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One-pot pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese

22 Apr

If minimizing dirty dishes is something that appeals to you, this comforting one pot pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese is heaven sent.

 

I’ve been seeing so many recipes for one-pot pasta dishes, where the pasta gets cooked in the pot’s liquid along with other ingredients. I’ve always wondered if it’s really possible to get a good result – or is it just a spoof? Wouldn’t the dish be too stodgy at the end? Well, I finally tried it myself – hugely successful!

If I would have cooked a chicken broccoli cheese pasta dish before, I would have dirtied possibly three to four different pots/pans plus a colander, but in this case it’s all happening in one large pot. Easy, quick and really simple. No bechamel to be made, no cream used, and the results are wonderfully creamy and absolutely delicious.

This is comfort food at its best.

I made a video of the recipe for my friends at Le Creuset – you’ll find it here on their IGTV feed.

Cooking video screenshot while filming for Le Creuset’s IGTV.

 

I served this one-pot pasta dish with a few crispy croutons on top for crunch.

 

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

(Note: This recipe can easily be halved to serve about 4 people. Just use a medium size pot, perhaps 24 or 26cm diameter.)

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 kg boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite size chunks (I used thighs)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoked paprika
  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
  • 4 cups (1 liter) milk
  • 500 g uncooked pasta (preferably bite size shapes – I used rigatoni)
  • 400 g broccoli, cut into bite size chunks
  • 2 cups grated mature cheese (I used Dalewood’s Huguenot, but cheddar will also work)
  • about 1 cup small croutons*, for serving (optional)

Method:

In a large pot (I used a 30cm Le Creuset round casserole) over high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken. Fry for a few minutes until brown, stirring. Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Turn the heat down and remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon (you’ll add it back later). Now add the onion and fry over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, then add the stock and milk and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta, stir, put a lid on (keep a small gap open to prevent the liquid from boiling over the edges) and cook for about 8-10 minutes until almost al dente, stirring every now and then (it should still be a little firm). Add the browned chicken back to the pot, plus the broccoli, and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the cheese and stir briefly until just melted. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at once, optionally topped with small crispy croutons.

*To make small croutons: cut 2 slices of good quality bread like sour dough loaf into very small cubes. Add it to a pan with a splash of olive oil, salt & pepper, and optionally a few fresh thyme leaves. Fry until golden, then set aside to cool.

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Crumbed hake fingers

13 Apr

If you’re wondering what to do with that packet of frozen hake fillets in your freezer, this is a pretty good call. It’s the same recipe than what I’d usually do with chicken strips (my daughter loves it), and it’s a great way of stretching a fillet into a satisfying crunchy snack for everyone. You can for sure also do larger fillets, just cook it a little slower to make sure the thicker fillets are all cooked through before the crumbs turn too dark.

I always use wholewheat bread to make crumbs for frying snacks like these – they add a wonderful extra layer of texture and it’s a great way of getting more fibre into the younger ones. Of course you won’t eat deep fried fish every day (there are many other ways to enjoy hake, like this recipe for baked fish with harissa), but it’s a very satisfying and delicious treat that the whole family will love.

Serve you crumbed hake fingers with some fresh lemon wedges, and a creamy dipping sauce of mayonnaise, yoghurt, wholegrain mustard and honey.

 

If you’re living in Stellenbosch, you can order frozen hake fillets from Wild Peacock during the lockdown period – they deliver. Otherwise, most supermarkets should stock them in the frozen isle.

Note: The fillets are easier to cut and handle when they’re not completely thawed – hake can be very tender and might fall apart, especially if you handle it with a blunt knife. Slice and crumb them while they still have a slightly frozen centre. And don’t bother trying to remove the thin layer of skin, it holds the flakes together and is undetectable when eaten.

Tip: If your hake is very soft, try slicing it lengthways into fingers, rather than widthways.

 

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • about 6 slices wholewheat bread, processed to crumbs in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup flour (cake flour or white bread flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 5 XL eggs
  • about 800 g hake fillets, sliced into fingers of about 1cm thick
  • canola oil, for frying (or sunflower oil – you’ll need about 3-5 cm deep oil in your pot)
  • a few lemons, sliced, for serving

Method:

Prepare a prep station for crumbing your hake: Place the sliced hake strips in a bowl. In a second wide bowl, mix the flour and paprika and season generously with salt & pepper. In a third bowl, whisk the eggs. Keep a clean tray handy for placing the crumbed strips on. Now start crumbing: using clean hands, dip each piece of hake into the seasoned flour, then into the egg, then into the crumbs (I place it on the crumbs, then pat more crumbs on top of it). Note: This is messy business, so you might want to wash your hands every now and then because it will build up – but I promise you it’s fun. Line up a dedicated helper at each station if you want to.

