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My Top 5 Budget-Beating Dinner Recipes

20 Feb

While most of us are still recovering from a spendalicious festive season, this not-so-new year is already heading for March at the speed of light. And with Valentines Day and all its treats past us, you might be one of many South Africans scanning the internet for recipes that won’t break the bank.

I’ve rounded up my top 5 budget-beating dinner recipes to make life a little easier for all of us. Because sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get ahead of the game. More money in your pocket to spend on the necessities, less stress worrying about what to cook for the people at home.

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

  1. Sardines and roasted tomatoes on toast – a humble can of sardines can be so comforting. Pair it with some roasted tomatoes and a slice or two of your favourite ciabatta and you have a gourmet open sarmie packed with flavour.

    Crispy crumbed chicken strips with lemon juice & honey mustard mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

  2. Crumbed wholegrain paprika chicken strips – breadcrumbs, egg and chicken breasts can go a long way with this super tasty recipe. It’s a crowd favourite for adults and kids alike, and one of my go-to economic mid-week meals.

    The ultimate deep fried onion rings with a spicy tomato ketchup (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

  3. Ultimate deep-fried onion rings – this is the best way to turn a humble onion into a rock star. And you’d be surprised at how many mouths an onion can feed – even meat-hungry mouths! Serve with shop-bought tomato sauce or mayo if you’re not keen on making the home-made ketchup in the recipe.

    Garlic pitas with double-cream tzatziki (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

  4. Garlic pitas with double cream tzatziki – the Greeks know best when it comes to garlic, trust me. These delicious garlic pitas are absolutely scrumptious, especially dipped into a creamy (not watery), minted home-made tzatziki. Meatless Mondays, here we come!

    Fresh linguine with basil & cashew pesto, mixed tomatoes and fior di latte.

  5. Spaghetti or linguini with basil pesto – these days you can find a packet of pasta for less than R10.00 at most supermarkets. Add a dollop of (shop-bought or home-made) pesto and a drizzle of olive oil and you’re smiling! If you want to be fancy and if you have extra budget, add slivers of fior di latte and sliced baby tomatoes or some shredded chicken.

This post was written in association with Hippo household insurance. Check out their choices for budget-beating dinners.

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Pizza verde

12 Jan

A freshly baked pizza verde (green), the perfect lighter option to a regular pizza with tomato base sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There is something really beautiful about a pizza topped with only one colour – in this case green. I’ve made hundreds of pizzas in my life, mostly with a traditional red tomato base sauce and some without the sauce (a white pizza, also called pizza bianca). So technically this is a white pizza topped with green ingredients and no mozzarella, only a few chunks of Danish blue cheese (with a greenish colour). I’ve added a mixture of green ingredients with really intense flavours, like very salty capers, fresh peppery greens and earthy broccoli. The broccoli and blue cheese really works together, especially when they get all toasty in a very hot oven.

If you don’t like broccoli or any of the stuff I’ve chosen, just substitute it with your favourite green veg and leaves and give it a try. It’s a fabulous informal starter, cut into squares or slices, but also a great light lunch or supper.

For the dough: (makes 2 tray-size pizzas or 3 regular round pizzas)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) cake flour or white bread flour
  • 10 ml instant yeast
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) luke warm water
  • olive oil, for greasing the bowl

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and mix with your hands until it starts to come together, then press into a ball and start kneading. Knead to a smooth soft ball of dough, about 5-10 minutes. Oil the inside of a clean large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to stand in a warm place to rise until doubled in size – about 30 minutes.

For the pizza toppings, per tray size pizza:

  • a small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 100 g blue cheese (or feta, or goats cheese)
  • a handful capers
  • a bunch of spring onion, finely sliced
  • a handful of greens, including rocket and baby spinach
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 230 C.

On a clean surface dusted with flour, divide the dough into 2 or 3 balls, then roll out each one with a flour-dusted rolling pin until very thin. Transfer to a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Top the pizza dough with small broccoli florets, crumbled blue cheese and capers. Bake at 230 C for around 7 minutes (or until golden brown on the edges), then remove from the oven. Transfer to a wooden board, then top with spring onion, fresh green leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once.

