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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

Pea and parmesan risotto

24 Apr

Pea and parmesan risotto (photographer: Tasha Seccombe)

Risotto is such a versatile dish. It can be a starter, it can be a main meal, it can be lunch, it can be dinner. It can be hearty and rich with exotic mushrooms, or it can contain be fresh and light with young peas that still burst in your mouth.

This risotto is something inbetween – perfect for the beautiful Fall weather that we are currently experiencing in the Cape Winelands. Fresh flavours from the bright green peas with a hint of mint, and then a lingering richness of aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

This is surely one of my favourites dishes all year round.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250 g arborio rice
  • 125 ml dry white wine
  • 800 ml – 1 litre warm chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 250 g young peas (I used good quality frozen peas, thawed)
  • 1 T freshly chopped mint
  • about 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 T butter
  • a few sugarsnap peas for decoration (optional)

Method:

  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 wine, then cook until the the liquid has 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, stirring often. 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 last of the stock and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the peas, mint, cheese and butter. Cover with a lid and leave for 5 minutes. Remove lid, then stir to combine everything. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately (risotto will thicken on standing, and you still want it slightly runny like lava).

 

Ricotta gnudi with pomodoro sauce

22 Mar

Ricotta gnudi with pomodoro sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

My new business partner, Francille van Tiddens, recently sent me a recipe for ricotta gnudi via Bon Appetit’s online magazine. I’ll reveal more about our exciting new venture soon – Francille is an absolute food fanatic and she is constantly trawling the international online food scene for great recipes and interesting reads. “Gnudi”? I asked. It’s like gnocchi, she said, but larger, and made with lots and lots of ricotta cheese. And you pronounce it “nu-dee”.

It sounded like something right up my street. Italian comfort food, made with ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and a touch of flour, smothered in a bright red tomato sauce. I had to try it.

So I made it for my husband on Valentines Day as part of our wedding anniversary dinner. It was simply out of this world! Just a few basic ingredients, yet so striking on a plate and just meltingly delicious. It contains very little flour, so the trick is to shape the large gnudi balls with 2 large spoons. You place all of them on a big floured tray, then boil them like gnocchi in a large pot of salted water for just a few minutes.

This is probably my best food find of the past year. Gnudi. Nu-dee. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Note: Use the best quality ricotta and Parmesan that you can get your hands on.

Ingredients for pomodoro sauce: (Tip: make the sauce first, then the gnudi)

(recipe adapted from www.bonappetit.com)

  • 2 cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt

Method:

  1. Process tomatoes to a smooth pulp.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan on the stove top. Add garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes over low heat – don’t let it become too brown, because it will be bitter.
  3. Add the smooth tomatoes, sugar, and salt, then simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside.

Ingredients for gnudi:

(recipe from www.bonappetit.com)

  • 450-500g ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano) plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour plus more

Method:

  1. Mix ricotta, egg, egg yolk, salt, pepper, and parmesan in a large bowl until well combined. Add flour and stir just until combined and mixture forms a ball (mixture will be soft and moist with some bits of ricotta remaining; add a tablespoonful or 2 more if it feels too wet).
  2. Dust a rimmed baking tray generously with flour. Using 2 large dessert spoons, shape heaped tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes, then place on the floured tray and dust with more flour (you should have about 30).
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  4. Carefully add the gnudi, then cook for 4-5 minutes until cooked through and tender (gnudi will quickly float to the surface; continue cooking or they will be gummy in the center).
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove gnudi from water and divide among bowls. Top with pomodoro sauce and more parmesan cheese.

Credits:

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 and Ilse van der Merwe.

 

Summer linguine with basil & cashew pesto

15 Jan

Fresh linguine with basil & cashew pesto, mixed tomatoes and fior di latte (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Every time I eat linguine or spaghetti with a basic basil pesto, I feel very Italian – in a “pretend” kind of way. It is the opposite of what we grew up on in South Africa, believing that pasta always needs a chunky, heavy meat sauce.

This simple way of enjoying pasta is synonymous with my motto for the new year, keeping things uncomplicated, yet robust. The most basic meal can turn into something fabulous if you use fresh, great quality ingredients, and do as little to it as possible.

For this recipe, I varied from the well-known classic basil pesto with the use of cashew nuts instead of pine kernels – a slightly more economical choice which means that you don’t have to use the nuts too sparingly and can add some as a final topping for extra texture. Cashews still provide a strong nutty flavour, and is in no way a compromise. I also added some fresh halved cherry tomatoes, which I tossed through the pasta while it was still piping hot. The tomatoes warm up slightly, but retain their fresh crunch and flavour.

