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Review: Lunch at Longridge Wine Estate

22 May

Longridge against the Helderberg mountains (picture from www.longridge.co.za)

There are many wine farms in and around Stellenbosch – more than 300 to be exact. Many of them make and serve world class wines. Many of them have great restaurants – some better than others. And then a good few have access to the brilliant views of the surrounding mountains, vineyards and even iconic Table Mountain in the background. Longridge Wine Estate is one of the destinations that have all of the above.

Situated in the Stellenbosch region on the slopes of the Helderberg mountain range, the farm was first registered in 1841 and underwent a few name changes before finally being called Longridge in 1992, when commercial wine production first started. Today, biodynamic viticultural methods are utilised to the fullest in their vineyards, where they strive to produce excellent quality wines while minimalising the impact they have on the environment. Their vines, herbs and vegetables are free from artificial pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. The farm is also home to cattle that are free to wander the farm and provide manure that can later be used as compost.

I was invited to experience a food and wine extravaganza last week at Longridge, curated by their culinary consultant Marilou Marais in association with winemaker Jasper Raats and head chef Maritz Jacobs. I was in awe of the brilliance of this lunch – a contemporary yet unpretentious display of simple, seasonal ingredients in the most delicious way, pairing to a tee with Longridge’s world class wines (I will visit soon for a full tasting). The hospitality and generosity of the Longridge team seeps into the atmosphere, and I felt so genuinely at home.

Here is my experience in pictures:

A view from the restaurant towards the stoep, wine tasting area and vegetable gardens.

The vegetable garden area.

Longridge Vintage Reserve Brut 2009 on arrival, served with delicious canapés of fresh oysters, chicken skin “crackers” and truffled mushroom arancini.

Chef Maritz Jacobs, Marilou Marais (culinary consultant) and Jasper Raats (winemaker) of Longridge.

The restaurant interior at Longridge.

Our lunch menu.

Bread board.

First course: broccoli and romanesco, parmesan custard & baby spinach salad. Served with Driefontein Sauvignon Blanc 2015.

Second course: fragrant winter squash soup, poached trout & vadouvan spice. Served with Longridge Organic Chardonnay 2015.

Second course: baby potatoes, kaiins, coffee and mushrooms. Served with Die Plek Cinsaut 2015.

Fourth course: Farmer Angus thick flank, bone marrow drusted fillet, horseradish cream & Jerusalem artichoke. Served with Longridge Ekliptika 2013.

Dessert: caramelised Granny Smith apple dauphinoise with homemade Madagascan vanilla ice cream. Served with Longridge Edelgoud 2011.

Chef Maritz Jacobs and his star pastry chef, having a laugh with guests.

Thank you to Longridge Wine Estate for hosting me at this memorable lunch. Thank you also to Carina Diedericks-Hugo of Mabalel Communications for the invitation and for your part in creating this top event.

THE WINE SHOP:

Tastings Monday to Saturday, 10am to 16:30
Wine sales Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm
Closed Sunday, 1 January, Good Friday and Christmas Day.

THE RESTAURANT:

The menu changes regularly, and can be viewed here.

R225 for two courses, R295 for three courses.

Tuesdays Open for dinner only.
Wednesday to Saturday Lunch  and dinner.
Sundays Open for lunch only.
Closed Mondays, Good Friday, Christmas Day.

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Gin soaked cupcakes with green olives, lemon & poppy seeds

18 May

This is practically an edible cocktail: gin soaked cupcake with green olives, lemon and poppy seeds. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Enjoying a cocktail in an edible format is strangely satisfying, especially if it is a contrasting treat like a cupcake. Boozy cupcakes? Yes please!

These almost-martini cupcakes are super moist and absolutely delicious – the green olives leaning a surprisingly pleasant savoury element – soaked with a gin & lemon syrup right after baking. An ultra smooth not-too-sweet cream cheese icing (with a splash of gin, of course) rounds these grown-up treats off. They’re easy to make, they’re not too frilly or fussy, and they taste fantastic with just the right amount of “kick”.

Add these to your repertoire for the next party – any gin & tonic or martini lover will certainly come looking for more!

This recipe was created in association with New Harbour Distillery‘s Spekboom Gin & Buffet OlivesQueen Green Olives.

Perfect for a grown-up party! Made with New Harbour Distillery Spekboom Gin and Buffet Olives Queen Green. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

For the batter:

12 queen green olives, pips removed (I used Buffet Olives Queen Green)
finely grated rind of a lemon
15 ml poppy seeds (plus extra for sprinkling over the icing)
125 g cake flour
125 g sugar
125 g soft butter
5 ml baking powder
2,5 ml baking soda
2 XL eggs
30 ml milk

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with baking paper or cupcake liners. Place all of the ingredients except for the milk in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides, then process again, adding the milk as it mixes. Process until very smooth, then divide the mixture between the 12 cupcake moulds. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the syrup:

125 ml (1/2 cup) gin (I used New Harbour Spekboom Gin)
125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice
250 ml (1 cup) sugar

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, then bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has just melted, then remove from the heat. When the cupcakes are ready, poke a few holes in each one with a sosatie stick. Spoon a tablespoon of syrup (15 ml) over each cupcake, then repeat with a second round, giving the syrup some time to get absorbed. Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

For the icing:

250 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar, sifted
15 ml gin (I used New Harbour Spekboom Gin)

Use electrical beaters (or a wooden spoon and some elbow grease) to beat the cream cheese, icing sugar, and gin together in a mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy. Top each cooled cupcake with a generous dollop – I use the back of a teaspoon, but you can also use a piping bag.