Orzo salad with chorizo, spinach & parmesan

2 Aug

Warm orzo salad with chorizo & spinach (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Warm orzo salad with chorizo & spinach (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Orzo (also called risoni or rosmarino) is a type of short cut pasta, shaped like a long flat grain of rice. While my mother served it to us plain as a substitute to rice with meaty stews, I only really started enjoying cooking with orzo in recent years. It’s the strangely delightful mouth-feel that I love most – something that works very well in stews, soups and salads.

In this recipe, I’ve combined a few ingredients that I just adore. First and foremost I chose the king of preserved sausages: chorizo – in my opinion one of the best ways of creating bold flavours in an instant. Smokey, spicy slices of chorizo will trump everyone’s favourite crispy bacon any day, in my opinion. But the flavour will only be as good as the product, so choose wisely. The other ingredients that make this dish magnificent are smoked paprika, baby spinach leaves, ripe cherry tomatoes, shavings of Parmesan cheese and some grated lemon rind.

This is an easy and comforting meal for anytime of the year – winter or summer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

  •  a large pot of salted water, suitable for the stove top
  • 500g orzo pasta
  • roughly 225 g of good quality chorizo sausage
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 250 g ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoons) smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • juice and finely grated zest of one medium size lemon
  • salt & pepper
  • 200 g baby spinach leaves
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (add as much as you want)

Method:

  1. Place the pot of salted water on the stove and bring to the boil. Add the orzo, stir, and set your timer for 7 minutes.
  2. Remove the skin from the chorizo sausage, then cut the chorizo into fine slices/discs (if the skin is not too hard you can leave it on)
  3. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil, sliced chorizo & chopped garlic. Fry for about 5 minutes until the chorizo has turned slightly brown on all sides. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. (When the timer for the orzo goes off, drain the orzo in a colander, stir through a splash of olive oil and set it aside.)
  5. Add the cherry tomatoes and paprika to the pan with chorizo, and stir-fry for another minute.
  6. Now add the wine to deglaze the pan, cooking until the wine has reduced by half. Remove from the heat.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked orzo and the contents of the frying pan. Also add the lemon juice and zest. Stir with a large spoon to mix thoroughly. Season with salt & pepper.
  8. Now stir through the fresh spinach leaves (they will wilt slightly from the heat of the orzo – that’s perfect), and top with shaved Parmesan.

Credits:

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

Roasted vegetable lasagne

24 Jun

A slice of layered vegetable lasagne (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

A slice of layered vegetable lasagne (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

The colder months in Stellenbosch are magical. Trees turn gold to orange to deeply auburn, then shed their colourful leaves in the streets before standing bare against the moody grey skies of the Cape.

Staying indoors brings a whole array of cozy comforts in the shape of baked pastas, slow cooked roasts, and hearty stews. One of my go-to winter favourites have always been a classic beef lasagne al forno, but this time I’ve decided to make use of the beautiful array of seasonal vegetables for a meat-free, cheesy, creamy delight: roasted vegetable lasagne.

You can adjust the choice of vegetables to whatever you prefer – I’ve chosen butternut, broccoli, courgettes and spinach for a layered effect of yellow and green. Other great choices are tomatoes, aubergines and leeks.

I choose to make the pasta sheets from scratch, but you can also use store-bought lasagne sheets that’s been pre-cooked for a few minutes. This is a great dish to make ahead of time, just pop it into the oven 45 minutes before dinner time. It also freezes very well.

Freshly baked vegetable lasagne straight from the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Freshly baked vegetable lasagne straight from the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Ingredients for roasted vegetables:

  • about 5 cups of diced vegetables of your choice
  • about 60 ml olive oil
  • 45 ml chopped fresh herbs (like thyme, rosemary, chives & basil) – or 5 ml dried herbs
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

Ingredients for white/bechamel sauce:

  • 125 g butter
  • 125 ml flour (1/2 cup)
  • 1 litre of milk (4 cups)
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

For assembly:

  • about 250 g uncooked lasagne pasta sheets (or roughly 400 g fresh pasta sheets)
  • 250 g grated mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 300 g ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 80 g parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • some extra grated cheese for the top, a mixture of mozzarella & parmesan works best
  • a sprinkling of mixed herbs, for the top