As a last addition, I also added shreds of fior di latte – wonderfully mild and milky pieces that work so well in the traditional caprese salad of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

This dish makes me feel rejuvenated, inspired and longing for travels abroad. Buon appetito!

Ingredients for pesto:

  • 2 punnets basil (about 40 g in total)
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
  • 50 g cashew nuts

Ingredients for pasta:

  • 500 g linguine (plus water and salt for boiling)
  • about 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved (or use a punnet of mixed small tomatoes)
  • 120 g fior di latte, torn into  shreds
  • 50 g cashew nuts, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. In a food processor or electric chopper (or manual pestle & mortar), process/pound all ingredients for pesto together to a chunky paste. Set aside and start making pasta immediately, otherwise discolouration might occur.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil, then cook pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add olive oil, then toss to coat. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add pesto, then toss to coat well.
  4. Now add tomatoes, mozzarella and cashews. Toss again, then serve immediately with some extra olive oil on the table.

Note: If you want to keep the pesto from discolouring, blanch the basil leaves in a large pot of boiling water for no longer than 3 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and immerse in ice water immediately. Continue making pesto as above, then transfer to an airtight container and top with a thin layer of olive oil before storing in the fridge, covered. Will keep for about 3-4 days, perfectly green.

WIN with SPAR Freshline! One lucky reader can win SPAR vouchers to the value of R200 when you answer this easy question: Name one  ingredient/product from the SPAR Freshline range which featured in this recipe. Leave your answer as a comment at the bottom of this post. Winner will be notified on Friday the 18th of January 2012.

Credits:

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: Tasha Seccombe & NicolaPretorius.

Garlic pitas with double-cream tzatziki

28 Nov

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

When it comes to Summer tapas, simpler is always better. And when you love Greek food as much as I do, you simply have to go with freshly baked garlic pitas dipped in thick, double-cream tzatziki.

I roll the dough out in 2 large pita bases, or make 8 small hand-size pitas. Don’t be shy with the garlic – you have to commit on this one. I have to admit, after doing this shoot (eating on the job is a prerequisite) I was a walking garlic bomb for 2 days straight. It felt great – true Greek style!

For the tzatziki, I based my recipe on the authentic tzatziki that we had in Athens when we traveled there in 2010. It is very thick, almost like a cucumber and mint “salad”, made with well-strained cucumbers and double-thick Greek yoghurt. Add some olive oil and I’m back in a taverna on the cobbled streets of Plaka.

Ingredients for pitas:

  • 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
  • for topping: 8-10 garlic cloves, crushed, mixed with 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

Method for pitas:

  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 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 240/250 C for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2 (for large pitas) or 8 (for small pitas). 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.
  4. Spread with garlic & olive oil topping, season lightly with salt & pepper, then bake for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Serve immediately on a wooden board.

Ingredients for tzatziki:

  • 1/2 cucumber, seeds removed and coarsely grated
  • 250 ml double-cream Greek yoghurt
  • 2-3 T chopped fresh mint
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Method for tzatziki:

  1. Spread grated cucumber on a clean tea towel over a wire rack, sprinkle with salt, and drain for 15-30 minutes. Make sure that most of the water is removed from the cucumber by wringing it lightly in the tea towel if necessary.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix yoghurt, mint, olive oil and garlic. Add drained cucumber and season with pepper.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Credits:

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: Tasha Seccombe & Nicola Pretorius

Glasses and Tablecloth : Poetry

Simple, Greek-inspired food. (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

My secret dinner

30 Oct

Our beautiful Secret Dinner table, courtesy of The Pretty Blog, The Culinary Equipment Company, Flowers in the Foyer, Poetry and The Cater Club (picture: Ilse van der Merwe)

On Saturday the 27th of October, I had the honor of hosting one of the Secret Dinners as part of the Spier Secret Festival – a food and wine celebration in the heart of the Winelands. I felt quite intimidated at first, when I looked at the list of other hosts (including Abigail Donelli: editor of Taste Magazine and Eat Out Magazine, and Cara Brink: one of SA’s most loved creative food consultants and queen of pop-up food stalls). I knew I wanted to create something really memorable, but I knew I had to stay true to my style.

I decided to cook the food that I love most: inspired by my favourite fine dining experiences, but still celebrating my love of rustic, comforting dishes that is simply packed with flavour. I also wanted to showcase a variety of different techniques and textures, so I decided on a 5 course tomato-themed dinner. Why tomatoes? Tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients to cook with. They are so versatile: fresh, tinned, preserved, poached, processed, pulped – the possibilities were endless!

