'Altamura' bread every morning and preserves to the delight of every tastebud. Her deli also present on occasion some of her favourite Puglia cheese cheeses. Miki's Sunday buffet is a favourite of ours and of every true traditional italian food lover that has discovered her cooking. We wish her great success!
A special evening in honour of Puglia cheese and Puglian food was held at La Scuola Italiana. Guests and friends within the community all got to enjoy an authentic italian dinner, where Puglian handmade pasta, wine, music and cheese were all on the menu. Puglia cheese thanks La Scuola Italiana for their enthusiasm and a fabulously nostalgic evening.
I have had my moments with Giorgio Nava, but must salute his bravery in zealously opening restaurants in Cape Town, in addition to the two established restaurants 95 Keerom Street and Carne. Last month he opened Down Southon Long Street and the Mozzarella Bar on Kloof Street, and on Saturday Café Milano opened, higher up on Kloof Street. The Mozzarella Bar is run by charming Italians, and all its dishes, except the bakery items and desserts, contain a soft creamy mozzarella, offering good value for money.Co-owner and interior designer, and friend of Nava, Matteo Amatruda, explained that Nava is trying to educate Capetonians about true Italian cuisine, and each of his restaurants, with the exception of Down South, focuses on a specific Italian aspect. Café Milano, for example, will focus on baking, and bakes the bread and makes the croissants for the Mozzarella Bar. Nava runs between all his properties, we were told, and we saw this, as he popped in as we were about to leave, having been there earlier in the morning already.
The manager Simone explained that special equipment was brought out from Italy for the manufacture of mozzarella cheese in Cape Town, and it is made from cow’s milk. This was a surprise, as my perception was that Buffalo mozzarella is the benchmark for this cheese. Matteo explained that Italy is divided in its preference for the type of milk used in mozzarella production, and the western and southern parts of Italy prefer mozzarella made from buffalo milk. It is the eastern side of Italy, and the town Puglia especially, that is known for the use of cow’s milk. The Italian mozzarella maker in Cape Town comes from Puglia, hence the name of the supplier is Puglia Cheese, which I subsequently discovered supplies most Italian-style restaurants in Cape Town. Nava’s restaurants are her main client base, Matteo said.
I had been to the previous restaurant in this location, A la Posta, also Italian style, once only, and it never quite took off. Little has changed, with a counter seating area around the food preparation area, and with interesting white bar stools probably coming from Matteo’s interior design store a+1 in The Foundry. What was formerly part of the previous restaurant, is now an art gallery upstairs, branded a+1, and private functions can be hosted here, with seating provided. The restaurant space is small, and probably can seat no more than 20 guests, if that many. But there is a constant flow of clients, and they all seemed to have an Italian connection when we were there. The kitchen staff wear I ♥ Mozarella T-shirts. Interesting looking wooden buttermilk ‘vessels’ have been put to decorative use on the walls behind the counter. Matteo told me that Giorgio had found these in a factory he had bought, and apparently some of them have been hung at Carne too. On one side is refrigerated shelving, selling imported buffalo mozzarella, and the locally made cow mozzarella. Pecorini is also for sale, as are olive oils and olives from Morgenster. One can also buy the proscuitto, but it is not pre-cut nor visible in the refrigerator. Simone and Matteo are both charming, with Italian accents. Both are hands-on, and do almost all the work themselves, although there are more staff behind the counter and in the small kitchen preparation area. It felt as if there were more staff than customers. Most of the menu consists of cold dishes, which must make the food preparation much easier. The counter tops have holders with Morgenster olive oil and balsamic vinegar in them, and very cheap salt and fine pepper pots. The cheap ‘kitchen’ fork and quality serrated knife are rolled in a paper serviette. A pepper grinder is offered once the food is served.
Simone explained the menu to us as soon as we arrived, and it was a bit overwhelming, given that there are a number of different mozzarella styles to comprehend, and lots of Italian menu item names to contend with. Mozzarella is served as a trio of styles (Nodino - knotted, Affumicata - smoked, and Burrata- the cream-filled standard) for R80. Burrata mozzarella is served with parma ham, cooked ham, mortadella, air-dried beef, or air-dried tuna, at R65 - R80. I had the mozzarella served with the prosciutto, imported from Italy, and beautifully presented with rocket and the mozzarella, and drizzled with olive oil, and accompanied by crispy slices of toasted bread. The hot dishes are a deep-fried Mozzarella sandwich, and two styles of panzerotto, being tomato filled pastries, one with and the other without ham, all costing no more than R50. One can also order Rotolo, a “mozzarella sheet” or roll, with a vegetable, salmon or parma ham center, again none costing more than R50. A sandwich with mozzarella and parma ham costs R50. Salads naturally all contain mozzarella, and none cost more than R60. Only three desserts are offered: vanilla gelato made at 95 Keerom (R40), and a new addition to the menu, Chocolat ‘Foundant’ ‘95′ (R50), which took some time to prepare. Sadly, the restaurant had run out of tiramisu (R40) by the time we ordered.
