We Always Cook With Wine

Oct 14, 2019

Denise Cowburn-Levy

This book is the story about my passion for food, cooking and travelling, but it is really a story about how this age-old ritual of cooking and eating brings people together. I have always found that there is a special intimacy around sharing food, and a nameless bond is formed between those that prepare the food and those that consume it. I have always found the process very personal and intimate and there is an element of trust created. I am crazy about food – all kinds of food, from the wonderful, complex Asian flavours to the traditional simple Italian cuisine and everything in between. I love food markets, fish markets and delis with shelves packed with international products. Even the humble supermarket holds wonder for me at the possibilities it has to create fabulous food. I was an international model for many years back in the eighties, travelling extensively for my work and I believe this is where my passion began for tasting and cooking a variety of flavours. I want to experiment, and then to share passion and knowledge about food and the many ways to prepare it, in an easy and relaxed way.

This book is for everyone who has experienced my cooking; for anyone who took a mouthful food
I’ve prepared over the years and rolled his or her eyes heavenwards. This is for the endless, ‘How did you make this, I have to have the recipe’ moments. Those moments are the reason I do this, to see the pleasure, and the recognition that the symphony of flavours I have created have been heard and appreciated. These are the little moments in time that make it all worthwhile – all the preparation and hard work, the long hours in a hot kitchen, the sore feet and aching backs – all that goes into creating these dishes. In this book I want to take you on a journey with me in this collection of my favourite dishes. I want to have you walk by my side as I cook and eat around the world. I want you to come into my kitchen in Cape Town at Ginger & Lime. This same kitchen at times is not a professional space and becomes my family’s own home kitchen in my home which is fondly called The Peppermint Palace.

Travel with me up to the wild West Coast to some of my homes and see what I can whip up there. I will take you to some fabulous food memories I created in several regions of Italy, as well as Greece and Thailand. Let me walk you through the markets, come and experience the street food with me, visit the local eateries and find the hidden treasures. I will share my impressions of the food culture, and how it varies from country to country, and sometimes even region to region.
Then let’s come back home into my kitchen and we will prepare the meal together with my easy-to-do authentic recipes from these experiences. There will be no foams, no “jus” (or even inverted commas anywhere for that matter) just intuitive, real and extremely satisfying meals. Ginger & Lime is more than a cooking school nestled in Cape Town; it is a place where magic happens. We do simple dishes that are specifically chosen for groups to cook together. I have been working within these constraints for the past five years, which has been good. It has a certain discipline. But now it is time to add a new depth and a new dimension to Ginger & Lime through the recipes and stories in these pages.

I am NOT a cook. I am a composer, a composer of fabulous food. Or am I perhaps the conductor? My instruments are the different ingredients I choose with care to put into the dish, in a certain amount and in a particular order.
I feel like a sorceress, brewing a magic potion, or a perhaps a magician with a magic wand, as I call in the next ingredient to add into the mix, in the perfect timing and sequence, to create a balanced and harmonious melody of a meal. I literally see these elements flying through the air, and into the dish. Nothing jars, or is out of synch…. a masterpiece of a symphony is created.
When I see the freshest of produce glistening on the market shelves, as I walk through aroma filled spice markets, with splashes of bright colours and gorgeous textures, intuitively a melody starts in my head. The orchestra starts warming up, getting impatient for me to get going. I am prompted to jot down those ideas, to capture those tastes and flavours that are tickling my taste buds before they disappear.

You need to seize the moment when creativity strikes, as this is a gift from the universe. You always think you will remember every nuance of this flash of insight, but you won’t, these muses are fickle and demand immediate attention.
I think food should be recognised for the art form it is. First there is the inspiration of the dish by the raw materials, and then these are used to create expression to deliver a masterpiece, which will evolve and be adapted by others over time.
Some of these are classics, and should remain as such, tried and true and pure, and some of them are modern or contemporary. These ingredients are interpreted differently in each country and they change and take on new forms with each generation.
Food allows me to show love for others in an easy way, a physical manifestation of what I can’t always put into words. It is my language of love. It is personal and from my heart and it is very powerful. The preparation and eating of food brings people of all backgrounds and diversity together. Food prepared with love just tastes better; it feeds not only the body, but also the soul.
In the kitchen, something very special happens. I find we become grounded and focused when we have a sharp knife in our hand, or we taste a sauce to see exactly what ingredient it needs to make it perfect. Then we have to be very present, something we all strive for in our hectic lives.

The kitchen has always been the heart of our home, as I am sure it is in yours if you are reading this book. It’s the space we gravitate towards at the end of our busy days, it is where we sit and talk and catch up with what’s is going on, very often with a glass of wine in hand as the two seem to work very well together.I take WC Fields’ advice seriously: “We always cook with wine, and sometimes, we even add it to the food.
Eating and cooking is a place where we can find our way back to real values and spend time together as a family and as an extended family with friends.