Text Marita van Rooyen
Built in 1914 by Count Schwerin for his fiancée, Heinitzburg Castle holds a valued history as one of Windhoek’s three historic German castles. Moreover, this robust stone building is also home to Leo’s at the Castle, one of the city’s finest restaurants.
Bought by Jürgen and Beate Raith in 1994, Heinitzburg today hosts one of Windhoek’s most spectacular fine-dining restaurants, enhanced by an impressive view of the capital’s skyline. Leo’s at the Castle – affectionately known as the Gourmet Temple – is where chefs Tibor Raith, Nick Diener, Neville Stoffels and Matthew Ihinda concoct and cook up a storm, using seasonal local specialities and international delicatessen to tempt anyone if not everyone’s taste buds.
Tibor – who serves both as Executive Chef and General Manager and inherited an innate love for cooking from his late father Jürgen – has been creating a celebration of senses since the age of 14. Tibor trained at Hotel Bareiss and the Brandenburger Hof, both in Germany, before finishing his studies while serving an apprenticeship in hotel management at the Gasthof Post in Lech am Arlberg, Austria.
For Tibor, Leo’s is all about giving food fundis an exceptional culinary experience to create an unforgettable taste sensation. Says Nick, “Leo’s offers elegant dining with a local touch,” while Matthew describes the environment and the calibre of people who frequent the restaurant as exceptional, a feature that especially attracted him to Heinitzburg. Matthew himself is a Heinitzburg success story, having started out as porter and working his way up to chef and ‘master of all kitchen stations’. Neville, on the other hand, started out as commis and after just over a year, was instated as sous-chef at Leo’s.
At Leo’s, life is all about creating interesting taste sensations and pleasing people with gourmet fare. Clothed in soft shades of silver-grey and a few tinges of red, the restaurant has a romantic feel that adds to the general atmosphere of the castle. Adding to the fine-dining experience, is the extensive and exclusive selection of ‘liquid diamonds’, which includes over 15 000 bottles of imported South African and ‘old-world’ wines. Pair one of these with the signature dish of eland loin, and you’re guaranteed a gourmet taste sensation of note.
Favourite Recipe for the season
by Tibor Raith
Namibian Eland Fillet on Cacao Risotto with morello cherries, broccoli & a Merlot Glace
1 head broccoli
Heat the stock. In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions, dark chocolate and cacao powder and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. Add the rice and turn up the heat.
The rice will now begin to fry lightly, so keep stirring it.
After a minute it will look somewhat translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring – it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence. Once the red wine has cooked into the rice, add a ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt.
Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice to see if it is cooked – carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.
Remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be.
In a hot saucepan combine the onion with the oil and sugar.
Let the sugar caramelise first (don’t let it get black), then add the garlic, juniper berries, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper.
Add the stock and simmer uncovered until reduced to half. You can stir once or twice while simmering, but you really don’t need to pay much attention at this time. After the simmering is complete, the mixture will be greatly reduced.
Add the wine and jam (which gives a little fruity taste to the glace). Continue to simmer for 20 more minutes.
Stir all of the butter into the mixture on the stove with a wire whisk. After the butter is incorporated in the reduced stock and wine mixture, the glace is ready.
If it is too thin, thicken it with some maizena (starch) – just be careful on the dosage of the maizena and let it cook out well so you don’t have the starch taste in the sauce!
After removing the stones from the cherries, warm them in a pan with the wine, vanilla paste, salt and pepper. Thicken with a little maizena.
Preheat the oven to 130°C. Marinate the fillet with salt, pepper, some olive oil, the red wine, rosemary and thyme.
Cover and leave in the fridge until needed. Portion the fillet into four equal portions (200g each approximately). Heat up a pan with olive oil and fry the fillet on all sides so the meat textures close nicely.
Remove from the heat and put into the oven for approximately 5 minutes (for medium). If you don’t like the meat medium, leave it in the oven for longer.
Clean the broccoli and portion out 20 medium-size florets. Blanch in hot water, but not for too long, as it still has to have a bite, then rinse with cold water. Heat a pan, add some butter and sauté the broccoli until cooked. Season with salt and pepper.
How to serve
Serve in a deep plate. Put a quenelle of the risotto in the middle of the plate, cut the fillet in half and place on the risotto. Warm up the cherries and the broccoli and place in a circle around the fillet. The merlot glace can be served separately or sprinkled around the fillet.