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This chef knows the best food is made with love

Isla Rechner has been obsessed with cooking her whole life. Born and raised in South Africa, she’s the group pastry chef for celebrity chef Bill Granger’s Grange & Co restaurants across London, but in her heart still hankers for the special breakfast rituals she shared with her mum at home in SA. She shares some memories and recipes inspired by her mum with us.

“I started dabbling in the kitchen when I was young, gaining more confidence with each passing year. In my teens and throughout my 20s I hosted many a dinner party, testing out recipes on my friends and family.”

In 2013, when the itch to travel was too strong to resist, Isla made the big move to London, working initially at one of acclaimed chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s eateries, before being hired as a pastry chef at the King’s Cross branch of Granger & Co. She has since become the group pastry chef – a role which she says she utterly relishes.

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“Whenever my mother comes to visit me in London, I always try to recreate the morning breakfast rituals we had in South Africa. They were a magical time, sitting on the stoep and sipping tea while overlooking our big acacia tree. Birds chirping in the background and the occasional monkey pilfering the herb garden.

“One of my go-to breakfast staples was buttermilk pancakes, a dish my mum and I tucked into with relish. I tried to bring the warmth of those mornings by pairing my pancakes with an orange raspberry syrup and crème fraiche. When I have my mum here in my little London kitchen and those pancakes, we are transported back to that veranda and those warm African sunrises.”

Buttermilk chicken

Serves 2. You’ll need:

For the chicken

  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 300g deboned chicken thighs
  • 120g plain flour
  • 5g cumin
  • 5g paprika
  • 5g oregano
  • Pinch of salt
  • 300ml vegetable oil.

Sour cream mash potato

  • 500g potatoes; peeled and quartered
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 45g butter; cubed and salt.

Red cabbage slaw

  • 100g red cabbage; very finely sliced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 15g olive oil
  • 5g Dijon mustard
  • 5g honey.

Method

Place chicken thighs in buttermilk and marinate for at least 2 hours. In a small container, mix the red cabbage and lime juice for the slaw. Leave it to macerate in the fridge for a few hours. The lime juice slightly pickles the red cabbage, which results in the cabbage becoming a vibrant shade of pink.

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees. Then get cracking with your mash. Boil your potatoes in salted water until cooked through, strain them through a colander and place back into your pot. Mash until fluffy, add the sour cream and butter, mixing gently until you have a smooth mash.

Heat a wok with vegetable oil until the temperature is about 170 degrees.

Mix the flour with the spices. Dredge your buttermilk-soaked chicken in the flour. Place in the hot oil, frying for a few minutes each side to get a crispy exterior. Pop into a roasting tray, place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

In a small bowl now place your olive oil, Dijon mustard and honey, whisking slightly to emulsify. Add the cabbage, carrot and parsley tossing together. On a low heat, slightly warm up your mash potato. Spoon a hearty dollop of mash potato on a plate, nestle your fried chicken on top, finishing with a side of slaw.

Buttermilk pancakes

Makes 7 pancakes. You’ll need

  • 125g plain flour
  • 15g castor sugar
  • 5g baking powder
  • 2,5g bicarbonate of soda
  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 25g melted butter.

Method

In a medium bowl place flour, castor sugar,baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Whisk in buttermilk, egg and melted butter until you have a smooth batter. Place a frying pan on medium heat and drop two tablespoons of batter into the pan, cooking until little bubbles form on top, around three minutes. Flip over, cooking evenly. Place in an oven on low heat to keep the pancakes warm while you cook the rest.

For the raspberry orange syrup you’ll need

  • 150g fresh raspberries (1 punnet)
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 50g syrup (honey, syrup whatever you have on hand is perfectly fine, even agave).

Method
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the raspberries break up slightly. Leave to cool slightly. Serve your stack of pancakes drenched with the raspberry syrup and a decent dollop of crème fraiche.

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