• Saturday, September 26, 2020

Best Restaurant Cape Town

In the Kitchen with Dion Vengatass
By , Founder
March 1, 2017

Some days, we really love our job.  Case in point, we spent the afternoon cooking (and eating) with the formidable Dion Vengatass, who is one of Africa’s most talked about up-and-coming chefs for the cuisine he creates at Planet Restaurant at the Belmond Mount Nelson.  While he was trained formally in hotel management, his passion for cooking brought him to work his way up in the culinary world, where he now for all intensive purposes helms the kitchen at Planet in the most iconic of Cape Town hotels.  What distinguishes Dion is that his food has soul; yes, it’s fine cuisine and we learned more than a few presentation techniques in our time with him.  However, the root of his cooking is highly influenced by his mother and aunties when he was as young boy in India, elevated with an intellectually philosophical and almost spiritual take on the highly intricate dishes he prepares.  Check out our short film with Dion when we called the Mount Nelson home for a few days in Cape Town, and gorged ourselves on his coconut rice with super model Ubah Hassan every chance we got.  Recipes are below, but know they require some serious skills.  We have confidence you are up for the challenge, but otherwise, Cape Town is a flight away.  

Memories of Shellfish Curry


For the poaching and cleaning of crayfish

10Lt Water, tap

500g Salt, fine

3ea Whole live crayfish (380g to 400g)

For the Crayfish Oil


All the shells from the crayfish

2Lt Oil, Grape seed 


50g Garlic, Whole with peels, crushed 

20g Ginger, Sliced with peels

3ea Spice, Bay leaves

3ea Chilli, Green, Slit in half


10g Spice, Coriander seeds

5g Spice, Cumin, whole

15g Curry leaves, Fresh


5g Spice, Paprika, Ground

100g Onion, Red, Sliced

For the Crayfish Aioli


2 Egg yolks

5g Dijon mustard


5ml Lemon juice

1 Pickled jalapeños

1g Paprika

4 Garlic cloves 

750 Lt Crayfish oil


For the Butternut Terrine


500g Butternut (thinly sliced and cut to fit the width of the terrine mould)

1Lt Pickling liquid (see recipe at the end)

80ml Butternut jelly (see recipe at the end)


For the Marinated Legs

24 Crayfish legs, cleaned  

50ml Crayfish Oil

40ml Lime juice

2g Fine Salt

2g Fresh chopped coriander

4g Fresh chopped curry leaves

For the Green Mango Salsa

50g Tomato skinned, de-seeded and finely diced

30g Onion, Red, Finely diced

100g Green mango, finely diced

25ml Crayfish oil  

25ml Lime juice

3g Fresh coriander, chopped

7   Fresh curry leaves, chopped 

1g Salt

For the Curry Leaf Dressing

5g Fresh finely chopped curry leaves

1g Green chili, de-seeded and finely chopped 

40g Castor Sugar

10g Salt, Fine

125g Lime, Juice

50ml Oil, Olive

(0.2g) Xanthum gum

For the Butternut and Curry Leaf Purée

500g Butternut, Trimmings and peels from the terrine

10g Garlic cloves, sliced

5g Ginger, grated

10 Fresh curry leaves

2g Red dried chili 

3g Ground cumin, 

5g  Ground coriander

100g White onion, finely diced

4g Fresh coriander

2g Fine salt

1g Xanthum gum


For the Curry Sauce

3ea Crayfish heads, cleaned

125ml Grape seed oil

250g Sliced white onion

5g Cumin seeds

5g Black mustard seeds

20 Fresh curry leaves

1 Fresh Green Chili, slit in half

30g Chili powder

15g Curry powder

7g Ground coriander

7g Ground cumin

15g Chopped garlic

15g Grated ginger

180g Brown sugar

125ml Lime juice

70ml Lemon juice

 2 Medium plum tomatoes, puréed

2Lt Tap water

3g Fresh chopped coriander 


For the Crayfish Tempura


6ea Crayfish meat from the heads, trimmed

2g Maldon salt

5 Fresh chopped curry leaves

80ml Tempura batter (see recipe at the end)


For the Tempura Flour


200g Cake flour

100g Corn flour

50g Baking powder

125ml Soda water, iced cold


For the Pickling Liquid

2 cups Granulated sugar

2 cups  White wine vinegar

2 cups Water

2 Red fried chili

3 Bay leaves

1tbsp Yellow mustard seeds

1 Star anise, whole

1Cinnamon stick

1tbsp Coriander, seeds

For the Butternut Jelly

250ml Butternut juice freshly squeezed

15g Castor sugar

5g Salt, Fine 

115ml White wine vinegar

1 Green chili slit down the middle

10 Fresh curry leaves

5g Fresh coriander

 9 Gelatine leaves 



 For the Butternut and Curry Leaf Purée

Place all the ingredients to a medium pot and cover with water. Boil and a medium to high heat until the peels are completely soft.  Top the water up if need as the butternut cooks. When the butternut and peels are soft turn the heat down to low to medium. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated.  Place into a Thermomix and blend on high speed until smooth.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  Pass through a fine sieve. Set aside for service.

