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Soup Season with Poetry Stores

12 Jun

Winter doesn’t need to be dreary with this colourful soup spread, featuring recipes from “Clean Soups” available from Poetry Stores. All homeware and linen also available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Finally, Winter is here! It is the season of soups, cozy blankets and marathon movie nights.

If you’re in need of soup recipe inspiration, look no further than Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson’s book “Clean Soups” available from Poetry Stores. It is a brilliant book stuffed to the brim with delightful soups varying from clear broths to thick purees. They also provide fresh ideas on how to serve their soups, including toppings like kale crumble, herb drizzle, nut cream and a few different salsas.

The nourishing smell of properly made soup permeates right through to your soul. Start with this incredible “magic mineral broth” – a vegetable stock/broth that forms the basis of many of their other soups, yet also to be enjoyed as is. I used this broth to also make their recipe for Moroccan carrot soup as well as minted pea soup. The chermoula works perfectly as a topping for the carrot soup and as a bread dip.

Chase the winter chills away with a fabulous floral watercolour table cloth and tableware from Poetry Stores – all homeware items pictured available in store and online.

Magic mineral broth. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Magic mineral broth: (makes about 6 liters)

(Recipe from Clean Soups by Rebecca Katz & Mat Edelson)

  • 6 unpeeled carrots, cut into thirds
  • 2 unpeeled brown onions
  • 1 leek, white and green parts, cut into thirds
  • 1 bunch celery, including the heart, cut into thirds
  • 4 unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, quartered
  • 2 unpeeled white-fleshed sweet potatoes, quartered
  • 1 unpeeled orange sweet potato, quartered
  • 5 unpeeled cloves garlic, halved
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 (20 cm) strip kombu*
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 whole allspice or juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 liters cold, filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

Rinse all the vegetables well, including the kombu. In a 12 liter or larger stockpot, combine the carrots, onions, leek , celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, parsley, kombu, peppercorns, allspice berries and bay leaves. Add the water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for at least 2 hours, or until the full richness of the vegetables can be tasted. As the broth simmers, some of the water will evaporate; add more if the vegetables begin to peek out.

Strain the broth through a large coarse-mesh sieve (use a heat-resistant container underneath) and discard the solids. Stir in the salt, adding more if desired. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

*Kombu is edible dried kelp/seaweed.

Roaste Moroccan carrot soup with chermoula. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Moroccan carrot soup: (makes 6 servings)

(Recipe from Clean Soups by Rebecca Katz & Mat Edelson)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • sea salt
  • 1,5 kg carrots, cut into 2,5cm pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1,5 litres magic mineral broth (see above)
  • 2,5 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (or half lemon half tangerine/orange juice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark maple syrup plus more if needed
  • chermoula, for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, then add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the carrots, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chilli flakes, saffron and 1/4 teaspoon salt and saute until well conbined. Pour in 125 ml of the broth and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining broth and another 1.4 teaspoon salt and cook until the carrots and tender, about 20 minutes.

Put the lemon zest in a blender and puree the soup in batches until smooth, each time adding the cooking liquid first and then the carrot mixture. If need be, add additional broth to reach the desired thickness. Return the soup to the pot over low heat, stir in the lemon juice, maple syrup and a pinch of salt, and gently reheat. Taste; you may want to add another squeeze of lemon, a pinch or two of salt, or a drizzle of maple syrup. Serve with chermoula or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Sweet pea and mint soup: (makes 6 servings)

(Recipe from Clean Soups by Rebecca Katz & Mat Edelson)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white part only, rinsed and chopped
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 300 g frozen sweet peas, defrosted, or 465 g freshly shelled peas
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 1 cup pea sprouts (if available)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint, plus more for garnish
  • 1,5 litres magic mineral broth (see above)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
  • 6 tablespoons full-fat plain yoghurt, for garnish (optional)
  • pea shoots, for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, then add the leek, pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and the lettuce and another pinch of salt. Pour in 125 ml of the stock to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat.

