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Sardines and tomato on toast

17 Jun

Portuguese sardines and roasted tomatoes on toasted ciabatta (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Portuguese sardines and roasted tomatoes on toasted ciabatta (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

My father is a very unique guy. At 63 he is one of the fittest and most active people I know – even after his 5-part heart bypass 18 years ago, and a serious back operation in 2012.

We sometimes jokingly refer to my dad as “oom Sunley”, because that’s what the neighbourhood kids used to call him. Everyone knew oom Sunley, because he had (still has) a larger-than-life personality. The older boys of the neighbourhood regularly had their run-ins with my dad when he silenced their rock band practice sessions on Sunday afternoons (in the middle of his precious nap time).

In his younger days, my father was a world champion canoeist and one of the top SA athletes of his era. Later in his life, he competed in the Argus cycle tour, ran the Comrades marathon, and did the Boland 90 hiking challenge – to name a few. He loves extreme physical challenges, and has the tough mind and stamina to match.

After retiring 8 years ago, my parents now live in Keurboomstrand. My father is a keen fisherman and that’s how he loves to spend his time. When I say fishing, I don’t mean parking off on a camping chair with a brandy in hand. He walks up to 8 kilo’s over rugged terrain with all of his heavy gear, stopping halfway to dive out a few kilograms of led sinkers, then catches up to 6 mussel-crackers at a time which he (obviously) carries back home over his shoulders. That doesn’t happen everyday, but it happens more often than anyone would like to believe. If you know oom Sunley, you’ve probably seen him do stuff like this.

The one trait of my father that I cherish most, is his lust for life. He is just filled with passion, excitement and positive energy. It is a quality that very few people possess, and something that I truly aspire to. The other quality that he has, is the intense belief that he installs in others, and specifically installed in me as a child – a belief that I am good enough to do anything, achieve anything, or be anything  that I put my mind to. It has made a tremendous impact on who I am today.

My father loves food, and that’s something that the two of us love to share. He is very interested in my cooking, and cheers me on when I cook for them at their house over the holidays. Like me, he loves cream, butter, sugar and all things decadent. But when he’s on a fishing trip, he prefers the simpler things in life: canned fish, sweetcorn, corned beef and chocolate.

This Father’s day, I wish I could have dished up this recipe for brunch at my parent’s place. It’s a spin on that “end-of-the-month sardines on toast”, using the best bread, the best tomatoes and the best sardines you can find. Unpretentious food like this is very much a representation of my father: an honest man of quality and integrity – not perfect, not too refined, but a great man. And a damn good father.

Special thanks: To Schalk, my  husband, who brought me a stash of these amazing canned fish goods from his recent trip to Portugal. He sure knows how to make his ingredient-obsessed wife happy.

Ingredients for roasted tomatoes: (makes enough for at least 6 slices of toast)

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 15ml light brown sugar

Ingredients for sardines & tomatoes on toast:

  • a few slices of good quality ciabatta or sour dough bread
  • olive oil for brushing
  • roasted tomatoes (see above)
  • good quality canned sardines (1 can will probably serve 2 people, so adjust quantities accordingly)
  • a handful of roughly chopped parsley


  1. For the roasted tomatoes: Pre-heat oven to 160 C. Grease a baking tray with oil, then half the tomatoes and place cut-side up on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sugar, then roast for 1 hour at 160 C.
  2. For the toast: brush one side of each slice of bread with oil, then toast in a griddle pan or toasted until golden brown. Remove and serve at once.
  3. To assemble: Place enough tomatoes on each slice of toast to cover the surface, then top with sardines and scatter with parsley. Season with extra salt flakes and pepper if desired, as well as an extra drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.


This post was written especially by Ilse van der Merwe for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Bo-Kaap fish curry

10 Mar

My fish curry made with exotic spices from the Bo-Kaap and fresh curry leaves (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Three weeks ago, Schalk and I decided to spend a day of leisure and adventure in Cape Town as part of our 10th wedding anniversary. After a seriously scrumptious breakfast at Jason Bakery in Bree Street, we headed to Atlas Trading in the Bo-Kaap – one of the best and most popular spice shops in South Africa.