Place each crumbed fish finger on the tray and continue until all the strips are crumbed. Let them dry out slightly for about 15 minutes while you make the dipping sauce (see below). When you’re ready, carefully heat the oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking (test a small piece of crumbed fish, if it sizzles, it’s ready). Keep a plate handy topped with kitchen paper for draining the excess oil (rotate with fresh sheets every now and then). Fry the fish in batches until golden on both sides (turn them using 2 forks). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot with the dipping sauce and slices of fresh lemon.

For the dipping sauce: (optional – you can also just serve it with mayonnaise or tomato sauce)

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) plain yoghurt (I prefer double cream)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) wholegrain mustard (or just use Dijon, if you don’t have wholegrain)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) honey

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and serve with the hot crumbed hake fingers.

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A simple white bread loaf (with video)

9 Apr

I’ve had many requests for posting a simple bread recipe, so here it is. A simple white bread loaf that doesn’t need any special tools (other than a mixing bowl and spoon, baking tins and your oven – and yes, you can also bake it on a fire in a pot). You’re going to have to knead it, so if you’ve never done it before, just give it a try. It’s quite therapeutic – anyone who’s done it before will agree. Then the dough simply rises in the tins, so you’re not going to have to knead it a second time.

Here are a few handy tips to keep in mind when baking this bread:

  • What type of flour works best? I’ve listed white bread flour (I prefer stoneground), but you can also use cake flour, wholewheat flour etc. for a variety of end results. Remember, stoneground white bread flour can “take” more water than regular commercial white bread flour or cake flour, so adjust your liquid quantities accordingly (less water for fine cake flour). If your mixture is very sticky after adding the liquid, just keep adding a little flour while kneading until your dough is soft and not sticky.
  • Why milk? Milk will keep your loaf softer for longer, but you can certainly substitute the milk for more water of the same quantity.
  • What if I don’t have bread tins? You can bake the shaped dough free-form on a roasting tray, or you can bake it in cleaned canned-food tins (those large 800g food tins work well), or you can bake it in in a ceramic or glass baking dish (like the one you use for lasagne etc.). You can also bake it in an oven-safe pot (no plastic handles allowed). For very large pots, use all of the dough, and increase the baking time to 1 hour (cover the pot with a lid for the last 20 minutes).
  • Should I grease the tins? Absolutely yes. The bread will stick to the tins if you don’t, and it will break when you try to turn it out. Use oil, butter or non-stick spray.
  • Can I bake this bread on a fire? Yes, in a cast iron pot, over mild coals, with a lid on (coals on the lid as well), for about 1 hour.
  • Can I half the recipe to only make 1 loaf? Yes you can, but while you’re taking the time to make one loaf, it makes sense to make a second one for tomorrow, or for the freezer (and bread flour gets sold in neat 1kg packets). Frozen bread can be thawed on the counter, and then refreshed in the oven at 180 C for about 10-15 minutes – as good as freshly baked.
  • For a softer crust: If you prefer a softer crust, wrap your freshly baked loaves in a clean cloth while they’re cooling. This way the crust will steam and soften while cooling. Don’t try to slice the bread when it’s straight from the oven, give it at least 15-20 minutes to cool (otherwise it will make dense “clots”).
  • How to store: Wrap in a plastic bag and keep in a cool, dry place. The bread is always best on the day it was baked, served warm, but it will last for a few days on the shelf, and tastes great when toasted.

 

Ingredients: (makes 2 medium loaves, or one extra large loaf)

  • 1 kg white bread flour, plus a little extra for kneading (I prefer stoneground unbleached white bread flour, see my tips above)
  • 1 x 10g packet instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) warm water
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) milk (use a little less milk if you’re using cake flour or commercial bread flour)
  • vegetable oil, for brushing

Method:

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir to mix. Add the water and milk, then stir with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky mixture. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface, then start folding the dough over, and over, and over (see video). Keep on kneading for at least 5 minutes (up to 10 min), adding a litle more flour if the dough is too sticky, kneading until the mixture is smooth and elastic and not sticky at all. Cut the dough in half, shape into oblong loaves, and place in two greased tins (brush with oil or spray with non-stick baking spray). Cover loosely with plastic, then leave to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 220 C. Remove the plastic, then bake the loaves for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven, turn out of the tins (be careful, very hot!), wrap in a clean cloth and leave to cool at least 15-20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature with your choice of butter/jam/cheese etc, or dip into soups and stews.

