Category Archives: Food

The Spier Secret Festival

Spier Secret Festival

This weekend has been rather indulgent. It started on Friday with the second annual Spier Secret Festival. You might recall I hosted a Spier Secret Dinner, a series of dinners which culminated in this weekend of festivities around food.

Breakfast at the Spier Secret Festival

Breakfast at the Spier Secret Festival

The morning started off with a farm fresh breakfast, artisanal coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juices and dove straight into a series of workshops. I’m not going to cover them all, though you can see the entire programme here.

Personal highlights were both Marije Vogelzang and Robert Sayre’s presentations, though different, both used the medium of food to bring people together for the greater good. Marije’s ‘Eat Love Budapest’ installation with the Roma Gypsies almost brought me to tears and has my mind spinning about the opportunities that lie here in South Africa as we seek to share our own food and cultural history.

Robert’s Conflict Kitchen is a non-profit that has been serving its Pittsburgh based customer base a selection of foreign foods, all from countries that the USA is currently in conflict with: Afghanistan, Iran, Cuban and Venezuela and will soon be looking at North Korea. The idea is that using food they aim to share the history and heritage of these countries through stories of immigrants and native people, as they experience them, not through the lens of the media.

Here’s the low down from Jon Rubin, their founder.

Spier Secret Festival's 'nose to tail' lunch, just a few of the 43 dishes on offer.

In between all of this we ate an entire cow, well not exactly, but Chef Rudi Liebenberg from The Planet did prepare all the dishes from a single animal, nose to tail, 43 different dishes if I’m not mistaken, from one of Farmer Angus’s pasture reared animals.

Watermelon piƱata's at the Spier Secret Festival

After lunch we took to beating larger than life watermelon pinatas, as one does when your festival is arranged by one of the most creative women I’ve ever met, Hannerie Visser.

My lovely friend Sam Woulidge took us on a journey of discovery by uncovering the sweet (synthetic) tastes of the 70’s and while I’m an 80’s child myself, I resonated with several of her food memories, which were in many ways my own.

After dashing off to meet up with my family for a quick picnic dinner and getting us checked into our hotel accommodation, right on the Spier Wine Estate, I headed back to partake in Marije Vogelzang’s magical dinner.

How to bake an ostrich, slowly.

Shells, starters at Marije Vogelzang's Secret Dinner

Seafood at Marije Vogelzang's Secret Dinner

Roots at Marije Vogelzang's Secret Dinner

The Aftermath of Marije Vogelzang's Secret Dinner


It started with a selection of food based around shells, nuts, eggs and a beautiful selection of seafood and segued into revisiting the lost art of baking in clay, each guest being invited to crack open a selection of clay vessels, each revealing a hidden root vegetable. The highlight was attempting, and succeeding at doing the same with two large, whole ostriches.

Dessert was a selection of cheeses and sweets, accompanied by Spier’s Noble Late Harvest.

The next morning they held a WONDERFUL market, we continued to try a few dishes from local vendors, all while the kids played in the epic ‘chicken’ jumping castle and Nathan rode the pony.

Overall a fantastic weekend and I can’t thank Hannerie and the Spier staff enough for creating a truly magical experience for us all and can’t wait till next years festival, a true culinary calendar highlight.

Spier Secret Dinner

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Spier Secret Dinner - Matt Allison

Long time readers will know that I was involved in last years Spier Secret Festival, hosting a ‘Grow Your Own’ workshop. This year I was asked to host one of their coveted Spier Secret Dinners.

Guests booked a seat at the dinner through Spier and hosts in turn served up a meal. For pics of other dinner visit their blog.

My menu was largely inspired by Australian chef, grower and forager, Matt Wilkinson, having adapted two of his recipes as a starting point, both starters and mains.

The menu was as follows:

Nettle & Green Herbs Soup With Poached Free-Range Eggs & Pancetta

Roast Eland Rump with Swiss Chard & Potato Wedges Served With Juniper Berry Marinade

Rose-Geranium-Stewed Berries With Creamed Rice Pudding

Spier provided the wines, both of their Chenin Blancs as well as their flagship 21 Gables Pinotage.

We drank, ate and spoke about urban farming, bio-dynamic farms, feedlots and foraging, pretty typical conversation in these parts.

Thanks to all our guests, friends and suppliers who made the dinner possible.