Review: Philips Saeco Poemia Manual Espresso Machine

30 May

I had the opportunity to test the Philips Saeco Poemia Manual Espresso machine over the past few weeks. I’m a dedicated coffee lover by nature, so the idea of making my very own espressos, Americanos and cappuccinos at home was just thrilling.

The machine is compact and easy to use. With its sleek black face it slotted nicely into my food prop cupboard. I love design elements that are slightly more masculine.

You can make an espresso in one minute from scratch. The crema that the machine produces is really superior to anything that you can create with a plunger or filter machine and the closest that I’ve been able to get to a professional barista-made coffee.  I struggled a little to make two similar coffees at once as the machine filled up the one cup faster than the other – seems like this is quite a common thing when I discussed it with other coffee machine owners. It wasn’t a big problem, as my husband and I prefer our coffees differently anyway, so we made our separate ones as a rule.

I now want one of these for my home and can really recommend it to anyone who is serious about making and drinking good coffee. We tested it with three different brands of ground coffee and the taste differences were pronounced and easy to identify. Our favourite coffee brand tasted even more delicious with the Seaco machine.

The Philips Saeco Poemia Manual Espresso machine is available from Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarkets, Yuppiechef, Takealot, Hirsh and other selected independent outlets at a recommended retail price of R2,499.

White anchovy, asparagus & parmesan salad

27 May

White anchovy salad with asparagus & parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

White anchovy salad with asparagus & parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’ve always loved dark little anchovy fillets in oil, salty as hell with a strong fishy flavour. But last year I discovered white anchovy fillets – larger, silky in texture, tender, more delicate in flavour. These days you can buy them “ready for tapas”, marinated in a fantastic garlic & herb vinaigrette that is good enough to use as is over bruschetta or salad.

This white anchovy salad is such a simple yet fabulous starter. I came across fresh white asparagus and used it here because of its strange pale beauty, although you can easily substitute with regular green asparagus.

Tip: To create a slightly more bulky main course, top with softly poached eggs and serve with toasted bruschetta.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a side dish or starter)

  • a medium/large bunch of rocket leaves
  • a handful of white or green asparagus, poached in water (or grilled) for 1-2 minutes
  • about a cup of white anchovy fillets in garlic & herb vinaigrette (reserve liquid for dressing)
  • chunky shaved parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh lemon wedges

Method:

  1. On a large salad platter, arrange the rocket leaves, cooked asparagus, anchovy fillets and parmesan cheese. Season well with salt & pepper, then drizzle with the anchovy vinaigrette.
  2. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and (optionally) toasted ciabatta.

Credits:

Recipe, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & styling: Tasha Seccombe

Best ever rare roast beef sandwich with mustard & aioli

18 May

Beef sandwichI’ve shared my favourite bread recipe of 2015 a few months ago, and this is a post to show you one of the best ways to enjoy it.

We had this sandwich on the menu at the demo KITCHEN last year and everybody loved it. We called it “The Bull” – a meaty, feisty sandwich with a strong mustard kick.

If you’re too lazy to bake, just use a good quality store-bought ciabatta or panini instead. And if you’re even more lazy, skip the roasting of the beef and just use a few slices of good quality pastrami (because sometimes we need shortcuts in life).

For the rare roast beef: (serves 6)

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • about 1 kg lean beef roast (silverside works well)
  • salt & black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180 C. In an iron skillet on the stove top, heat the oil over high heat. Sear the roast on all sides to get good colour, about 10 minutes in total. Season well with salt & pepper while searing. Place in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Use a very sharp knife to cut the meat into thin slivers, then set aside (cut it as thin as you can).

For the aioli:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 45 ml lemon juice
  • 15 ml Dijon mustard
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • about 250 ml canola oil

Place the yolks, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt & pepper in a food processor and mix well. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream through the feeding tube, creating a thick emulsion. When all the oil is incorporated, check and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Set aside.

For the sandwiches:

  • 6 paninis or small ciabattas (see the recipe for Scott’s bread)
  • aioli, for spreading
  • fresh lettuce leaves
  • sliced tomato (optional)
  • slices of rare roast beef
  • whole grain mustard, for topping (or a mixture of whole grain and Dijon)
  • salt & pepper

To assemble, start by slicing your paninis open horizontally, then spread generously with aioli. Top with lettuce leaves, tomato (optionally), slices of beef and then a generous drizzle of whole grain mustard. Season with salt & pepper, then place the top half of the panini in place. Enjoy!