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Yesterday’s-roast-chicken and vegetable soup (plus how to stretch a roast chicken into 3 different meals)

7 Apr

While we’re all at home, we’re trying to make the most of lockdown spending quality time with our families. A lot of comforting home cooking is going on. Part of the goal is to stretch food as far as we can and not to waste a single crumb. A few days ago, I made my first trip into town after the lockdown started. Among a few essentials, I bought one “boerhoender” from my local butchery – a 2,4 kg chicken for R170 in total (great deal). I knew I had to make it count, so I planned to get at least 3 different meals out of it.

On day one, I made a chicken pot roast – in my oven at 180 C, 0n a bed of quartered onions and potatoes, sliced carrots and garlic, some herbs, lots of salt & pepper, and good quality olive oil. If you follow my Instagram stories, you might have seen it. We’re a family of 3, so we usually go for the thighs, legs and wings first (and of course, some of the crispy roasted skin).

My chicken pot roast iphone-photo that I posted to Instagram stories (check out my highlight “Lockdown Diary”). This is my 30cm Le Creuset casserole, to give some scale to the chicken.

 

I then removed the breasts, chopped them up, added mayonnaise and some leftover chopped fresh coriander (optional), seasoned well with salt & pepper, and those will be our chicken mayo mix for sandwiches on another day. To the fridge it goes (it will be good for at least 3 days).

This photo is from an earlier post in 2014 – chicken mayo with fresh herbs on toasted sourdough bread. If you don’t have fresh herbs, just mix the chicken with mayonnaise and season well with salt & pepper. Any bread will do! (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

On day 2, I made a very hearty chicken and vegetable soup using the leftover chicken carcass (with little meat left but all of the goodness of the roasting pot). I skimmed off most of the fat before doing so, but I do love some of those comforting fatty droplets on the surface of the soup – delivering a velvety mouthfeel with every spoonful. You can add whatever you have in your vegetable pantry, mostly finely chopped or shredded – I used more potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage and a few ripe tomatoes. To that, I added a few stock cubed dissolved in water and a few aromatics from my spice cupboard (again, use what you have on hand). The result is a large pot of hearty, fragrant, comforting soup to count as lunch or dinner, plus a few portions for the freezer. If you want to stretch it even more, serve it over freshly cooked pasta. It’s a super versatile and economical way to use one chicken!

This is my 26 cm Le Creuset casserole, showing you how generous the yield is for this left-over recipe. Chunky and hearty, yet soft and fragrant.

 

A hearty chicken and vegetable soup, made with yesterday’s chicken pot roast. You’ll see some of the original larger pieces of vegetables poking through here and there. The orange colour is from the carrots and tomatoes, but also from a hint of curry powder.

 

Ingredients for Yesterday’s-roast-chicken and vegetable soup: (makes about 3,5 liters)

  • leftovers of a homemade roast chicken, including everything that remained in the pot (sticky bits, vegetables, carcass, gravy – skim off any excess fat)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped (or roughly grated or shredded in a food processor)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled & roughly grated
  • 1/4 large cabbage head, finely chopped or shredded
  • a few rosemary sprigs, woody stems discarded (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary /dried mixed herbs)
  • 2 liters chicken stock (about 5 stock cubes dissolved in 2 liters recently boiled water)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Optional aromatics:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel (ground or seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

Method:

If you’re refrigerated the leftovers the day before, return it to a clean large pot (at least 6 liters capacity).  Add the onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, herbs and stock. Add whatever aromatics you want – look at the list above to see what I’ve added, giving the soup a deep, fragrant quality without being spicy. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer slowly for 1,5-2 hours. Turn off the heat. Remove the leftover carcass with tongs (be careful), and shred any leftover meat into the soup, discarding the bones. Season well with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with some bread, or over freshly cooked pasta. I love to grate some mature cheese over it, but that’s optional. Bon appetit!

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Canned tomato stew with sausage, heerenbone and roasted tomatoes

3 Apr

My “slightly dressed up” canned tomato stew with heerenbone, chorizo and roasted tomato halves. You can also use canned beans of your choice, and any other sausage or bacon instead of chorizo (or no meat at all).