Pour one-third of the remaining stock into a blender, add one-third of the vegetable mixture, one-third of the pea sprouts and the mint. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a soup pot over low heat. Divide the remaining stock in half and repeat the process two more times. Stir in the lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Taste, you may want to add an additional squeeze of lemon and a couple of pinches of salt. Serve garnished with the yoghurt, pea shoots and a bit of mint, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Credits:

Food preparation, styling and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography and styling: Tasha Seccombe.

Indian Made Easy with Poetry Stores

6 Jun

An easy Indian spread from Amandip Uppal’s new book Indian Made Easy, available from Poetry Stores (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

This new book from Amandip Uppal, Indian Made Easy (available from Poetry Stores), is simply stunning. I love the lay-out, the fonts, the simplicity of the colours and the photographs too. Amandip also chose to do something interesting with her recipe lists, listing fresh ingredients together, spices together, and pantry ingredients together. It makes a lot of sense when you shop for the ingredients, or when you get everything together before cooking, but I found that some inexperienced cooks might become confused mid-cooking when an ingredient is mentioned but it does not appear in the order of the cooking process.

For my readers’s ease, I’ve rearranged the ingredients below in the order of how it will be used. Amandip’s recipes are really flavorful and beautiful to look at – an easy intro to the fabulous world of Indian cooking. Plate up on Poetry‘s beautiful new dark blue “lace” tableware.

Charred Broccoli with Chilli and Fennel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Charred Broccoli with Chilli and Fennel (serves 4)

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large red chilli, seeded (optional) and thinly sliced
  • 600 g broccoli spears, cut down the middle lengthways
  • salt, to taste
  • 2,5 cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne
  • toasted coconut, pomegranate seed and coriander (page 238, for garnish)
  • handful of coriander (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan over low-medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and fennel seeds and fry until the crackle and pop.
Add the garlic, chili and broccoli and fry until the broccoli is slightly charred in colour. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, until cook the through.
Uncover, season with salt to taste and add the ginger. Toss through and gently cook for 20 seconds.
Garnish with a scattering of tasted coconut, pomegranate seeds and coriander and more coriander leaves and stalks.

My notes: This recipes is also excellent served at room temperature.

Plain naan bread with spinach & mint yoghurt (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Spinach & Mint Yoghurt

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • a large pinch of dried mint
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 225 g cooked spinach, chopped
  • 225 g natural or Greek-style yoghurt
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled & grated (for garnish, optional)
  • fine slivers of red chili (for garnish, optional)

Put the mint leaves, dried mint, garlic, cumin seeds and salt in a mortar. Grind with the pestle to make a smooth paste. Place the spinach into the bowl, together with the mint paste and stir in the yoghurt. Garnish with the ginger and chilli, if liked.

Plain Naan (makes 7-8)

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 7 g sachet dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
  • 200 ml warm water
  • 400 g strong bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 2 tablespoons melted ghee or oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or melted butter, for brushing after baking

Mix the yeast, sugar and water. Stir well with a fork and leave for a few minutes. Place the flour, 2 tablespoons gee or oil and salt into a wide bowl and make a well in the centre.
Using one hand, pour in a little of the yeast mixture and with the other hand use a fork to gradually bring the flour in and mix together. Keep pouring a little water while mixing. Flour your hands and begin to knead and form a ball. Add enough water to make a soft, but not sticky dough and keep kneading for about 5 minutes, or until smooth pliable and soft. The consistency should bot be very soft or hard. Cover and rest for 20-25 minutes.
Using slightly oiled hands, divide the dough into about 8-10 equal sized balls. Place on a lightly oiled tray, leaving gaps in between each ball and over with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 20 minutes until the balls have doubled in size.
Preheat the grill to medium-high with a heavy based baking tray on the top shelf. Roll out the dough balls thinly and evenly. One by one, place the rolled out naan onto the baking tray, brush lightly with water and grill for about 1-2 minutes on both sides, or until lightly browned and puffed up. Lightly brush with ghee and serve hot.