Only five wine choices are offered, by Chamonix and Dalla Cia, Chamonix Rouge being the only red wine. Vintages are noted, and the wine character described. All are available by the glass (R23 - R 40) or by the bottle (R 80 - R170). Peroni is the only beer available (R16).
The LavAzza cappuccino, and other coffees, must be the cheapest in Cape Town, at only R10. This week the Mozzarella Bar will get its iced coffee maker from LavAzza, and Matteo says it will be the best in Cape Town - they will make it with espresso, cream and milk. Free wireless internet is offered, as it is at Down South, a clever service to offer. Overall, the Mozzarella Bar offers good value, and has the benefit that one can pop in to eat something and drink a good coffee throughout the day. For Breakfast only four styles of croissant are available - plain, with chocolate, with jam and with custard, a la Italian style. Don’t expect any cooked breakfasts!
Mozzarella Bar, 51 Kloof Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-5822. No website. Monday - Saturday 7h00 - 19h00. A food delivery and catering service is offered.
In the early 1990s Davide Ostuni spent a few years living and working in Cape Town. He fell in love with the city – which reminds Davide very much of the part of Italy he is from (Puglia) – and also his wife Ursula, and shortly thereafter they left the country to spend 17 years in London and Europe. But they always knew that one day they would return, and when they did they brought their friend, and Italian restaurateur Fabio Fatelli, with them.
Davide and Fabio, who were both born in Italy, are seasoned professionals of the catering industry and passionate lovers and critics of the Italian cuisine. In true Italian style, their dinner-parties are not completewithout a healthy debate over the meal prepared and the historic origins of the ingredients used. So a food-related new business venture here in South Africa was the obvious choice; the question was simply: what?
They soon discovered a need for truly authentic Italian ingredients in South Africa. In Italian culture, fresh mozzarella forms an integral part of almost all dishes; from starters, to pasta’s, pizza’s and risotto’s. But the “mozzarella” Davide and Fabio found in Cape Town was not the true Italian breed - which is white, moist and soft (and doesn’t become plastic-like on cold pizza!). So the team convinced another friend, and mozzarella maestro, Cosimo Rotolo, to join them in Cape Town, and Puglia Cheese was borne.
Mozzarella is a fresh cheese, first recorded in 1570 in the cook book of a renowned chef and cook to the papal court, Bartolomeo Scappi. There are still disagreements today about its origins - either from the South of Italy or Central Italy with the introduction of the Asian Buffalo – but it may have been invented as far back as 6000 BC with the Asian nomadic tribes.
There are two types of mozzarella: made from cow’s milk or buffalo milk. Buffalo mozzarella is much richer in taste, more arduous to work with, and it only keeps for up to two days. In Italy it is a delicacy, with only one kilogram being produced for every ten kilograms of cow mozzarella. Davide explains that neither one is better than the other, it is merely a matter of taste, “like the difference between your mothers bolognaise and my mothers bolognaise”. To get the best buffalo mozzarella, he says, one would need to travel to a particular region of south-east Italy.
The process of making mozzarella is a delicate one: the properties of the raw cow’s milk vary vastly depending on what type of grass the cows are eating and other environmental conditions. White milk with the right levels of acidity is needed in order to ensure top quality mozzarella. And Puglia Cheese insists on the highest quality of milk so that they don’t have to introduce any additives. The milk is currently sourced from a wide range of farms, but they are hoping to develop a good relationship with some small farms that will enable them to prescribe the conditions that will produce best milk for their cheese.
Puglia Cheese is artisanal; maestro Cosimo makes it by hand, resulting in a lower rate of production but allowing for a higher variety of shapes, such as the nodini (‘little knots’) and the burrata (a mozzarella ball filled with soft ripped mozzarella soaked in double cream). He also makes the traditional mozzarella balls – Fior de latte – as well as caciovalla and scamorsa types (amongst others). To honour the traditions of South Italian villages, Puglia Cheese has also produced its unique caciotta cheese, in honour of its new host country. They have named her Primo Fiore, the 'First flower' - a soft, creamy cheese that leaves a milky aftertaste perfect for blending with preserves or jelly and a dry Chardonnay.
Only seven months in, and the business is now expanding really quickly – many of the top-rated restaurants and delis in Cape Town are Puglia Cheese customers and the list is growing. Part of their marketing strategy involves educating South African’s about mozzarella and their other cheeses, and they provide some great recipes on their website, while inviting customers to submit their recipes on their Facebook page. Davide and Fabio will soon be producing other Italian food products, such as sun-dried tomatoes, to add to their repertoire. So there is much to look forward to!