 

Canned tomatoes must be my number one favourite pantry item. They’re just utterly versatile – pizza base sauce, soups, stews, curries, the list is endless. This simple tomato stew can be dressed up or down. If you have some sausage or salami or bacon, add that (I saved a piece of chorizo for a special occasion like this – something I don’t buy often, but it adds so much flavour and goes a long way). If you don’t have meat or don’t want to add meat, just add a few extra spices like chilli flakes, paprika (preferably smoked) and cumin. Same with the beans: if you have canned butterbeans in your pantry, use that. I discovered my last bit of heerenbone straight from the Sandveld at the back of my cupboard (thank you Paula Smit) and decided to go the whole nine yards with soaking overnight and then cooking slowly for 2 hours and dressing them in fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (with lots of salt & pepper). They are so incredibly silky, its unreal.

Then, to dress it up even further (only if you want to, still using very basic stuff) I roasted a few halved tomatoes from the buy-bulk-and-save bag I bought a few days ago, perfectly ripe now. They make a stunning “meaty” vegetable addition to this stew, and look beautiful too. A few fresh coriander leaves add great freshness, but again, not a necessity. A swirl of plain yoghurt can work too, as will a good glug of extra virgin olive oil to round it off.

 

Getting back to basics: you’re already winning with a can of whole tomatoes, an onion, some garlic, a can of your favourite beans and some great quality olive oil. Food for kings!

Ingredients: Heerenbone (based on Mariana Esterhuizen’s recipe)

  • 1,5 cups dry heerenbone
  • water for soaking and cooking
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt, pepper
  • juice of a lemon
  • a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Place the heerenbone in a bowl and top with about 2 liters room temperature (cool) water. Leave to soak at least overnight (12 – 18 hours) – the beans will swell to double in size. Drain the water off, then add the beans to a pot and top with fresh water. Add the garlic clove and bay leaves, then bring to a simmer. Simmer slowly for about 2 hours, or until the beans are just tender but not mushy. Drain (remove the garlic and bay leaves) and transfer to a bowl, seasoning with salt & pepper and drizzling with the lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside to cool.

Ingredients: Halved roasted tomatoes

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, halved horizontally
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • a few teaspoons fresh herbs like thyme/rosemary, chopped (or use dried mixed herbs)

Preheat oven to 200 C. On a standard baking tray, drizzle the surface lightly with oil and use clean hands or a pastry brush to coat the surface all over. Arrange the halved tomatoes cut sides up, then drizzle with more oil, Season with salt, pepper, sugar and herbs, then roast for about 1 hour or until the edges start turning dark and the tomatoes are very fragrant. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Ingredients: Canned tomato stew (serves 4-6, depending on the addition of the beans and roasted tomatoes)

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped/grated
  • a few sprigs thyme and rosemary, twigs discarded, leaves roughly chopped (or use 1-2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs)
  • 200-300 g sausage*, sliced
  • 4 x 400 g cans whole tomatoes, pureed using a blender or stick blender (or food processor)
  • 15 ml (1 teablespoon) smoked paprika (if you’re not using sausage/meat, you can also add a few other spices like 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin etc.)
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • salt & pepper, to taste

In a large pot, add the oil over medium-high heat. Fry the onion until soft but not brown, then add the garlic, herbs and sliced sausage. Fry, stirring, until it starts to brown. (Note: At this point, you can reserve a few slices of sausage to top your final dish, if you want.) Add the pureed canned tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer.

*Cured sausage like chorizo works great, but you can certainly also use any other kind of fresh sausage or boerewors; I prefer pork-based sausage for this recipe, but use whatever you have – chopped bacon also works. If you’re using fresh sausage, fry it in a pan first before slicing it up and adding it to the onions, this way the slices will stay in tact. The other option would be to remove the casing from the start, and treating the fresh ground sausage meat like you would treat mince, breaking up the lumps in the pan.

For serving:

  • fresh coriander leaves (optional)
  • a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • a drizzle of plain yoghurt (optional)

Ladle the warm tomato stew into bowls, then top with beans, coriander and a drizzle of olive oil (and optionally yoghurt, expecially if your stew is very spicy). The stew and beans freeze very well – store them together in the same container/s.

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3 Seed granola with pecans and olive oil

2 Apr

Since my husband started following an almost wheat-free lifestyle more than a year ago, his breakfast choices changed from regular toasted bread and wheat cereal to other options like rye toast, cooked oats and wheat-free granola. I’m usually apprehensive to make granola, because it somehow always feels like a very luxurious and expensive thing to make. I do, however, believe in knowing what’s in your food (keeping it real and keeping it simple) so when I stumbled upon Food 52’s legendary granola made with extra virgin olive oil, I realized that most of the ingredients overlapped with my recipe for all-in-one breakfast rusks (sans the buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, flour and bran flakes). With a few simple substitutions from Food 52’s original recipe, the following ingredients are mostly always in my pantry: oats (regular, not rolled), sunflower seeds, linseeds (instead of pumpkin seeds), sesame seeds, desiccated coconut (instead of coconut flakes), pecan pieces (much cheaper than whole pecans), maple flavoured golden syrup (because my daughter loves this on her pancakes, and it is a fraction of the price of real maple syrup), extra virgin olive oil and salt. I left out the addition of brown sugar completely, because the syrup adds more than enough “dark” sweetness on its own.