My notes: The recipe didn’t state how/where to roll out the dough, so I did it on a floured working surface (some naan recipes call for an oiled surface). Be sure to also dust the baking tray lightly with flour to prevent the naan from sticking to it.

Classic lamb curry (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Classic Lamb Curry (serves 4)

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 small green chillies
  • 4 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 x 250 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, plus a large pinch for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 kg leg of lamb, chopped into 2,5 cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Greek-style yoghurt, whisked with 200 ml water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

In a blender or using a mortar and pestle, grind the onions, green chillies, ginger, garlic, oil and tinned tomatoes into a smooth paste.
Mix the paste with the garam masala, cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Place the lamb in a large bowl and cover in the paste, making sure all the pieces of lamb are well coated.
Put the lamb in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently until the meat is tender and the oil has separated.
Add the yoghurt, then cover and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly over a low-medium heat.
Remove from the heat, then sprinkle with the chopped coriander and a large pinch of ground cumin and serve.

My notes: I’ve found that the meat needed longer time to cook than mentioned 35-40 minutes. I cooked mine over a low heat, covered, stirring every now and then to prevent the bottom of the pot from turning too dark, for about 2,5 hours until it was really tender.

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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.)

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A Simple Italian Feast with Poetry Stores

1 May

A collection of Roman-style recipes from Eleonora Galasso’s new book As The Romans Do, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Rain or shine, summer or winter – Italian cooking wins my vote every single time. There’s just something generously simple about the food culture of Italy: not too many ingredients, comforting and robust, fragrant and delicious.

I recently had a look through Eleonora Galasso’s new book As The Romans Do: La Dolce Vita in a Cookbook – Classic and Reinvented Recipes from Rome, available from Poetry Stores. The book is positively vibrant, filled with familiar Italian favourites like saltimbocca, panzanella, semifreddo, various pastas and porchetta. She puts a playful twist on many of the recipes, accompanied with excellent photographs of the dishes as well as her beautiful surrounds in Rome. She’s an international Instagram sensation, so her pictures are stunning.

Here are three of Eleonora’s recipes – easy and accessible enough to make all year round. In the photographs you’ll see some of Poetry’s new black and gold tableware that made these vibrant dishes look even more delicious. Everything is available online and in store from Poetry – look out for the noir and petra ranges.

Pizette Rosse. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Mini pizzas with tomato sauce (pizzette rosse): makes about 40 pizette

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 250 g passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • small handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100  mozzarella, cut into cubes

For the dough:

  • 500 g strong flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 30 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare the dough, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the sugar. Dissolve the yeast into 250 ml lukewarm water, add it to the flour and sugar and mix together for 5 minutes. Add the butter, oil and salt and mix for a further 2-3 minutes to form a soft, sticky dough. Add up to 50 ml more water as needed, the goth should feel neither sticky not dry. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200 C. Mix the passata, basil, oil and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

To make the pizzette, roll out the risen dough on a clean, floured surface, to a 1 cm thickness. Press down on the surface of the dough with a small cup of glass of your choice to form your pizzette circles. Spoon a little of the passata over the centre of each pizetta, being sure to leave the edges empty so that you have that typical white/red contrast of a good margherita.

Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, adding a few mozzarella cubes to the top of each pizzetta halfway through cooking, until the cheese is bubbling and the pizzetta bases are crisp. Enjoy.

My notes: I prefer the pizzette a little thinner, so I roll out the dough to a thickness of 5 mm.

Panzanella. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Bread salad (panzanella): serves 4

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 g rustic bread loaf, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 4 firm tomatoes
  • 2 large red onions, peeled
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed and cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 15 pitted black olives, finely chopped
  • 40 g rocket leaves, finely chopped
  • small handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 20 ml white or red wine vinegar
  • 100 g pecorino romano cheese, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • salt & pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the bread pieces and fry, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes until crisp and golden all over. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave for 1-2 minutes, then drain, cut a cross at the stem end of each tomato and peel off the skins. Cut the tomatoes roughly into 5 mm cubes, discarding the seeds.