To serve: Sprinkle with some poppy seeds, then garnish with cocktail sticks skewered with slices of lemon & green olives.

(review) New small plates menu at Makaron Restaurant

17 May

Small plates at Makaron Restaurant, Majeka House, Stellenbosch. (Photograph supplied by Manley Communications)

MAKARON RESTAURANT is confirming its reputation as one of the most exciting dining destinations in the Winelands with an exciting new ‘small plates’ menu from Head Chef Lucas Carstens.

Situated in the stylish Majeka House & Spa in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, this luxury small hotel has recently earned yet another award, being named the Best Design Hotel in Africa & the Middle East at the international Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2017.

This winter, Chef Carstens is heating things up with an innovative menu of tapas-style dining where the idea of flexibility and social eating gets preference.

The small plates offering begins with an amuse bouche of leaves from the Majeka vegetable gardens, tossed in rooibos vinegar and served alongside korrelkonfyt, sourdough and butter. From there you can choose from 18 small plate dishes on the menu, varying from vegetarian to meaty to sweet and everything inbetween. Fermenting and curing play key roles in bringing out umami flavour, with the team making kombucha, malt vinegars, cured duck breast, pickled figs and ginger beer.

I had the privilege of experiencing a taste of the small plates menu earlier this week. Makaron remains one of my favourite restaurants in Stellenbosch. Their new small plates offering is highly recommended and their wine pairings were, as always, exquisite. Here is my experience in pictures:

Our media table at Makaron Restaurant, where I had the privilege of tasting many of the small plates on the new menu.

Chef Lucas Carstens tells us more about his new small plates menu.

Majeka garden leaves & rooibos (compliments of the kitchen).

Bread board with spiced butter dip (compliments of the kitchen).

“Mielie pap” croquette & Sheba (compliments of the kitchen).

Heirloom tomato, white balsamic, house ricotta, gazpacho granita.

House made duck breast ham, baby figs, cos lettuce.

Cured trout, beetroot-apple kraut, milk kefir dressing.

Charred cauliflower, cabbage, sweet corn, parmesan.

Beef tartare poke bowl, avocado, sesame bar – one of my favourite dishes of the day.

Kingklip, black garlic, eggplant, ash baked carrot, black rice.

Baby marrow risotto, cured egg shavings, raw mushroom, truffle.

Springbok rump, beetroot, cabbage.

Dark chocolate, almond milk ice cream, home brewed ginger beer.

Passion fruit, buchu meringue, coconut, spekboom.

“Melktert” ice cream sandwich.

Makaron Restaurant is open daily for dinner (closed on Wednesdays during winter between May and September), from 18h30 – 20h30. Diners can choose four/five/six courses from the ’small plates’ menu for R450/R565/R675 respectively. An optional wine pairing is also available, at a cost of R770/R940/R1100 for both food and wine.

Take advantage of the special winter promotion available at Majeka House & Spa where you will pay only R1420 per person sharing a night inclusive of breakfast and dinner at Makaron, available from Sunday to Thursday, May to end of August 2017. 

Majeka House & Spa and Makaron Restaurant are situated at 26-32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch. For bookings call 021 880 1549 or email reservations@majekahouse.co.za. For more information visit www.majekahouse.co.za

Thank you to Makaron Restaurant and Manley Communications for hosting me.

WIN this hamper with the Fairtrade Challenge

17 May

You can win this incredible hamper from Fairtrade SA.

In celebration of the #WorldFairtradeChallenge that took place this weekend I am giving away this fabulous Fairtrade goodie hamper to one lucky winner!

To enter this give-away, name one official South African Fairtrade product, along with the hashtag #fairtradeSA.

Leave your answer in the comments section below. (Winner via random draw to be announced on Tuesday 23 May 2017.)

One of the Fairtrade wines that we enjoyed over the weekend – a Merlot from Place in the Sun.

Over the past weekend, participants from all around the world celebrated Fairtrade labelled brands as we honour the commitment they have made to a fairer trading economy and the development of many hard-working farmers and workers in South Africa and the rest of the globe.

Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade. It is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers farmers and workers improved terms of trade, which allows them to improve their lives on their terms. For consumers, Fairtrade is a powerful way to reduce poverty through every day shopping.

The Fairtrade system is one of the largest and most diverse global movements with thousands of relationships in more than 90 countries. Fairtrade takes a holistic approach to sustainability focusing on improving economic, social and environmental conditions for the long-term.

