Spinach & ricotta gnudi with chicken and herb broth

29 Jun

Spinach & ricotta dumplings in a light and fragrant broth, topped with parmesan cheese. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Spinach & ricotta dumplings in a light and fragrant broth, topped with parmesan cheese. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Although most people associate soups with substance and texture, there is something strangely mesmerizing about an understated, translucent broth. This fragrant liquid can pack surprisingly bold flavours and is a fantastic vessel for carrying beautiful treasures like bright vegetables, botanical herbs, curly noodles or delicate dumplings.

My recipe for spinach & ricotta dumplings in a chicken & herb broth is actually 2 dishes in one. The dumplings are cousins of Italian gnocchi – a comforting dish that I usually serve with a bright red pommodoro sauce and grated parmesan cheese. The broth is a light version of traditional American chicken soup that is often associated with “getting better soon”, but also fabulous as a flavoursome home-made stock for making risotto.

This is one of the most comforting meals that I can possible imagine, especially in the cold weather that we’re experiencing in the Cape Winelands. Serve it as a light lunch/dinner with grated parmesan cheese and some buttered toast to soak up the broth.

TIP: Make the broth first, then keep it warm while you cook the gnudi. The broth also freezes well.

For the chicken broth: (serves 6)

  • 1,5 litres (6 cups) water
  • 400 g frozen chicken necks, thawed
  • 1 large knob of ginger, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced leeks
  • 3 celery sticks, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled & sliced
  • a handful of parsley stalks
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 chicken stock cubes, crumbled
  • salt & pepper

Method:

Place all the ingredients for the broth in a medium stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid, then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to infuse for another 30 minutes, uncovered, then strain through a sieve. (Keep the solids for processing with your next soup or use in your next stew.)

For the gnudi/dumplings:

  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 200g baby spinach leaves
  • 450-500g ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano) plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Method: In a large pan, heat the olive oil and sauteé the spinach over medium heat for about 5 minutes until just wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, egg and yolk, salt, pepper, parmesan and flour. Roughly chop the cooked spinach, then add it with the parsley to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon until it starts to form a coarse-looking ball. Lightly dust a rimmed baking tray with flour. Using 2 large dessert spoons, shape heaped tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes, then place on the floured tray and dust with a little more flour (you should have about 30). Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Carefully add the gnudi, then cook for 4 minutes until cooked through and tender (gnudi will quickly float to the surface; continue cooking or they will be gummy in the center). Using a slotted spoon, remove gnudi from water and divide among bowls.

To assemble:

  • 1 batch chicken broth
  • a cup of finely chopped mixed vegetables (leeks, celery, mushrooms)
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
  • a handful of parsley leaves
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • cooked gnudi (about 4 per person)
  • finely grated parmesan cheese

Method: Bring the broth to a slow simmer. Add the finely chopped vegetables, ginger, garlic, parsley & chickpeas, then remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls with the freshly cooked gnudi, then top with grated parmesan. Serve immediately.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Text & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & styling : Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

WIN a Lindt Excellence hamper

25 Jun

My #EveningOfExcellence hamper, courtesy of Lindt South Africa. What a treat!

My #EveningOfExcellence hamper, courtesy of Lindt South Africa. What a treat!

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to an #EveningOfExcellence from Lindt South Africa. The invitation included a luxury chauffeured ride from my home in Stellenbosch to the coveted Café Chic in Cape Town, two tickets to see the famous Swan Lake St Petersburg ballet production at Artscape Theatre, as well as an amazing hamper containing 4 international wines, Riedel glassware and oodles of fabulous Lindt Excellence chocolate to pair with the wines.

