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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.

A Portuguese Summer Feast with Poetry Stores

29 Nov

Portuguese feast

Piri-piri chicken, roasted sweet potato salad and fig ice cream from the book “My Portuguese Feast” by Mimi Jardim (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

portuguese-feastOne of the most beautiful recipe books on the shelves this festive season is Mimi Jardim’s My Portuguese Feast – Recipes From The Heart, available from Poetry stores. Mimi is a living legend when it comes to Portuguese cooking in SA: she has run her own cooking school for over 50 years and is also a representative of the Nando’s restaurant chain. Her book is a tribute to her years of cooking, teaching, loving, exploring and sharing. “It highlights the flavours and tastes of Portuguese food and showcases the way the Portuguese cook – with their hearts and their souls, and not always in exact proportions!”

Here is a splendid Portuguese summer feast out of Mimi’s book, complete with the most beautiful, brand new Portuguese homeware available from Poetry stores. You will agree that the tableware and linen in the photographs are some of the most beautiful ranges that Poetry has ever stocked and a must for your festive table this season. Happy cooking!

Roasted sweet potato salad

Roasted sweet potato salad with goats cheese and pomegranate seeds (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Roasted sweet potato salad (serves 4)

  • 150 g whole blanched almonds
  • 125 ml olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • 1 kg sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 125 ml orange juice
  • salt & pepper
  • about 100 g baby spinach
  • about 100 g rocket
  • 250 g goats cheese
  • 250 ml pomegranate seeds
  • orange zest, to garnish

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the almonds in a roasting pan and drizzle with some of the olive oil and coarse salt. Roast for 5 minutes, turning then2-3 times. Remove from the oven and drain the almonds on paper towel. Reduce oven temp to 180 C. Place the sweet potato in a baking dish, add the red onions, garlic, cinnamon and orange juice and drizzle with a little more of the olive oil. Season to taste and salt and pepper and mix well. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring twice. Line a salad bowl with baby spinach and rocket. Top with roasted sweet potatoes and pour over any juices from the baking dish. Crumble over the cheese, sprinkle with the roasted almonds and garnish with pomegranate jewels. Drizzle with the last of the olive oil, sprinkle with orange zest and serve.

Portuguese Feast chicken

Raymond’s Piri-piri chicken (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Raymond’s Travelling Piri-Piri Chicken (serves 4-6)

  • 1 medium-sized (1-1,2kg) chicken
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 100 G soft butter
  • whole piri-piri chillies, crushed (use 3-5 for medium and 5-10 for hot)
  • 10 ml lemon juice
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 ml paprika
  • 12,5 ml olive oil
  • sprigs rosemay and thyme tied together to form a brush

For the sauce:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 20 ml butter (plus 12,5 ml olive oil, optional)
  • piri-piri chillies (or peri-peri sauce) to taste
  • juice of hal a lemon
  • 5 ml chopped parsley

Method:

Rinse and dry the chicken and spatchcock it (cut open through the back and flatten it). Cut slashes into the flesh of the thick parts of the chicken. Make a paste of the remaining ingredients (other than the rosemary and thyme and the sauce ingredients) and rub it over the inside and outside of the chicken. Allow to marinate for 2 hours. Grill of braai the chicken, turning regularly and using the rosemary and thyme brush to baste it with the marinade/paste every time it is turned. Serve with the sauce.

To make the sauce, fry the garlic cloves in the butter. Add the piri-piri chillies or sauce, lemon juice and parsley. Remove the garlic and serve.