The exotic aromas inside Atlas Trading were almost hypnotising. I ended up buying an array of fabulous spices and spice mixes that I usually struggle to find in my local supermarkets (like sumac, Chinese five spice, black sesame seeds, real Cajun spice mix and saffron), as well as a brown bag filled with fresh curry leaves. If you haven’t heard of fresh curry leaves, they are not related to the spice mixture we call “curry powder” but are the leaves of the Indonesian curry tree. They are best used fresh (not dried), and they have to be used pretty much straight away as they don’t keep well.

The next day, we visited my sister and her family at their farm house on Lourensford Estate in Somerset West. Her husband is a trout farmer and a very capable fisherman. He had some yellow tail in his fridge from a recent fishing trip, so we decided to make an experimental fish curry using Gerhard’s fish and the curry leaves we bought from Atlas Trading.

After about 40 minutes, our curry was ready and the house was filled with a beautifully aromatic, almost nutty, exotic smell. The curry leaves added a flavour that was totally unlike anything I’ve ever cooked with before – slightly sweet and extremely fragrant. It’s my new secret weapon for adding an extra dimension to otherwise familiar spices, and I will certainly cook with curry leaves more often.

What a privilege it is to be living in the Cape – filled with so many treasures like Atlas Trading around every corner. It makes me feel like I want to travel more around my own country before exploring other possibilities overseas!


  • 45 ml vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 30-45 ml finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
  • 15 ml mild curry powder (or roasted garam masala)
  • 6-8 cardamom pods, ground with a pestle & mortar and husks removed
  • 10 ml cumin seeds
  • 10 ml ground coriander
  • 5 ml ground turmeric
  • 5 ml crushed chilli flakes (optional)
  • about 10-15 fresh curry leaves
  • 30 ml tomato paste
  • 1 can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • about 1 kg boneless skinless firm white fish (like yellow tail), cut into bite size cubes
  • fresh coriander leaves, to serve
  • cooked basmati rice, to serve


  1. In a large heavy-based pot over medium heat, add the oil and onion and fry until translucent (not brown). Now add the ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.
  2. Add the curry powder, cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric and curry leaves, and fry for a minute. The bottom of the pot will become quite dry.
  3. Add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes with their juice, and stir well. Bring to a boil, then add the coconut cream and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring, then season well with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. Now add the fish cubes, stirring gently to cover them in sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer for 5-10 minutes over low heat.
  6. Remove from the heat and serve on basmati rice with fresh coriander leaves.


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

Food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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A Christmas picnic table with Poetry Stores: Part 2

17 Dec

My Christmas picnic spread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

With only one week to go until Christmas, everyone’s planning their spreads and feasts. A lot of us will not only have a Christmas eve dinner, but also a Christmas day lunch. I love to go traditional for a Christmas dinner with a hot roast and lots of sides, but when it is daytime I really prefer a cold Christmas spread, casual yet indulgent – something that you can even take on the road and have as a picnic in a beautiful location.

My choices for the perfect Christmas picnic table comes from The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell (R285 from Poetry Stores). Annie’s recipes are simple but scrumptious, and her book is a great choice for any al fresco feast. The maple roast ham is glazed with a beautifully dark mixture of black treacle, maple syrup and English mustard – easy to make ahead and simply delicious served cold or at room temperature. I’ve also chosen Annie’s recipe for gravadlax, a wonderful alternative to cold smoked fish. I used locally farmed trout instead of salmon for the gravadlax – use what you prefer and what you can afford. For a salad I chose Annie’s couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranate – one of the most beautiful salads to look at with bright green and red specs! I also made her aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes.

For dessert I tried Annie’s recipe for salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread – my favourite recipe of the day. These indulgent treats are totally amazing, a little over the top but perfect for a Christmas feast.