My husband and I accepted the invitation and proceeded to have an unforgettable evening filled with pure pleasure, indulgence, adventure, luxury and relaxation. But the good news is this: one lucky reader will WIN a fantastic Lindt Excellence hamper containing 4 exceptional local wines, lots of Lindt Excellence chocolate and 4 beautiful pairing cards to help you pair the wines with the chocolate. To enter this competition and stand the chance to win, mention the following line on Twitter: “I want to WIN a @LindtSA #EveningOfExcellence hamper via @the_foodfox!” The winner will be drawn randomly (and notified soon thereafter) on Friday 26 June 2015 at 17h00. Enter as many times as you want before the time of the draw.

Here are some of the pictures from our #EveningOfExcellence. We also hosted a dinner with friends afterwards to enjoy the hamper wines and chocolate with a home-cooked French-inspired menu.

Thank you to OFyt and Lindt South Africa for making this adventure and give-away possible.

On our way to Cape Town for an #EveningOfExcellence.

On our way to Cape Town for an #EveningOfExcellence.

Outside Café Chic, ready for dinner. #EveningOfExcellence

Outside Café Chic, ready for dinner. #EveningOfExcellence

Checking out the fabulous menu at Café Chic. #EveningofExcellence

Checking out the fabulous menu at Café Chic. #EveningofExcellence

The St Petersburg Swan Lake performance at Artscape Theatre. #EveningOfExcellence

The St Petersburg Swan Lake performance at Artscape Theatre. #EveningOfExcellence

Our stylish ride! #EveningOfExcellence

Our stylish ride! #EveningOfExcellence

 

Review: Lunch at Ryan’s Kitchen, Franschhoek

30 Apr

Ryan's Kitchen interior

Panoramic view of the interior at Ryan’s Kitchen, Franschhoek

I was recently invited to experience the “new” Ryan’s Kitchen  – a recent move to a new location on Main Road gave this restaurant room to grow on the competitive and established Franschhoek culinary scene.

Given their reputation for excelling in modern South African cuisine, I was quite intrigued as to how they would present this to the market keeping in mind that they will be serving a discerning crowd of locals as well as international guests. So on Friday the 30th of January I took my husband and daughter along for a lunch trip to Franschhoek.

Chef Ryan Smith and his wife Lana make a strong team in this relatively new space. Ryan, who has worked in numerous Michelen-starred restaurants and schools across the world, heads up the kitchen while Lana commands the front of house. Their modern and fresh interior lended a clean slate for what was to come, as we took our seats inside the restaurant (we later moved to the terrace outside, as the gentle breeze started to cool down a scorching hot day).

The menu is divided into four sections: 1) salads & vegetables, 2) fish and shellfish, 3) meat and poultry and 4) dessert. Guests are encouraged to see the lists as grouped smaller dishes (like tapas) and not as “starters”, “mains” etc. Lana explained that we should order a few dishes and share, as they “love seeing the often lost art of social dining” – something that really resonated with me.

We proceeded to try quite a few dishes, and here are some of the pictures:

Bread box

Artisanal bread box with rotis and flavoured butters

Seared tuna

Seared tuna slices, pepper-pineapple and cucumber atchar.

Cape salmon

Tandoori cured Cape salmon, tomato and chilli “snow eggs”.

Brinjal dumplings

Smoked brinjal dumplings, basil and pine-nut dressing. This was one of my favourite dishes of the day.

Tapioca

Mushroom tapioca “pudding”, sautéed exotic mushrooms.

Seafood parcel

Cape Malay pickled seafood, cooked in a bag (before opening).

Seafood parcel open

Cape Malay pickled seafood, after opening the parcel. The simplicity of the presentation deceives the flavours that come out of this parcel.

Outside

Sitting outside in the sunny courtyard at Ryan’s Kitchen.

Duck parfait

Duck parfait per-peri, lemon jelly & green bean chutney.

Soufflé

Granadilla soufflé, mango ice-cream. This exquisite dish was the winner of the day.

Chef Ryan Smith

Owner/chef Ryan Smith at Ryan’s Kitchen, Franschhoek.

