Archive | Pizza & Pasta RSS feed for this section

Mothers Day Lunch with Poetry Stores

12 May

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

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

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

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

Have a happy Mothers Day everyone!

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

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

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

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overnight leg of pork (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

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

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

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

Custard tart with caramelized figs. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Custard tart with caramelized figs (serves 8-10)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post was created in collaboration with Poetry Stores.

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

3 May

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

Ultimate caprese salad (serves 8)

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

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

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

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

Triple cheese beef lasagne (serves 8)

For the beef Bolognese sauce:

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

For the white sauce (béchamel):

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

For assembling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individual tiramisu cups: (serves 8)

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

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

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

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

Save

Save

Save

Pan-fried potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce

26 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients for gnocchi: (serves 6)

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

Method:

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

For the blue cheese sauce:

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

Method:

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

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.

Save

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.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram
YouTube