TGIFOOD

COOK WITH THE CHEFS

Jackie Cameron’s special space in the world of SA chefs

Jackie Cameron’s special space in the world of SA chefs
Jackie Cameron. (Photo: Shavan Rahim)

Bright, lively and confident, chef Jackie Cameron rose to the heights of culinary fame in South Africa at a remarkably young age. She shares a favourite recipe with TGIFood readers.

People who know their food, really know it, fall over themselves to tell you how good the food of Jackie Cameron is. She is one of those special chefs who can be regarded as a “chef’s chef”, and not every professional earns that rare level of regard.

Our own Wanda Hennig wrote in 2022: “Chef Jackie Cameron is a role model and icon for many an aspiring and inspired chef. And not just in KZN. She makes it look seamless and easy, which success seldom is. But when passion is driving you, you’re fuelled and alive.”

I have been aware of the arc of her career from a distance ever since she set out but have not yet had the privilege of tasting her food. Thanks to a family wedding or two looming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, it looks like that will soon be set to rights.

Plans are afoot to visit her Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine in Hilton, which states boldly that it guarantees “100% job placement”, offering “a mentoring course that produces respected chefs a cut above the rest”. Her students have been placed at almost every leading restaurant in the country despite taking only 15 students per intake. This is the level of confidence that you get from Jackie Cameron even when you first meet her, as I was lucky to do at the 2023 Eat Out Awards. 

“Dynamo” does not appear to come close to describing her. Her career was “kneaded” (as per her biography) at Mount Grace Country House, in the Midlands where she grew up. At Hartford House, where she spent 12 years, she received national top 10 status four times.

She is seriously well travelled, as is her palate. Her career in food has taken her to Germany, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Australia, England, Dubai, Shanghai, Spain, Copenhagen, Denmark, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and America where she has represented South Africa at exhibitions, enjoyed work experiences, or dined in restaurants such as Nobu, Le Gravoche, Fat Duck, Gordan Ramsay’s Hospital Road and River Café, Noma and El Bulli, The French Laundry, Per Se, Bochon Bistro, AD HOC, Le Bernadin and Jean Georges.

Quite apart from her history as a chef at Hartford House and its many accolades, and her now world-renowned school which she opened in 2015, she has a self-designed chefs’ clothing line and her own range of baby food, about which more here

She has two books, Baking with Jackie Cameron, and Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home, for which she swaps her chef’s apron for home kitchen attire.

Jackie shared with us her recipe for a rhubarb brioche bread and butter pudding, which she described as “my variation on an old-school favourite. It takes time to make, but the compliments you’ll get make it worth the effort.”

Rhubarb brioche bread and butter pudding

Jackie’s rhubarb and strawberry bread and butter pudding. (Photo: Myburgh du Plessis)

(Makes about 30 servings)

Ingredients

For the brioche:

30 ml lukewarm water

10 g packet instant dry yeast

125 g salted butter, softened

90 g white sugar

175 ml full-cream milk, lukewarm

2 whole eggs

10 ml white sugar

5 ml vanilla extract

500 g cake flour

2 ml fine salt

1 whole egg, for glazing

50 g salted butter, melted, for glazing

For the rhubarb compôte:

(Photo: Myburgh du Plessis)

230 g fresh rhubarb, tough outer fibres removed, and chopped

180 g fresh strawberries, chopped

235 g castor sugar

500 ml naartjie juice or orange juice

For the rhubarb cream:

600 ml cream

400 ml full-cream milk

125 g fresh rhubarb, chopped

6 whole eggs

4 egg yolks

30 g castor sugar

Assembling the pudding

250 g salted butter, softened

250 g fresh strawberries, thinly sliced lengthwise

Method

For the brioche:

1      Combine the water and yeast and leave to stand for 10 minutes. 

2      Mix the butter and 90 g sugar together. Shape into a block and place in the fridge to get cold.

3      Whisk the warm milk, eggs, 10 ml sugar and vanilla extract together.

4      Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture and the milk mixture, working them in to form a dough.

5      Add the chilled butter and sugar mixture, working it into the dough. If doing this by hand, use the pinch-and-pull method (pull off a small piece of dough, wrap it around a piece of the butter-sugar mixture and work it in). If using a mixer or processor fitted with a dough hook, add the butter-sugar mixture little by little, making sure each addition is incorporated before adding more.

6      Once all the butter is incorporated, knead the dough until smooth. (You can almost throw the dough onto the countertop, as this helps to bring it together.) Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight. The following day, remove the dough from the fridge so it can come to room temperature (this should take an hour or so, depending on the weather).

7      Grease a large loaf pan (25 x 11 x 10 cm) very well. Place the dough into the pan and leave in a warm spot to prove (it should double in size).

8      Lightly whisk the egg and brush the top of the bread. Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for 45 minutes, or until cooked. Remove the brioche from the pan and glaze the whole loaf with the melted butter. Place on a rack and leave to cool.

For the rhubarb compôte:

1      Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken and reduce.

2      Pour the sauce into a bowl, cover and leave in the fridge to cool.

For the rhubarb cream:

1      Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the rhubarb, lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the rhubarb is cooked.

2      Lightly whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl, just enough to loosen the eggs.

3      Add the cream mixture to the egg mixture, ladle by ladle, to ensure they combine without curdling.

4      Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat until just warm. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Assembling the pudding:

1      Cut the brioche into thin slices and butter each slice. Spread a tablespoon of rhubarb compote over one slice of bread and sandwich it together with another slice. Place the sandwiches in the fridge to firm up slightly, then cut them diagonally into two triangles.

2      Butter a large serving dish (24 x 15 cm). Pour a tablespoon or two of rhubarb cream into the dish and use a pastry brush to swirl it around to coat the base.

3      Arrange half the sandwiches on the base of the dish, flat side down. Pour over half the rhubarb cream and scatter over half the fresh strawberries.

Add another layer of sandwiches, rhubarb cream and strawberries. Dot with any remaining rhubarb compote. 

4      Cover the dish with foil (shiny side down). Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for 50 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until cooked. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Aucamp says:

    She has had work experiences or dined in these restaurants? Sorry, Daily Maverick you can do better than this. To merely eat in the world’s top restaurants is hardly something that can attest to her cooking skills. No doubt she is excellent – but that line doesn’t help.

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