The result is a deeply flavourful, nutty, crunchy and slightly salty granola with a sultry savoury note and a comforting mouthfeel from the olive oil. The recipe fills just more than a 3 liter container, lasting quite a long time in our household. It is easy to make and it smells heavenly too.

Have a look in your pantry and see what you can come up with in terms of combinations – I’m sure most other nuts will also work instead of pecans (or leave them out completely) and you can also use other seeds if you prefer to. Regular golden syrup or honey will also work instead of maple flavoured syrup (or if you’re lucky to have some real maple syrup – go ahead!).

It sure is a very luxurious breakfast, with a slur of milk and a few slices of banana, but this batch just came straight from my basic pantry stock and it feels like I hit the jackpot.

Ingredients: (recipe adapted from Nekisia Davis’s Olive Oil & Maple Granola via Food 52)

  • 3 cups regular oats (or rolled oats)
  • 1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (100g) raw pecan pieces (or whole pecans, coarsely chopped)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup maple-flavoured golden syrup, depending on how sweet you like yours (or honey / maple syrup / golden syrup)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150 C. In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well until coated all over. In a large deep roasting tray, spread out the mixture evenly and bake for 15 minutes x 3, removing the pan after each interval and stirring the granola well. After 45 minutes, the granola should be well toasted and fragrant. Leave to cool completely in the pan, stirring now and then to prevent too much clumping (a few smaller clumps are always welcome). Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Serve in bowls with a splash of milk or yoghurt, with or without sliced fresh fruit.

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Oat and bran digestive cookies

28 Mar

Baking is a form of self-care for me. It’s one of my happy-place activities, something I do when I really have time on my side, not feeling rushed or restrained. I’d much rather bake than read (although I love reading), because there’s a tangible end result to baking – an edible reward.

With many recipe developers confined to their homes at the moment, all across the world, there’s an endless stream of recipe inspiration to be absorbed and enjoyed for everyone who has access to the internet. One of these stream comes from Bon Appetit. I subscribe to their newsletter, and their recent recipe for digestive cookies was delivered straight to my inbox. Theirs looked so perfect, I couldn’t look away. I absolutely adore digestive cookies, especially when they’re covered on one side in chocolate, and these looked delectable. So when I scanned the ingredients list, I realized that I missed 2 key ingredients: wholewheat flour and wheatgerm. It turns out you can substitute the wheatgerm for toasted oats (according to the recipe writer, because many people didn’t have wheatgerm in their pantries), and I made my own plan with the wholewheat flour, using a mixture of unbleached stoneground white bread flour and wheat bran (wheat bran is the same stuff that you’d use to make bran muffins). I needed a little less milk than the original recipe stated, but the rest worked like a charm. Incredibly “short” and crunchy, almost like wholewheat shortbread, just sweet enough, tasting very very similar to original digestives. What a triumph!

 

 

I only had enough chocolate to partly cover about 3/4 of my cookies, but hey, nothing wrong with a few plain digestive cookies either.

You’re going to need a food processor for this recipe, as well as a rolling pin and a cookie cutter. The rest is quite literally childsplay.

Ingredients (slightly adapted from Bon Appetit’s original recipe, developed by Sohla El-Waylly)

  • ½ cup regular oats, toasted in a dry pan
  • 90 ml or 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 1 cups (125 g) white bread flour*, plus more for rolling
  • 3/4 cup wheat bran* (about 25 g)
  • ½ cup (125 g) cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) milk
  • about 100 g chocolate (milk or dark), chopped (optional)
Method:

Place two oven racks in upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 180°C. Using a food processor, add the oats, flour, bran, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Process until very fine. Add the butter and pulse until it is well incorporated, then add the milk little by little and pulse until a crumbly dough forms (add just enough milk, you don’t want a dough that’s too sticky).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a ball. Now flatten it into a disk. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thickness (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Lightly flour a cookie cutter (I used a 45 – 45 mm square cutter with round edges, you can use whatever shape you want) and punch out cookies, dusting lightly with more flour as needed to avoid sticking. Dust any excess flour off the cookies with a dry pastry brush.

