Alex Windebank’s autumn hug of comfort and nostalgia

Alex Windebank’s autumn hug of comfort and nostalgia
Mango & vanilla: Alex Windebank’s vanilla panna cotta, mango sorbet and coconut snap. (Photo: Tasha Seccombe Photography)

At Farro restaurant at Gabriëlskloof wine estate near Bot River, chef Alex Windebank is celebrating the mango season with an eye on the vanilla that is pervading his menu. He shared his recipe for vanilla panna cotta with mango sorbet and a coconut snap.

As autumn settles in, husband-and-wife duo Alex and Eloise Windebank of Farro restaurant at Gabriëlskloof wine estate are bridging the gap between summer and winter with a menu of “warm, deeply flavourful and comforting dishes”. And blending comfort with the classical is their ethos.

“We’re concentrating on some slightly deeper flavours, those more associated with autumn, and which are in many ways more comforting flavours,” says chef Alex. “It’s a little bit more of a hug, if you will, than the lighter summery menu, with a bit more depth and earthier flavours suited to the impending change of season.”

Nostalgia was in kind when creating the new menu. “Revisiting old recipes and memories, recreating childhood dishes and working with familiar flavours, all the while staying true to my seasonal, sustainable ethos, and my proudly unfashionable embrace of butter, cream and wine.”

A fine pair: Alex (left) and Eloise Windebank at Farro restaurant at Gabriëlskloof wine estate in the Bot River region. (Photo: Tasha Seccombe Photography)

He finds nostalgia is “interesting to play with when I’m writing menus. If someone can eat something and it can take them to a happier time, to childhood or to something that they used to enjoy in their life, I think it just sparks that little bit of joy.”

His recipe “is a celebration of the current mango season”, he says. “A creamy vanilla panna cotta is served with an intensely flavoured mango sorbet and finished with a coconut snap.

“The mangoes are really in their sweet spot. They’re that beautiful deep orange colour and nice and sweet, they’re at their very best. The colour alone is such a magnificent contrast on the plate, the vibrant, vivid orange next to that white panna cotta, really just pops.” But the taste is what it’s all about.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, Mango Sorbet, Coconut Snap

(Serves 4 | Preparation time: overnight | Difficulty: Easy)


For the panna cotta:

200g milk

200g cream

45g castor sugar

½ tsp vanilla paste

3 gelatine leaves


For the mango sorbet:

500g fresh very ripe mango

250g castor sugar

250g water

10g glucose syrup


For the coconut snap:

20g dried coconut

25g butter

8g water

12g glucose syrup

12g cake flour

40g icing sugar


For the panna cotta:

Start by soaking the gelatine leaves in cold water for about 10 minutes.

Bring the sugar, milk, cream and vanilla to the boil over a medium heat. Make sure it comes right to the boil otherwise it will set in two separate layers.

Remove from the heat, remove the gelatine from the cold water and gently whisk into the boiled liquid.

Set this to one side, mixing every now and then. You want this to get cold enough that it is basically starting to set before you pour it into your mould. This will mean the vanilla seeds will set all the way through the panna cotta. If it goes into the mould too hot the seeds will all sink to the bottom and set on the top of your panna cotta like a hat.

Once the panna cotta is cold and starting to thicken, pour it into a mould or glass. I recommend 100g per serving.

Place this in the fridge overnight to set. Make sure it is covered as dairy and fatty things will pick up other smells from your fridge.


For the sorbet:

Place all the ingredients into a pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for two minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before blending with a stick blender or in a liquidiser.

Allow to cool fully. Churn in an ice cream machine or place in the freezer in a tub and whisk with a fork every 30 minutes until fluffy but fully frozen.


For the snap:

Heat the butter, water and glucose until melted then mix into the dry ingredients.

Allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake at 160℃ for 16 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.


To serve:

This can be served in a glass with a nice big scoop of the sorbet on top then a shard of the coconut snap on top.

If you have set the panna cotta in a mould, run the tip of a small knife around the rim then dip the mould into some warm water quickly. Turn the mould upside down and give it a sharp shake. This will release the panna cotta into your hand then you can put it onto your plate.

Place a nice scoop or Roche of sorbet next to the panna cotta and a shard of the snap across the top.

Serving it on the plate means you can fully enjoy that classic panna cotta wobble moment. DM

To book, contact [email protected] or book via Dineplan.


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