Story of a Plate: Smoked tomato risotto with mussels at Source

On the menu: Smoked tomato risotto, bacon, leek and baby marrow, steamed mussels

We loved the innovative presentation of this dish, the great tomato flavour, it’s contrasting textures, as well as perfectly cooked risotto. Tell us a bit about it?

Chef Warwick Taylor: I like runny risotto… so many people throw in cream and mascarpone cheese, which it’s not meant to have. It’s meant to be an emulsion of the fat you use, like butter, which keeps it light. It’s really more about the sauce around the rice than anything else. Then we throw in some smoked bacon, leeks, baby marrow, and baby spinach. We slow-smoke tomatoes over Rooikrans wood and then make a little tomato sauce out of that. So we have a nice smoked tomato sauce as a base, which we fold into the risotto, and off we go. For the mussels, a bit of white wine, soft herbs, a little bit of lemon in there, so they’re basically just steamed open, and then we pop them into the risotto.

It’s such an attractive plate! Is it of your own devising, or were you inspired elsewhere?

Warwick: I used to do a smoked tomato soup, and then one day I decided let’s try a risotto, and mussels always go nicely with a smoky flavour…

Being located in Hermanus you presumably have access to some lovely fresh, sustainable seafood?

Warwick: I have a rule not to use fish that’s not sustainable, in the same way that I don’t use much chicken because I don’t like how it’s farmed these days, but to be honest while we could all go forage and get them of the rocks here, they’re not great here, so the mussels come from the West Coast, either from Struisbaai or Gansbaai. I’d rather spend an extra hour looking for a fresh, great product than spend an extra hour manipulating something inferior and showing what I can do on a plate. I think it’s much more important to have fresh, great, well-sourced produce.

Is that why you chose the name Source for your restaurant?

Warwick: Yes, the source of ingredients, but also sourcing from suppliers. I’m very dedicated to the idea of interlinking and communicating with businesses in the Overberg. We’ve got a little epicentre here, and a lot of the time money in the businesses goes back “over the mountain”, so the more that we can interlink and support each other and promote our area and our companies, the better! More employment, more money circulating in the area. To this point we don’t stock any SAB products. We’ve got local breweries, and those are the ones that we want to support. All my meats come from the local butcher; I’ve got a guy who’s growing me micro-herbs and greens, a supplier in Stanford who has a little quail farm, and a lady up the road who does handmade mozzarella for us, and makes all our yoghurts, and butter and kefir milk.

When it comes to wines, we stock labels from Elim to Elgin, and up the valley, to the point that we actually charge more corkage if you bring wine from outside the area – not so that we make an extra R10, but to highlight the point that we’ve got fantastic wines, and all different cultivars here, so why not dive into those before coming in with something from outside the area?

Tell us about the bread you serve with the mussels – is that homemade?

Warwick: We’ve got four [bread] starters that are almost three years old years old, and we’re using flour from Caledon, which is stone-ground, unbleached, and doesn’t contain any accelerators or anti-fungals. We’ve got an oven where we burn about 15kg of alien wood that we light in the afternoon and bring to about 400 Celcius, and then in the morning morning we can bake up to 100 loaves on the heat of the bricks – anything from ciabattas, sourdoughs, and brioches to different rye breads, yoghurt and 6-seed loaves. Basically we’ve got a fully dedicated bakery here.

“Fired by alien wood” has a nice ring to it! 

Where to get it: Source, 12 Village Lane, Hermanus. 028 1250 025.

(Warwick has also recently opened his second restaurant in Hermanus, Heritage Cottage, housed in a 150-year old cottage on the coastline.)

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