Slice the onions and place them in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry on a clean tea towel. In a salad bowl, mix together the sliced onions, chopped cucumber, celery, tomatoes and olives, then add the chopped rocket an basil leaves, pour over the vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt & pepper. Finish the panzanella by adding the toasted bread pieces and giving everything a final gentle mix to ensure the bread is covered in all the juices. This salad is delicious served immediately, or you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, letting it absorb the mix of aromatic flavours. Scatter over the pecorino before serving.

My notes: Peeling and deseeding the tomatoes are not always necessary – I love serving them unpeeled and with seeds. I also love serving the herbs and olives whole and not chopped.

Braised sausages with lentils, leeks & fennel. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Braised sausages with lentils, leeks & fennel: serves 4

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed, leanend and finely sliced lengthways
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into rough strips
  • 400 pork sausages
  • 250 Castelluccio or Puy lentils
  • 350 ml vegetable stock
  • 10 g fennel seeds
  • small handful of chives, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the leek and fry for 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the fennel and sausages and cook for 5 minutes until the sausages are browned on all sides.

Add the lentils to the pan and pour over the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils have softened and the sausages are cooking through. Divide the lentils and sausages between plates and scatter over the fennel seeds and chopped chives to finish. Serve.

My notes: I used black lentils.

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Lentil salad with roasted vegetables, lemon & goats cheese

20 Mar

An earthy salad of lentils, roasted seasonal veggies, chunks of creamy goats cheese, lemon rind and parsley (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

When I heard the word “lentils” when I was in my twenties, I immediately associated it with people who go over-the-top on health foods. Lentils sounded boring, brown and tasteless. My mother never cooked it for us as kids, so I had no frame of reference in terms of moorish lentil dishes at all. I saw lentils only as a poor substitute for meat – like a lentil patty on a burger bun. How horrible.

Then I discovered dhal – an Indian lentil side dish with as much flavour as the best meat curry that you’ll ever have (if it’s proper dhal). Glorious dhal, with a side of naan bread and lots of extra coriander leaves. It’s a close contender for my “last meal” choice – after my first choice of fresh ciabatta with extra virgin olive oil and a nugget of extra mature gouda.

So then I began experimenting with lentil soup, lentil bobotie en even lentil salad. As Autumn settled into Stellenbosch with its magnificently milder days and cooler nights, I longed for food that is more nourishing than a crisp, leafy salad. That is how my earthy lentil salad was born.

I absolutely love roasted vegetable (above steamed, boiled or fried). Together, the lentils and the veg and the goats cheese make for a super satisfying, wholesome and nourishing meal. Add glugs of extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste and serve with toasted pine nuts – the perfect meatless Monday dish or the perfect side dish to your larger feast. It’s going to be on my go-to list all Autumn and Winter long.

Note: Always remember that vegetables will shrink in the oven when roasted. Start with more than you think you’ll need.

For the lentils: (serves 4 as a main meal)

  • 250 g brown lentils (half a packet)
  • water, to cover
  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice and finely grated rind of a medium lemon
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful parsley, chopped

Method: Place lentils in a large pot and cover with cold water (about 5 cm above the lentils). Cook for about 30 minutes until tender, then drain and rinse well. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, then add the olive oil, lemon juice & rind and season generously with salt & pepper. Add the parsley and stir well.

For the roasted vegetables:

  • an assortment of your favourite vegetables, peeled and cut into bite size chunks (I’ve used beetroot, carrots, brussels sprout and leeks – enough to fill a standard roasting tray in a single layer)
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method: Roast at 220 C for 30 minutes or until golden brown and tender.

To assemble:

  • 100g plain goats cheese (chevin)
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted
  • more parsley to scatter over

Method: Add the roasted veg to the cooked lentils, add chunks of goats cheese, then scatter with more parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Creamy roasted butternut soup with spicy roasted seeds

27 Feb

Thick, roasted butternut soup with spicy roasted seeds and a drizzle of fresh cream (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

When I was a student, there used to be a place in Church Street called Spice Café that served various soups daily with a slice of bread of your choice. They used to make the most delicious butternut soup – extra thick, super smooth and very creamy. I used to order two bowls in one sitting, my gluttonous nature taking charge.