Me and Tasha used a selection of Poetry‘s beautiful wooden boards (oval wooden board = R399) to put this spread together, as well as some of their pretty colourful little bowls and placemats (pom-pom placemat = R99). For the shortbread we used a dainty white cake stand (R250) which also comes with a glass dome lid. All of these make beautiful Christmas gifts, so get to Poetry Stores this week and browse their full collection.

Maple roast ham with Dijon mustard, and aubergines with goat’s cheese and tomatoes (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Maple roast ham: (serves 6-8)

  • 1 x 2kg unsmoked gammon, boned and rolled
  • 3 outer stalks of celery, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 carrots, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 30 ml maple syrup
  • 5 ml black treacle
  • 10 ml English mustard
  1. Place the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Discard the water and start again with fresh water to cover, this time adding the chopped vegetables and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then maintain at a gently simmer over a low heat for  50 minutes. If necessay, top up with boiling water halfway through.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C. Tranfer the gammon from the saucepan onto a board using two forks. Remove any string around the ham and pull off the rind. Slice the fat at 2cm intervals with a criss-cross pattern, without cutting down as far as the flesh.
  3. Blend the maple syrup, treacle and mustard in a bowl and use this to coat the ham evenly oall over. Place the ham in a roasting tin and pour some stock to cover the base and prevent the drippings burning. Roast for 35-45 minutes until the glaze is mahogany coloured and dry. Leave to cool, then carve at home before your picnic.

Gravadlax with mustard sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Gravadlax: (serves 6-8)

  • 100 g rock salt
  • 100 caster sugar
  • 20 g yellow mustard seeds
  • a small bunch of dill, finely chopped, plus some to serve
  • 900 g salmon/trout fillet, skin-on, pin boned
  • little gem heart leaves or buttered rye bread to serve


  1. Comine the salt, sugar, mustard seeds and dill in a bowl. Scatter a quarter of the salt mixture over a piece of clingfilm large enough to wrap the two fillets up in when placed on top of each other. Place one fillet skin-down on top, scatter over 2/3 of the reamining mixture, then lay the second fillet on top so the thick part of the fillet is on top of the thin part of the fillet, and they lie flesh to flesh. Scatter over the remaining salt mixture, wrap in the salmon up tightly and then in foil.
  2. Weight the salmon down by placing something heavy on top, then refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the parcel every 12 hours. The sugar and salt will draw the juices out of the salmon and turn into a sticky bring.
  3. Unwrap the salmon and rinse the marinade off the fresh side. ome of the mustard seeds and dill should remain but you will get rid of the excess salt and sugar. Place the fillets skin-side down on the work surface, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Press some chopped dill into the surface.
  4. Trim the edges of the fillets, then slice the gravadlax diagonally off the skin, thicker than you would slice a smoked salmon. Serve with mustard sauce.

Mustard sauce:

  • 150 g soured cream
  • heaped tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • heaped tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 15 ml caster sugar

Mix it all together, then leave to stand for 15 minutes for the sugar to melt. Stir again and serve cold.

Couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranates (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranate:

  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • sea salt
  • a pinch of saffron filaments
  • 200 g couscous
  • seeds of 1 medium pomegranate
  • 75 g shelled pistachios
  • 90 ml chopped coriander
  • 90 ml chopped mint
  • zest of a lemon (finely grated)
  • 15 ml lemon juice
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • pomegranate syrup, to serve (optional)


  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a small saucepan, season with salt, and add the saffron. Pout this over the couscous in a large bowl, then cover and set aside for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to break up the lumps. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Mix the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, herbs and lemon zest into the couscous. Whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil and some salt, them pour over the salad and toss to coat well.

Aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes: (serves 6)

  •  3 aubergines, sliced into 3cm thick rounds
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 300 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 150 g young firm goat’s cheese, cut into 1cm thick dice
  • coarsely chopped parsley


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Lay the aubergine slices out on a couple of baking trays. Brush with oil on both sides and season with salt & pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn and cook for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
  3. At the same time, scatter a little salt over the tomatoes in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Transfer the aubergines to a large roasting dish that holds them in a single layer. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil over the tomatoes, and gently toss, then mix with the goats cheese. Pile this on top of the aubergines, them return to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Scatter with parsley.

Salt caramel millionaire’s shortbread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread:

For the shortbread:

  • 225 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 115 g ground almonds
  • 5 ml vanilla extract

For the caramel:

  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 15 ml golden syrup
  • 275 g Caramel Treat (or dulce de leche)
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt

For the top:

  • 200 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 25 g white chocolate chips (optional)


  • Place all the ingredients for the shortbread in a food processor and whizz to form a dough. Press into a buttered baking tin (27 x 18 cm), then prick with a fork and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat oven to 140 C, then bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Leave to cool.
  • Place all the ingredients for the caramel in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring well. Simmer gently for 8 minutes, stirring often, then pour over the shortbread base and leave to cool completely.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then pour over the caramel and smooth the top. If you want to marble the surface, melt the white chocolate in the same way, then drop 1/4 teaspoons on top of the dark, marbling it with a cocktail stick. Work quickly.
  • Set aside in a cool place until set but still soft, then cut into squares and chill. Store in an airtight container.



All recipes by Annie Bell, from her book The Picnic Cookbook.

Food preparation & text: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Ilse van der Merwe & Tasha Seccombe

Homeware: Poetry Stores

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Grilled whole trout stuffed with lemon, fennel & herbs

3 Dec

Whole baked trout, stuffed with fennel, lemon & herbs (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

As we are gearing up for another summery festive season, many of us are starting to put together ideas for our Christmas lunches and dinners. To me, it is probably the most festive meal of the year, where family and friends are treated to the best of our bounties and abilities.

Christmas food doesn’t have to be formal, though. I’ve noticed that more people are moving away from heavier red meat roasts and vegetables, opting for  lighter, summery, al fresco choices. With Christmas falling in the middle of summer time in South Africa, I’ve always loved food that you could eat cold, like my cold Christmas platter, or food that you can braai as part of a relaxing afternoon with family and friends. While most of us are on holiday at the coast during this time, it just makes sense to consider fish as a main course.

Rainbow trout is a sustainably farmed local freshwater fish, and a perfect choice for a Christmas lunch or dinner. It’s delicate pink flakes are so beautiful to look at, and wonderfully tasty to eat. If you can get hold of a whole trout from your local fishmonger, make sure that is fresh, gilled and gutted. This way you can just rinse it at home, stuff it, and put it on the braai or in the oven. So very easy.

I love to serve this trout with a crisp green fennel & celery & apple salad, as well as cracked roasted baby potatoes and a fantastic versatile yoghurt mustard sauce. The recipes for the salad and potatoes will follow shortly, but I’ll include the recipe for the yoghurt sauce here. Remember that you can use the sauce on the fish, but also on the salad and the potatoes. The fish and potatoes are best served warm, but can certainly also successfully be served at room temperature.

Ingredients for whole stuffed trout:

(Serves: 6)

(Difficulty: easy)

  • 1 x whole trout, gilled and gutted (about 1.6 – 2 kg)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 x medium lemons, sliced
  • 1 x large fennel bulb, sliced
  • a handful of fennel fronds (reserved from the bulb)
  • a handful of chopped Italian parsley
  • juice of a lemon


  1. If you are going to use an oven to cook your fish, pre-heat it to 200 C. If you are going to braai it, get your fire ready to braai the fish over medium hot coals.
  2. Rinse the trout well under cold water, then pat dry with a tea towel.
  3. Using a very sharp knife, make angled incisions in the sides of the fish, about 3 on a side. Season the inside of the incisions well with salt and pepper. Season the inside of the gutted cavity as well.
  4. Use lemon sliced, fennel slices & parsley to stuff into the incisions and cavity, then drizzle the stuffed parts with lemon juice. Season the outside of the fish with salt and pepper, then place it on a piece of oiled foil on a roasting tray and roast in the oven at 200 C for 25-30 minutes. If you are going to braai it, place the fish inside a large hinged grid (without any foil), then braai over medium hot coals on both sides for about 30 minutes in total. Oil the inside of your grid to ensure that the fish doesn’t stick to the grid.
  5. Transfer the fish to a large serving platter, and serve with a fresh fennel salad, roast potatoes and a yoghurt mustard sauce.