Using a spatula, transfer cookies to 2 baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Gently knead the scraps together, reroll, and punch out more cookies. (Bake any smaller scraps as is and crumble over ice cream!)

Prick each cookie 3 times with a fork and bake, rotating baking sheets top to bottom halfway through, until bottoms and edges are browned, 15–18 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets (cookies will crisp up as they cool).

If using, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave in 20-second increments, stirring after each burst, until almost fully melted, about 1 minute total, then let it stand for a minute to fully melt. Stir, then eave to clool for about 10 minutes before using.

Using a small offset spatula or butter knife and working one at a time, spread about 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate over the flat underside of each cookie. Using the side edge of the spatula, tap a few lines into the chocolate to make a slight pattern. Chill cookies on baking sheets until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes.

Cookies will stay fresh for at least 3 weeks. Store airtight at room temperature.

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How to make the best hummus, from scratch

27 Mar

Loaded hummus – image from my book Cape Mediterranean, photography by Tasha Seccombe, plates by Mervyn Gers Ceramics, background textile by Hertex.

 

Two weeks ago, I hosted 100 guests for a book conversation at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch, with the charismatic Douw Steyn of The Talking Table leading the talk. My book, Cape Mediterranean, was one of a few cookbooks being featured at the arts festival and I had the pleasure of demonstrating one of my favourite dishes from my book to the guests – loaded hummus. My hummus recipe was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s hummus recipe from his book Jerusalem, and I haven’t served hummus without chopped olives, pine nuts and parsley since I’ve tasted his version.

I’ve experimented with various machines in making hummus over the last few years. From making it with a stick blender,  to a universal chopper, a small food processor and a power blender. I’ve had some luck here and there achieving very smooth results, but I’ve always been in search of a machine that could effortlessly make the smoothest hummus. I’ve since come to a few conclusions for achieving a truly smooth, creamy, silky result: 1) don’t use canned chickpeas unless you’re in a hurry and looking for an instant fix, 2) soak your chickpeas overnight in a water and baking soda mixture, 3) cook your chickpeas until very soft, 4) use a powerful food processor that has the space and capacity for the load you want to process, and 5) process it long enough until it changes to a light coloured, creamy consistency – at least 2-4 minutes.

For the book conversation and hummus demonstration, I partnered with Kenwood South Africa, where they supplied me with their top-of-the-range Kenwood MultiPro Excel Food Processor FPM910 – the largest in its capacity on the market in SA (4 liter bowl capacity). It has a very powerful motor at 1300 W and works like a dream. With standard attachments of every kind that you can possibly imagine, this is a premium addition to any serious cook’s kitchen and certainly a proud addition to mine. I had to make 8 liters of hummus in total for the tasters at my Woordfees talk and the Kenwood MultiPro Excel handled it with the utmost ease – doing double batches of this already large quantity recipe at a time, in 4 batches (plus a nut filling for 120 baklava cigars, during the height of load shedding – it was crazy!).

The Kenwood MultiPro Excel is Kenwood’s top-of-the-range large food processor with a capacity of 4 liters. Here it is on my kitchen table at home.

I made this how-to video of my recipe featured in Cape Mediterranean, showing you how to make hummus from scratch at home. Hummus is a high proteien, low carb, versatile dip/spread/topping/base – generally not expensive to make, and it freezes well. If tahini is too expensive for your budget, substitute the tahini with a teaspoon or two of unflavoured peanut butter – believe me, it adds just enough nutty flavour and works like a charm. I love topping my hummus with chopped olives, chopped parsley, paprika, olive oil and pine nuts like Yotam Ottolenghi does, but hey, it’s just as good with a simple drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cut some carrot sticks, cucumber, or whatever you prefer to dip (yes, potato chips and nachos and sliced bread all love hummus) and call it a party.

You can order my book online for delivery after the “lockdown” period – most of the recipes are very simple and will hopefully bring you much joy. You can also order the Kenwood MultiPro Excel FPM910 from Yuppiechef at R9199 (with so many attachments I cannot even count them – also including a large capacity thermoresist blender jug and a mini grinder), they’ll also deliver after lockdown. Stay safe and look after each other±

Ingredients: (makes almost 1 liter hummus, enough to feed a crowd as a dip)

  • 250 g uncooked dry chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • about 1 liter water, for soaking, plus more for cooking
  • 1/3-1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1/3 cup tahini (or substitute with 1-2 teaspoons unflavoured peanut butter)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 30-60 ml water
  • for topping: (optional) smoked paprika, chopped olives, chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts or toasted flaked almonds (or both), baby capers etc.