Have a look at the website www.fairtradechallenge.org/za and show your support by buying #faitradeSA!

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(review) Lunch and dinner at Stellenbosch Kitchen

16 May

The entrance to Stellenbosch Kitchen on Andringa Street, early evening.

This year, I’ll be celebrating my 40th year in Stellenbosch. A year ago we made a move from the outskirts of town to the beautiful bustling historical centre. While we gave up a chunk of living space (in size) in the process, we gained the incredible European-like lifestyle of locking up our apartment and walking a short distance to the best coffee shops and restaurants the Winelands has to offer.

Dorp Street and Church Street is where it’s at: the centre of my beautiful town when it comes to tourism, social hotspots, food and wine. Right in the middle of it all is Stellenbosch Hotel and its recently renovated restaurant Stellenbosch Kitchen – pretty much back to back with its sister-hotel Coopmanhuijs Hotel & Spa featuring Helena’s Restaurant. I recently had the opportunity to visit Stellenbosch Kitchen for dinner and lunch respectively, and would love to share my experiences with you.

The landmark veranda of Stellenbosch Kitchen on Andringa Street, early evening, just before the arrival of dinner guests.

Stellenbosch Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in town, built on Simon van der Stel’s property (a grant) between 1692 and 1701. It has since been restored in 1987 and declared a national monument. After the refurbishment in 2016, the name Jan Cats Restaurant was replaced by Stellenbosch Kitchen, featuring an eclectic yet contemporary spin on the existing historical eatery.

The space that is now called Stellenbosch Kitchen has forever been a local hotspot to both students, the mid-town working crowd and the wealthy. Their bistro-style fare has been a favourite for decades, being enjoyed on the tree-rich veranda that envelopes their landmark corner on Dorp and Andringa streets.

Here are my lunch and dinner experiences in pictures.

One of the massive old oak trees that surround Stellenbosch Hotel.

Our 18h00 arrival at Stellenbosch Kitchen meets a neatly prepped restaurant space.

Chef at work – the service hatch at Stellenbosch Kitchen.

Bread board with red wine butter and hummus. All bread baked in-house.

The dinner menu at Stellenbosch Kitchen. This menu changes seasonally.

An exceptional wine list is one of the attractions at Stellenbosch Kitchen. Here we’re enjoying Adi Badenhorst’s Secateurs Shiraz.

Potato gnocchi, butternut, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, goat’s milk feta, basil pesto. Beautifully cooked gnocchi with a mixture of very punchy ingredients.

Pan-seared line fish, fennel velouté, prawn barley risotto, grilled prawn, red pepper fondue. Perfectly cooked line fish, and I really enjoyed the texture of the barley risotto.

Ale-battered hake, hand-cut potato chips, sauce tartare, charred lemon, mushy peas. A stunning dish, yet so simple. Perfect tartare, fluffy hake, super crunchy chips – what more do you want?

Fondant of black cherry and Valrhona chocolate, Bulgarian yoghurt ice cream. Excellent texture and an interesting spin on the classic fondant – maybe a little too bitter and sour for my personal preference. Beautiful plating and delicious ice cream.

Our second visit was an early lunch at 11h30 – also much better lighting by day for my camera!

A buttery yellow glass of Jordan Chardonnay for me.

Roasted rack of Karoo Lamb, carrot purée, spiced pear chutney, polenta, fine beans. This dish is from the dinner menu, but was made for us on special request over lunch. It is one of the most popular dishes on the menu and well worth ordering (for dinner).

Osso bucco with risotto milanese. This dish certainly won’t win any prizes for plating, but it is hearty and moorish and hits all the right spots for comforting winter fare.

Apple and almond tart, vanilla bean ice cream, ginger crumble, crème anglaise – definitely my favourite dessert on the menu. They should serve this delicious pastry for breakfast too!

Coconut panna cotta, compressed pineapple, mango caviar, passion fruit mushrooms.

Stellenbosch Kitchen is well worth a regular visit, whether for a mid-week lunch, a lazy weekend dinner, or a special occasion with friends from abroad.

Thank you to the staff and management of Stellenbosch Kitchen for hosting us. We’ll certainly be back for more.

Make your booking:

Tel: +27 (0)21 883-2893
Address: Corner of Dorp & Andringa Streets, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa

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Mothers Day Lunch with Poetry Stores

12 May

A delectable home cooked feast from Barbara Joubert’s book KOSTALGIE, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

There’s nothing that says “I love you” like a thoughtful, scrumptious and beautiful home-cooked meal. The recipes in Barbara Joubert’s (Afrikaans) book Kostalgie are the perfect choices for a Mothers Day lunch at home, with flavours and influences from her travels all around the world.

I have never made caramelized figs before, and they truly are just magnificent to look at. Almost too beautiful to eat! With the creamy custard tart, they are the stuff dreams are made of.

I love slow roasted pork – it seems to always get raving reviews in my house. I opted for serving the pork with buttery beans instead of potatoes, because of my choice of pasta and tomatoes as a side dish (a stunning meal on its own too).