For the yoghurt mustard sauce:

  • 250 ml double cream Greek yoghurt
  • 2 heaped tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
  • juice of a medium size lemon
  • 2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
  • 30-45 ml chopped fresh dill (or fennel fronds)
  • some cracked black pepper
  • a pinch of salt

Mix it all together and serve cold, with the fish.


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

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Sesame crusted trout on rice noodles with an Asian broth

18 Oct

Pan fried sesame crusted trout on a bed of rice noodles with tenderstem broccoli & exotic mushrooms in an asian broth (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’m constantly looking for new ways to cook with trout – new flavour combinations, new techniques, fresh approaches. Trout is such a fabulous choice of fish in South Africa as it is sustainably farmed, delicious and very rich in the good Omegas.

I adore simple, traditional Asian flavours: ginger, star anise, cinnamon, lemon grass and soy.  In this light summery recipe, I’ve combined these flavours in a broth, adding glassy rice noodles and exotic mushrooms topped with blanched bright green tenderstem broccoli and pan fried sesame-crusted trout fillet portions. The result is a delicate meal with beautiful colours and varying textures, perfect for lunch or dinner – slightly more sophisticated than my usual rustic fare.

PS: Most Asian food stores stock rice noodles (or you can use glass noodles), but you should also be able to find it at some of the bigger commercial supermarkets. In Stellenbosch, you’ll find it at the Boord SPAR.

Ingredients for Asian broth: (serves 4-6)

  • 4 cups (1 litre) good quality chicken stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 6-8 slices fresh ginger (you can leave the skin on)
  • 1 piece of lemon grass
  • juice of 1 small lime
  • 2-3 teaspoons (10-15 ml) good quality soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)


  1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, then leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the broth through a sieve (or use some muslin cloth for a less cloudy result), then set aside.

Ingredients for rest of the recipe:

  • 250 g rice noodles
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • a few small shiitake mushrooms or other small exotic mushrooms (optional)
  • 125 g tenderstem broccoli (or other green vegetables that you love)
  • 1-1,2 kg of fresh trout fillets, rinsed under cold water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of sesame seeds
  • 15 ml canola oil for frying (or vegetable oil)
  • sliced spring onions (for garnish, optional)
  1. Place the glass noodles in a large mixing bowl, then cover with recently boiled water and leave to stand for about 10-15 minutes (or according to the instructions on the packet. Drain in a colander just before you’re reade to plate.
  2. Return the strained broth to a small saucpan on the stove top, then add the mushrooms and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and set aside. Taste the broth and add some more salt or soy sauce if necessary.
  3. Blanch the broccoli for 1-2 minutes in a pot with simmering water, lid on. Remove from the heat at once and plunge the broccoli into some iced water to retain the bright green colour. Remove from the iced water and set aside.
  4. Cut the trout fillets into 6 portions. Season well with salt and pepper, then cover the flesh side of the fish in sesame seeds (no need to cover the skin side).
  5. Heat a large non-stick pan with oil until it is very hot, then fry the trout portions skin-side down first for about 2 minutes, then turn them over and fry on the sesame-crusted tops for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The middle should still be just slightly darker pink than the cooked outside.
  6. To plate: in a suitable bowl, place some noodles, then cover with about 150 ml of broth (or more if you like) and a few mushrooms. Top with the broccoli, then place a portion of cooked trout on top. Garnish with some freshly cut spring onions.