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 C. In a large roasting tray, arrange diced vegetables, then drizzle with oil and season well with herbs, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until tender and golden brown on the edges. Remove and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan on stove top, melt butter on medium heat, then add flour and mix to form a paste. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring, then slowly add milk while stirring. Keep stirring vigorously over medium heat to form a smooth sauce. Season with nutmeg, salt & pepper, then set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta sheets in a large pot of salted boiling water until just undercooked – about 6 minutes. Drain and get ready for assembling the lasagne immediately (otherwise they might start sticking together). Please note: if you are using fresh pasta sheets, you don’t have to pre-cook them, you can go straight to assembling.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, carefully mix together the mozzarella cheese, ricotta & parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a large deep rectangular oven dish, start layering the lasagne: start with a thin layer of white sauce, then pasta sheets, then veg mixture, then cheese mixture. Keep layering – you should repeat this about 3 times. End with a thick layer of bechamel sauce, then sprinkle with some leftover cheese mixture and some chopped/dried herbs. Bake at 180 C for at least 45 minutes, or until golden brown, bubbly and gooey. If the top starts to get too dark before the lasagne is cooked, cover with foil and return to the oven.

Credits:

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

Potato gnocchi with panfried mushrooms & sage butter

30 May

Potato gnocchi with panfried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Potato gnocchi with panfried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Potato gnocchi has a bad reputation for being difficult and temperamental. I recently got the hang of it and it is now a regular favourite in my household. It’s amazing how the humble potato can be turned into something so delicately soft and dreamy – little pillows of potato delight! I also sometimes serve them on top of a hearty roasted tomato & chorizo stew with lots of extra parmigiano – my husband’s favourite.

I recently bought myself a potato ricer for making proper potato gnocchi. It’s a weird contraption that almost looks like a giant garlic press. But it works like a charm to get rid of any lumpy cooked potato bits. If you want a smooth result but you don’t have a ricer, press the cooked potato through a sieve (you’ll need a bit of elbow grease for this, but the result is worth the effort).

For the gnocchi:

  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 300 g cake flour (you might not need all of it)
  • 10 ml salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the potatoes in a large pot filled with salted water (in their skins) until tender. Drain off water and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Remove potato skins, then press through a potato ricer or a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside (you can leave it to cool completely if you want to).
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add riced potatoes, beaten egg, 1/3 of the flour, the salt and pepper. Mix with a fork, then continue to knead to a smooth dough, adding a little extra flour as you go, if necessary. You are looking for a workable consistency that feels like a very soft dough, but not sticky at all. Don’t add too much flour at this time as you want to keep a light texture.
  4. Divide the mixture into 4 balls, then roll each ball out into long strips, using extra flour on your surface to prevent sticking. Carefully cut into little squares/pillows and sprinkle with a little extra flour to prevent them from sticking together (I like to toss them around a bit in the flour to make sure they are fully covered).
  5. Heat a large pot filled with salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and cook for 1-2 minutes or until it rises to the surface. Do not overcook – they will become sticky and soggy. Drain and serve immediately with cream sauce and/or sage butter and pan-fried mushrooms.

For the sage butter:

  • 125 g butter
  • a large handful of fresh sage leaves

Place the butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until the butter starts to turn golden brown and starts to smell nutty. Add sage leaves and remove from heat at once, swirling the butter round to fry the leaves evenly. Set aside.

For the pan-fried mushrooms:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  •  about 500 g mixed exotic mushrooms (break/cut larger mushrooms into bite-size pieces)
  • 125 ml cream
  • salt & pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the oil on high heat in a large pan, then add the mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add cream and reduce a little to form a thicker sauce that will coat the mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper. Note: the mushrooms with absorb the cream on standing, so serve this immediately.

To assemble: Have the sage butter and mushrooms warm and ready before you cook your gnocchi. Serve the gnocchi in bowl topped with pan fried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter. Top with some grated parmesan cheese.