Have a happy Mothers Day everyone!

Barbara’s book, the homeware and beautiful black floral scarf are all available online and in store from Poetry Stores.

Tagliatelle with burst tomatoes, blue cheese and rocket. Photography by Tasha Seccombe

Homemade tagliatelle with burst tomatoes and blue cheese (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the tagliatelle:
300 g (535 ml) cake flour
3 eggs
20 ml olive oil
10 ml water

For the burst tomatoes:
125 ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves
550 g small red and yellow rosa tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
a handful fresh basil leaves
100 g blue cheese
40 g rocket

For the tagliatelle:
Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer with dough hook. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Switch the machine on at low speed. Add the olive oil and water. Increase the speed until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, you can add a little water. Knead for 10 minutes with the machine, then take the dough out and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature. If you have a pasta machine, sprinkle a little flour on your working surface and on the rollers of the machine. Cut the dough into smaller pieces. Set your machine on number 7 and feed the dough through. Set it one setting lower, feeding the dough through until you get to number 1 (the thinnest setting). Hang the pasta sheets over the back of chairs for about 20 minutes to dry out a little. Attach the tagliatelle attachment to the machine, then feed the sheets through the cutter. Place the bundles of cut tagliatelle onto a baking tray sprinkled with flour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a little olive oil, then add the pasta and cook for 3-5 minutes. Drain and top with the roasted saucy tomatoes.

For the burst tomatoes:
Heat olive oil in a large deep pan. Add the garlic whole and fry for about 2 minutes to flavour the oil. Add the tomatoes and fry until they burst. Season with salt & pepper. Tear basil leaves in pieces and mix with the sauce. Cut slices of blue cheese and arrange on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with rocket and serve.

My notes: A good quality store bought tagliatelle will also work well, if you don’t have a pasta machine.

Overnight leg of pork, so soft that you can pull it with a fork. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Overnight leg of pork (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

100 ml olive oil
2 kg leg of pork (I used boneless)
juice of a lemon
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
250 ml white wine
8 baby leeks
1 x 439 g can chestnuts

Preheat oven to 200 C. Place half the olive oil in a roasting tray. Place the pork in the bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Rub the garlic all over. Season with salt & pepper, then add the rest of the olive oil. Place in oven with skin side down. Remove after 30 minutes, then turn the leg over with skin side up. Cover with foil. Lower heat to 140 C, then roast for 6 hours.
Remove the netting around the meat, then add the bay leaves, wine, leeks and chestnuts. Roast uncovered for an hour at 180 C. Remember the skin won’t be crispy. The meat will be soft enough to pull apart with forks.

My notes: The original recipe calls for leeks, which were unfortunately out of stock everywhere at the time of the shoot, so I substituted these with slices of red onion. I also couldn’t find chestnuts, but I’m sure these will be stocked at a good exotic speciality store.

Custard tart with caramelized figs. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Custard tart with caramelized figs (serves 8-10)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the dough:
200 g (360 ml) cake flour
50 g (60 ml) caster sugar
100 g (110 ml) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
45-60 ml cold water

Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Mix until the butter is well incorporated. Add the yolk and mix. With the motor running, add the water spoon by spoon, until it just comes together. Remove from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200 C. Roll out dough on a floured surface. Line a greased 18 cm tart tin with the dough, then prick with a fork all over. Line with baking paper on top and fill with dried beans. Bake blink for 10 minutes at 200 C. Remove paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes until the base is cooked.

For the filling:
10 egg yolks
20 g (40 ml) cornflour
125 g (150 g) caster sugar
2 ml vanilla powder
200 ml milk
500 ml cream

Whisk the yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and cream together in a pot, but don’t let it boil. Add the cream mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Pour back into the pot, then continue stirring over medium heat until the custard thickens. (You don’t want to make scrambled eggs!) Pour the custard into another bowl and place a piece of wax paper on top to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature. Pour filling in baked tart base and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C. Let it cool overnight, preferable in the fridge.

For the caramelized figs:
500 g (625 ml) sugar
100 ml water
about 25 small figs

Put the sugar and water in a large pot with a lid and place over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Now remove the lid and let it boil until it reaches a light caramel colour. The caramel will continue to darken, so remove from the heat immediately. Carefully dip the figs into the hot caramel and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper to cool. Place on top of the cooled tart when ready to serve.

My notes: The recipe doesn’t mention what size eggs to use, but I found that XL is adequate. I found that I needed to increase the baking time for the base and for the assembled tart to achieve a golden brown result. I couldn’t find small figs, so 9 large ones were enough as a substitute. Don’t caramelize the figs long before you’ll be serving the tart, as the caramel will eventually start to melt as the figs release steam and water, and you’ll be left with syrupy half-coated figs. (Remember, the caramel will harden on standing in the pot, so when you’re done dipping the figs, carefully add some boiling water to the caramel and leave to soften before cleaning.)

This post was created in collaboration with Poetry Stores.

