by Debbie Marcus
You all are in for a big treat at this year’s Tokyo Community Counseling Service House and Garden Tour. The Safmarine House in Meguro is being shown as one of six comes on the tour. Would I ever like to be a fly on the wall that day so as to catch a glimpse of your faces as you tour this magnificent estate! The building is only a little over a year old. Peter James, Director of Safmarine Limited, and his wife Suzette designed the house and painstakingly saw to its every detail.
The James’ house is very definitely a reflection of its occupants, Suzette is easily one of the most gifted hostesses one could have the pleasure of meeting. What she accomplishes in one day puts us all to shame. For Suzette to entertain 30 to 40 people for lunch and dinner is almost a weekly occurrence and she accomplishes this with a style and panache that is seldom seen in today’s informal world.
She mixes her family heirlooms with Japanese porcelain and Mashiko pottery in such a warm, creative way that you can’t recall a time when these pieces were not together in a room. She likes contrast in her house and in her cooking. Some things are very, very western and some things are very, very Japanese.
She often serves a delicious miso soup as a first course when serving a French meal. Homemade Italian zabaglioni is presented in antique Japanese chawan mushi cups for the dessert course. Her table settings also reflect her versatility and charm. She places the floral centerpiece at the end of the table so guests can see each other better and still enjoy the flowers.
How does one achieve that knack for seemingly effortless teaming of guests and atmosphere? I’ve often thought that you are born with that talent and, in Suzette’s case. I think I’m right. She is from Cape Town, South Africa, born into a family who has lived on the Cape for five generations. People at the Cape were and are famous for their hospitality. It all started in the 17th century with the original settlers who established a custom of paying visits on a daily basis. Guests and visitors were gladly welcomed and travelers to the interior of South Africa were amazed by the hospitality.
The Cape hostess during that period could entertain with elegance, having incorporated the best from all over the world. It was a half-way station between the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company’s interests in Asia. Therefore shiploads of porcelain, regularly brought in from Japan and China on their way to Europe, could be intercepted.
The people of the Cape were in the prime position of being able to select the best from the Orient. Skilled Cape silversmiths at that time made beautiful gold and silverware. Glass for use at the Cape was imported from Holland, Germany or England where the glassblowers were skilled. Tablecloths and table napkins were made of Dutch linen, for the Flemish weavers were skilled at weaving damask cloth.
The history of Cape food is also a mixture of the best from around the world — French, German and Dutch. But perhaps the largest influence in the cooking customs of the Cape was the result of the importation of Malay slaves. They began to reach the Cape towards the end of the 17lh century.
The men were skilled carpenters, tailors, musicians, coachmen and fishermen, while the women were expert cooks who not only produced exotic Eastern dishes, but also brought the precious spices with them: star fennel, fennel, turmeric, cardamon, ginger, cumin seed, coriander, garlic, curries, mustard seed, red pepper, saffron, saltpetre, sari leaves and tamarind.
Bobotie is the most popular dish of Cape Malay origin. A baked egg and milk sauce spiked with lemon or bay leaves top a pungent blend of curried mince, fruit, coconut, nuts and herbs.
Over the years Suzette has experimented with countless bobotie recipes but has settled on this one which she finds is the most delicious. It certainly is that, plus I found it was fun to make.
Oil for frying
1 kg minced beef
1/2 kg minced pork
2-3 medium onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp shredded coconut
3 Tbsp chopped almonds
1/2 cup seedless raisins
Pinch of nutmeg, cloves and mixed herbs
2 apples grated
2 Tbsp chutney
1 Tbsp catsup
1 cup dry breadcrumbs mixed with 1/2 cup milk
2 egg yolks
12-14 bay leaves
1-2 tsp curry
1 tsp turmeric
4 Tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Set oven at 190 C/375 F.
Mix curry mixture ingredients and keep. Fry onion and garlic, add meat and brown, Add all other ingredients and curry mixture. Mix well.
Butter a large dish and dish in the meat mixture. Flatten well with your hands and line the bay leaves around the sides, halfway submerging them in the meat. Stand dish in a pan of water and bake for about 40 minutes. (I used the bottom of the broiler pan for this and it worked perfectly.)
Mix all topping ingredients and pour over meat. Bake ’til set—about 20 to 30 minutes.
If there are any leftovers they are very good served cold the next day accompanied with a salad.
Serves 8 to 10.
* * *
South African wine is superb, mainly due to the fact that the grapes are naturally sweet so there is no need to add sugar.
With this next recipe of Suzettes, delicious South African wines should be used to cook with and drink. This is one of the oldest recipes from Cape Town and takes its name from the original wine producing estate called Constantia.
1 kg lean beef cut in thin
8 oz (225g) bacon, chopped
1 small box white mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups dry red wine
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
350g small onions
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp oil for frying
1 Tbsp flour
Heat oil and brown meat on both sides for a few minutes until brown. Place in ovenproof dish. Brown bacon and onions separately and set aside in separate dishes. Remove excess fat, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add flour and then wine to the fat and stir ’til smooth. Add bacon, herbs, crushed garlic, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Boil for 2 minutes. Pour over the meat. Cover and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 1 hour.
Add onions and bake for 20 minutes.
Fry mushrooms in butter and keep hot.
Add mushrooms, stir to mix all ingredients and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Serves 6 people. Delicious served with yellow rice and raisins or mashed potatoes.
* * *
We eat a lot of chicken in Japan and people are always on the lookout for really good chicken recipes. I pounced on Suzette for the chicken dish she serves at parties. It’s one of her favorites because, as she explains it. “for some reason this dish tastes especially good when I make it in Tokyo.” Maybe that’s because we can now buy Paul Newman’s Spaghetti Sauce at the National Azabu Supermarket!
SUZETTE’S VERY OWN PAUL NEWMAN CHICKEN CASSEROLE
1 large chicken, cooked and deboned
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 oz butter
2 leeks, chopped
6 pieces of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup Paul Newman
1 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 cup cream
Chopped chives or parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry onions, leeks and garlic in butter until barely tender then add bacon, mixed herbs and saute for 5 minutes.
Add above to chicken with stock, wine, salt, pepper and spaghetti sauce. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F/180°C. Fry mushrooms for 5 minutes in a small amount of butler. Add to chicken with cream. Bake for 10 minutes. Decorate with chives. Serve with rice or noodles.
Makes 6 servings.
* * *
There are always half-a-dozen kinds of tarts in the James’ freezer. People are always visiting from near and far so she has to be prepared for any and all emergencies. One of my favorites is Suzette’s brandy tart.
This one will knock your socks off!
1 cup pitted dates, chopped, if you have time
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts
Cream butter and sugar and add egg. Sprinkle soda over dates and pour over all the boiling water. Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Mix everything together (flour and dates alternately). Pour into greased 10″ dish and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 375°F/190°C. While baking make syrup.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Boil for 5 minutes.
Add: 1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brandy
Spoon over hot tart. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream to which a few dashes of cinnamon has been added. This freezes extremely well.