Method:

Place th chickpeas with 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda in a non-reactive bowl. Top with water and leave to soak overnight (at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours). Drain the water, then add the soaked chickpeas to a pot, along with another teaspoon of bicarb and top with water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum/foam that forms on the surface. Cook until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and leave to cool slightly.

In a food processor, add the cooked chickpeas, along with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, tahini, cumin and salt. Using a powerful food processor like the Kenwood Multipro Excel, process until very smooth and creamy, adding enough water to loosen it up (about 3-4 minutes). Taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Serve swirled on a plate, topped with more extra virgin olive oil and your choice of toppings. Serve with bread or crackers or sliced vegetable sticks.

Thank you Kenwood South Africa for your continued support – I’m inspired to discover this wonderful machine in its full capacity.

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Easy flatbreads with roasted shallots

25 Mar

Roasted shallots make a phenomenal topping for flatbreads. Personalize your other toppings according to what you and your family likes.

 

As we’re all navigating a strange new reality within lockdown restrictions across the world, home cooking has become the centre of joy and recreation for many households. With limited outings to the shops, we’re all making the most of simple pantry ingredients plus whatever we have stocked in our fridges.

Dutoit Agri has approached me to create a shallot recipe a few days before our President’s first announcements of social distancing in South Africa, and we’ve decided to continue with this project as it can be a source of inspiration to many of us. Using a few economical pantry staples, you can whip up an easy dough for making flatbreads, even giving the kids a wonderful way to keep their (washed) hands busy. Shallots have a fantastic shelf life of 1-2 months, a long seasonality timeline (January – August), and they are so very versatile to use in an array of recipes. With a sweeter, milder taste than onions, they are also much more popular with kids. From using them raw in dressings and salads, to roasting them for a deeper flavour, they are an all-round winner in my pantry.

Shallots have a rose gold tint on their skins and are just so beautiful to look at. They are locally grown by Dutoit Agri and available from most leading supermarkets.

 

 

Shallots are members of the allium family, closely related to onions, garlic, and chives. Their bulbs grow in clusters, similar to cloves of garlic. The biggest distinction between shallots and other onions, besides their milder flavor, is their cellular structure: shallots break down much more easily when cooked, allowing for a softer level of caramelization, or a more subtle touch when creating a foundation in sauces etc.

Here’s my recipe for roasted, caramelized shallots – a fantastic topping for easy homemade flatbreads, but also a great side dish, or an addition on burgers etc. While I like my flatbread simply topped with feta, roasted shallots, thyme and olive oil, my daughter preferred to make hers more like a pizza, using pommodoro sauce, mozzarella and roasted shallots. Both were delicious! I topped mine with a swirl of good quality balsamic vinegar afterwards – just heavenly. It’s a meatless meal, economical, fun and full of flavour. Other toppings could be diced ham, fried bits of bacon, shaved courgettes, sliced brie or camembert, sliced figs etc. If you don’t have any of these, a drizzle of olive oil and some dried herbs plus a generous pinch of salt could also make a simple feast.

Before you start, remember to wash your hands (and the hands of your little helpers) properly, and to clean your work surfaces where you’ll be kneading the dough. Get ready, it’s a lot of fun!

 

My choice of toppings: roasted shallots, feta, thyme, black pepper, and olive oil. Serve with a swirl of balsamic vinegar – such a winning combo.

 

My 9-year old daughter’s choice of toppings: pommodoro sauce, mozzarella and roasted shallots. The freshest pizza in minutes!

 

Roasted shallots are so versatile – use it to top your next burger, or serve it with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

 

For the roasted shallots:

  • 1 kg shallots, peeled and quartered lengthways (look out for Dutoit Agri shallots) 
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 15 ml red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • 30 ml honey, slightly warmed (pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds)
  • salt, to taste

Preheat your oven to 220 C. Arrange the shallot quarters in a roasting tray, then drizzle all over with the olive oil, vinegar and honey. Season with salt, then roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, then return for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the flatbreads: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups stone ground white bread flour (or use regular cake flour if it’s all you have)
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 180 ml lukewarm water
  • 15 ml olive oil

Place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir. Add the water and oil and stir until it becomes sticky. Turn out on a clean surface, then knead to a soft, pliable dough. This is a great activity to get the kids (or a co-isolation housemate) involved! Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 230 C. Divide the puffy dough into 4. On a floured surface, roll out each of the four pieces into a freeform shape – basically oval works great. Transfer to a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Top with your favourite toppings (see below), then bake at 230 C for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wooden board or a plate, slice and serve immediately.