Portuguese Feast ice cream

Port, peri-peri & fig ice cream loaf cake with fresh figs and almond slivers (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Peri-Peri, Port & Fig Ice Cream (serves 6-8)

  • 10 moist dried figs
  • 40 g almonds, toasted
  • 60 ml honey, plus extra to garnish
  • 50 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 20 ml port
  • 15 ml Nando’s Hot Peri-Peri Sauce
  • 1 x 2 liter tub soft vanilla ice cream
  • 100 ml chocolate morsels or grated chocolate
  • toasted flaked almonds, to serve
  • ground cinnamon, to serve

Method:

Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and line with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer while you prepare the mixture. Pulse figs and almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Dissolve the honey in the lemon juice, then add the port, peri-peri sauce, figs and almonds. Fold into the ice cream, working quickly so that it doesn’t melt. Fold into the chocolate, pour the mixture into the prepared pan and freeze for 24 hours. Unmould the dessert onto a serving platter. Drizzle it with honey and sprinkle with almonds and cinnamon. Serve immediately.

Get Mimi Jardim’s My Portuguese Feast – Recipes From The Heart, available online from Poetry stores at R385.

All homeware, linen, cutlery, glassware and wooden boards available from Poetry Stores.

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Baked tomatoes with feta, garlic and thyme

10 Nov

Baked tomatoes with feta, garlic, thyme (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Baked tomatoes with feta, garlic, thyme (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

It’s already November and I’m revisiting a lot of my favourite side dish recipes to go with all the upcoming al fresco celebrations.

A few years ago, Barbara Joubert published this phenomenal recipe via Sarie Kos. It is a baking tray filled with tomatoes, whole feta slabs, onions and basil. I first had it at a friend’s house and it was one of the most popular dishes at her braai. I’ve since made it many times at my house, substituting the basil for thyme and adding lots of garlic. It smells like heaven, it looks brilliant and it tastes fantastic – one of those minimal effort, big result recipes. Serve as a side dish, or serve along with freshly baked bread as a starter.

I also add a little sugar to my tomatoes to create an extra caramelized result. If you’ve never baked feta before, get ready for a really great taste and texture sensation.

Ripe tomatoes are essential for the intense flavour of this dish (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ripe tomatoes are essential for the intense flavour of this dish (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients:

  • 3 large tomatoes, halved horizontally
  • about 300g cherry/rosa tomatoes on the vine
  • 400 g feta cheese
  • 1 whole head of garlic, halved horizontally
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • salt & pepper
  • 10-15 ml sugar
  • about 60-80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • squeeze of a lemon

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Arrange the large tomatoes cut-side-up on the tray, then add the cherry tomatoes, feta, garlic and thyme. Season well with salt & pepper, sprinkle the tomatoes with sugar, then drizzle all over with olive oil and a little lemon juice.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes until the feta and garlic is golden.
  4. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with more olive oil if served with bread.

Dhal coconut curry with aubergine & spinach

23 Sep

A hearty pot of dhal coconut curry with aubergine, spinach and cashews - rich and fragrant.

A hearty pot of dhal coconut curry with aubergine, spinach and cashews – rich and fragrant.

A few weeks ago I was invited to take part in an organic, seasonal, vegetarian recipe challenge by Faithful to Nature – a natural, organic online retailer. Although I love organic fresh produce, I’m not a health shop regular and not clued up in the least of what is available in the organic pantry department. This was an eye-opening experience to say the least!

In order to find ideas and put together my online order, I browsed the Faithful to Nature site. It is easy to use and has a tremendous array of organic products but also a wide range of wheat free, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, paleo and banting products. Not to mention the huge range of lifestyle, beauty, home and kids sections.

Staying with what I know and love, I decided to base my recipe on organic red lentils and organic coconut milk. I cook spicy Indian-style dhal at home often, and I’ll give my left arm for a good coconut-based curry anyday. To keep my curry seasonal, I added some of my favourite fresh organic ingredients: red onion, aubergine and baby spinach – all three such versatile staples. And to add a final zing to the finished product, I made a seasonal sweet sambal with organic pineapple, red onion, tomato and coriander – perfect with the hearty dhal. The curry is mild enough to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, fragrant and rich with pieces of aubergine that just melts in your mouth. End it off with a handful of organic raw cashew nuts and serve with fluffy organic basmati rice.