Although butternut soup has become something of a retro classic (even hated by some), it remains one of the most comforting meals to eat. There’s a school of soup makers that relishes the simplicity of the-two-ingredient-butternut-soup (butternut and cream), but sometimes that can resemble baby food. I prefer a soup made with roasted sliced young butternut, scattered with brown sugar, cinnamon & cumin. I add an onion and a small stick of celery, some good quality stock and fresh cream. If you’re in the mood for a special touch, reserve the seeds of the butternut and roast them with more spices to create a delicious crunchy topping.

Spicy roasted pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top of your roasted butternut soup (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Here’s to the ultimate thick butternut soup – such a meatless Monday favourite. Enjoy!

Ingredients for soup: (serves 4)

  • 1-1,2 kg young butternut, peeled & sliced into 1 cm thick slices (reserve seeds and keep aside)
  • 1 onion, peeled & quartered
  • 1 stick celery, sliced
  • 30-45 ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml ground cinnamon
  • 2,5 ml ground cumin
  • 15-30 ml soft brown sugar
  • 375 ml warm chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 125 ml cream

Pre-heat oven to 220 C. Arrange the slices of butternut , onion and celery on a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, preferably in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil then season with salt & pepper, cinnamon, cumin and brown sugar. Roast for 30-45 minutes until the edges start to caramelize and the butternut is tender.

Place the roasted veg plus all the roasting juices in a deep medium size pot, then add the stock and cream. Use a stick blender and process to a very smooth pulp. Adjust seasoning and add more stock or cream, if necessary. Reheat just before serving.

Tip: If you prefer an ultra smooth texture, push the soup through a fine sieve after blending.

For the roasted seeds:

  • reserved seeds from your butternut (see above)
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt flakes
  • ground black pepper
  • 2,5 ml paprika
  • 2,5 ml dried thyme
  • 2,5 ml smoked chilli flakes

Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Remove most of the stringy bits from the seeds, then rinse them under cold running water. Drain well and pat dry. Arrange the seeds on a baking tray, then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper, then scatter with paprika, thyme & chilli flakes. Roast in the oven for 10-15  minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Let it cool on the tray, then store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

To serve:

Serve the soup in bowls with a swirl of cream, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some toasted seeds.

Spicy dhal with naan bread

21 Feb

Spicy dhal with fresh coriander and warm naan bread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Few smells bring more comfort than that of a fragrant curry – not only in colder months but also at the height of summer. Curry doesn’t have to be expensive and complicated though, and it also doesn’t need to be meaty.

This simple spicy dhal recipe is absolutely delightful. If you have most of the spices in your cupboard, you’d be amazed at how cheap this hearty meal will work out. If you’ve never had dhal before, see it as a warm “dip” for naan bread. It is comfort food to the max.

This recipe is by far my favourite starter or side dish when I’m serving Indian food.

Tip: To turn this recipe into a heartwarming soup, add a cup or two of your favourite warmed stock to the finished dhal. Blitz with a stick blender for a smoother result (optional). Adjust seasoning and serve in mugs, topped with a dollop of plain yoghurt.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • about 400 g red lentils
  • 10 ml turmeric
  • 60 ml butter
  • 15-20 ml cumin seeds
  • 15-20 ml garam masala
  • 10 ml ground coriander
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 30 ml fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1-2 small fresh green chillies, finely sliced (leave seeds in for a more spicy result)
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh coriander leaves (to serve)

Method:

  1. Place the lentils and turmeric in a saucepan and cover with enough cold water to come to around 5cm above their surface (no salt added yet). Bring to the boil, then stir in the turmeric. Reduce to a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Cover partly and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meantime, in a small frying pan, dry-fry the cumin seeds over a medium heat until toasted and fragrant (just 1-2 minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Melt half the butter in the same frying pan and gently fry the chopped onion, garlic, chilli and the grated ginger. Once the mixture is golden, mix in the toasted cumin seeds, garam masala and ground coriander. Remove from the heat.
  4. Give the lentils a good stir. They should have the consistency of porridge – thicker than soup and looser than hummus. Add more water as necessary and mix in your aromatic fried mixture. Season to taste with salt & pepper, then stir in the remaining half of the butter.
  5. Serve with naan bread, topped with fresh coriander leaves, or with a side of basmati rice and greens.

