Q&A with Reuben Riffle

What are you doing when you’re not cooking up a storm?

Spending time with my two kids, aged four and eight months. If there’s more time I like to play a bit of golf.

Is there a particular dish or food you struggle to cook to perfection?

Not really, but any intricate dessert, especially when there is pastry involved, is always a hit and miss.

Who would you most like to cook with?

I would like to be able to cook with my kids one day. I look forward to that more than cooking with any famous person.

Every aspiring chef needs a?

* A food processor.
* Mortar and pestle.
* A solid chef’s knife.

What is the menu for a typical Riffel family Christmas lunch or dinner?

It’s very traditional because everyone cooks. So we have a pot roast of pork, crispy roasted duck, salted beef and some roasted crayfish. There are also roasted potatoes, braaied asparagus salad, beetroot salad, my favourite five bean salad and the family trifle.

Any tips for preparing a Christmas feast on a budget?

* Don’t buy last minute.
* Choose one big cut such as a pork shoulder, leg or beef short ribs.
* Go for whole roasted meat with seasonal vegetables and fruit from the market – nothing that’s overly packaged.
* Cook the cheaper cuts longer and they become delicious.
* Always buy seasonal.
* One big roast with a variation of sides always adds to an enjoyable feast.

You’ve authored a cookbook or two, what’s your latest one about?

In my new book Braai – Reuben on Fire, I explore really fun and different items that taste great on the braai. The book is all about trying out new flavours without being too far out of reach for the average braai fanatic.

Any kitchen dilemmas that you’ve managed to side step along the way?

We once had a gas leak in the kitchen that caught fire. All the staff ran out of the kitchen and I was left to remedy the situation. This all happened during service and luckily no one got injured. Needless to say we just had to continue as if nothing happened.

What’s the one dish you still can’t make as well as your mom does?

Sweet and sour lamb mince on toast.

What do you always take with you on your culinary travels?

A notebook, camera and a very good appetite.

What have been some of your funniest kitchen moments?

It’s amazing how many people are scared of live crayfish. I had a guy who almost ripped my cold room to pieces in his attempt to escape the live crustacean monsters.

Which celebrity chef would you like to have dinner with and what would you serve?

It would be (Australian chef) Neil Perry. I love his way of cooking; it suits my palate. I would make snoek braai. Chefs don’t like fussy food when they have time out. Passion fruit and lemon tart with roasted bananas and toasted coconut ice cream would follow.

What are Reuben’s dos and don’ts in the kitchen?

* DO start adding the salt in early in little amounts to build the flavour.
* DON’T just follow recipes, follow your palate.
* DO experiment with new ingredients.
* DON’T add new ingredients or spice to a whole dish. Rather try a little on the side. This will make experimenting fun without ruining your dishes.

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Image – Reuben Riffle (Supplied)