Some of my highlights were the beautifully presented bread box and the smoked brinjal dumplings. But the dish of the day was the absolutely breathtaking granadilla soufflé – the best soufflé I’ve ever had – perfect in every way. The soufflé cost R85, but is a massive portion and great to share.

I will recommend Ryan’s Kitchen to anyone who would love to experience a fresh and modern take on classic South African cuisine – you’ll find no clichés here. Every single dish was meticulously prepared and masterfully presented. The service was personal, attentive and very professional. This is one of my favourite new restaurants of 2015 and I cannot wait to see what the menu will bring later in the year.

Ryan’s Kitchen is open for lunch (12h30-14h30) and dinner (18h30-21h30), Monday to Saturday.

Prices vary from R40-R115 per dish.

Bookings are advised: info@ryanskitchen.co.za / 021-876 4598.

Thank you to Ryan’s Kitchen and Manley Communications for the opportunity to discover this gem of a restaurant.

Chocolate pineapple pudding with almond & orange

21 Apr

Baked chocolate pineapple pudding with almonds and orange rind, served with dark chocolate sauce & creme fraiche.

Baked chocolate pineapple pudding with almonds and orange rind, served with dark chocolate sauce & creme fraiche.

Last night, the MasterChef SA Celebrity contestants had to cook something using a secret ingredient: pineapple. The team behind the Woolworths #CelebrityChef campaign asked me to also put together a recipe using pineapple.

After considering many different dishes from a pineapple tarte tatin to a pineapple salsa taco to pineapple BBQ sauce ribs, I came up with this rich and decadent pudding using grilled fresh pineapple, chocolate, ground almonds and orange rind. The pudding must be slightly underbaked to ensure a gooey centre. It has a tropical undertone that goes so very well with the richness of dark chocolate. Serve warm with dark chocolate sauce and creme fraiche.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe pineapple
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 60 g butter
  • 3/4 cup self-raising flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 2 XL egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 5 ml vanilla extract

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cream

To serve:

  • a dusting of cocoa powder (optional)
  • 250 g creme fraiche (or vanilla ice cream)

Method:

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the skin off the pineapple and cut into chunks or rounds (I also removed the tough inner core). Grill the chunks in a very hot griddle pan until you get beautifully charred marks on the outside. Put half of the grilled pineapple in a food processor and process to a smooth pulp. Set aside the pulp and the remaining grilled pineapple.
  2. In a small glass bowl, add the chocolate and butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir well until smooth and melted. Put aside.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 200 C and grease a deep 23cm heat proof baking dish or skillet.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, almonds, sugar and salt. Mix well with a hand whisk. Now add the eggs, yolks, milk, zest, vanilla, pineapple pulp and melted chocolate mixture. Mix with the whisk until smooth, then pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just undercooked in the centre. Remove from the oven, dust with cocoa powder (optional) and serve warm with grilled pieces of pineapple, chocolate sauce & creme fraiche.
  6. For the chocolate sauce: While the pudding is baking, heat the cream in a tall cup in the microwave until it just starts to boil (about 30 seconds – 1 minute). Add the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth and melted.

Tips:

  • You can also use cheaper commercial dark chocolate for this recipe, but be sure to add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the batter to ensure a dark pudding.
  • If you’d like to serve this at room temperature as a chocolate tart, bake the pudding for 20 minutes in total, then cool completely. Cool the chocolate sauce as well, then spread the sauce over the pudding as a stylish ganache topping. Slice and serve.
  • I find it easy and fuss-free to melt chocolate in the microwave, but you can also do it in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (the traditional French way).

Roasted plum tart

2 Apr

Roasted plums on a creamy zesty filling inside a baked pastry shell (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Roasted plums on a creamy zesty filling inside a baked pastry shell (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There is nothing more beautiful than a perfectly ripe plum, its silky matt skin dark and red and tender. Inside, the flesh reveals a golden, juicy, tart, fibrous treasure. I could stare at plums for hours – such astonishingly pretty fruit.

