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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.
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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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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.
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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:

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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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White anchovy, asparagus & parmesan salad

27 May

White anchovy salad with asparagus & parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

White anchovy salad with asparagus & parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’ve always loved dark little anchovy fillets in oil, salty as hell with a strong fishy flavour. But last year I discovered white anchovy fillets – larger, silky in texture, tender, more delicate in flavour. These days you can buy them “ready for tapas”, marinated in a fantastic garlic & herb vinaigrette that is good enough to use as is over bruschetta or salad.

This white anchovy salad is such a simple yet fabulous starter. I came across fresh white asparagus and used it here because of its strange pale beauty, although you can easily substitute with regular green asparagus.

Tip: To create a slightly more bulky main course, top with softly poached eggs and serve with toasted bruschetta.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a side dish or starter)

  • a medium/large bunch of rocket leaves
  • a handful of white or green asparagus, poached in water (or grilled) for 1-2 minutes
  • about a cup of white anchovy fillets in garlic & herb vinaigrette (reserve liquid for dressing)
  • chunky shaved parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh lemon wedges

Method:

  1. On a large salad platter, arrange the rocket leaves, cooked asparagus, anchovy fillets and parmesan cheese. Season well with salt & pepper, then drizzle with the anchovy vinaigrette.
  2. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and (optionally) toasted ciabatta.

Credits:

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

Photography & styling: Tasha Seccombe

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Jerusalem hummus

7 Jan

Creamy hummus with olive oil, pine nuts, parsley & crushed olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Creamy hummus with olive oil, pine nuts, parsley & crushed olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’ve made many, many batches of hummus in my life. I’ve searched for the best authentic recipes, but I’ve also devised shortcuts for quick fixes.

This recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book “Jerusalem” as featured on the New York Times. It is one of the best recipes for hummus that I’ve ever come across, and the way he serves it (with crushed olives, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and olive oil) is absolutely exquisite. When you have a bowl of hummus like this in front of you with fresh bread, it becomes a full meal, a celebration of “the simple feast”.

I don’t add as much tahini (Yotam uses 1 cup of tahini for a batch of 250g dried chickpeas), but I firmly believe that adding water and lots of lemon juice to get the right texture works a lot better than adding olive oil.  Also, I process the hummus for at least 5 minutes in my processor to create a super creamy result – you shouldn’t have any gritty pieces left at all. Scrape down the sides a couple of times and continue to process. Check for a change in colour from medium sand-beige to light straw.

Note: The chickpeas need to soak overnight, so remember to start preparing a day in advance.

Ingredients: (makes about 3 cups)

  • 250 g (1 ¼ cups) dried chickpeas
  • 5 ml baking soda
  • 750 ml (3 cups) water, for soaking
  • 1,5 liters (6 cups) water, for cooking
  • 5 ml baking soda
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) tahini paste
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 100 ml ice-cold water
  • olive oil, toasted pine nuts, parsley & olives, for serving

Method:

  1. Put chickpeas & 5 ml baking soda in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak overnight (or for at least 6 hours).
  2. The next day, drain chickpeas and place in a medium pot with 1,5 liters of fresh cold water and 5 ml baking soda over high heat. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any foam & skins that float to the surface and cook for about 45 min or until they are very soft but not falling apart.
  3. Drain chickpeas and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then place in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Add tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Slowly drizzle in ice water and allow it to mix for about 3-5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste, almost as loose as soft serve ice cream. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Transfer hummus to a bowl, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and crushed olives (and fresh bread to dip). Store in the fridge, covered.

Credits:

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

Photography, food styling & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

 

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Avo & blueberry salad with spinach, fennel & feta

6 Jan

Avo blueberry salad

Superfood salad of avocado, blueberries, baby spinach and fennel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Summer is reigning supreme in the Cape Winelands, with blazing hot weather that smells like wine tasting and picnics. I’m always looking for fresh salad ideas, especially when entertaining friends and family at home. This low carb salad contains a couple of superfoods and is so very satisfying to eat.

Blueberries make an excellent salad ingredient because of their dramatic colour and tartly sweet nature. They pop in your mouth and release their magic juices that work so well with the creaminess of ripe avo and the crunch of sliced fennel and fresh baby spinach. Add the salty zing of crumbled feta and you don’t need much else to make a perfect summer meal.

I made a purple salad dressing in my pestle & mortar using blueberries, olive oil & lemon juice, crushing the skins to release their colour.

Serve this as a side salad or as a fabulous light lunch on its own.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a light meal)

  • 200 g baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, skins & pips removed
  • 1 cup of blueberries (set a few aside for the dressing)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, washed and finely sliced
  • 1-2 rounds of feta, crumbled
  • some black sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
  • for the dressing:
    • 5-6 blueberries
    • 45 ml olive oil
    • 15 ml lemon juice
    • salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Arrange the spinach leaves on a wide, large platter (not a deep bowl), then arrange the avo, blueberries, fennel & feta on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  2. To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a pestle & mortar and pound to a pulp, creating a pink emulsion. Season well with salt & pepper, then drizzle all over the salad.
  3. Serve at once.

Credits:

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

Photography & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

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Grilled asparagus & green bean salad with parmesan & cashews

11 Jul

Grilled asparagus salad with cashew nuts, parmesan & green beans (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Grilled asparagus salad with cashew nuts, parmesan & green beans (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few weeks ago, my parents came down to Stellenbosch from Keurbooms for a quick visit. My dad was scheduled to see a specialist about a double knee replacement (ouch), and it gave all of us a nice excuse to spend some quality time with the family.

We got together at my youngest brother Dirkie’s farmhouse cottage, where he and his partner Frans made us the most amazing lunch: pork ribs on an open fire rotisserie, grilled asparagus & fennel salad, bacon & mushroom quiche, and ending off with homemade coffee & brandy ice-cream with malva pudding. We ate like kings!

Dirkie told me that his idea for the salad came from Guy Fieri’s TV show, and that he was winging it that day from memory. It was absolutely magnificent. I wanted to make it for my blog, but couldn’t find fresh fennel on the day of the shoot. I substituted it with green beans, and the result was just as good.

This is my version of this delicious, luscious, green salad. Use whichever greens you love and substitute with any type of nuts that you prefer. Dirkie used pine nuts for his salad, but I find that toasted cashews make for a fantastic alternative. To bulk it up as a main meal, add a few soft boiled egg wedges. What a feast!

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 15-30 ml olive oil
  • one bunch of green asparagus, trimmed if necessary
  • one bunch of fine green beans, trimmed (or one bunch of baby fennel, sliced in quarters lengthways)
  • salt & pepper
  • a bunch of rocket and/or watercress leaves, washed & drained
  • 100g toasted cashew nuts
  • shaved parmesan cheese (about 25-35g)
  • for the dressing:
    • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
    • 1 knob of fresh ginger, finely grated (optional)
    • 10 ml wholegrain mustard
    • 30 ml lemon juice
    • 90 ml extra virgin olive oil
    • 30 ml finely grated parmesan cheese
    • salt & pepper

Method:

  1.  Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat, then fry the asparagus & beans in batches for just a minute or two until they get some colour, but remain crunchy. Season well with salt & pepper, then remove from the heat and transfer to a cool plate.
  2. On a large platter, arrange the rocket/watercress, then top with the grilled veg and toasted cashews.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler to shave parmesan shavings on top.
  4. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a glass jar (shake vigorously with the lid covered), then drizzle all over the salad. Serve immediately.

Credits:

Text, recipe, food preparation & food styling: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & prop styling : Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

This post was originally produced for The Pretty Blog.

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