Credits:

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

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

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Spinach ravioli with smoked mozzarella & fresh tomato sauce

6 Aug

Spinach ravioli stuffed with smoked mozzarella and ricotta, topped with fresh tomato sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This Friday we’ll be celebrating Women’s Day – a day where we are reminded that women played a big role in South Africa’s human rights history.  Back in 1965, a group of very brave women staged a silent march in Pretoria in front of the Union Buildings, against legislation that required African people to carry a special identification document which curtailed an African’s freedom of movement during the apartheid era.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come since 1965. Today, Women’s Day celebrates the respect, love and appreciation of women throughout South Africa. To me, it is not a political day, it is a day where we can treat each other with a little extra care and indulgence, just because we deserve it!

With the help of Poetry stores, I chose a recipe from the amazing book The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Kaldesi (available from Poetry). Being very sceptical of Italian cookery books (because everyone claims to cook like the Italians!), I approached this book with caution. But after spending a few minutes paging through the beautiful recipes and stories, I realised that this book is very authentic. I just couldn’t put it down. It might be my favourite recipe book of 2013 so far – a real inspiration for anyone who really enjoys traditional Italian recipes and ingredients.

Katie Caldesi was nominated for many awards after writing this book, and I can see why. She captures the soul of the people that feature in the book, and it translates onto the recipe pages. I look forward to spending much more time with this amazing book, and I’ll surely feature more recipes in the near future.

The recipe that I chose to feature for Women’s Day from The Italian Cookery Course, is part of a masterclass feature in the book: “Spinach pasta stuffed with smoked mozzarella with fresh tomato sauce”. It’s a bright green spinach pasta, filled with smoked mozzarella cheese and ricotta, topped with Giovanna’s fresh tomato sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. It is simply sublime in flavour, rich from the cheese filling, yet light from the fresh tomatoes in the sauce. It is a beautiful plate of Italian goodness, perfect for a Women’s Day celebration.

May every lady out there feel special on Friday. I love being a woman!

Ingredients for Fresh Tomato Sauce: (serves 6)

  • 1kg fresh, ripe and very red tomatoes, quartered
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon caster sugar (optional)
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

  1. Put the tomatoes, basil, and onion in a large heavybased saucepan over medium heat (no oil!). Cover the pan, shaking it frequently, and leave on the heat for 45 minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and softened. Remove the basil leaves.
  2. Use a stick blender and whizz up the tomatoes to a smooth puree, skins and all.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic. Fry over medium heat until it becomes fragrant, then add the pureed tomatoes.
  4. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes until the mixture has reduced and the flavour has become concentrated. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

Ingredients for Smoked Mozzarella Filling:

  • 250 g smoked mozzarella (or scamorza)
  • 150 g ricotta
  • a good pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt, to taste

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients well. Be careful with the salt as the mozzarella is already salty.

Rolling out the green pasta dough with my pasta machine (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for Spinach Pasta Ravioli: (I have adapted this recipe by mixing the dough in my food processor, but you can also mix it by hand)

  • 200 g fresh spinach (or 100g cooked spinach)
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 300 g flour, plus a little extra
  1. Cook the spinach first: I like to sautee the spinach leaves with olive oil in a large pan until it has wilted, then remove from the heat and let it cool. Spinach will lose about 50% of it’s weight after being cooked, so we are looking for about 100g cooked spinach for the rest of the recipe.
  2. When the spinach has cooled, place it in a small mixing jug with one of the eggs, then blend with a stick blender to a smooth green paste.
  3. Add the flour, remaining egg, and green paste to your food processor, then mix until you get a ball of dough that starts to come together (it only takes about 20-30 seconds).
  4. Remove the dough from the processor bowl, then place it on a floured wooden board and press together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough, one piece at a time, to a thickness of about 1mm (almost thinnest setting). Lightly dust the pasta while working with it.
  6. Placing balls of filling on the pasta sheets (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

    Lay out the sheet of pasta on a lightly dusted surface to prevent sticking. Place heaped teaspoons of stuffing on one side of each sheet (lengthways), then fold it over and press down to stick the 2 layers together. If your pasta sheets look dry, use a pastry brush and water to make the surface a bit sticky before folding it. Make sure to press out any air bubbles around the stuffing.

