Tapping Ash: Hot cooking tips from the master chef
Cape Town restaurateur Ash Heeger is touring the world for inspiration for her next project
Ash Heeger exploded onto the scene with her charcoal-fired eatery, Ash, in 2016, quickly carving a name for herself as a hot new Cape Town chef to watch. Having trained under Luke Dale Roberts at La Colombe and The Test Kitchen, Ash worked in London before returning to Cape Town to launch her own restaurant and rake in some serious accolades.What an exciting time for you, just ahead of launching your new venture. Give us a hint as to what we can look forward to?
I’m looking at refining our offering to guests. We’ll still focus heavily on cooking over a fire, but we’re stepping away from the meaty menu that we’ve become known for. You’ll find a lot more seafood and vegetables in the upcoming project.
You’ve learnt from the best with all that professional training under your belt. How do you challenge yourself to continue to explore new flavour sensations for your patrons?
I’ve always found it quite easy to enjoy lesser known foods and more challenging flavours. The hard part is encouraging guests to try new things. That’s the big challenge.What interesting flavour combinations have you experienced and how have your travels encouraged you to experiment?
One of the most surprising discoveries from my recent travels has been that we’re not far behind when it comes to food trends. I used to believe that as country we trailed international chefs. I don’t believe that is the case any more.
One of your specialities is preparing red meat to perfection. Can you give us some unique pairing ideas with red meat?
In South Africa, rosé champagne is traditionally paired with sweet treats and desserts. But there’s a new school of thought that suggests that rosé champagne also pairs beautifully with red meat. A really interesting combination is how well Moët rosé pairs with meat dishes, especially beef and venison.Cape Town and South Africa are such melting pots of influences and flavours. Are people more open to experimentation here than elsewhere?
Quite the opposite actually. I’ve found that we are far less open to trying “strange” flavours, cuts and combinations. I’m hoping this is something that I can help change in the coming years.
What is your motto for success?
My motto is, and always has been, cook from the heart and the rest will follow.
HONEY CURED BEEF
500g free-range dry-aged beef sirloin
3g smoked paprika
5g coriander seeds
100g coarse salt
100g treacle sugar
100g raw honey
25ml olive oil
Trim any fat or connective tissue away from the beef sirloin and set aside uncovered in the fridge until the cure is made. In a small nonstick saucepan, roast the spices individually until fragrant. Give them a small bash in a pestle and mortar or lightly crush with a rolling pin.
Add the spices to a medium bowl along with salt, sugar and honey. Mix well to combine.
Add the trimmed beef to the cure and set aside in the fridge for 2 hours. After 2 hours, flip the beef and repeat.
After the second round of curing, remove the beef from the cure and rinse under cold water to get rid of any excess.
Pat dry and set aside in the fridge until needed.
Heat a large heavy-based saucepan with olive oil until smoking hot. Sear each side of the beef straight from the fridge. Immediately set it back in the fridge once it has seared to prevent any further cooking.
Once cooled, slice as thinly as possible and serve with mixed herb salad and a mustard dressing.
MILK & HONEY HONEY SPONGE
3 whole eggs
75g unrefined brown sugar
45ml raw honey
90g self-raising flour
1 pinch fine salt
5ml olive oil
Preheat oven to 180c
Separate egg yolks and egg whites.
Add sugar and honey to yolks and whisk well.
Gradually mix in flour with a silicone spatula until fully incorporated.
Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until stiff.
Gently mix the yolk mixture and the egg white mixture. Be careful not to over-mix, otherwise the sponge won’t rise as well as it should.
Turn the mix out onto a greased loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
Cool in the baking tin for about 20 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack until fully cooled. Serve with butter and cinnamon sugar.