Nourishing the soul

Liezie Mulder demonstrating a few versatile and tasty recipes from her book.

Liezie Mulder recently demonstrated a few versatile and tasty recipes from her book île de païn anytime at Chez Gourmet in Claremont.

While cooking, she chatted about her life.

Growing up in Pretoria, she remembers helping her mum in the kitchen.

Later she wanted to work in the hospitality industry but was told it’s a man’s world and so she studied interior design.

It was while waitressing to pay for her studies that she made the decision to follow her heart.

She left South Africa for America where she trained as a chef and graduated two years later with a degree in culinary arts.

She then worked in restaurants and bakeries all over America. While there, in 1998, she met Markus Farbinger who shares her passion for creating delicious dishes. And while his strengths lie in baked goods, hers are in creating simple dishes using quality ingredients that are clean, but bold and flavourful.

In 2002, Liezie and Markus packed their bags and returned to Knysna to supervise the building and planning of a restaurant and bakery.

On December 13, 2002, île de paï* (island of bread) opened its doors. Liezie trained the front of house staff and in 2009 she brought out her first book, Café Food.

In 2015 the restaurant burnt down but one year later, île de paï* 2.0 was up and running.

And with customers continually asking for recipes, she dug into her travel notebooks to create île de paï* anytime. It is here that Liezie’s style and deeply rooted food philosophy shines. She believes the sourcing of ingredients is important and it is vital to use quality, healthy, fresh produce that offers high value in terms of vitality and beauty.

She says the energetic value of the food, how it is made and the mindset with which it is made and served is what lifts the spirit and sustains the body.

What matters most is creating an environment where people can gather to celebrate food, nourish themselves and be uplifted.

Since 2002 Liezie and Markus have closed the restaurant for four weeks, travelled the world once or twice a year, or more. This month they are off to Japan.

Liezie says many of her recipes are inspired by these trips.

She uses a new notebook for each journey and often keeps the wrappings from ingredients, takes lots of pictures and ask lots of questions.

When back home she plays with the idea for a new dish in her head and then tries and tests the recipe until she is happy with it.

Liezie feels the Banting diet is fizzling out and she is asked more questions about vegan and vegetarian dishes.

In fact, when she put the book together, she realised about 70% of the recipes are vegetarian and yet that’s what she and her family are eating most of the time.

But that’s not to say there aren’t carnivore and pescatarian options, as they abound, with steamed mussels, Baja fish tacos, sticky pork belly steamed buns and heavenly Hanoi chicken salad.

Liezie says the cookbook is about cooking simple, food with pre-planning and preparation.

As for her have-to-have freezer ingredient? It’s wood-fired pizza bases – because there is so much that can be done with them.