Possible toppings for assembling your flatbreads:

  • pommodoro (tomato) sauce, grated mozzarella and roasted shallots – great for kids
  • olive oil, feta, roasted shallots, thyme (fresh or dried), black pepper (add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar after baking)
  • grated cheddar, fried bacon bits, roasted shallots – great for kids
  • anchovies, capers, garlic, roasted shallots (top with fresh rocket leaves after baking)
  • basil pesto, sliced baby tomatoes, roasted shallots 

Thank you DuToit Agri for the inspiration.

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Lunch at the recently transformed Haute Cabrière

18 Mar

25 Years since the Von Arnim family launched their iconic Haute Cabrière cellar, the destination has transformed into a lighter, more modern, multi-purpose, world-class space. The renovation journey was aimed at building on the foundation of the past 25 years, and setting the scene for the next.

I was recently invited to experience the transformed Haute Cabrière dining area. On a bright Sunday, we took a seat for lunch. Take a look at our experience in pictures below (see a sample menu here). Chef Nic van Wyk is still at the helm of the kitchen, serving French-inspired bistro-style food with a strong focus on local ingredients. His food has the most perfect balance between deep and fresh flavours – almost like the best of rich French and lighter Mediterranean cooking. Generously portioned main courses, reasonably priced throughout considering the world class location. The warm almond cake is a thing of beauty – I could have finished three of those. Service is swift and friendly, and our waiter recommended excellent wine pairings with every dish.

I am in awe of the clever design at the transformed Haute Cabrière. It is incredible that you can build a large freestanding space right in front of the existing cellar and restaurant, and make it feel more open, more modern, more accessible. The amount of light that comes into the new space is fantastic, and it allows you to fully admire the breathtaking views from all angles, floor to ceiling. When weather permits, the glass panels can be opened up completely for an even more spacious feeling without any barriers to the surrounding natural scenery. The existing “underground” space is now utilized as a tasting room and deli, and feels quietly private, more spacious than before, with a newfound serenity.

Left: A friendly reception. Right: Guests reclining next to the reception area on soft seating, with the destination’s iconic view as a backdrop.

 

Left: Welcomed with a glass of Haute Cabrière MCC Brut. Right: The view from our table next to the floor-to-ceiling glass “walls”.

 

Left: House-baked sour dough bread, tomato jam and butter. Right: Simplicity rules with a heavenly slice of buttered bread and tomato jam to start with.

 

Schalk’s starter: Cured tuna, creamy horseradish and herb vinaigrette. Fresh and punchy flavours.

 

My starter: Steak tartare, caper, brandy and tabasco mayonnaise, croutes. A popular classic – I really enjoyed their interpretation.

 

Schalk’s main course: Beef sirloin, brown onion, garlic and lemon sauce, duck fat potatoes, garden greens. French bistro cooking at its finest.

 

My main course: Pan-fried linefish, chargrilled and marinated courgettes, tomato and spring onion salsa, herb-salt chips. Fresh and light Mediterranean flavours, and generously portioned silverfish fillets.

 

Left: Trio of sorbet (berry, stone fruit and mango) – delightfully fresh. Right: A perfect ending with dessert – the iconic Haute Cabrière Ratafia.

 

My dessert: Warm almond cake, amaretto ice cream. My favourite dish of the day. Exquisite flavours with a soft and gooey texture.

 

Modern, open, semi-industrial spaces inside the new dining area. The feeling is light, accessible, welcoming.

 

Leaving Haute Cabrière from the old entrance, walking in the space left open between the old cellar and the new dining area.

 

Do take the time to visit Haute Cabrière and experience everything it has to offer for yourself. It’s the best of Franschhoek’s views and premium hospitality within a very laid-back environment where time almost stands still, and without the hassle of finding parking in the middle of town.

Haute Cabrière is situated on the Franschhoek Pass, Franschhoek. From the a la carte menu, prices range between R90-R120 for starters, R155-R230 for mains and R40-85 for dessert. Pre-starter and cheese course also available on the menu.

Update: New operating hours during Covid-19 restrictions:

Monday – Saturday: 10h00-17h00

Closed: Sunday and Public Holidays

 

Offering: 

Bakery & Deli 10h00 – 17h00

Tapas from 11h00 – 16h00

À la carte 12h00 – 16h00

Wine tasting and sales 10h00 – 17h00

Breakfast is usually available from Monday to Saturday from 08h00 to 11h00, but in light of the current Covid-19 climate, no breakfast will be served until further notice.

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