A Raw Cake spread for Mothers Day with Poetry Stores

11 May

A “raw” cake spread for Mothers Day, featuring recipes from the book Raw Cake. Photography by Tasha Seccombe. All homeware, linen, teas and honey available from Poetry Stores. (Vintage round wooden plate is photographer’s own.)

You’re never too old to learn something new. I am turning 40 years young this year, and it is one of my goals to try as many new ingredients and food types as I possibly can. Earlier in 2017 I became a fan of tofu after being a skeptic for way too many years. It’s never a good idea to judge a book by its cover…

For this Mothers Day feature, I had the opportunity to cook three recipes for a special tea table spread from Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers’ new book Raw Cake, available from Poetry Stores. They are the duo behind The Hardihood in London – raw, handcrafted, superfood confectioners. Products by The Hardihood are plant-based and free from gluten, refined sugar, dairy and soy. Conveniently vegan and often raw, they use organic, sustainable ingredients to craft “clean candy”.

Being a self-confessed French pastry addict, it was hard for me to imagine a world of cakes without butter or sugar (or flour or eggs, for that matter). So I chose two recipes that really reminded me of the “good stuff” like rocky road and berry swirl cheesecake, as well as a recipe that tickled my fancy for the strange combination of ingredients like avo, mango & lime tart.

It was an absolute revelation to make these recipes. For one, there were many ingredients that I’ve never heard of, like maca powder and rice malt syrup. The dairy-free “cheesecake” was made by blending desiccated coconut with soaked raw cashews, rice malt syrup, lemon juice, fresh berries and coconut oil (you need a pretty powerful blender to achieve the right consistency). The rocky road consisted mainly of superfoods like goji berries, dried apricots, pitted dates, organic cacao powder, coconut oil and lots of raw nuts. And the avo mousse tart with mango & lime had the most incredible texture that you can imagine.

Unfortunately, most of these ingredients are not mainstream yet, but you’ll find them in good quality health stores with a relatively high price tag. The more familiar ingredients are easy to find, yet also expensive. If you don’t have serious budget constraints and want to reap the benefits of super healthy, raw food in the tastiest ways imaginable, this book is for you!

Here’s to all the mothers out there aiming to feed their families the best. Happy Mothers Day!

Tip: Shop your nuts at a weigh-and-pay shop – this way you only buy what you need, especially when a recipe calls for only 40 g of walnuts, etc.

“Raw” rocky road – a treat that you can eat and not feel guilty at all! Photography by Tasha Seccombe. (Vintage spatula is photographer’s own.)

Rocky Road (makes 9-12 pieces)

155 g ( 1 cup) dried apricots (sulphur free)
40 g (1/2 cup) walnuts
60 g (1/2 cup) hazelnuts
80 g mixed currants or raisins
55 g (1/2 cup) goji berries

For the chocolate mix:
150 g (3/4 cup) coconut oil, melted
60 g (3/4 cup) cacao powder
30 g (1/4 cup) coconut sugar
170 g (1/2 cup) rice malt syrup
60 g (1/2 cup) pitted dates, soaked for 30 min
Line a 15 cm square baking tin with baking paper. Place all the dry mix ingredients in a high-powered food processor and pulse on high until just broken up and mixed together but still chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and clean out the bowl of the food processor.
Next, make the chocolate mix. Add the coconut oil, cacao, coconut sugar and syrup to the clean food processor and blend on high, then add the dates and blend until smooth and combined. Make sure you don’t over-mix the chocolate or it can separate. If this happens and there is a lot of extra oil, add in some more cacao powder and malt syrup until it becomes smooth.
Pour the chocolate mix over the dry mix and stir together with a large spoon until well combined. Scoop into the baking tin, pressing the mixture down to ensure it is compact. Place in the fridge for 3-4 hours or the freezer for 1 hour until it has completely set, then cut into 9-12 pieces. They will keep well in the fridge for up to 7 days.

My notes: My food processor wasn’t powerful enough to pulse the dried apricots, so I opted to cut them by hand instead. Also, I used a 20 x 13 cm baking dish and got 18 medium size squares – remember to really put pressure on the mixture when you compact it, otherwise it will be very crumbly.

Blueberry Lemon Swirl Cheesecake – not containing and cheese or dairy or gluten! Make your cake look extra pretty with a selection of edible flowers. Catch the interesting ingredient list below. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Blueberry Lemon Swirl Cheesecake (serves 8-12)

For the base:
130 g (1 cup) cashews
50 g (1/2 cup) pecans
60 g (1/2 cup) pitted soft dates
2 tablespoons rice malt syrup or alternative liquid natural sweetener
1 tablespoon maca powder (optional)
pinch of Himalayan salt

