(Review) The Ooh! Box

24 Jun

Hundreds of South Africans receive The Ooh! Box at their doorstep every month. Each box is filled with boutique wines and must-have, gourmet goodies. More specifically, each box contains 4 high-end wines (2 red and 2 white), a hot drink (a gourmet coffee or tea), a condiment, a gourmet treat, and a sweet treat. This box can be bought as a once-off option – R759. Or one can sign up for a subscription, starting at R554 per month. So basically, the Ooh! team travel the country sourcing the best South Africa has to offer in terms of wine and artisan, gourmet items. And their members get to experience a new batch of hard-to-find deliciousness every month, without even leaving their sofa.

They’ve just launched The Little Ooh! Box (2 wines and all the gourmet foodie goodies for R450) and The Gourmet Ooh! Box (just the gourmet foodie goodies for R350), which are already proving to be popular options.

Get R50 off The Ooh! Box by providing this discount code to enter at checkout for R50 off ANY Ooh! Box: The code is JOINTODAY50.

Arancini with aioli

20 Jun

Golden deep tried stuffed nuggets of risotto served with garlic mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Golden deep-fried stuffed nuggets of risotto served with garlic mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The Italians have a wonderful way of using up leftover risotto. They shape the cold rice mixture into balls, stuff the centres with cheese, cover the balls with breadcrumbs and deep-fry the lot to make arancini.

These little golden nuggets are just delightful. I prefer to use smoked mozzarella for the centres and serve the arancini with thick homemade garlic mayonnaise. It’s a great snack for welcoming guests at your festive dinner party this season, because you can prep them beforehand and drop them in the hot oil just before serving.

If you’d love to serve them on a flat board or slate tile, pipe some mayo on the board and place the arancini on the mayo to prevent them from rolling off.

One warning though: these are super addictive! Prepare to eat more than you think you will.

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a snack/canapé)

  • about 2 cups prepared left-over risotto, cooled (any flavour will do, but I love using saffron risotto or wild mushrooms risotto)
  • 100 g smoked mozzarella, cubed 1 x 1 cm
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 750 ml canola oil
  1. Take a small tablespoon of cold risotto and fill it with a cube of mozzarella. Shape the risotto to cover the cheese and roll it into a neat ball (cold risotto is easier to shape). Continue until all the risotto is used.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with some salt & pepper. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl, and the eggs in another.
  3. Dip each risotto ball into the seasoned flour, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs, covering it all over. Place on a clean plate and repeat.
  4. Heat the oil to about 180 C, then fry batches of arancini until golden all over – about 3 minutes.
  5. Serve with aioli.

For the aioli:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 30 ml lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • about 180-250 ml canola oil

In a blender or food processor, add the yolks, garlic, mustard and lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper then blend well. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated and thick and creamy. Transfer to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Tip: Use a small plastic bag to pipe blobs of aioli onto a serving board, then “stick” the arancini onto each piped blob to keep from rolling around.

Credits:

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

Photography & styling: Tasha Seccombe

This recipe has been featured on The Pretty Blog.

 

Feature: A timeless watch from Daniel Wellington

3 Jun

My brand new DW watch, fastened onto my wrist with an Italian calf leather strap.

My brand new DW watch, fastened onto my wrist with an Italian calf leather strap.

The last time I bought a watch was in 1995 – 21 years ago. It seems fair that I need an upgrade. The team from Daniel Wellington sent me this beautiful Classic Sheffield watch yesterday and I feel like royalty wearing it. It is timeless (a little ironic for a time telling instrument, I know) and so elegantly minimalistic with a round white face, beautiful rose gold trimmings and a black Italian calf leather strap to match my daily black leather jacket “uniform”.

So it’s only apt to consider time at this point in my life, without being too sentimental. Apart from running a tight ship with my daily schedule from hour to hour, especially when I’m prepping for shoots and dinners, I’ve made an effort to make more time for myself and for the people around me since the beginning of the year. A month ago, I’ve started to make time for reading at night before I go to bed – a few minutes of silent page-turning me-time each day – no smart phones or laptops in sight. I read The Alchemist again, reminding me that life can take you on many different roads and that you should always trust your instincts.

It was also time for me to simplify my life – we moved into a smaller space in the heart of town a few weeks ago and got rid of all the things that gathered dust in our garage. Because of our new location, I now had more time in the morning to spend with my family. I traded rushed mornings and sticky traffic for slower breakfasts and swift commutes.

It is already the beginning of June and soon we’ll reach the shortest day of the year. Winter is upon us and I cannot wait to embrace the dark and dreary comfort of a my old friend: the cold and wet winter in Stellenbosch. If I’m lucky, I’ll still be around in November to celebrate my crazy 39 years on planet earth before hitting the big four-oh in 2017.

2017? Really? Where has the time gone? Nowhere. We’re in it. We’re here. We’re doing this.

They say the only two luxuries in life are time and silence. As I’m writing, I realize I have both in this moment. Smiling. Thankful.

Note: The friendly people from Daniel Wellington are offering you a fabulous 15% discount on your next purchase. Go to www.danielwellington.com and use this code: thefoodfoxDW

Al fresco with Daniel Wellington. Image from www.danielwellington.com.

Al fresco with Daniel Wellington. Image from www.danielwellington.com.

Dining with Daniel Wellington. Image from www.danielwellington.com.

Dining with Daniel Wellington. Image from www.danielwellington.com.

Wearing your DW with style. Image from www.danielwellington.com.

Wearing your DW with style. Image from www.danielwellington.com.

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.

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