Note: If you’re feeling luxurious, replace the silverside roast with a whole beef fillet. Roast it in the same way as above, or according to your taste and the size of the fillet.

Credits:

Recipe, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, food styling & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

Love at first taste: a social experiment by Knorr

29 Apr

Would you love someone a little more if you knew he/she loved the same foods that you do? Or lets put it differently: would you turn an attractive new date down if you knew they loved some foods that you hated?

New research by Knorr reveals that as many as 1 in 3 people claim that if their partner didn’t share the same flavour palette, they would be worried about their future together. The research, which spoke to 12,000 people in 12 countries, reveals that 1 in 3 of us would actually end a relationship with someone whose taste-buds didn’t match our own.

To put the theory to the test, Knorr conducted a social experiment with a twist. It paired complete strangers, based on their love of the same flavours, discovered using the Knorr Flavour Profiler. The results of the experiment were then captured in an entertaining short film, “Love At First Taste”. The film was made by Tatia Pilieva, Director of viral hit film “First Kiss”, and explores whether the flavours we love can reveal more about us and our relationships than we think. The results are, well, tantalizing!

Take Knorr’s flavour profiler test, and ask your partner (if you have one) to do the same. I’m a Roasted Romantic. What are you?

(This is a carefully selected sponsored post for Knorr. Enjoy the video!)

Farm to Table Festival at Boschendal, 23 & 24 April

21 Apr

Boschendal bannerA week ago I had the privilege of joining a handful of guests at Boschendal Farm for an intimate farm-to-table showcase. This historical farm dating from 1685, situated between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek on the Helshoogte Road, has been transformed over the past 3 years by new owners Sam and Rob Lundie into an agricultural farm that produces natural food in a way that respects the environment and helps the community to prosper.

The vineyards and fruit trees at Boschendal have been joined by lush vegetable gardens, a growing herd of free range, 100% pasture fed Angus cattle, a pasture raised chicken coup, picnics, two restaurants, a farm shop and deli showcasing all of the produce from the grounds, luxury guest accommodation, walking/cycling trails, child-friendly activities and much more.

Accomplished chef Christiaan Campbell has been part of the Boschendal journey for the past 18 months. His approach to food, with the availability of all the natural produce on the farm, has been to keep it simple and let Mother Nature do the talking. This respectful way of cooking helps guests to really taste the surrounding earth, soil and sun.

I was absolutely blown away by the professionalism, humble approach and honesty of the experience at Boschendal. A couple of hours was not enough to experience all there is to see and I’ll certainly be back to do a walking trail with my family, try my hand at fly-fishing, try the picnics and do a full wine tasting.

This weekend, Boschendal is hosting a comprehensive farm-to-table festival where you will be able to meet the team, learn from the farmers, join workshops hosted by some of the top professionals in the sustainable food industry, experience guided tastings and enjoy the best that this iconic farm has to offer. Booking is essential as space is limited. This event is a MUST on the calendar for serious food and wine lovers and explorers of the finest and most natural farms in the Western Cape.

In a nutshell: if you have not been to Boschendal lately, go there as soon as you can!

Here are some pictures from my last visit at Boschendal:

Stuffed tomatoes to enjoy with a glass of MCC.

Stuffed tomatoes to enjoy with a glass of MCC.

Chef Christiaan Campbell, nice enough to pose for a selfie with me.

Chef Christiaan Campbell, nice enough to pose for a selfie with me.

The garden team, responsible for a magnificent variety of produce.

The garden team, responsible for a magnificent variety of produce.

A shaded part of the vegetable garden.

A shaded part of the vegetable garden.

Taking a stroll through the lush gardens.

Taking a stroll through the lush gardens.

The beautifully restored manor house at Boschendal.

The beautifully restored manor house at Boschendal.

Inside Die Werf Restaurant. Beautiful Spanish decor.

Inside Die Werf Restaurant. Beautiful Spanish decor.

Chef Christiaan Campbell showing us how to make their farm to table menu.

Chef Christiaan Campbell showing us how to make their farm to table menu.

The starter straight from the garden, also with inhouse made nut cheese. Delicious.

The starter straight from the garden, also with in-house made nut cheese. Delicious.

A blurry feast with the most delicious wines, massive roasts from the beef herd and vegetables from the garden.

A blurry feast with the most delicious wines, massive roasts from the beef herd and vegetables from the garden.

Meringue egg shell, mango sorbet, granadilla curd, toasted hazelnut crumbs. Delightful.