This dish won’t only excite vegetarians, but meat eaters as well. The dhal visually resembles mince meat, almost to the point where I want to buy a loaf of white bread and make a curry bunny. The coconut milk lends a delicate sweetness to the curry and the nuts add the necessary texture. Packed with proteïen, iron and flavour, it’s a delicious meal for the whole family.

I also learned an important lesson: although some of the organic pantry ingredients might seem a little pricey, you’ll be surprised to see how much money you’ll “save” by not including expensive meat cuts into your meal. Use that extra budget to make sure you buy the best organic pantry staples and spoil yourself with extras like nuts and chocolate spreads from Faithful to Nature – perfect for an after-dinner treat.

Ingredients for the curry:

  • 500 g organic red lentils
  • 45 ml coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 large aubergine, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a 5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 15 ml mild curry powder
  • 15 ml garam masala
  • 10 ml ground coriander
  • 10 ml ground turmeric
  • 2 cans organic coconut milk
  • salt to taste
  • a small bunch of baby spinach
  • a handful of cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • a handful of coriander, to serve (optional)
  • cooked basmati rice, to serve

Method:

  1. Rinse the lentils, then place them in a large pot and cover with water (about 5 cm above the lentils). Bring to a boil, then cook until just tender – about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Set aside.
  2. In a large wide pan or pot, heat the oil over high heat. Fry the onions and aubergines until golden brown, then add the garlic, ginger and spices.
  3. Fry for another 2 minutes, stirring, then add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then add the cooked lentils and stir to mix. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then season generously with salt (to taste).
  4. Remove from the heat, then stir in the baby spinach and top with the cashews. Serve hot with basmati rice (and coriander leaves, optionally).

For the sambal:

  • 2 large slices of organic pineapple, diced
  • 250 g organic cherry/rosa tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 organic red onion, finely chopped
  • a handful of organic coriander leaves, chopped
  • a squeeze of organic lemon juice
  • a small pinch of salt

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together, then serve at once with the curry.

*For organic fresh produce in the Stellenbosch area, try the following suppliers:

Arancini with aioli

20 Jun

Golden deep tried stuffed nuggets of risotto served with garlic mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Golden deep-fried stuffed nuggets of risotto served with garlic mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The Italians have a wonderful way of using up leftover risotto. They shape the cold rice mixture into balls, stuff the centres with cheese, cover the balls with breadcrumbs and deep-fry the lot to make arancini.

These little golden nuggets are just delightful. I prefer to use smoked mozzarella for the centres and serve the arancini with thick homemade garlic mayonnaise. It’s a great snack for welcoming guests at your festive dinner party this season, because you can prep them beforehand and drop them in the hot oil just before serving.

If you’d love to serve them on a flat board or slate tile, pipe some mayo on the board and place the arancini on the mayo to prevent them from rolling off.

One warning though: these are super addictive! Prepare to eat more than you think you will.

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a snack/canapé)

  • about 2 cups prepared left-over risotto, cooled (any flavour will do, but I love using saffron risotto or wild mushrooms risotto)
  • 100 g smoked mozzarella, cubed 1 x 1 cm
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 750 ml canola oil
  1. Take a small tablespoon of cold risotto and fill it with a cube of mozzarella. Shape the risotto to cover the cheese and roll it into a neat ball (cold risotto is easier to shape). Continue until all the risotto is used.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with some salt & pepper. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl, and the eggs in another.
  3. Dip each risotto ball into the seasoned flour, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs, covering it all over. Place on a clean plate and repeat.
  4. Heat the oil to about 180 C, then fry batches of arancini until golden all over – about 3 minutes.
  5. Serve with aioli.

For the aioli:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 30 ml lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • about 180-250 ml canola oil

In a blender or food processor, add the yolks, garlic, mustard and lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper then blend well. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated and thick and creamy. Transfer to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Tip: Use a small plastic bag to pipe blobs of aioli onto a serving board, then “stick” the arancini onto each piped blob to keep from rolling around.

Credits:

Recipe, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & styling: Tasha Seccombe

This recipe has been featured on The Pretty Blog.

 

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