For the Curry Sauce

Begin by chopping the heads into smaller pieces.  Place the heads onto a roasting tray and evenly spread out. Roast at 180°c for 15mins. Remove from the oven and cool down slightly.  When cool place all the roasted head pieces in a cheese cloth and wrap thigh.  Tie with butchers string and set aside.

In a medium pot add the oil and bring to a medium heat.  Add the onion and sweat for 10mins.   Place the cumin, black mustard seeds, green chilli and curry leaves.  Temper for 5mins.  Add the rest of the spices and cook out for 10mins.  When the oil begins to separate from the onions and spices add the ginger and garlic.  Stir in well and cook for 2mins.   Add the sugar, lime, lemon juice and tomato purée. Place the crayfish heads wrapped in the cheese cloth with the water to the pot.  Cook until 80% of the liquid evaporates.  Add the fresh coriander and stir in well.  Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 20mins. Squeeze all the liquid absorbed by the crayfish heads in the cheese cloth.  Discard the Heads and cloth.  Place the rest of the content in the pot to a Thermomix and blend on high speed at 70°c for 45mins.

Remove from the Thermomix and pass through a fine sieve.  Adjust seasoning with salt if needed.   Cool down and set aside for service.

For the Crayfish Tempura

Marinated the trimmed head pieces with the salt and curry leaves.Place individuality into the tempura batter and coat well. Carefully deep fry until crispy at 180°c for 2mins.  When crispy place on a kitchen towel to drain.

For the Tempura Flour

Combine all the dry ingredients together.  Add the soda water while wishing until combined.  Allow to rest for 10mins before using.

For the Pickling Liquid

Add all the ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5mins and remove from the heat.  Set aside for the terrine.

For the Butternut Jelly

Rehydrate the gelatine leaves in cold water.  Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil.   Remove from the heat. Strain the liquid.   Add the gelatine leaves and stir in until melted.  Strain and set aside for terrine.

For the Butternut Powder

Grate 100g of butternut trimmings on a micro-plane.  Place in a dehydrator for 5hrs at 90°c.  Remove from the dehydrator and blend until it turn into a powder form.

For the Coriander Shoots

Carefully pick the shoots keeping them the same sizes. Place into iced water and allow to shock for 10mins. Gently remove from the iced water and drain on a kitchen towel for 5mins. Place into a small container with a damp cloth on top of it.  Cover the container and keep in fridge until needed for service.


Serve on a large warm flat square white plate, to bring out the shades of orange.  Drag the curry sauce from the top left corner of the plate to the top right corner.   Place the portioned butternut terrine in the top left corner on the curry sauce.Pipe one tear drop of the crayfish aioli on top of the butternut terrine and two more in front  and behind the press.  Pipe two tear drops of the curry sauce on top of the butternut terrine on either side of the                          crayfish aioli.  Place a dollop of the butternut purée at the middle right.  Place the green mango salsa on the bottom left of the plate.  Poached the tails cut in half and place each half on top of the butternut purée, must be served warm.

Tempura the crayfish head meat and place on the top right of the plate, must be served hot and crispy.  Place five marinated legs on top of the mango salsa. Drizzle the curry leaf dressing next to the crayfish tail, on the butternut terrine and besides the tempura. Dust the plate with the butternut powder.  Place the coriander shoots on the crayfish aioli and marinated legs. Serve immediately to enjoy the fullest potential of the dish.