This simple tart is easy to make and – with its rustic charm – a dream to look at. The roasted fruit needs some time to cool, so don’t be rushed.

Note: This tart also looks beautiful when assembled in smaller jars. Just substitute the baked pastry for buttery cookie crumbs (200g digestive or tennis biscuits mixed with 80 g melted butter). Just spoon the crumbs into individual 250 ml capacity jars without compressing it. Top with the creamy filling & roasted plums, then refrigerate. Mobile desserts fit for a royal picnic.

For the pastry:

  • 1 ½ cups (250g) cake flour
  • 125g cold butter, chopped in cubes
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon iced water

For the roasted plums:

  • 1 kg ripe, firm plums (halved, pits removed)
  • ¼ cup soft brown sugar
  • juice of 1 orange

For the filling:

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 250 g plain cream cheese

To make the pastry: Place the flour, butter & sugar in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and pulse again. Now add the iced water and process until it starts to come together in a ball. As soon as it does, remove from the processor, then knead briefly to form a smooth ball. Shape into a disc, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface (about 0,5 cm thick). Transfer to a greased tart tin (about 20-23 cm diameter), then press gently into the corners and trim the top. Line with baking paper, then fill with dry beans or rice. Pre-heat oven to 200 C, then bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and beans, then bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool.

To make the roasted plums: Place halved plums on a baking tray (alternate cut-side up and down), then sprinkle with sugar & drizzle with orange juice. Bake at 200 C for 15-20 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Note: you want the plums to be tender, but not too soft – they must still be in tact.

To make the filling: Using electric beaters, beat the condensed milk with the lemon juice until smooth. Add the cream cheese, then beat until well mixed. Pour into the prepared cooled pastry case, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. When ready to serve, top with cooled roasted plums, then slice and serve.

Note: This assembled tart can be refrigerated and enjoyed within 2 days. The pastry will however be best served on the first day.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Text & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography : Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Turkish apricots with goats cheese, basil, almonds & honey

30 Mar

Soft dried apricots topped with basil goats cheese & almonds, drizzled with honey (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Soft dried apricots topped with basil goats cheese & almonds, drizzled with honey (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

In July last year with the launch of the demo KITCHEN, my wingwoman Elsebé Cronjé suggested that we make these beauties. She got the recipe via her chef friend Ruan, who saw it on the internet somewhere. When I started searching for the origin, it seemed like there were many similar recipes around with no specific credit as to who originally came up with the idea.

Needless to say, these soft apricots with goats cheese, basil, almonds & honey were such a hit that they are now one of our favourite canapés for guests. So very simple to make, but with an intriguing combination of sweet & savoury flavour tones and beautiful textures of soft, crunchy and creamy.

Be sure to buy soft Turkish dried apricots (they are imported by the team of Cecilia’s Farm and also available from Woolworths) and not the hard ones. This is a total must for festive entertaining, anytime of the year.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g plain goats cheese (log of chevin)
  • 250 g plain cream cheese
  • a large handful of fresh basil leaves (about 20g)
  • 250 g soft dried Turkish apricots
  • 100 g raw almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
  • 1/4 honey

Method:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the goats cheese and cream cheese with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until well combined.
  2. Wash and dry the basil leaves, then chop finely and add to the cheese. Mix through.
  3. With a small spatula or knife, smear each dried apricot with a good dollop of the cheese.
  4. Roughly chop the almonds and scatter over the apricot canapes.
  5. Liberally drizzle with honey and serve.

Credits:

Text: Ilse van der Merwe

Food preparation & assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography : Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Crustless ricotta cheesecake

26 Mar

Baked ricotta cheesecake topped with freshly whipped cream (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Baked ricotta cheesecake topped with freshly whipped cream (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Many years ago, long before I started writing my food blog, I saved a few pages from a Pick ‘n Pay Fresh Ideas booklet before it became Fresh Living Magazine (not sure the exact date, it wasn’t included in my cut-out). Strangely, I never got around to making their recipe for an Italian baked ricotta cheesecake – although the picture had astounded me each time I saw it.