  7. Fold the pasta sheets over the filling, then press down around it to get rid of air pockets before cutting it into squares (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

    Use a fluted pastry cutter (or pizza wheel cutter) to cut the ravioli into squares, aiming to leave about 2cm between the end of the filling and the edge of the pasta square. Place the ravioli on a lightly floured tray, spaced apart in a single layer. Set aside until ready to cook, but not longer than an hour otherwise it will start to stick to the surface. You can also freeze them at this stage.

  8. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook the ravioli for 3-5 minutes (until al dente), then drain through a colander – the filling will completely melt on the inside, so don’t be alarmed if the ravioli look “deflated”, just handle with care! Serve with the fresh tomato sauce (see recipe above) and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Credits:

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe

All recipes from: The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi, available from Poetry stores at R295

Bracelet: Poetry stores, R30 (Poetry supports the Ikamva Labantu programme to empower women. Proceeds from this handmade bracelet provide earnings and upskilling for local bracelet-makers as well as enterprise development opportunities in South Africa.)

Large plate, smaller bowls and wooden spoon: Wonki Ware from Poetry stores (ranging from R65-R399)

 

Spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, blue cheese and walnuts

9 Jul

Spaghetti with a rich sauce of roasted cauliflower, blue cheese and walnuts (photographed by Tasha Seccombe)

This dish was born out of a shameless craving for the taste of parmesan-roasted cauliflower, rich blue cheese and toasted walnuts. Not an everyday combo, I know. It could have also gone in a different direction (maybe a salad with baby spinach leaves, watercress, finely julienned cucumber, and the mentioned ingredients), but this time it became a super decadent pasta.

The trick is to cut the cauliflower into very small florets – about the size of your thumb, or smaller. I sprinkle the pieces with finely grated parmesan cheese, then roast them in a 200 C oven for about 15 minutes until they start to turn golden brown on the edges – it creates an amazing nutty flavour. I then blend half of the roasted florets to a smooth pulp with stock, and mix it with cream and blue cheese. Mix this sauce through the cooked spaghetti, then serve it topped with more roasted cauliflower en toasted walnuts.

I like to eat spaghetti with very rich sauces, because I like the mouth-feel of slurping the strands while some of the creamy sauce remain on my lips. Definitely not a dish for a first date, yet decadent enough for an anniversary dinner!

This pasta dish is best served immediately, as the pasta absorbs quite a lot of the sauce on standing, and thus can become dry. Make sure everyone’s seated before you’re ready to finish the sauce and mix it with the pasta – it makes a huge difference!

Ingredients:

  • 250 g cauliflower head
  • about 30 ml olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 250 ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 250 ml cream
  • 100 g blue cheese
  • 500 g spaghetti
  • 50 g walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted in a dry pan

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.
  2. Cut the cauliflower head into small florets (about the size of your thumb or smaller), then sprinkle with parmesan cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower start to turn golden brown on the edges.
  3. Remove the roasted cauliflower from the oven, then place half of it in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the hot stock, then blend with a stick blender until you get a smooth soup-like consistency. If the mixture is too thick, add more stock or water, then mix again. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the cream to boiling point. Crumble the blue cheese into the hot cream, then turn down the heat to very low and stir until melted. Now add the smooth cauliflower puree and stir well. Set aside.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then cook the spaghetti for about 7-8 minutes until al dente. Drain, then coat well with the sauce (I like to toss it in the warm pasta-cooking pot).
  6. Dish up the sauce-coated spaghetti, then top with the remaining roasted florets and some roasted chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.

 

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

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

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

Orzo with roasted tomatoes and feta

18 Jun

Orzo with roasted tomatoes, leeks, onions, garlic and feta, topped with parmesan shavings.

My good friend and fellow blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs recently published an outstanding recipe for a Greek roasted lamb dish with orzo, “Mike’s Youvetsi”. She made this dish for us at her house last year, and I have since completely fallen in love with orzo as an ingredient. It’s got something to do with the mouthfeel of the orzo – to me, it is much more than flat rice-shaped pasta.

