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November 12, 2013

One ingredient by Matt Manning

Matt Manning’s One Ingredient is a unique and surprising experience hosted in the heart of trendy Woodstock. Walking into the quaint Eleven Kitchen, we were greeted by a friendly Matt, and Shaun, the lovely representative from Damn Fine Wines, who offered us some delicious wine. The concept behind One Ingredient is simple, but brilliant. A four-course dinner paired with a variety of wines, with each course based on the theme ingredient (in our case, cauliflower). The (added) twist? You cook two of the dishes yourself under Matt's guidance.

At this point many of you are probably turning your noses, believing cauliflower to be the limp, watery, soft vegetable that you avoided in your childhood. This poor vegetable has the reputation of the smelly boy in primary school that nobody wanted to play with, who was picked last for any games. But Matt Manning has taken this once-undesirable vegetable and given it new life. Roasted, steamed, grilled, sautéed, pureed, sliced, chopped and blended. You name it, Matt does it.

Matt was inspired to start One Ingredient because he wanted to do something unique and fresh, and show people what he had to offer other than the same-old. Matt trained under various chefs in the classic French-Style, including at Gordon Ramsey’s Petrus under Chef Patron Marcus Wareing and Head chef Alyn Williams for two years, and describes his style as classic French with a modern twist.

The dinner began with an amuse bouche of Cauliflower and parmesan veloute, which was genuinely like having angels walk across my tongue, delicately traipsing nectar from the gods in their wake. As we sipped on this delicious 'soup', Matt showed us how to assemble the next course. The starter was a cauliflower assiette, which consisted of a selection of different cauliflower (yes, there is more than one type – can you handle!) cooked in a variety of ways – pickled, grilled, pureed and raw. As we took to our stations, we all excitedly assembled our starters, whilst sipping the charming last Temptation Riesling from La Vierge.

For the main course, we were shown how to prepare slow cooked Lamb rump, braised cauliflower pearl barley, cauliflower, caper and raisin piccalilli, with Lamb jus. Matt had pre-cooked the lamb for 90 minutes in a stock of some sort (at this point I had sampled a number of the delectable wines on offer, so am a little fuzzy on all the details!) Once he had shown us how to render the fat of the lamb (the trick here is to cook it slowly on a low heat in order to get the fat really crispy). The barley risotto is made by cooking the pieces of cauliflower, then adding the barley and stock, whilst massaging the starch out of the barley, adding cauliflower puree and finally some parmesan. The secret ingredient of course was butter.  Butter, butter, butter people. All of it. The Lamb and barley risotto was paired with a delicious Conviction Cabernet Sauvignon.

Matt seems to have a particular fondness for Lamb, noting that were he to create a dish that embodied the Cape spirit, “It would have to be a take on Lamb Bobotie, or braised Lamb belly with curried cannellini beans.” The evening was topped off nicely by a performance by Fiona Hare, who serenaded us with tunes of our choice, as we enjoyed our dessert; a scrumptious chocolate fudge, coconut foam and cauliflower streusel. Yet another hit. 

Reflecting on why he decided to leave the UK and come to Cape Town, Matt says: "I actually came here for love, but I had always wanted to travel around the world, cooking in various place, and when I arrived in Cape Town I realised that I didn't want to leave."

One Ingredient was not only a gastronomical delight, it was also a great interactive experience with a charming and highly talented young chef, Matt Manning. If you are looking for something fresh to do in this beautiful city, this should definitely be on your list. The vibe is great, the food is fantastic and the people are friendly - definitely a must-do in Cape Town. 

Matt hosts the One Ingredient nights twice a month, and you can book your place by checking out his Facebook page.

You can follow Matt and Damn Fine Wines on Twitter at @MattManning_ and @DamnFineWines

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