For the naan bread:

  • 5 ml instant yeast
  • 60 ml warm water
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 300 g (2 cups) white bread flour
  • 10 ml cumin seeds or fennel seeds
  • 5 ml salt
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 15 ml vegetable oil
  • 60 ml yoghurt
  • 60 ml milk
  • clarified butter, for brushing

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water. Stir in the sugar and leave it in a warm place for five minutes until the yeast is covered with froth.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, seeds, salt and baking powder. Stir in the oil, yoghurt and milk, then stir in the activated yeast mixture. Mix well and knead until you have a soft, pliable dough (add a little more water if you need to). It should take about ten minutes.
  3. Place the dough in a mixing bowl, cover it with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 20-30 minutes.
  4. When doubled in size, divide the dough into 4 balls and place on a floured surface or board. Roll each into a long oval shape about 0.5cm thick. Don’t roll them out too thinly. Toast in a dry non-stick pan for 5-7 minutes, turning them over half-way (or bake in a hot oven at 220 C for about 8 minutes). They are ready when they have puffed up and are golden on the outside.
  5. Brush with warm clarified butter as soon as they are cooked. Serve immediately.

Beetroot salad with marinated tomatoes and goats cheese

10 Jan

The most colourful salad that you can imagine: shaved beetroot with marinated tomatoes and goats cheese (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few weeks ago I had a lovely wine tasting at Babylonstoren. They serve the most delightful snack platters at their tasting room, packed with fantastic fresh produce from their breathtaking, abundant gardens as well as a selection of locally sourced charcuterie and cheeses. It’s totally worth a visit and great value for money.

One of the most memorable items on these snack platters was a jar of marinated baby tomatoes. I assumed that they were slow roasted because of the intense flavour, but after enquiring about them the management confided that they were simply marinated overnight in a mixture of lots of red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh herbs.

I decided to give it a go at home, and after marinating a jar overnight I served it with a few greens, some shaved multicoloured raw beetroot and a few slices of crottin (goats cheese). What a magnificently colourful picture! I loved the crunchy, earthiness of the beetroot, the tang of the crottin and the bursting sweetness of the tomatoes. Such a stunning looking salad for summer entertaining.

Marinated rosa tomatoes with red wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for the marinated tomatoes: (serves 4)

  • about 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a sprig of rosemary, stalk removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely grated (optional)
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Place the tomatoes, rosemary and garlic in a 500g glass jar. Add the vinegar and oil and season with salt & pepper. Close the jar and tilt it over to mix all the ingredients. Refrigerate overnight to marinate (or for at least 6 hours).

For the salad: (serves 4)

  • a handful green leaves, washed
  • a few baby beets, peeled & finely sliced/shaved (mandolin cutter works best)
  • a few radishes, finely shaved
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • a chunk of crottin (goats cheese), sliced
  • one batch of marinated tomatoes (see above)
  • a handful mixed micro herbs (optional)

Method:

Arrange the leaves, beets, radishes, red onion, crottin and tomatoes on a salad platter or on individual plates. Top with micro herbs and dress with the tomato marinade. Serve immediately.

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Goats cheese, green fig & walnut log

21 Dec

Make your own festive cheese roll with chunks of green fig and nuts (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There’s no easier way to entertain than with cheese and crackers – perfect for a lazy glass of wine, a simple starter or even an elegant dessert. Although there’s nothing wrong with just unwrapping a few blocks of your favourite cheese and serving them on a platter, this recipe goes the extra mile and delivers something beautifully tasty that looks like a lot more effort than it actually is (always a good thing).