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

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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West Coast mussels with Café de Paris butter

29 Jul

A pan full of West Coast mussels with Neil Jewell’s Café de Paris butter sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’m a huge fan of the culinary treasure chest that sits in the Franschhoek Valley. The wine, the restaurants, the majestic mountains, the chefs, the whole Franschhoek experience. I recently had the pleasure of being invited to the launch of Leopard’s Leap‘s new Culinaria wine range, coupled with a cooking demo of one of my absolute culinary heros, Neil Jewell.

Neil is the magician behind the charcuterie, bakery, deli and restaurant (Bread and Wine) on Moreson Wine Estate. His cooking  is “perfectly balanced, seasonally influenced and surroundings inspired” – always an amazing experience. Leopard’s Leap invited a handful of Franschhoek’s biggest culinary talents to develop food pairings for their new wine range, and Neil got to work with their truly versatile Culinaria Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc 2012. This wine is light with loads of fruity characteristics, and it paired well with almost all of the food that we tasted that day at Leopard’s Leap.

Neil showed us how to cook West Coast mussels with his home-made Café de Paris butter and some of the Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin – an absolutely amazing combination! I’ve always loved simple steamed mussels in white wine, garlic and maybe some cream, but this recipe took the flavour of the mussels to a place where it became just heavenly; slightly curried and astringent, yet rich and buttery and layered with deep flavours.

This recipe takes a bit of time to prepare, but it is really rewarding and I simply had to share it. Be sure to have a large glass of Leopard’s Leap Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc handy while cooking!

Ingredients for the Café de Paris butter: (recipe by Neil Jewell)

  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 20 ml garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 15 ml grated fresh ginger
  • 2.5 ml curry powder
  • 60 ml Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc
  • 200 g soft butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 gherkin, finely chopped
  • 5 ml capers, finely chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 30 ml parsley, finely chopped

Ingredients for the mussels:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 10 ml garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 15 ml grated fresh ginger
  • 1 green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 250 ml Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc
  • 1 kg fresh black mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • a handful of torn basil leaves, to serve
  • a handful of chopped chives, to serve
  • a handful of coriander leaves, to serve


  1. For the butter, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in a little oil in a saucepan until soft and translucent. Add the curry powder and dry fry for 1 minute. De-glaze the pan with the wine and leave to cook until dry.
  2. Place the butter, gherkin, capers, anchovy, parsley and cooled onions mixture in a food processor and blend until combined. Set aside.
  3. For the mussels: heat a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and wine. Bring to the boil, then add the mussels. Place a lid on the pan and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the mussels are open. Discard any mussels that fail to open.
  4. Add knobs of the Café de Paris butter over the mussels, stir to melt, and serve hot with the basil, chives and coriander leaves. (I add all of the butter to the mussels, but it’s up to you!) Crusty bread will come in handy to mop up the sauces.

(photography by Tasha Seccombe)


Celebrating the launch of Leopard’s Leap’s Culinaria Collection. Hein Koegelenberg (CEO Leopard’s Leap), me, Neil Jewell (Bread & Wine Restaurant) & Eugene van Zyl (Leopard’s Leap wine maker) – picture courtesy of Amplicon PR and Leopard’s Leap


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

Food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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Salmon bisque

18 Mar

A hearty salmon bisque from Savour. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

It’s time to start planning your Easter menu – no holiday can be complete without some serious culinary indulgence! Over the next 3 weeks I’ll be featuring 3 recipes from 3 cookbooks, all available from Poetry stores as part of our special Easter collaboration.

First on the menu is a thick salmon bisque, the recipe taken from Savour by Marc Hirschowitz, Karen Alsfine and Estelle Sacharowitz. This hearty soup is perfect as a starter, but can easily be eaten as a main course served with freshly baked bread. The most interesting part of this recipe is that it is made with tinned salmon and tinned cream of tomato soup – basic pantry ingredients that makes this dish also possible on a camping trip! But if you have access to great fresh salmon, fresh tomatoes and cream, it would take the soup to new heights.