After agreeing to play host to a maximum of 8 guests, I decided on the following menu:

  • First Course: Oil bread soldiers with tomato butter
  • Second Course: “24 hour caprese” – olive oil poached tomatoes set in a clear tomato jelly, served with fior di latte and basil puree
  • Third Course: Slow roasted organic tomato soup
  • Fourth Course: Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni or Beef Cannelloni, both served in a tomato and garlic sauce
  • Fifth Course: Pavlova with tomato fruit salad and tomato jam ice cream

Thank you to Anelia Loubser of www.flugelcreative.co.za who agreed to join the table with her camera in hand, and my husband Schalk who played sommelier for the evening. The amazing team from The Pretty Blog beautified my table (thank you so much Nicola and Carla!), and with the help of some of their best suppliers they created such a stunningly decorated space. Thank you so much to the following contributors who helped make this night such a beautiful success:

Thank you also to the wonderful guests that joined our table for the evening: Lee (HR manager), Lucie (French architect and artist), Joshin (CEO and integrated communications expert), Adelene (part time baker) and Gerda (film school teacher). It was an honour to have been your host!

Our first course of oil bread soldiers with wrapped tomato butter went down well with our second course of slow roasted organic tomato soup. Anelia’s view from her seat at the table (pictures: Anelia Loubser)

Putting some micro herbs on the third course: “24 hour tomato terrine”. A view of the menu. (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)

Olive oil poached tomatoes in a clear tomato jelly, with fior di latte and basil puree. A closer look. (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)

Our fourth course of spinach and ricotta cannelloni or beef cannelloni was served buffet-style. Comfort food at its best! (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)

Dessert: Individual pavlovas with fresh cream and tomato fruit salad, served with tomato jam ice cream. The sweet ending to a delightful night. (Pictures: Anelia Loubser)

 

 

 

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)

Method:

  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.

Credits:

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.

Fig, goats cheese and onion marmalade pizza

12 Mar

Fresh fig, goatscheese and onion marmalade pizza (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

I grew up in a beautiful family-home in Uniepark, Stellenbosch. I was the second of 4 kids, and we had many fruit trees in our garden: peaches, prunes, lychees, grapes, lemons and figs. I absolutely HATED figs back then: the ripe fruit would fall from the trees (there were two fig trees and they each carried hundreds of fruit), attracting those huge yellow and black beatles. I started associating figs with the smell of spoilt fruit and bugs, and didn’t eat them for many years after moving from that house. I cannot believe I had been so silly!

Now, figs are a delicacy to me. They are beautiful to look at, beautiful to photograph, beautiful to eat. They’re expensive, and not always easy to find. These days I would pay good money for one of those trees from my childhood! I would eat them fresh every morning for breakfast, cook them in jams, serve them in salads, and bake them in tarts.

But today, I want fig pizza. I couldn’t decide whether to serve it as a fresh pizza (fresh toppings on a pre-baked base), or as a baked pizza, so I did both. My advice would be this: if you want to serve this as a starter or snack to a number of guests, serve it fresh. You can pre-bake the base, and assemble the pizza before your guests arrive. It is a winner for warm summer night feasts. But, if you want to make it a main meal, be sure to add mozzarella and bake it in a blistering hot oven. The slices of fig almost resemble salami if you take a quick glance! But this meatless, sweet and salty pizza combo is an absolute dream dish – and stunning to look at.

Make the most of summer’s fig harvests and try these two pizza combinations – hot or cold, figs are simply fantastic.

Baked fig, goats cheese and onion marmalade pizza (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for pizza base: (makes 2 large pizzas)

  • 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

Ingredients for the topping: (for 2 pizzas, one hot and one cold)

  • 6 ripe figs
  • 4-6 T onion marmelade (I used the one from Woolworths)
  • 200 g chevin goats cheese (I used Fairview’s traditional chevin)
  • a bunch of fresh watercress leaves (or rocket)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic glaze (it’s the concentrated, sweeter version of balsamic vinegar)
  • 120 g grated mozzarella cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method for the pizza base:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix untill a sticky dough forms. Knead untill the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 240 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2. 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.

Option 1: fresh fig pizza with the pre-baked base:

  1. Bake the pizza base for about 7-10 minutes or untill lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil (if the pizza puffs up in the oven, just flatten it slightly after you remove it from the oven). Let it cool.
  2. Arrange sliced figs, pieces of goats cheese and slivers of onion marmalade on the pizza, then add watercress leaves and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Slice and serve.

Option 2: baked fig pizza with extra mozzarella cheese:

  1. Spread the unbaked pizza base with a thin layer of onion marmalade (instead of traditional tomato sauce), then cover with mozzarella cheese.
  2. Arrange sliced figs and pieces of goats cheese on pizza base, then bake for 10-12 minutes or untill the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 3 minutes.
  3. Arrange watercress leaves, season with salt and pepper, slice, then serve immediately.

Credits:

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

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