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This is a very short biography and if you want more information you can visit the contributor's website where you will usually find contact details. If you wish us to pass a message on email us.

by Leigh Robertson

Henrie GeyserIf you love cooking, or even just enjoy food for food's sake, chances are you've happened upon Henrie's Hotch Potch, Highlife's regular recipe column at www.iafrica.com.

A food guru if ever there was, our Henrie does not supply us with just any old kind of recipe, randomly pinched from the yellowing pages of Your Average Cookbook. Rather, the wondrous menus that grace these pages each week have come to exist through endless experimenting and tasting, night after night of gleeful peeling, chopping, stirring, stuffing, straining, baking, grilling, frying and braaiing - wooden spoon in one hand, glass of wine in the other.

And, of course, the music turned up sufficiently loudly to be able to hear it from the kitchen.

The truth is that Henrie's recipes, full of evocatively descriptive words that make you almost smell that freshly crushed garlic or simmering curry, really make you want to cook . . . or, at least, very, very hungry!

It all happens at Henrie's home, a charming cottage tucked close to the mountain near the harbour in Hout Bay - the Republic of Fish country.

I feel truly delighted to be a guest in the kitchen not just of A Man Who Cooks, but also an interesting fella, a journalist who's been there-done that, with a wacky sense of humour and whose fun-lovin' reputation precedes him. And what better way to conduct an interview than over lunch.

I have, though, been warned by one or two other, older journalists who've survived the wars with Henrie (back in the days when all self-respecting hacks spent their lunch hours at the nearest bar rather than the sandwich deli), to keep an eye on his roving...oh, never mind! There are stories, yes, but all of which merely illustrate his love of life, or more specifically, as they say, of "wine, women and song".

This is, it must be said, the very same Henrie Geyser who once (late '70s?) graced the glossy pages of a leading local society magazine as their Most Eligible Bachelor! Though no longer eligible (he's married to the glamorous Penny), he does still have the same twinkle in his eye and swagger in his step that might have been the downfall of many a female admirer during his wild single years.

When I arrive my host is already hard at work in his kitchen-with-a-view. The exotic aroma of spices hangs heavy in the air. A glass of chilled Chenin Blanc is thrust into my hand and I'm ushered onto a chair in the corner, out of the way - and no, I'm not allowed to help, not even chop.

Soon the kitchen is filled with the heady steam of flash-fried strips of calamari steaks. This is our starter. I'm glad I stuck to coffee for breakfast. Another bottle of wine is opened, my glass filled to the brim. I'm glad, too, that I don't have to go back to work - it's going to be a long lunch.

Watching Henrie in action in the kitchen is almost as much fun as watching the Naked Chef (a.k.a. Jamie Oliver) on the telly. There's no measuring or weighing or pondering over just what exactly the recipe means by the occasional vague instruction. He cooks with flair and passion, tasting as he goes along, picking up the lid of a pot to check that all looks as he hopes it should.

He's experimenting today, playing with a variety of Asian flavours I so adore. Sweet teriyaki sauce, feisty Japanese wasabi paste, Chinese Five Spice, pickled ginger. He's also creating a right royal seafood spread - apart from the delectably tender calamari we polished off, there's crayfish too. Lots of it. Simmering away on the stove in a hot Thai sauce. Fortunately, we both love chilli.

After the empty shells of the crayfish have been discarded - and a few more glasses of wine later - it's dessert time, though there's little space left for anything more to be ingested and the afternoon sun is sinking low in the sky.

But watching Henrie pour lashings of Crème de Cassis over fresh mango, with a little thick Greek yoghurt added, it's impossible to resist!

With self-taught culinary skills that could put any kitchen-proud woman (not to mention a handful of professional chefs) to shame, Henrie gives home cooking an excellent name. Forget the notion of the New Man, Men Who Cook are, in my opinion, definitely the Next Big Thing!

"Suicide is an attractive option compared to powdered egg and instant mashed potatoes!"


Featured recipes:

Mussels in Gin Sauce

Roast Red Pepper Soup

Salmon Marinated

Tomato and Chilli Soup

Haddock with Mustard Sauce and Jansson's Temptation

Lamb - Bandit's Style or Arni Kleftiko

Chicken with Garlic and Pepper

Smoorvis - Traditional Cape Style

Guava Delight

Pancakes and Orange Butter

Peasant Girl in a Veil



So, just who exactly is Henrie, that enigmatic figure who graces the food-stained pages of Kitchen Life every week? Read the Q & As of Leigh Robertson and Henrie to find out . . .

What's your star sign?
Aquarius - what else? Mad dreamers, creative, kind, experimental, kinky and often considerate lovers, impatient, intolerant of fools, anti-establishment . . .

