Last weekend I ventured out to Paarl in absolutely gorgeous weather, to visit the Freedom Weekend Market, doing a circular route so that I could see as much of the beautiful green vineyards, olive trees, and mountains along the drive.
My friend Doris and I were guests of the new Pinsa restaurant, as we’d been invited to sample their very special pizza, and it was my first experience of the Freedom Market, which lies along the R301, and is in the most picturesque location.
The Pinsa, after which the boutique Pinseria is named, is described as “an oval of handmade goodness topped with scrumptious ingredients and baked in a wood-burning oven to produce a crispy, pillowy crust” – and it didn’t disappoint.
The man behind the Pinsa brand is Andrey Tarasov, an entrepreneur who relocated to South Africa from Moscow in 2018.
As we chatted over the hubbub of all the market-goers, Audrey explained that over the past 25 years he has spent a great deal of time in Italy on business, specifically in Florence, where he first encountered the pinsa, and was inspired to introduce it locally.
Pinsa derives from the Latin word pinsere – which means “to stretch and extend” – and the recipe used today dates back to ancient Rome.
Not to be confused with pizza (its closest relative in terms of appearance), the pinsa stands apart, being made with superhydrated dough that is pressed, not rolled, and the best locally-sourced ingredients like bio wheat, soy and rice flour mixed with 80% ice cold spring water.
Heading up the baking crew is artisanal baker and chef Ciska Rossouw, and she told Bolander that the game-changing addition of the water is what makes the pinsa so famously light and easy to digest.
With each batch of dough, cold-fermenting for 72 hours, the preparation process is purposefully slow.
And good news for the healthconscious foodies, is that the pinsa is also made with minimal salt and far less cheese, which brings the combined cholesterol and calorie count down by as much as 60%.
Chef Ciska, whose enthusiasm for ancient bread-making traditions is boundless, says she is on a mission to create the most incredible pinsas this side of Italy.
On the menu is piadinas (folded flatbread), paninis and pinsas for children, and one of the enticing options is the dolce, made with a generous layer of chocolate spread topped with mixed berries and hazelnuts.
Doris ordered the Margherita, and I opted for the salmon and cream cheeses, and our pinsas were served with complimentary jars of dipping sauce for leftover crusts, too good to leave behind, and they were a delicious addition.
Before we’d settled down for our lunch, we browsed at the many stalls at the market, sampling olives and cheese, little nibbles of Christmas cake, and flavourful turmeric, lemon and ginger juice, which packed a healthy kick.
There were gorgeous fresh flowers, jewellery, baby clothes, leather bags and shoes, pottery, and all manner of arts and crafts.
An outside play area provides the perfect spot for little ones to play, and it’s enclosed by a low fence, so parents can dine nearby and keep an eye on their children.
Given the perfect weather on the day we visited (warm with a light breeze, which in the Boland can make all the difference…), marketgoers could sit inside and outside, enjoying fare from the various restaurants and beverage stalls.
Outside there are long and short tables, soft seats and tented areas providing shade, and little ponies were in a neighbouring paddock, ready to take the little ones for a ride through the vineyards, which are currently in full verdant display.
Driving home over Helshoogte Pass, I mused upon the fact that we are so fortunate to have a splendid selection of open-air markets in the Boland and Helderberg, where we can get out and stretch our legs, mingle (with due precautions) with other people, be in the sunshine and soak up essential Vitamin D, and support all those who work behind the scenes to make these places possible, from the crafters to the caterers to the cleaners.
The Freedom Market is open every Saturday, from 9am to 5pm, with live music, and on Sundays from 9am to 4pm, and also from 4pm to 7pm, on the first Friday of every month.
From Saturday November 21, the market will be offering 5km and 10km trail runs every weekend.
- Bolander is giving away a voucher for four pinsas, at Pinsa Restaurant, to be redeemed by mid-December. To win, email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org
The winner will be notified telephonically.