Last week I attended a function at the V&A Waterfront where we were served the most delicious buffet lunch (#DiscoverDelicious). One of the dishes included a rice dish with roasted butternut, peanuts and danish feta. It reminded me of how fabulous a meatless dish can be if served with really flavoursome roasted ingredients and just the right type of starch. I longed for Jane-Anne’s orzo dish (it truly is spectacular, especially if you’re a fan of lamb), but decided to go the meatless route for a quick roasted tomato & orzo dish with added leeks, onions, garlic and thyme.

The roasted tomatoes are also fabulous as a topping on freshly baked bread, but I decided to toss it with freshly cooked orzo topped with chunks of feta for a Greek inspired dish. This can certainly be a meatless main course, but I think it will be fantastic served at room temperature as a side dish on a buffet table. I used only 250 g orzo, but you can certainly use up to 500g for this recipe. It is very rich in flavour and such a satisfying dish!

 

Freshly roasted tomatoes, onions, leeks and garlic with thyme.

Ingredients for roasted tomatoes:

  • 1 kg tomatoes (mixed sizes)
  • 1 onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme, stalks removed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • about 30 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 30 ml soft brown sugar
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C.
  2. Arrange the tomatoes in a large roasting tin. Slice the bigger tomatoes, but leave the small ones whole.
  3. Add the sliced onion, leeks, garlic, thyme, then drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with the sugar, then season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 200C until the tomatoes and onions are soft and slightly charred.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Ingredients for the orzo dish:

  • 250 g orzo (or 500 g orzo if you are serving this as a side dish in a buffet spread)
  • water and salt
  • a little extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 x batch roasted tomatoes (see recipe above)
  • 200 g feta, crumbled or diced (or danish feta)
  • shavings of parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. Cook the orzo in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender – about 7 minutes. Drain and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Add the cooked orzo to the roasted tomatoes and mix well. Transfer the contents to a suitable platter or large bowl, then top with the feta and parmesan cheese.
  3. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Pissaladière with caramelized onions, anchovies and olives

10 Jun

Freshly baked pissaladiere with anchovies and olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Pissaladière is a classic dish from the south of France – an intensely tasty type of pizza/tart topped with caramelized onions (or onion confit), anchovies, olives and fresh herbs like rosemary. So why the fancy name when we might just as well call it a pizza? Well, it’s a type of “white pizza” as they say, one without tomatoes or a tomato sauce.

The name pissaladière comes from the original Latin word “pissalat” which refers to the “salted fish” or anchovies on top. I’ve only seen it on menus in SA where the establishment is an established bakery, like Ile de Pain in Knysna, but you might find it as an appetizer on traditional French menus.

I’ve used my trusted basic pizza dough recipe to make the base. While your dough is rising, quickly make a small batch of caramelized onions. And don’t be too neat when rolling out the dough – to me the charm lies in a rustic looking free-form pissaladière.

If you don’t like anchovies, you can leave those out. But if you, like me, adore those little salty slivers, the combination with the sweet onions and tart olives are just heavenly! If you cannot go without cheese, add a few small pieces of fior di latte.

Ingredients for base: (makes 2 large bases or 4 small)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour
  • 2 t (10 ml) instant yeast
  • 1 t (5 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 t (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1 T (15 ml) olive oil

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix until a sticky dough forms. Knead until the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2 (for large bases). On a well floured surface, roll out one piece at a time into circular shapes, adding a little more flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a large baking tin lined with baking paper.

Ingredients for caramelised onions:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 4 onions, finely sliced (not chopped)
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and black pepper

Method:

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onions and fry them slowly until they start to brown. Don’t use high heat to speed up the process, your results will not be the same. You want the onions to become completely soft – they will naturally start to caramelise.
  2. Now add the sugar and vinegar, then turn up the heat and reduce the liquid until it is sticky. Remove from the heat, then season with salt and pepper and leave to cool. Store any leftovers covered in the fridge – it will last for at least 2 weeks.

Assembling the pissaladière:

  • about 1 cup of caramelised onions
  • about 1/2 cup of pitted olives, halved
  • about 10-15 anchovy fillets
  • about 15 ml chopped fresh rosemary
  1. Top the bases with caramelized onion, pitted olives, anchovy fillets and chopped rosemary.
  2. Bake for about 8 minutes until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wooden board. Slice and serve immediately.