The recipe states that you can serve it chunky or smooth – I prefer a smooth and thick bisque, easily achieved with the help of a stick blender.


  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 200 g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 30 ml cornflour
  • 500 ml milk
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes, crumbled
  • 1 x 415 g tin salmon, deboned and flakes (or 400 g flaked cooked salmon)
  • 1 x 400 g tin cream of tomato soup (or 400 g skinless grated tomatoes with 1/4 cup cream)
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 2,5 ml Worcester sauce
  • 8 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 10 ml finely chopped fresh chilli
  • 30 ml sherry
  • fresh cream for serving
  • chopped parsley for serving
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground red peppercorns for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, then add the mushrooms, onion and garlic. Fry over medium heat until they are soft.
  2. Add the cornflour, then stir. Now slowly add the milk and stir well. Add the crumbled stock cubes and stir well.
  3. Add the flaked salmon and stir well. Add the tomato soup (or fresh tomatoes and cream), sugar, Worcestershire sauce, spring onions and chilli.
  4. Add the sherry and stir, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the soup thickens.
  5. If your soup is too thick, add more water of milk. If you like a smooth consistency, use a stick blender to create a smooth texture. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with a swirl of cream and some chopped parsley (and optionally freshly ground red peppercorns).


Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Homeware and linen: Poetry stores, ranging from R99-R299.

Recipe from Savour, available from Poetry stores at R350.


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Mediterranean seafood soup

17 Dec

A hearty, chunky, tomato-based seafood soup with saffron and paprika (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Every December, we go to Keurboomstrand on the Garden Route to spend our holiday – one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have a long family history at Keurbooms: my Mother started going there when she was only 2 years old. When I was only a month old (in 1977), I was Christened under the ancient milk-wood trees in the camping site – one of the most magical spaces that I have ever seen.

A few years ago, an Italian man named Enrico opened an authentic Italian restaurant at Keurboomstrand. Ristorante Enrico’s has now become one of the most popular (and most scenic) spots to eat on the whole of the Garden Route, and it certainly is one of my favourite restaurants in the whole of SA. They serve simple food, cooked with passion and great ingredients. One of the dishes that I order regularly is a seafood pasta, made with fresh linguine and served with a glorious tomato-based seafood sauce brimming with mussels, cubes of locally caught fish and calamari.

While we were on holiday at Keurbooms in January 2012, I wanted to make a festive seafood soup/chowder for the family, so I based my recipe on the taste of the seafood sauce that I love so much from Enrico’s. It is a chunky, hearty, Mediterranean-style tomato-based seafood soup that works best with the freshest seasonal seafood. My soup is also made with lots of passion, so at least I got the secret ingredient right!

Tip: Add any seafood that is sustainable, fresh, and to your liking. Prawns also work really well. Try not to use frozen products – it really makes a big difference in the taste!


  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 x medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bottle dry white wine (sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc)
  • a pinch of saffron threads (or half a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • 500 g fresh mussels in shells (rinsed and beards removed)
  • 4 cans of whole tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 60 ml tomato puree
  • 1 litre fish stock
  • 5 ml paprika (I use smoked paprika)
  • 2.5 ml cayenne pepper
  • 250 g fresh calamari/squid
  • 800 g hake fillets
  • 500 g of prawns (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • handful of freshly chopped Italian parsley (as garnish)


  1. In a large stock pot over medium heat, add olive oil and gently fry celery, onion and carrots. Fry until translucent (not brown), then add garlic and fry for another minute.
  2. Add wine & saffron, then turn up heat and bring to the boil.
  3. Add fresh mussels, then cook for 5 minutes. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon, and discard any unopened ones. Set mussels aside.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, fish stock, then bring to the boil. Add paprika & cayenne pepper and stir well.
  5. Add all seafood (including mussels), then cook over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until just cooked (do not overcook!).
  6. Season with salt & pepper, then remove from heat and add chopped parsley just before serving.
  7. Serve with crusty bread and side plates for the shells – it can be a messy affair, but that’s part of the charm!