In the post before this one, I wrote about the interesting sheets of mozzarella I bought from Puglia Cheese in Cape Town, and showed you some beetroot, rocket, lemon and marjoram rolls. Here's the second batch I made, which contain fresh sorrel leaves, lemon zest, white anchovies, capers, garlic and pepper. As you can see, these rolls don't have the nice circular shape the beetroot ones had. I was going for a pinwheel look, but I found it really difficult to achieve a nice, tight roll when the entire sheet was covered with leaves. (I covered only one edge of the sheet with leaves in the first batch I made; here's a picture). Still, they were delicious, and tasted even better the next day, when the flavours had had a chance to develop. You could blanch the leaves, I suppose, to make them more flat and pliable, but they would lose their fresh bite (and perhaps become slimy in the fridge).
I used red-vein sorrel leaves from my garden, which have a lovely sour bite, but you could use any similar fresh green leaf.
Sheet Mozzarella Rolls with Sorrel, Lemon, Anchovies and Capers
a sheet of fresh mozzarella the finely grated zest of a lemon 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled a pinch of flaky sea salt 3 T (45 ml) capers 6 white Italian anchovy fillets, or 4 of the brown, tinned kind 3 T (45 ml) olive oil salt and freshly milled black pepper fresh sorrel, beetroot or rocket leaves
To serve: olive oil extra capers crusty bread
Place a sheet of clingfilm or baking paper on your kitchen counter and smear it with some olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly milled black pepper. Pat the mozzarella sheet quite dry using kitchen paper, and place it on the clingfilm.
Put the lemon zest, garlic and salt in a mortar and pound to a coarse paste. Finely chop the capers and the anchovies and stir them into the paste, along with the olive oil. Smear the mixture evenly all over the mozzarella sheet. Season generously with freshly milled black pepper, and a little more salt, if necessary. Arrange the sorrel leaves all over the top; don't worry if they overlap slightly. Now pick up the edge of the clingfilm and nudge the sheet into a roll, as you would do if you were making sushi. Roll, away from you, into a neat sausage. Wrap clingfilm round the roll and tightly twist the ends in opposite directions to make a tight 'salami'.
Place in the fridge to firm up for two hours (or longer). Now, using a very sharp knife, slice directly through the plastic to make discs. Place on a plate for half an hour to bring to room temperature. Just before serving, drizzle with olive oil and scatter with extra capers and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately with plenty of fresh crusty bread for mopping up the juices.
I was intrigued to come across these beautiful sheets of mozzarella, which are produced in Cape Town by a little family firm that has taken the local foodie community by storm. Puglia provided a selection of their exquisite (and I mean delicious) cheeses for tasting at the second (more about that soon), which I organised with my friend Judy.While Judy was at the factory picking up the cheeses, she bought a kilo of this fabulous sheet mozzarella, and we shared it.Quite apart from the fact that this is authentic Italian mozzarella of the highest quality, this product is very special because it is so versatile; its delicate, milky deliciousness is a perfect foil for punchy flavours. You can add just about anything you like to a mozzarella roll: the classic Caprese combination of tomato and basil, or fresh herbs of your choice, or garlic, lemon, olives, capers, anchovies, roasted peppers, chillies and other singing flavours of the Mediterranean. I've just make a second roll, which is firming in the fridge as we speak, containing fresh sorrel and beetroot leaves, lemon zest, white anchovies, capers, garlic and pepper
Making these canapes took me just a few minutes, although I did put the roll in the fridge for an hour to firm up. (And no, I didn't matchstick the beetroot myself! I took them, and the rocket, from a packet of Woolworths's new beetroot and cranberry salad.) Do leave the rolls, once you've sliced them, at room temperature for half an hour or so, to lose their chill, and place them on the biscuits or crostini just before serving them, as the cheese tends to weep.
You can spread the filling all over the cheese to achieve a pin-wheel effect, but I found that this made the 'sausage' of cheese difficult to roll neatly.
Sheet Mozzarella Rolls with Beetroot, Rocket, Lemon and Marjoram a sheet of fresh mozzarella the finely grated zest of a small lemon a large clove of garlic, finely crushed 3 T (45 ml) olive oil, plus more for topping salt and freshly milled black pepper 2 T (30 ml) fresh marjoram leaves (or oregano) fresh rocket leaves fresh beetroot, cut into matchsticks
To serve: olive oil crackers or crostini
Place a sheet of clingfilm or baking paper on your kitchen counter and smear it with some olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly milled black pepper. Pat the mozzarella sheet quite dry using kitchen paper, and place it on the clingfilm. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Smear the mixture evenly all over the mozzarella sheet. Arrange the marjoram leaves, rocket leaves and beetroot sticks along the edge of the mozzarella sheet closest to you. Now pick up the edge of the clingfilm and nudge the sheet into a roll, as you would do if you were making sushi. Roll, away from you, into a neat sausage. Wrap clingfilm round the roll and tightly twist the ends in opposite directions to make a tight 'salami'.
Place in the fridge to firm up for an hour. Now, using a very sharp knife, slice directly through the plastic to make discs. Place on a plate for half an hour to bring to room temperature. Just before serving, arrange the discs on biscuits or crostini and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.