I recently paged through my saved cut-outs again and decided to finally give it a go. I love a good cheesecake any day and I’m always keen to try out new variations. This one is great because it doesn’t have any crust at all (a little less effort and more than a little less kilojoules) and it is made from ricotta cheese, not cream cheese or cottage cheese. The cake is slightly firmer than most other cream-cheese-based cheesecakes, with a delicate almost-crumbly texture. The smoothness of the texture completely depends on the smoothness of the ricotta that you are using, so look for a creamy and smooth ricotta product. The flavour is surprisingly light and not too sweet – a welcome alternative to heavier cream-based versions.

This Italian-style cheesecake is really easy to make, low in carbs and delicious topped with a layer of unsweetened softly whipped cream. It is best kept refrigerated. Dust with a little icing sugar if necessary.

Crustless ricotta cheesecake (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Crustless ricotta cheesecake (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients: (makes 1 x 20cm cake)

  • 1 kg ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 6 XL eggs
  • 1.2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
  • juice (about 1/4 cup) and finely grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • a pinch of salt
  • for serving: 250 ml cream, whipped

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 150 C. Set oven rack in the middle of the oven. Grease and flour a 20 cm springform cake tin.
  2. Place all ingredients (except cream) in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pour batter into the prepared tin.
  3. Bake for 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes) until filling is pale gold and centre is firm. Remove from oven and cool in tin.
  4. Remove from tin when completely cool, then top with whipped cream. Slice and serve.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Recipe: Pick ‘n Pay Fresh Ideas booklet

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Lamb & feta burger with mint pesto & yoghurt

25 Mar

Lamb & feta burger with  mint pesto (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Lamb & feta burger with mint pesto (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Being able to make a really good burger at home is one of the most satisfying things any meat-lover can do. Many of us grew up having take-away burgers as a special treat on weekends when we were children. My siblings and I loved almost any take-away burger, because the ones we tried to make at home just never tasted as good.

Well, the tables have turned. I now believe that anyone can make a burger at home that can beat the best gourmet burger in most restaurants. If you use care and source the best ingredients you can find, you can make a pretty amazing burger – so amazing that you might not want to get take-aways ever again.

Although I’m a huge fan of the classic beef burger with cheddar cheese and pickles, this juicy lamb burger is a total knock-out for a special occasion.

Here are my top 3 tips for creating an awesome burger:

  1. Buy fresh, soft burger buns, and always toast the sliced sides with butter before assembling your burger.
  2. Use coarsely ground great quality fresh meat for your pattie. That means 100% leg of lamb or 100% pure beef rump.
  3. Don’t overcook your meat – it should still be juicy in the middle.

Ingredients: (makes 4 large burgers)

  • 600 g boneless leg of lamb, minced (ask your butcher to do that for you)
  • 2 rounds (about 80g) of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 punnet fresh mint
  • 1 punnet fresh parsley
  • 50 g cashew nuts
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 round soft hamburger rolls, buttered and toasted in a pan
  • double cream yoghurt (the thickest you can find)
  • a handful of watercress
  • finely sliced cucumber

Method:

  1. Mix the lamb mince, crumbled feta, salt & pepper in a mixing bowl – using clean hands works best. Divide the mixture into 4 balls, then flatten them carefully, shaping the edges to form a round disk. Always make the pattie a bit wider and thinner than the end product that you have in mind, because they shrink back to a thicker, smaller pattie in the pan. Set aside.
  2. For the pesto: in a food processor, add the mint, parsley, cashews and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper, then process to a course paste. Scoop into a smaller serving bowl and set aside.
  3. In a non-stick pan, heat some olive oil over moderately high heat, then fry the patties about 3-4 minutes a side, taking care when you flip them over because the feta tends to stick (use a spatula). You are looking for a crisp outer layer and a juicy center. I prefer my center to still be pink. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to rest.
  4. To assemble the burgers: Place the bottom half of a toasted bun on a plate, then add the watercress, burger pattie, some yoghurt, some pesto, some cucumber and then the top half of the bun. Enjoy!