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

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

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

Roasted butternut and three cheeses ravioli with sage butter

8 May

Roasted butternut ravioli with ricotta, parmesan & blue cheese, drizzled with brown sage butter and topped with pine nuts (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

As the days are drawing darker and colder, all I want for dinner is comfort food. Not necessarily buckets full of mac ‘n cheese, but definitely something buttery and indulgent.

Although pasta is considered a relatively simple staple, it can certainly be turned into something spectacular if you take the time. I confess: making homemade ravioli is not really the fastest way to a great dinner, but it is so very much worth all the effort. Prepare all the different components ahead of time, and you can assemble it quick-quick with minimum fuss.

The rich filling is made with roasted butternut, fresh herbs, ricotta, blue cheese and Parmesan. It matches perfectly against the toasted pine kernels and nutty sage butter, somehow creating a synergy that feels lighter than the individual parts.

We are looking at various components here: 1) roasting the butternut, 2) making the filling, 3) making and rolling out the pasta dough, 4) assembling the ravioli, 5) making the sage butter, 6) cooking the ravioli, and finally 7) plating the ravioli with the butter sauce and some toasted pine nuts. Don’t be rushed – the whole process might take you 2-3 hours, so pour a glass of wine and get someone to keep you company!

This recipe serves up to 6 people.

1) For the roasted butternut: 

  • 500 g butternut cubes (skinless and seedless)
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 15 ml chopped sage
  • 5 ml chopped thyme

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. On a baking sheet, add the butternut cubes, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then toss slightly and add the herbs. Roast for a further 10 minutes until the butternut starts to turn brown and is soft when tested with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2) For the butternut & 3 cheese filling:

  • 1 x batch roasted butternut (see above)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (about 350 g)
  • 125 g blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 40 g)
  • salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, then process until you get a course pulp. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then process again to mix thoroughly. Scrape the filling into a mixing bowl, then wash and dry the food processor for the next stage.

3) For the pasta:

  • 500 g plain flour (or cake flour)
  • 5 XL eggs

Place the flour and eggs in a food processor, then process until it resembles large cous-cous grains (it takes about a minute). Turn the “grains” out onto a wooden board, then press it together to form a ball of dough. Lightly knead the dough to a smooth consistency, then cut it into 5 equal pieces. Using a pasta rolling machine, roll out each piece of dough to a very thin sheet (thinnest setting) of about 12 cm in width. Lay out the sheets on a large floured surface, ready for the next stage.

4) Assembling the ravioli:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • pasta sheets (see above)
  • ravioli filling (see above)

Using a pastry brush, brush half of each pasta sheet lenghthways with water (the reason we do this is to make sure the pasta sticks when we fold it over lenthways after filling it). Using a teaspoon to create “drops” of filling, place a row of filling drops lengthways down the middle of each pasta sheet, about 5 cm apart. Now fold the pasta sheet over lengthways, making sure the gently press out any air bubbles that are forming (press from the fold to the edges). When each ravioli sheet is tightly sealed, used a pastry cutter to create generous rounds of individual ravioli. Place them on a floured tray until ready to boil.

5) Making the sage butter and toasted pine nuts:

  • 250 g butter
  • about 20 – 25 fresh sage leaves
  • 20-30 g pine kernels

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and let it simmer until it starts to turn light brown and starts to smell nutty. Watch it carefully, or otherwise it will quickly burn and you’d have to start from scratch. Swirl it lightly every now and then. When you see that it starts to brown, drop all of the sage leaves into the butter, and fry it for about 10-20 seconds, swirling the butter around to cover all the leaves. The leaves will quickly fry and become crips. Remove from the heat at once and set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, carefully toast the pine nuts without adding any oil until they turn a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

6) Cooking the ravioli:

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. When the water is boiling rapidly, drop about 1/2 of the prepared ravioli into it, then cook for 4-5 minutes. They are ready when they are floating on the surface and the edges are just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon into individual serving bowls.

7) Plating the ravioli:

Working quickly, drizzle each portion of cooked ravioli with sage butter, and top with a few toasted pine nuts. Serve at once – freshly cooked pasta is always best served immediately!

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

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

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

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