For the filling and topping:
60 g (3/4 cup) desiccated coconut
390 g (3 cups) cashews, soaked in warm water for 2 hours then drained
340 g (1 cup) coconut oil, melted
125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, plus extra to decorate
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
200 g ( 2 cups) fresh or frozen blueberries (I used a mixture of blackberries and blueberries)
edible flowers and coconut flakes, to decorate
Line a 20 cm round springform cake tin with baking paper. For the base, place the nuts in a high-powered food processor and blend on high until coarsely ground, then combine with the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Press into the cake tin.
For the filling, place the coconut in a high-powered blender and blend on high until fine, then add the cashews, syrup and coconut oil and blend again until the mixture is as smooth as possible, scraping down the sides to incorporate all the mixture. Transfer half the mixture to a bowl and set aside. Add the lemon juice, zest and turmeric to the mixture left in the blender and blend until smooth. Taste, and add more lemon juice if it needs more flavour, and more sweetener if it’s too tart. Pour into a second bowl, setting aside a few tablespoons of this lemon cream in a piping bag to chill for later. Add the other half of the mixture to the blender with the blueberries. Blend until combined and add more sweetener if needed. Pour it back into the bowl so that you now have two bowls with two colours mixture.

Spoon equal sized dollops of the purple mixture and the yellow mixture at random onto the cake base, alternating between colours, until you have used it all up. Wiggle the tin from side to side to settle the mixture, and swirl through the mix using a knife or a chopstick, to create a pattern. Transfer to the fridge overnight or the freezer for 3-4 hours until firm. Remove from the tin and decorate with the lemon cream, edible flowers, coconut flakes and lemon zest. Chill until ready to serve.

My notes: Use a very powerful food processor / blender to achieve a smooth texture for the cheesecake mixture. Use the turmeric powder with caution, as it can tint the mixture very bright yellow.

Mango, lime and avocado mousse tart. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Mango, Lime & Avocado Mousse Tart (serves 8-12)

For the crust:
130 g (1 cup) macadamias
100 g (1 cup) pecans
95 g (3/4 cup) pitted dates, soaked for 30 minutes or until soft
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
pinch of salt

For the filling:
3 small avocados, stoned
zest and juice of 1 lime
100 g (1/2 cup) coconut oil
1 large mango, peeled and destoned
170 g (1/2 cup) rice malt syrup or coconut syrup
pinch of Himalayan salt

Line a 20 cm round pie tin with baking paper.
First make the crust. Place the nuts in a high powered food processor and blend on high until broken up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again until well combined and the mixture sticks together. Press into the pie tin, and clean out the bowl of the food processor.
For the filling, blend the avocados in the clean food processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until everything has been broken down and the mixture is silky smooth. Pour over the base and place in the fridge for 2-3 hours to set.

My notes: I used a fluted pie tin which is very difficult to line with baking paper. I used a non-stick baking spray instead.

This post was written in collaboration with Poetry Stores. All homeware, linen and the cookbook available online and in store at Poetry Stores.

Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne & tiramisu jars with Galbani Cheese

3 May

Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne and individual tiramisu jars – my ultimate Italian-style feast! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

When it comes to laid-back, festive, scrumptious food that’s packed with flavour, the Italians just know how. I’ve taken a few tips from their most popular traditional cheese-themed recipes to come up with my favourite three-course Italian-inspired feast: an over-the-top caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mozzarella, cheddar and mascarpone) and individual tiramisu cups with chocolate flakes and fresh raspberries. You can assemble the lasagne and tiramisu ahead so that you have more time to spend with your guests – the most important thing when hosting friends and family!

All my recipes serve 8, because they deserve a crowd. If you’re keen on a smaller gathering, just halve the ingredients to serve 4.

And don’t miss my video below – it shows how to make this killer lasagne.

Buon appetito!

My ultimate caprese salad with soft mozzarella, an array of tomatoes, fresh basil, pesto, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt flakes and ground black pepper. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ultimate caprese salad (serves 8)

  • 3 very big ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • about 400 g smaller tomatoes on the vine
  • a handful baby tomatoes, halved
  • 3 x 125 g Galbani soft white mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • a handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 3-4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter, interleaved with slices of mozzarella. Scatter with basil leaves and pine nuts, then drizzle with pesto (add a little olive oil to the pesto if it is very thick). Serve with olive oil and balsamic on the side, seasoned with salt & pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: The tomatoes will wilt on standing, so this salad is best served straight after assembling.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mascarpone, cheddar and mozzarella). Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (serves 8)

For the beef Bolognese sauce:

  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, skinned & finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, stalks removed & finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried origanum)
  • 375 ml (half a bottle) dry red wine
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 250 ml boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, blended to a pulp
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the white sauce (béchamel):

  • 80 g (80 ml / 1/3 cup) President Butter
  • 80 ml (1/3/ cup) plain/cake flour
  • 1 liter full cream milk
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

For assembling:

  • 1 batch Bolognese sauce
  • 1 batch white sauce
  • 500 g fresh/dried pasta sheets
  • 200 g President Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 300 g Galbani Creamy Mozzarella (semi-hard), grated

For the Bolognese sauce: Heat the olive oil in a wide, large pot with a heavy base. Fry the onion, carrot and celery over medium-high heat until soft and lightly brown. Add the garlic and stir. Add the mince and stir, breaking up any lumps and scraping the bottom to loosen any sticky bits. Add the rosemary and thyme. Continue to fry on high heat to brown the meat slightly, then add the red wine, stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

