Effervescent Executive Chef Amori Burger – who television viewers got to know during six seasons of Via’s Op Die Spyskaart – is the driving force behind the ongoing success of Johannesburg’s acclaimed Van der Linde Restaurant. Amori is currently working on the eatery’s new breakfast, lunch and dinner menus as well as a separate vegan menu that will offer some very special dishes to those who prefer a plant-based diet.
Here, Amori talks about upcoming food trends, her crush on David Higgs (actually, his recipe book) and shares two of her recipes.
What are some current food trends?
People are focusing more than ever on following a healthy diet. Smart foods, probiotics and ancient grains are becoming part of our daily menu. We are looking at vegetables that contain the most protein such as spinach and brussel sprouts. Cabbage is a staple in so many countries – think of dishes such as sauerkraut (German), kimchi (Korea), knieperkohl (Germany), bubble and squeak (the UK) and many more. Fermentation is also on trend. Many restaurants are already playing around with it but I think it will blow up this year (pun not intended!). Also, the use of savoury ice creams in desserts.
What can we expect to see on the Van der Linde menu this year?
We are moving more and more into simple dishes and simple food. Chefs are not manipulating the ingredients but keeping them as true to their natural form and flavour as possible. We are going to introduce more unusual grills such as Denver (chuck) and Skirt steaks. I am also going to be spending a lot of time in the bakery, doing more unusual breads and pastries to set us apart from other bakeries in Johannesburg. We have already received so many accolades for our different breads and croissants. We’re considering homemade hot cross buns for Easter!
Can you tell us about your vegan menu?
We have always had vegan options on the menu but at the end of last year we decided to do a separate vegan menu so we can offer more to those who prefer a plant-based diet. We have breakfast dishes such as chia vanilla pudding served with fresh seasonal fruits, dried goji berries and nuts or falafel shakshuka (chickpea balls in a spicy tomato sauce) as well as various salads and main courses such as stuffed quince with barley, charred leeks and almonds served with a vegetable jus and our vegan burger made with a chickpea and black bean patty, gem lettuce, tomato and aioli on a freshly baked bun with a side of chips.
We also do vegan and gluten free cakes and desserts in our bakery.
What is your favourite cookbook of all time?
I have read many incredible recipe books but if I had to choose it would be my first one, purely out of sentiment. It’s called Knuppeldik aan koningskos and was written by the wives of the Pretoria Police officers’ club. I nicked it from my mother when I was on my way to Silwood where I did my culinary studies. It has super basic recipes but they are easy to change into something wonderful. I still have it but it has no cover and some of the pages are missing. It has pride of place in my office.
What is your new favourite cookbook?
The latest one I read is 8 Mile by Chef David Higgs. The book isn’t just about food but also about his life in the industry and is truly a great read. Everyone should buy a copy – it’s brilliant.
What do you cook at home on your night off?
Anything simple, quick and easy. A good salad or a quick steak. We also eat a lot of vegetarian meals at home.
Five things always in your fridge/pantry?
I have an average of 14 kinds of cheese in my fridges at any given time; good quality tomatoes of all sorts, six to ten different salts, various kinds of chilli and lemons and limes.
Dinner with five guests dead or alive who would they be?
Keith Floyd, Sir Elton John, Anthony Bourdain, Dylan Moran and Jeffree Star.
Best kitchen or cooking tip?
The better the quality of the ingredient the better the dish will be. Source great ingredients, it’s absolutely worth it.