Jacobus het n Springbok Geskiet


For the Springbok Loin

600g Springbok loin cleaned and trimmed
5g Smoked paprika
2g Black pepper crushed
2g Thyme chopped
4g Fine salt
10Fml Olive oil

For Braising the Springbok Shanks

1kg Springbok shanks
200ml Olive oil
50g Tomato paste
500g Mire poix
3 Bay leaves
5g Black peppercorns whole
1 Star anise
500ml Red wine
5lt Beef stock

For Chakalaka Soil

2lt Canola oil
50g Crushed garlic
2g Curry leaves fresh
40g Ginger finely chopped
50g Curry powder
20g Ground coriander
10g Smoked paprika
1kg Mixed bell peppers small diced
200g Red onion small diced
100g Green beans finely sliced
10g Salt
8 Slices whole wheat bread blended into fresh crumbs

For the Beet Root Purée

5kg Beetroot
200g Honey
200ml Red wine vinegar
5g Salt
2g Xanthum gum             

For the Beetroot Leaves

200g Beetroot leaves
3g Smoked paprika
2g Salt
50g Unsalted butter 

For the Wild Spinach Purée

1kg Wild spinach
100ml Canola oil
200g Sliced onion
5g Cumin seeds
5g Black mustard seeds
7g Curry powder
1 Dried red chilli, whole
100g Crushed garlic
3g  Salt

For the Baby Beetroot

6ea Baby red beetroot
10g Salt 


For Springbok Loin

Marinate the springbok loin with the rest of the ingredients and place into a large bag.  Vacuum pack the bag until air tight.  For service sous vide in a water bath for 15mins at 54°c.  Remove from the bag and grill for 2mins on each side.

Allow to rest for 5mins before carving.

For Braising of the Springbok Shanks

Rub the shanks with 100ml of the oil and season with salt.  Grill for 5mins on each side with the grill set on high.  Allow to rest until ready to use.

In a large pot add the rest of the oil and bring to high heat.  Add the mire poix and caramelize for 8mins.  Add the tomato paste and cook out for 5mins. Add all the spices and herbs and fold into the other ingredients.  De-glaze with the red wine and cook out the alcohol.  When the alchol is cooked out add the beef stock and bring to a boil.  Place the grilled shanks inside the pot.  Cover the pot with foil and oven roast at 150°c for 4hrs.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool down at room temperature covered. Once it is cool carefully remove the shanks from the braising liquid.

Pulled the meat away from the bone, place the bones into a clean pot.  Strain the braising liquid and add it the clean pot with the bones.   Reduce the liquid until by 1/8 the amount and strain through a cheese cloth.

For the Chakalaka Soil

Place the oil into a medium pot and bring to a medium heat.  Add all he spices, garlic, ginger and curry leaves. Allow to gently temper for 5mins. Add the vegetables and turn the heat down to low.  Allow the vegetables to stew in the flavored oil for 45mins. Season to taste and cool down. Strain the vegetables and reserve the oil. Blend half of the vegetables until smooth. Mix the puréed chakalaka with the pulled springbok shanks.  Spread the other half of the vegetables onto 3 silicon mats and dehydrate at 56°c for 48hrs. When dry,  blend into a powder.   Mix the whole wheat crumbs with 250ml of the reserved chakalaka oil.

Toast the crumbs until dry.  Mix the powder into the crumbs and check seasoning add salt if needed. Set aside for service.

For the Beetroot Purée

Place the beetroot into a oven set at 180°c and roast for about 45mins to an hour until soft inside.  Remove from the oven when soft and peel the skins off.  Place peeled beetroot into a bar blender with the honey and red wine vinegar. Blend until smooth.  Add the Xanthum gum and blend for a further 10mins until it thickens.  Cool down over a ice bath and set aside for service.

For the Beetroot Leaves

Place into boiling water for 1min.  Remove from the water and drain excess moisture. Toss in butter with smoked paprika and season with salt to taste. Ready to serve.

For the Wild Spinach Purée

Begin by washing the wild spinach. In a medium pot add the oil and bring to a medium heat.  Add the onions and gently cook for 3mins. Add the spices and temper for 2min. Fold in the garlic until gently tempered.  Add the wild spinach and turn the heat down to low. Allow to simmer until all the spinach has rendered. Cook out all the excess moisture.  Season to taste and blend smooth in to a purée. Set aside for service.

For the Baby Beetroot

Place into a pot with water and salt and boil until tender. Remove from the boiling water when cooked and place into a ice bath. Pull the skins off the flesh and set aside, discard the skins. For service season and drizzle with chakalaka oil.

Roast at 180°c for 5mins. Ready to serve.


Heat the beetroot purée up and place on the centre of a hot large white round plate. Place the baby beetroot onto the purée.  Carve the springbok loin and place along side the baby beetroot. Smear the wild spinach purée next to the springbok loin. Place the cooked beetroot leaves on the wild spinach purée. Place a teaspoon of the chakalaka soil on the wild spinach purée next the beetroot leaves. Heat the braise mix up and place on top of the soil. Heat up the jus and pour along side the springbok loin. Ready to serve.        


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