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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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Smoked snoek cheesecake

10 Oct

A delicious savoury cheesecake with smoked snoek, leeks and chives (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

A savoury cheesecake? Yes please!

Spring is the perfect season for light lunches like quiche and salad. This is a chunky savoury tart with all the delicious elements of a proper South African “souttert”, mixed with the creaminess of a traditional cheesecake and the convenience of a simple, rustic, eggy quiche. Substitute the snoek with smoked salmon or trout for a delicately coral alternative, or use cooked smoked haddock.


  • 1 x packet store-bought shortcrust pastry (thawed)
  • 50 g butter
  • 200 g leeks, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of chopped spring onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 ml cream
  • 125 ml milk
  • grated rind and juice of half a lemon
  • 200 g Fairview cream cheese, Black Pepper flavour (or 200-250 g plain cream cheese with 1 t added cracked blackpepper)
  • 2 t Dijon mustard
  • 1 t salt
  • 250 g smoked snoek (flaked and deboned)
  • handful of flatleaf parsley, chopped
  • handful of chives, chopped


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Spray a 23cm springform cake tin with non-stick spray. Roll out the pastry slightly thinner to match the size of the tin, then carefully shape the pastry around the inside of the tin. Prick with a fork all over. Trimming the edges is optional (I like the rustic look of an untrimmed edge!).
  3. Blind-bake the pastry (lined with non-stick baking paper and filled with baking beans or rice) for 10 minutes, then remove paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  4. While pastry is baking, heat the butter in a pan and fry the leeks and spring onions over medium heat until soft and translucent.
  5. While the leeks are frying, put the eggs, cream, milk, cream cheese, lemon rind & juice, mustard and salt in a large bowl and beat well with an electric beater. Add the flaked snoek, soft leeks, spring onions, and fresh herbs, and mix well with a spoon to keep the chunky texture. (If you prefer a smoother texture rather than chunky, process in a food processor.)
  6. Remove prebaked pastry from oven, then pour filling into pastry case. Return tin to oven and continue baking for a further 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  7. Remove from oven and leave to set at room temperature. Serve warm or at room temperature (not piping hot from the oven) with a crisp, dressed green salad.

Tips: A large rectangular tart can also be made for cutting into smaller teatime portions.


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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Baked trout with minted pea risotto

6 Oct

Baked trout on a bed of organic pea risotto with mint, cider and gruyere cheese

Some ingredients are so brilliantly vibrant and inspiring that you have to let them speak for themselves. This was the case with the organic peas that I got from Genesis Farm, and the trout fillets from Lourensford Trout (SASSI green listed). Neither of them have ever been frozen, nor have they ever seen the inside of a retail shelf. Straight from the farm(s) to my kitchen!

I decided to bake the trout fillet whole in my oven, brushed with melted butter and seasoned lightly with salt, pepper and a pinch of dill. I made a simple risotto using dry apple cider (instead of white wine) and chicken stock. I added the freshly shelled peas and chopped mint close to the end, then rounded it off with loads of grated gruyere cheese and a large knob of butter. It was slightly runny, like hot lava – just perfect.

This is such a comforting yet refreshing meal, perfect for Spring or Summer – lunch or dinner. I love the texture that the peas add, so it is imperative that they are not overcooked. They should still “pop” softly in your mouth!

Ingredients for risotto: (serves 4)

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250 g arborio rice (I used long grain rice because I forgot to buy arborio! It still worked, but arborio is better.)
  • 125 ml dry apple cider (or dry white wine)
  • 800 ml warm chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 250 g fresh peas (or use good quality frozen peas, thawed)
  • 1 T freshly chopped mint
  • about 60 g gruyere cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup when grated)
  • 2 T butter


  1. In a medium sized pot over medium heat, add butter and olive oil, then fry onions until soft and translucent (about 5-10 minutes), but not brown.
  2. Add rice, then fry for about 3 minutes until they are slightly toasted.
  3. Add apple cider, then cook until the the liquid ha been absorbed. Now start adding the stock, one ladle at a time, and cook on medium to low heat until the liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding more. The rice should never cook completely dry. Stir every now and then to make sure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  4. When the rice is almost cooked but still has a slight bite, add the fresh peas and chopped mint, then add the last of the stock and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in cheese and butter. Cover with a lid and leave for 5 minutes. Remove lid, then stir to combine everything. Season with salt and pepper.

Ingredients for baked trout: (serves 4)

  • about 600 g rianbow trout fillets (allow roughly 150 g per person)
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • a pinch of dried dill
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method for trout:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 200 C.
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper, then place the fillet(s) on top, skin side down.
  3. Mix the melted butter with the dill, then brush all over the fillets.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, then bake for 15 minutes or until just done.
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Herbed mackerel butter

5 Jul

Mackerel butter with lemon and parsley

Cured mackerel fillets must be the Mediterranean version of smoked Cape snoek! These fabulous little fish fillets are much smaller than snoek, but can be used very much in the same way.

Rather than making a regular pateé, I opted for making a rich herbed mackerel butter instead. With no cream or soft cheese added, this buttery spread really melts in your mouth, and is the perfect topping for warm toasted bread. Most Mediterreanean foods are quite light, so the rich contrast of this spread works very well when used as a starter to a long, lazy meal with many courses.

It keeps well in the fridge for at least a week, depending on the freshness of the fillets.