For the white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat, then add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture becomes smooth and thickens slightly. Add the nutmeg, mustard and mascarpone and season well with salt & pepper. Set aside.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 180 C. In a large rectangular roasting tray or oven dish, start with a thin layer of white sauce, then a layer of pasta sheets (they will swell so don’t fit them too snugly), a layer of meat sauce, more white sauce, a layer of cheddar, etc. Continue and repeat, ending with a layer of white sauce and the grated mozzarella on top. Bake for 45 minutes until golden on top, then let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: I sometimes chop my onion, carrot and celery together in a food processor to save time. The cooked lasagne will continue to stabilize on standing, becoming firmer and easier to serve. The assembled lasagne (cooked or uncooked) freezes well – thaw completely before returning to the oven.

Individual jars of tiramisu, made with mascarpone, brandy and some chocolate flakes. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Individual tiramisu cups: (serves 8)

  • 5 XL eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 2 x 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • 1 Italian-style sponge finger biscuits (Boudoir/ladyfinger)
  • 375 ml strong coffee, warm
  • 75 ml brandy
  • cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 2-3 chocolate flake bars, for serving
  • fresh raspberries, for serving

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl. Use and electric whisk to mix until it is very thick and creamy. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth.
Clean and dry this whisk, then whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Add half the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and fold in with a large spoon, continuing with the second half and folding until you have a smooth, creamy, mousse-like mixture. Set aside.
Working quickly, cut the finger biscuits into thirds, and divide the pieces into 8 groups of 9 pieces each (for 8 cups of 250 ml capacity each). Place the coffee and brandy in a shallow flat bowl, then dip 4 cookie pieces at a time into the coffee mixture, and place them into the bottom of each dessert glass/jar. Top with a dollop of the mascarpone mix, then a sifting of cocoa powder. Top with a second round of 5 dipped biscuit pieces, then place the remaining half of the mascarpone mix into a piping bag and pipe dollops of the mixture at the top of each glass to cover the biscuits. Dust some cocoa powder over the top, then cover with plastic or lids (not touching the mixture) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, add some chocolate flakes and berries on top and serve straight from the fridge.

Note: The biscuits need time to soften in the fridge. If you serve them too soon, the cookies will still be tough. The tiramisu cups keep very well in the fridge for up to 3 days and the flavour improves with time.

(This post was created in collaboration with Galbani Cheese.)

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Pan-fried potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce

26 Apr

Pan fried gnocchi with crispy sage and brown butter on blue cheese sauce. Bliss in a bowl. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Some classic dishes are not to be tampered with. They are beautiful in their simplicity, their uncomplicated perfection, their timeless deliciousness.

I feel that way about potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce. It was the very first recipe that I’d published on my blog www.thefoodfox.com on 21 January 2011. Over the past few years since that post, I’ve published hundreds of recipes, cooked MANY batches of gnocchi (not only for myself but also for groups of guests while catering) and learned that you always return to simple, old favourites.

I’ve also learned that making gnocchi is not as difficult as everyone says. You just need to “understand” your potatoes and know that they are going to react slightly differently each time (the texture and water content will be different for every single batch). Once you get the hang of the consistency in the dough, the rest is truly child’s play.

I often make potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce at home for my family. I sometimes add a swirl of truffle oil or a drizzle of sage butter, but you don’t even need to. I mostly boil the gnocchi, but some days I prefer golden pan-fried nuggets of plush pillowy potato. Serve them straight from the pan as they can slightly lose their crispy exterior texture on standing.

Note: For the blue cheese sauce, I prefer using a strong-flavoured gorgonzola-style cheese. The blue veins of the cheese don’t completely melt into the cream, it remains delicately textural. The sauce always looks a little too runny at first, but be patient – when you serve it in bowls with the gnocchi, it is just right. Leave the salt & pepper up to your guests as the cheese can sometimes be very salty already.

Making potato gnocchi is not difficult once you get the hang of it. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ingredients for gnocchi: (serves 6)

  • 1 kg floury potatoes, skin on
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 generous teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 250 g cake flour (about 2 cups)

Method:

  1. Boil or bake the potatoes until they are completely tender. Cool slightly and remove the skins (in Italy they believe that cooking the potatoes in their skins add a lot of flavour to the gnocchi).
  2. Press the cooked potatoes through a sieve (this is a laborious process, but the end result is well worth it) or use a potato ricer to create finely minced potato.
  3. Place the fine potatoes in a mixing bowl, then add the egg, salt, pepper and half of the flour. Use a fork or spoon to mix it, adding more flour as you need it (you might not need it all). Turn it out on a floured surface and delicately knead the mixture until it forms a ball that resembles smooth bread dough. Do not over work the dough – you’re looking to create a smoothly textured potato dough that is not lumpy but just kneaded to the right consistency.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, then roll out each piece on a large floured working surface, one at a time, into a long sausage shape of about 2cm thick. Use a knife to cut each strand into gnocchi, flicking the pillows as you’re cutting (so that they don’t stick to the knife or to each other). Quickly toss in a light coating of flour, then pan-fry in butter on both sides until golden (about 1-2 minutes a side). Serve with blue cheese sauce.