Meringue egg-shell, mango sorbet, granadilla curd, toasted hazelnut crumbs. Delightful.

Thank you to the Boschendal team and Atmosphere Communications for the experience.

Easy salted chocolate fudge with cranberries & nuts

24 Mar

Chocolate, cranberry and almond fudge (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Chocolate, cranberry and almond fudge (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

While browsing through December 2014’s Taste Magazine, I came across this decadent recipe for salted chocolate fudge with cinnamon and pecan nuts by Abigail Donnelly. Lesson no.1: Never get rid of last year’s magazines, they can provide you with double the inspiration for another year or three at least.

I decided to add some cranberries for a festive speck of red and the result was spectacular. Lesson no.2: Be creative and you will be rewarded generously.

My advice would be the following: use the best quality dark chocolate with a cocoa quantity of about 70%, otherwise the fudge can become very sweet. Lesson no.3: If you think fudge is too sweet to start off with, this recipe is most definitely not for you.

An interesting thing is that this fudge, unlike regular fudge, tastes better when it’s cold and keeps better shape. I therefore store it in the fridge. One bite and it melts in your mouth with a silky texture straight out of sugar heaven.

I recommend that you serve these at the end of an elegant cocktail party. Cool nuggets of dark delight, easy to pop into your mouth with one bite.

Cut the fudge into squares (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Cut the fudge into squares (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 x 385 g can condensed milk
  • 10 ml ground cinnamon
  •  5 ml vanilla extract
  • 400 g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 45 ml butter
  • flaked sea salt, to taste (I used about 5 ml Maldon salt flakes)
  • 100 g pecan nuts, chopped
  • 80 g dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients (except for the nuts and cranberries) in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the water does not touch the bowl. Allow the ingredients to melt, stirring occasionally. When fully melted, add the chopped nuts and cranberries and stir well.
  2. Working quickly, pour into a medium size dish and chill for 4–6 hours, or until firm.
  3. Cut into squares or small bars before serving.

Credits:

Original recipe: Abigail Donnelly, Woolworths Taste Magazine

Recipe adaptation, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

 

Dinner at Makaron Restaurant with new chef Lucas Carstens

5 Mar

Chef Lucas Carstens with consultant Pete Goffe-Wood and sommelier EsméGroenewald

Chef Lucas Carstens with consultant Pete Goffe-Wood and sommelier EsméGroenewald (picture supplied by Majeka House)

After a magnificent era with head chef Tanja Kruger at Majeka House‘s Makaron Restaurant, chef Lucas Carstens took over the reigns in November 2015. Under the guidance of Pete Goffe-Wood as their consultant, the Makaron team is now presenting a lunch and dinner menu that is more focused on ‘special’ rather than ‘special occasion’ dining.

“We’re into food that’s more about ‘origin’ rather than ‘process’. If you take a beautiful braised shoulder of lamb as an example, it definitely won’t be manipulated in seven different ways. The aim is not to dazzle or intimidate diners,” says Pete, “but to create a relaxed, inviting environment in which to enjoy a delicious plate of food that relies on excellent sourcing.”

I was invited by the Makaron team to experience their new offering earlier in February this year as a three course dinner with wine pairings. As all of my previous experiences at Makaron were superb, I was interested to see what the new team had up their sleeves.

Majeka House & Spa is situated in Paradyskloof, a quiet leafy suburb in Stellenbosch. Tranquil surrounds have always been a great backdrop for luxurious hospitality experiences, and if you take a look at the nearby majestic mountains and adjacent vineyards you’ll know that you’re in the centre of the glorious Winelands.

We kicked off the evening with cocktails next to the pool, then moved into the dining area where we were seated outside on the terrace. It was a perfect evening in Stellenbosch. We scanned the menu and asked for recommendations from our very well-informed waiter. Here is our dinner in pictures, each accompanied by sommelier Esmé Groenewald’s suggested wine pairings.

Cocktails next to the pool at Majeka House & Spa.

Cocktails next to the pool at Majeka House & Spa.

The brand new menu at Macaron Restaurant.

The brand new dinner menu at Makaron Restaurant.

Bread board at Macaron.

Bread board at Makaron.

Amuse bouche from chef Lucas Carstens.

Amuse bouche from chef Lucas Carstens.

Trout ceviche, melon, sea lettuce - served with Thelema Verdelho 2015

Trout ceviche, melon, sea lettuce – served with Thelema Verdelho 2015.

Steak tartare, onions, horseradish - served with Sutherland Pinot Noir 2014

Steak tartare, onions, horseradish – served with Sutherland Pinot Noir 2014.