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

Food & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling:  Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe


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Roasted garlic prawns

16 Nov

Roast garlic prawns served with fresh limes

There are 2 types of people in this world: those who eat crustaceans, and those who don’t.

I consider myself chief of the crustacean-eating clan. Prawns are a messy affair – that’s the way they’re supposed to be. You need to roll up your sleeves and really get into it, whether you like to shell your prawns or eat them heads ‘n all.

This recipe really works well for smaller prawns, so look out for the frozen prawn specials and give it a go. I make a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, chilli and parsley, then toss the prawns to coat them well. I then roast them in the oven over high heat for about 20-25 minutes, until they get a slightly toasted colour and release all of their delicious juices. The sauce needs to be mopped up with crusty bread, so be sure to serve some on the side. A glass of chilled dry white wine like Chenin Blanc will complete the picture.

Adjust the amount of chillies  according to your tolerance for heat!


  • 700g-1kg whole prawns (completely thawed if frozen)
  • 125 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 med/large lemon
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • a knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a small food processor or chopper, and pulse until you get a chunky mixture (not smooth). If you don’t have a processer, just chop them very finely with a knife and mix with olive oil and lemon juice.
  3. Arrange prawns in a single layer in a large roasting pan, then pour mixture over it and toss to cover thoroughly.
  4. Roast in the top half of your oven for 20-25 minutes, checking on the prawns half-way through to toss them again. The prawns are ready when they turn pink with slightly toasted edges.
  5. Serve as a starter or snack, straight from the oven, with crusty bread.

Tip: If you are using large prawns, be sure to remove the “poop” tract before roasting them. But I don’t bother with the smaller prawns. I just rinse them under cold water.


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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Nicola Pretorius


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Smoked trout puffs

12 Nov

Smoked trout puffs (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

My brother-in-law, Gerhard Compion, is the trout farmer on Lourensford Estate. I recently got involved in the family business by doing some marketing and distribution for his company, Lourensford Trout. If you don’t know what rainbow trout is, it is a fresh-water fish with beautifully pink flesh – very much the same taste and look as salmon.

However, rainbow trout that are farmed in raceways (like Gerhard’s fish) are SASSI green-listed, which means that they are the sustainable choice. If you have ever eaten rainbow trout, you would know that it is a delicate and truly delicious fish! Gerhard supplies his trout whole or filleted, and also provides a choice of cold smoked or hot smoked options. I am privileged to also be involved on the product development side of things, so I get to try out new innovative ways with the trout all the time – it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! 😉

With the warmer summer season on our doorsteps, cocktail parties are certainly just an invite away. These little trout puffs are such a fantastic way to entertain a crowd. They are great served as appetisers before a meal, or as snacks at a cocktail party. They are really easy to make, but they look like professional little canapés made by a pro (or at least I think so!) – they’ve got some “wow factor”, for sure! Bites of delicate cold-smoked trout and herbed cream cheese on pillows of light-as-air puff pastry.

Ingredients: (makes about 36)

  • 1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling
  • 230 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried dill (or 15 ml chopped fresh dill)
  • 3 tablespoon (45 ml) fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine horseradish pulp
  • 15 ml lemon juice


  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 Celsius. Lightly grease or line 2 baking trays.
  2. Unroll puff pastry, then cut into squares of about 4 cm long. Place them on the baking trays, leaving a little space between each square.
  3. Brush squares lightly with egg, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and leave to cool, then carefully cut them open horizontally.
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, dill, chives, horseradish and lemon juice. Add more lemon juice if the mixture is too thick. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the mixture on the bases of the squares, then top with a rolled-up sliver of smoked trout.
  5. Replace the pastry “lids” at a slight angle. Serve on a platter.

(Recipe adapted from “Picnic Hamper: The Al Fresco Recipes You Must Have” by Murdoch Books.)

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