What's your favourite food in the whole world?
Depends what mood I am in, who I am with and where I am in the world. Ultimately probably a toss up between prawns/crayfish or a good lamb curry.

When did you first discover the joys of cooking? And who introduced you to the kitchen?
I was lucky to grow up in a house where boerekos ruled. Nothing fancy, just plain, well prepared, simple food. I started cooking when, as a young know-it-all reporter (with absolutely no culinary skills or knowledge), I used to tell my then-wife what to put into her food and how to cook it, until one day she said: "If you're so damn clever, do it yourself..." And that's where it all started. Since that day I have cooked every day of my life.

Do you like to be the one in control in the kitchen? Are you the kind of cook who finds it difficult to be "cooked for" without wanting to leap up and add more salt / hide the salt?
I am not a control freak. I do itch to become involved when I watch others cook, but it is because of my passion for food, not because I think I can do it better. When we visit friends I invariably end up doing the braai or helping in the kitchen. I am resentful of people who say: "Oh, we can't have Henrie over for dinner because he cooks so well?" I am not a fussy or fancy eater. A simple meal, prepared with love, laughter, lots of wine and good company is equal to the finest meal in the most expensive restaurant. A pity so few people understand this?

Come rain or shine, what ingredients do you think every wannabe chef should keep in their kitchen - and what would you never ever do without in your own fridge or pantry?
Potatoes, bread, butter, onion, garlic, pasta, canned tomatoes, fresh, dried or pickled chilli’s, dried beans, dried lentils, rice and always at least one fresh herb such as basil, rosemary or mint, and at least one fresh vegetable. And stock cubes - chicken, beef and veg.

Who's your favourite chef, if any? And what's your favourite cookbook?
I don't really have a favourite chef. I like Jamie Oliver, not because he is the trendy foody, better known as the Naked Chef, but because he makes good basic food without fuss. I find most modern chefs terribly pretentious. And as for so-called fusion cuisine? Nope, give me Mrs Beeton's "All About Cookery", or Mrs Roy Hendrie's "Ouma's Cookery Book", or C Louis Leipoldt's book on old Cape cooking, or "Carrier's Kitchen". I own hundreds of recipe and cookery books with recipes from all over the world and I derive great pleasure from reading and adapting traditional recipes, tried and tested over many years.

Are you a restaurant person? What kind of restaurants do you enjoy going to, and what's your favourite restaurant in the world?
Yes, I am a restaurant person. But I prefer small and cosy. Nice vibe, caring owner, chef and staff, rather than plastic and chrome "have-to-be-seen-in" expense account joints where staff are picked for their looks, not their knowledge of food and wine, or their commitment to diner satisfaction.

Probably my all time favourite [restaurant] is Beit Eddine, a superb Lebanese restaurant tucked away in Harriet Street, Knightsbridge. But once a year, at most, is all I can afford. If I was wealthy and lived in London I would eat there once or twice a week.

In Cape Town I dine with great pleasure at the Dias Tavern, Tsakaris, Europa, Theo's and Saigon. In Gauteng, a little Greek joint in the not so fashionable part and, in Durban, the little downmarket hotel on the beach about 40k's from Durban (and I won't give you the names of either, otherwise too many people will discover it and spoil it for the regulars!)

Is there anything you won't eat?
Having tasted many things, from snake, to scorpion; wassabe to whale and porcupine to pickled pomegranate, unless I am starving and close to death I would not eat brains, frogs legs, chicken "a la King", cottage pie, haggis or that green, generally mucky, pasta awfulness called lasagne. And suicide is an attractive option compared to powdered egg and instant mashed potatoes!

As an obviously passionate man, what do you think is the link between food and sex? Is the way to a man's heart really through his stomach?
Food is sexy - but not if you are dining alone. The right partner, the right vibe, the crackle of electrical lust, the occasional touch, the look, the music, the wine and the...ah, yes, the food. Certain foods are sexy - snails, oysters, smoked salmon, caviar, prawns, crayfish, Greek desserts, champagne, all things chocolate. The way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, although I believe there is a more crucial area, a little lower down than the stomach. And it certainly leads to a lot of fun, if not to undying love, maternal bliss and eternal happiness!

What's your view on food as aphrodisiac? What works?
Given the right time, the right place and the right two people, anything from a cold pie and a lukewarm Fanta, to French champagne and caviar. Sex is like golf - it's 90 percent in the mind, and it takes more than a glass of good wine or a succulent slice of fillet steak to get it right! Although, I do believe in crispy bacon sandwiches and a mug of hot cocoa served in bed on a cold and rainy Sunday morning . . .

Leigh Robertson is the Highlife Editor at iAfrica.com - click here to visit the web site

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