Macaron8

Springbok, butternut ravioli, spiced jus – served with Longridge Pinotage 2013.

Macaron9

Pork belly, celeriac, apple – served with Super Single Vinyards “Pella” Malbec 2013.

Macaron10

Caramel bar – served with Blaauwklippen Noble Late Harvest Viognier 2012.

Schalk had the Sesame Panna Cotta for dessert, but the light did not allow me to take a deserving photograph.

It would be my absolute recommendation that you take the wine pairing option with your choice of dishes as it elevates the dining experience to new heights. I especially loved the Blaauwklippen Noble Late, the Pella Malbec and the Longridge Pinotage pairings – superb suggestions.

My favourite from this dinner was the Springbok main course – meltingly soft meat, beautifully presented, perfectly seasoned. The Sesame Panna Cotta with nectarines and miso was also a total hit, served with Signal Hill Straw Wine 2011.

Makaron Restaurant continues to deliver invigorating and stylish food with their new menu and new team, although it is uncomplicated and truly accessible. I specifically enjoy their attention to detail when it comes to service – friendly, informed, attentive, knowledgeable staff. They are comfortably situated on the outskirts of town, close enough to make your journey just a handful of minutes from the centre of Stellenbosch.

Majeka House & Spa: 26-32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch.

Lunch: 11:00 – 21:30

Dinner: 18:30 – 20:30

For bookings call +27 21 880 1549 or e-mail reservations@majekahouse.co.za.

For more information, visit www.majekahouse.co.za

For press assistance contact Ian or Lise Manley of Manley Communications on 0861 MANLEY (626 539), email to premierbrands@publicity.co.za or visit the Press Room of Manley Communications at www.manleycommunications.co.za.

Quick braaied lamb shawarmas

14 Jan

Braaied lamb chops make the ultimate shawarma topping.

Braaied lamb chops make the ultimate shawarma topping (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Whenever I go to the Stellenbosch Slowmarket, I order a lamb shawarma for lunch. The guys at this stall make seriously awesome shawarmas, dripping with juicy marinated meat and tahini, their pitas stuffed with cucumber and red onion.

I don’t have a fabulous upright skewered shawarma grill at home – none of us do. So this is my take on an easier and quicker version, where you can marinate your lamb and give it a quick braai over hot coals. Use lamb steaks, or just cut the bone from your favourite lamb chops. The marinade is also great for a deboned leg of lamb.

Note: If you don’t have time to marinate your meat, just generously baste it with the marinade while braaing.

For the Middle-Eastern inspired shawarma marinade:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • a knob of ginger, peeled & finely grated
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled & finely grated
  • 10 ml smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
  • 5 ml ground cumin
  • 5 ml ground cinnamon
  • 5 ml ground fennel / barishap
  • 2,5 ml ground nutmeg
  • 5 ml ground sumac (optional)
  • 5 ml salt flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper

Mix it all together (use a glass jar and shake it up!). Leave your meat to marinade in the sauce, covered, in the fridge for about 3 hours or overnight. Then remove from the fridge and braai until cooked to your desired liking.

To serve: (adjust quantities according to your needs)

  • marinated braaied lamb steaks (1 per person)
  • pita bread (1-2 per person)
  • sliced cucumber
  • sliced tomato (optional)
  • chopped mint leaves
  • sliced red onion
  • toasted pine nuts
  • Greek yoghurt
  • tahini (sesame paste)
  • lemon wedges (optional)

Cut meat into thin strips and serve in warm pita breads, stuffed with cucumber, chopped mint leaves, finely sliced red onion, pine nuts and creamy Greek yoghurt. Drizzle with tahini and a squirt of lemon juice.

Credits:

Recipe, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, food styling & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

Scott’s bread

11 Jan

Freshly baked ciabatta loaves, made with Scott's bread recipe (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Freshly baked ciabatta loaves, made with Scott’s bread recipe (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Scott Armstrong joined the team at The Demo Kitchen in May 2015 as an intern – part of his practical experience (food media) for his chef’s course at the Institute of Culinary Arts. He was a quiet guy from the get-go, but I immediately realized what he’s made of after I plunged him into the deep side with a four-day cooking demo marathon at the Good Food & Wine Show.

Scott was always 30 minutes early for work. He skated here with headphones in his ears. He had loads of initiative and brought new recipes to the kitchen often. He had a very small notebook where he wrote down recipes like a journal, the pages falling apart from steamy kitchen environments.

