Foraging for local, seasonal ingredients is so much more than a niche trend for foodies. Reconnecting with our environment and eating consciously and sustainably is catching on in all the right circles. And it has an impressive pedigree. Poet C Louis Leipoldt’s 1947 book Cape Cookery has inspired a new generation of hunter-gatherers who are reigniting a love of wild foods.
Click here to find out how Kobus combines these ingredients to create an authentic West Coast dish.
While more South African chefs are using wild food and veldkos on their menus, Kobus van der Merwe (winner of the Nederburg Rising Star Award at the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards)has emerged as a master forager. This chef-patron of Oep Ve Koep in Paternoster is known as an adventurous wizard who quite literally recreates the West Coast on a plate.
“I have a genuine passion for the culinary heritage of this area,” he says. “It’s about rediscovering forgotten, indigenous tastes and how to live off the land.” So don’t expect deep-fried fish ‘n chips when you visit his 30-seater eatery, with its wooden chairs, plastic floral tablecloths, shweshwe cushions, splashes of crimson bougainvillea and rustic fishing boats bursting with herbs and vegetables.
“Coastal succulents such as samphire and seaweed enhance the briny salinity of certain seafoods and they have a natural sweetness and acidity,” Kobus says. His knowledge comes from research and talking to locals, plus many miles on foot, foraging on a nearby private farm and in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
“But it’s not just about taking whatever you want from nature,” the chef says of his foraging. “You can’t pick indiscriminately – for instance, there are certain plants I don’t pick because they’re pulled out by the roots. That would be contrary to the ethos of maintaining heritage foods.”
Click here to travel with Mercedes-Benz in the GLA 45 AMG to Paternoster to find out more about Kobus’s passion for foraging. Learn how to use soutslaai, samphire and kelp in your own dishes at home.
We also spend time with Charlie Standing (aka the Urban Hunter Gatherer) who keeps his eyes peeled in urban cityscapes for wild foods. “It’s all about eating seasonally – and finding fresh wild produce in the most unexpected places,” he says.
See more from this special edition of MB Life here.