For the blue cheese sauce:

  • 500 ml fresh cream
  • 200-250 g gorgonzola-style blue cheese

Method:

Place the cream in a small sauce pan over high heat. When it just comes to a light simmer, crumble the blue cheese into the cream and turn down the heat to very low, stirring for a few minutes until the cheese is completely melted. Pour a pool of sauce into bowls, then top with pan-fried gnocchi (and optionally some crispy fried sage leaves and a few drops of truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil).

Weekend brunch with Poetry Stores

21 Apr

This brunch spread is the stuff dreams are made of. All recipes from Flora Shedden’s book, Gatherings, available from Poetry Stores.

During the month of April we are blessed in South Africa with not only one but two long weekends! That usually means family time and slower mornings – perfect for an indulgent brunch. With Easter weekend already behind us, I cannot wait to treat my family next weekend with these fabulous brunch recipes from Gatherings, the new book by Flora Shedden from Scotland, available from Poetry Stores.

Flora recently was the youngest ever semi-finalist in The Great British Bake Off, impressing judges with her simple, elegant designs. Her book is a reflection of her love for cooking and baking, and it is clear that she has a profound understanding and respect for good ingredients and wonderful flavours.

I’ve chosen Flora’s recipes for a crunchy pumpkin seed, fig & coconut granola served with double cream yoghurt and fresh berries, some rye waffles with mascarpone & poached plum compote as well as French-style bostock – baked sliced of brioche soaked in vanilla apple syrup and covered in a gooey, golden brown almond past. Although all three recipes are stunning, my hands down favourite is the bostock. If you love gooey almond croissants, these beauties will rock your world.

Enjoy a little slow indulgence around the brunch table this Easter, served with steamy coffee and decorated with Poetry’s magnificent blue floral table linen and wonki ware.

All three recipes below are from Flora’s beautiful book, Gatherings, available from Poetry Stores and online for R370. It’s an exceptional book and a must for your recipe collection.

Crunchy granola with almond flakes, poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Fig & coconut granola (makes approximately 750 g)

3 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature (i.e. in liquid form)
100 ml maple syrup
100 g clear honey
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
350 g rolled oats
50 g sesame seeds
25 g poppy seeds
100 g pumpkin seeds
50 g flaked almonds
100 g dried figs, roughly chopped
50 g coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Weigh out all the ingredients (except for figs & coconut flakes) in a large bowl. Mix the lot together using your hands, ensuring everything is well coated in the wet ingredients. Top the mixture into a large roasting tray and bake for 10 min. Remove the tray from the oven and stir the granola around – this helps to ensure it colours evenly. Bake for a further 10 min or until golden and becoming crisp. (It will become crunchier once it cools down.) Add the figs and coconut flakes while the mixture is still hot and mix them through. Allow the granola to cool completely, then package it up in a large jar or small cellophane gift bags. It will keep for about 1 month in airtight storage.

My notes: I found that the granola needed more time in the oven, so I baked it at 180 C for about 3 intervals of 10 minutes each.

Rye waffles with mascarpone and spiced plum compote (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Rye waffles (makes 8-10)

150 g plain flour
150 g rye flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
75 g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
300 ml milk
100 g butter, melted

To serve: Whipped cream and spiced plum compote (from page 262)

Preheat your waffle maker. To make the batter, stir in the flours, baking powder, sugar, eggs and cinnamon together, then whisk in the milk gradually. Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth. Finally stir in the melted butter. Ladle about 125 ml of the batter into the waffle iron and close the lid. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Remove the cooked waffle, keep warm and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve warm with whipped cream (or mascarpone) and spiced plum compote.

Bostock is a french classic: stale brioche soaked in a fruity vanilla syrup then spread with a sweet almond paste, baked in the oven and dusted with icing sugar. Just heavenly! (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Apple & almond bostock (serves 4)

125 g butter, softened
125 g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
100 g ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 egg
50 g plain flour
6-8 sliced of stale brioche or bread
200 g flaked almonds, for topping

For the syrup:
150 ml apple juice
150 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 200 C. First make the syrup. In a saucepan, bring the apple juice, sugar and vanilla to the boil. Cook over a high heat for no more than 1 minute until the sugar has dissolved and you have a light clear syrup. Set aside.
In a bowl beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, almond extract, vanilla, egg and flour and heat again until the mixture is smooth.
To assemble, take a piece of brioche and soak each side in the syrup. Place it on a lined baking tray and repeat with the remaining slices. Divide the almond batter between the brioche slices and spread it across the top of each slice. Sprinkle generously with the flaked almonds. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and the almond topping is cooked through. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

My notes: I found that about 50 g flaked almonds are more than enough for topping the bostocks.

(This featured post was created in collaboration with Poetry Stores.)

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