This year saw the Boland’s premier inter-winery cooking contest being held for the fifth time, this year on the spacious grounds of Du Toitskloof Wines. Both teams had to prepare a dish of paella over an open fire, with the only proviso being their version of the Spanish classic had to include one seafood item and one ingredient of land-dwelling animal flesh.
And after a rigorous round of judging by 24 Cape-based food aficionados, Du Toitskloof was voted the unanimous winner.
“It feels great to have shaken the monkey right off our back,” said an elated Bernard Kotze, Du Toitskloof Wines brand manager and technical adviser for his team. “We have gone four years without a victory in this competition, but today we got our A-game going. Congratulations to Muratie who are always a polished outfit and tough to beat. But when it is your day, it is your day.”
Both Du Toitskloof and Muratie showed that the winelands’ paella makers respect the tradition involved in making paella. The correct Spanish rice was used. Each team knew the importance of getting a good flavourful tomato-based safrito going with which to bind the dish. No expense was spared in the saffron department. And the all-important implementation of the do-not-stir tactic was applied with skill and guile.
But at the end of the day it came town to texture, overall taste and the choice of additional ingredients. Du Toitskloof added crayfish and squid heads to their topping of prawns, chicken and chorizo as well as simmering their dish in a crayfish stock, the scent of which has the Breedekloof Valley’s entire fish eagle population circling over the cooking area.
Muratie incorporated grilled lamb ribs to their dish together with chorizo, chicken wings and prawns, making for an intriguing match-up of near-perfect paellas.
“It is a tremendous honour winning ahead of a superb outfit such as Muratie,” said Muller Coetzee, captain and head-chef of the Du Toitskloof team. “I can’t say we had any secrets up our sleeves. Just respect for the fantastic dish of paella which saw that the team stuck to the tried-and-tested techniques as well as ensuring the base ingredients were of the highest possible standard.
“If I had to pick one kicker, it was our paella burning a perfect soccaret (crust) on the bottom of the pan. When you hear your rice begin to crackle, you now the soccaret is on. This adds an extra dimension to the dish and we managed a good crust today.”
Muratie team-leader Kim Melck offered congratulations to the Du Toitskloof team. “There’s was a well-deserved victory,” she said. “Muller and the team showed attention to detail, great technique and a real understanding of all the ingredients and components required to cook the perfect paella.”
The great culinary rivalry between Du Toitskloof and Muratie continues next year with the history showing two wins for each team and one draw.
Next year’s deciding showdown will be held at Muratie.
Caption: Elrine Thomson, Muller Coetzee, Christine Coetzee and Shawn Thomson from Du Toitskloof with Hattingh de Villiers and Kim Melck of Muratie