  • 2 x medium-sized Mediterranean Delicacies Herb Mackerel fillets (skins removed)
  • 150-200 g butter, softened, but not melted
  • a generous handful of Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • juice and grated rind of half a lemon
  • 2 T (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • toasted ciabatta to serve


  1. In a food processor, blend mackerel fillets, butter, parsley, lemon juice & rind, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Serve at room temperature with warm, freshly toasted ciabatta.

WIN this hamper!

This post is the second in a 4-week series that I am doing in association with Mediterranean Delicacies.

WIN a fabulous Medi Deli hamper by entering their competition on Facebook! Competition have been extended untill end of of July 2012. Hamper includes a gourmet pasta maker, cheese board and a selection of delicious wines and Mediterranean Delicacies’ products.

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Tagliatelle with salmon, vodka and sour cream

19 Jun

Tagliatelle with salmon, sour cream, vodka and herbs (photo by Tasha Seccombe)

Since I bought my pasta machine a few years ago, I make home-made pasta at least once a week. A bit of elbow grease has never been bad for someone who likes to cook as much as I do, so I see it as part of my work-out – a way to justify the massive portion of pasta that I’m about to eat.

My favourite shape of pasta is tagliatelle, and sometimes tagliolini (slightly thinner strips). I like to eat it with rich, creamy sauces like the one below. Sauces like these are really at their best served immediately, because they thicken quite a lot on standing. To time this dish perfectly, make the pasta dough first, roll it out and cut into strips, then make the sauce, then quickly cook the pasta and toss the 2 together.

And the vodka? I once had the most delicious vodka pasta at a proper Italian restaurant in Stellenbosch that has unfortunately been closed for years. I still long for it! The vodka really adds a unique flavour to the dish, giving it a delicious acidity and slightly sour flavour – it goes so well with the sour cream and chives! If you don’t have vodka, substitute with some dry white wine of your choice.

Ingredients for tagliatelle: (serves 4)

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 4 XL eggs
  • 4 litres boiling salted water
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Ingredients for sauce: (serves 4)

  • 15 ml olive oil
  • a small bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 50 ml vodka
  • 250 ml sour cream
  • 1 cup fish stock (or chicken stock or vegetable stock)
  • 1 t tomato paste
  • 400 g canned salmon (or fresh salmon, cooked and flaked)
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of fresh dill and chives, chopped
  • smoked salmon strips for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add spring onions and garlic, and fry for 2 minutes.
  2. Add vodka, then cook to reduce by  half.
  3. Add sour cream, stock and tomato paste, then stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add salmon and simmer on low heat for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat, then add dill and chives and stir through. Cover and set aside.
  6. To make pasta: in a food processor, combine flour and eggs untill the mixture resembles couscous grains. Turn out on a wooden board, then press into a ball. Using a pasta machine, roll out sheets of pasta to a thickness of your choice (I prefer them quite thin), cut into tagliatelle strips, then cook in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, then drizzle immediately with extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Return the drained tagliatelle to the pot you cooked them in, then pour hot sauce over (re-heat if necessary), stir to coat pasta well, and serve immediately. Garnish with extra herbs and smoked salmon strips.

Tip: If your sour cream is very thick, add more stock to the sauce. If the sour cream is thin, start by adding less stock.


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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

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Beer battered hake with homemade mayonnaise

25 Apr

Crispiest beer battered hake with homemade mayonnaise (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Sometimes life takes you on a bumpy ride. Not serious stuff, but enough to make you need a hug at the end of the day. Like breaking down on the highway in mid morning traffic. Or getting a massive bill for unforseen medical costs. Or finding out your fridge has stopped working, and the warranty has expired a week ago.

In times like these, I like to escape to my “happy place”: a sunny, windless day somewhere on the Garden Route coastline, enjoying a simple, fresh seafood lunch with my darling husband, sipping lots of crisp cold chenin blanc, drinking in the smell of the waves, the sound of seagulls in the background.  A place where time has no importance.

That simple seafood meal has to be proper beer battered hake, deep-fried to perfection,  served with salt flakes, fresh lemon wedges and proper mayonnaise. I prefer my beer batter to be really thick and REALLY crisp – I mean, it should crack open when you cut it, steaming with fresh white hake within. Oh, and some crisp fries wouldn’t hurt.

So if you need to go to your happy place one of these days, you can do it at home. With this very easy recipe, fool-proof, every time. Have a nice day everyone!

Ingredients for the batter:

  • 1 cup self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 a bottle of beer (about 165 ml)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

For the fish:

  • 4-6 medium-sized fresh fish fillets (I used hake), scaled, cleaned and deboned by your fish monger (cut thicker portions in half to make sure it cooks evenly)
  • 500-750 ml cooking oil, for frying


  1. Heat oil (about 3-4 cm deep) in a heavy based pot on medium heat until it reaches around 160 degrees Celsius on your thermometer (for electrical stove top heating, use heat setting 4 out of 6)
  2. To make the batter, mix the self-raising flour with the beer and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Take one piece of hake fillet at a time, dust lightly with self-raising flour, then dip thoroughly in batter and immediately into the heated oil. Work carefully with the oil as it will splatter. After about 2 minutes, turn the fish with a slotted spoon and fry on the other side untill golden and crispy (takes about a minute). Remove from oil and drain on kitchen paper.
  4. Serve with mayonnaise.

Ingredients for mayonnaise:

  • 1 whole free range egg, as fresh as you can get
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) sunflower oil


  1. In a cup, using a handheld stick blender, blend the egg, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.
  2. Now add the oil in a very thin stream, while blending continuously. When all the oil is blended into the mixture, you will have a thick, pale mayonnaise. It will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week, covered.


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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Pictures: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

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