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Deep-fried aubergine fingers with herbed yoghurt

24 Mar

Fried aubergine fingers, dusted with paprika & served with a fresh herbed yoghurt sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Fried aubergine fingers, dusted with paprika & served with a fresh herbed yoghurt sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

One of the best ways to spend a lazy afternoon/evening in Stellenbosch, is to sit on the stoep at Helena’s restaurant at Coopmanhuijs in Church Street. Here you can watch people walk by in the most beautiful part of town, and feel the buzz of Stellenbosch’s nightlife coming alive at dusk.

When we dine at Helena’s, we always start our meal with their mezze platter. It’s a selection of delicious Mediterranean-style snacks and spreads, perfect for two people to share. One of the best snacks on this platter is their deep-fried aubergine. It is served at room temperature, and just melts in your mouth.

This is my humble attempt at recreating the delicious aubergines fingers from Helena’s that I love so much. I dusted them in paprika flour, then deep-fried them in canola oil. To lift the flavours, I made a bright and fresh herbed yoghurt for dipping – absolutely delicious.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a snack)

  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
  • 1 large aubergine, cut into 1 cm thick fingers/chips
  • about 750 ml canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 cup double cream yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt)
  • 1 cup mixed herbs (coriander, mint & parsley), finely chopped

Method:

  1. In a shallow wide bowl, mix the flour, paprika, salt & pepper. Dust each aubergine finger thoroughly and tap off excess flour mix, then set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium size pot to roughly 180 C (test one of the fingers – it should take about 2-3 minutes to cook and form a light golden crust). Drop batches of aubergine fingers in the hot oil, then cook for 2-3  minutes until soft and lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with herbed yoghurt.
  3. For the herbed yoghurt: mix the yoghurt with the chopped herbs and season lightly with salt & pepper.

Credits:

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Chocolate churros

16 Feb

Mexican-style churros with a spiced chocolate sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Mexican-style churros with a spiced chocolate sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If you love Spanish or Mexican food, then you probably already know churros. These deep-fried crunchy treats dipped in spiced chocolate sauce are the naughtiest but best way to end a Spanish feast.

I’ve experimented quite a bit with the consistency of the churro dough. With less water, you’ll get a result that holds shape better and can be piped in longer beautiful star-shaped fingers (with a star nozzle). They are crunchy with a small chewy center. With a little more water, the result is less beautiful to look at (slightly shapeless balls), but the texture resembles French canelés – very moist and chewy.

For the photoshoot, we made the churros with a little more water to show you the result. All of us preferred the “ugly” churros to the beautiful ones, but the choice is yours. Same fantastic taste, slightly different texture.

Ingredients for churro dough:

  • 2 cups (250 g) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200-350 ml boiling water
  • 50 g melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla essence / extract
  • cinnamon sugar for dusting (mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • about 750 ml canola oil for frying

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • 250 ml fresh cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Method:

  1. For the sauce: Heat the cream over the stovetop in a small saucepan. Cut the chocolate into smaller chunks, then add it with the spices to the cream as soon as it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately and stir for a while until the chocolate has melted completely and you have a smooth sauce. Set aside.
  2. For the churros: Combine dry ingredients for churro dough in a medium sized bowl. Mix all wet ingredients and add it to the dry, mixing well until all is combined. Add more water if necessary to create the desired consistency – the mixture should be able to just hold shape.
  3. Put the dough in a piping bag fitted with star nozzle, then let it rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy based pot to about 180 C, then pipe the churro dough into the oil (about 10 cm long). Fry until golden on both sides, turning them with two forks. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then serve with warm chocolate sauce.

Credits:

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Black buffet casserole: Courtesy of Le Creuset South Africa.

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