If you love blue cheese, goats cheese and green figs, this simple recipe will have you longing for more opportunities to entertain friends and family. The mixture firms up quickly in the fridge so you don’t need hours to prepare. A stunner for special occasions like Christmas, Easter and everything in-between.

Preparation time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour for chilling
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 200 g creamy blue cheese (gorgonzola, Simonzola or similar)
  • 100 g plain, soft goats cheese log (chevin)
  • 2-3 preserved green figs in syrup, drained and cut into small chunks
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) brandy
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 50 g shelled walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, for coating on the outside (I’ve used a mixture of black & white, lightly toasted)
  • melba toast, for serving (or crackers of your choice)
  • fresh fruit and/or preserves, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together the blue cheese, goats cheese, figs, brandy, nutmeg and walnuts using a wooden spoon.
  2. Spoon the chunky mixture onto a sheet of grease-proof baking paper and carefully roll into a neat sausage shape. Place in the fridge to firm up until ready to serve – at least 1 hour.
  3. Spread the sesame seeds out in a thin layer on a large plate. When ready to serve, unroll the cheese log from the wrapping paper, then roll it in the sesame seeds to cover all sides. Place on a serving board and serve immediately with melba toast or crackers, fresh fruit and preserves.

Vietnamese chicken & vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce

19 Dec

Fresh, crunchy, beautiful to look at and oh-so-delicious Vietnamese spring rolls (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If you have never eaten these translucent rolls before, you just have to give it a try. Unlike deep-fried Chinese spring rolls, Vietnamese-style spring rolls are made with water-soaked rice paper. They are absolutely beautiful to look at and such a joy to eat: tender and moist on the outside (yes, it’s a weird kind of texture), packed with all the freshness that resembles Vietnamese cuisine on the inside.

But the star of this show is the peanut sauce – a deeply savoury, complex dip that will make you fall in love with it, bite by bite. This sauce is so good that I can eat it with a spoon. So much more than “just” a peanut sauce.

Note: Although Asian pantry ingredients might not be cheap, they go a very long way. Invest in these few pantry ingredients (like hoisin sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce) and you’ll be able to cook up some magic for quite a few meals.

For the peanut sauce:

  • 1 cup unflavoured, natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup good quality soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
  • 5-10 ml fish sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 medium size garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth (or give it some elbow grease with a wooden spoon). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary – it should be deeply savoury, nutty and a little sweet and sour all in one.

For the spring rolls: (serves 4-6 as a starter)

  • 16 Vietnamese-style large rice paper rounds
  • water, for soaking
  • 1 baby red cabbage, finely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely julienned
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely julienned
  • 2 bunches spring onions, finely sliced
  • a few red chillies, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 punnet mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, steamed/grilled and shredded with 2 forks
  • 1 small bunch fine bean sprouts (optional)

Method:

  1. Prep all the ingredients according to the list, then place each one separately in bowls in the correct order, as listed, from left to right (place about 5cm deep clean room temperature water in a bowl that is wider than the surface of the rice paper). Place a clean damp folded tea towel next to the water bowl on a clean work surface.
  2. Soak one rice paper at a time for about 30 seconds or until just soft. Remove from the water, then place on the tea towel to drain slightly while you fill it.
  3. Place a small amount of cabbage, carrots, cucumber, spring onions, chilli, mint, basil, coriander, chicken and sprouts horizontally in the middle of the soaked paper. Carefully but firmly fold over the bottom of the paper, then the sides, then roll it up to form a stuffed roll. Set aside and cover with a damp clean tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to serve (not more than 2 hours, preferably) or serve immediately with the peanut dipping sauce.

Note: “Julienned” vegetables is a style of cutting that resembles very fine strips. If you have trouble doing this, rather use a coarse grater to produce similar strips in long strands.

And: Omit the chicken for a just-as-good vegetarian option.

Some of the exotic ingredients for my spring rolls. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

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