The best recipe that Scott had introduced to me last year, is this bread recipe. He made paninis for our sandwiches everyday, and they were absolutely drop-dead delicious. I love a good bread recipe, and this one may be the best I’ve come across that doesn’t use a mother starter dough or several hours of double proofing or a wood fired oven. You do, however, need a stand mixer because the dough is super runny. You’ll also need a dough scraper for cutting and handling the proofed dough, otherwise the portions are very difficult to transfer to the baking tray. Expect to clean your mixer afterwards, because the sticky dough creeps up into the motor mechanism. But I promise you, it’s all worth it.

Transferring the proofed dough from the bowl to a floured surface. As you can see, it is very runny. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Transferring the proofed dough from the bowl to a floured surface. As you can see, it is very runny. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Thank you Scott for sharing this recipe with me. I’ll treasure it while I watch you excel at your promising career as a darn good chef.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg white bread flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 15 ml dried yeast
  • 15 ml salt
  • 1 liter lukewarm water

Method:

  1. Place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (K-beater, not dough hook). Mix on low-speed.
  2. With the mixer running, add the water all at once. Mix for a couple of seconds on low-speed, then turn up the speed to maximum and mix for 8 minutes continuously.
  3. Scrape down the runny dough from the beater using a spatula, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm place until doubled in size (it reaches the top of the my KitchenAid’s bowl) – about 45 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 230 C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper (or use a sieve and dust with flour). Also, dust a large clean working surface with flour.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap and use a spatula to turn out the bubbly dough onto the floured surface – do not punch down the dough. Sieve more flour over the top of the dough, then use a dough scraper to cut squares or rectangles out of the dough. Transfer each one as soon as it is cut, using the dough scraper, to the baking tray. The dough will feel light as air at this point, almost like marshmallows, but is very runny and should be handled with lots of dusted flour and a light touch. Leave a little space between the dough portions, as it will rise more in the oven.
  6. Bake at 230 C for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, depending on the size of your paninis. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
  7. Serve as sandwiches filled with your choice of filling, or slice up and use as a dipping bread for antipasti platters.

Tip: Keep left-over bread wrapped in plastic bags, and give it a quick refresh in the oven before serving to return it to its full glory.

Credits:

Recipe adaptation, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, food styling & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

Jerusalem hummus

7 Jan

Creamy hummus with olive oil, pine nuts, parsley & crushed olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Creamy hummus with olive oil, pine nuts, parsley & crushed olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’ve made many, many batches of hummus in my life. I’ve searched for the best authentic recipes, but I’ve also devised shortcuts for quick fixes.

This recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book “Jerusalem” as featured on the New York Times. It is one of the best recipes for hummus that I’ve ever come across, and the way he serves it (with crushed olives, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and olive oil) is absolutely exquisite. When you have a bowl of hummus like this in front of you with fresh bread, it becomes a full meal, a celebration of “the simple feast”.

I don’t add as much tahini (Yotam uses 1 cup of tahini for a batch of 250g dried chickpeas), but I firmly believe that adding water and lots of lemon juice to get the right texture works a lot better than adding olive oil.  Also, I process the hummus for at least 5 minutes in my processor to create a super creamy result – you shouldn’t have any gritty pieces left at all. Scrape down the sides a couple of times and continue to process. Check for a change in colour from medium sand-beige to light straw.

Note: The chickpeas need to soak overnight, so remember to start preparing a day in advance.

Ingredients: (makes about 3 cups)

  • 250 g (1 ¼ cups) dried chickpeas
  • 5 ml baking soda
  • 750 ml (3 cups) water, for soaking
  • 1,5 liters (6 cups) water, for cooking
  • 5 ml baking soda
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) tahini paste
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 100 ml ice-cold water
  • olive oil, toasted pine nuts, parsley & olives, for serving

Method:

  1. Put chickpeas & 5 ml baking soda in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak overnight (or for at least 6 hours).
  2. The next day, drain chickpeas and place in a medium pot with 1,5 liters of fresh cold water and 5 ml baking soda over high heat. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any foam & skins that float to the surface and cook for about 45 min or until they are very soft but not falling apart.
  3. Drain chickpeas and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then place in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Add tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Slowly drizzle in ice water and allow it to mix for about 3-5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste, almost as loose as soft serve ice cream. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Transfer hummus to a bowl, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and crushed olives (and fresh bread to dip). Store in the fridge, covered.

Credits:

Recipe adaptation, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, food styling & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

 

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