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The Pinotage Burger (with cranberry sauce, brie en braai-spiced fried onions)

8 Oct

The Pinotage Burger, from bottom to top: buttered toasted bun, mayo, lettuce, pickles, 200g beef patty, melted brie, cranberry Pinotage sauce, crispy braai-spiced fried onions, and the top layer of buttered toasted bun. Heaven!

National Pinotage Day is around the corner (12 October) and I’ve teamed up with Middelvlei Wine Estate to bring you the definitive Pinotage Burger to pair with this proudly South African cultivar. Pinotage pairs very well with meat, especially spiced meat like boerewors, lamb, game and even mild curries. In addition, it also pairs well with an added sweeter taste profile like chutney or cranberry jam, so the combination of sweet and salty and spice works like a dream.

When I make burgers at home, I go all out. The sesame bun needs to be buttered and toasted on the inside, the patty needs to be the right size for the bun, the meat should be crusty on the outside and still juicy in the middle and you need all the toppings – mayo, lettuce, pickles (for some sweet-and-sour crunch), some type of cheese (melted, of course) and a decent amount of sauce or relish to avoid any kind of dryness. I’ve chosen my favourite 200 g beef steak patty, pan fried in olive oil to go with slices of melted brie, a 2-ingredient easy cranberry sauce made with Pinotage and some super crunchy, salty, deep fried onion rings spiced with store-bought braai spice! The result is an intensely satisfying burger – rich in flavour and texture, perfectly paired with one of the best Pinotages out there: Middelvlei’s superb Momberg Pinotage 2018. Pinotage was the first wine bottled under the Middelvlei label. It is therefore very fitting that this commemorative, limited edition wine was made from Pinotage in tribute to the 100 years that the estate has been part of the Momberg family.

I urge you to try this recipe – you’ll be richly rewarded!

The cranberry sauce is so easy to make with only 2 ingredients, and it really brings the Pinotage element home.

For the crispy onions: (serves 4)

2 onions, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 cups milk, for soaking
1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons of your favourite braai spice mix
canola oil, for frying

For the cranberry sauce:

100 g dried cranberries
125 ml Pinotage

For the burgers:

4 hamburger buns with sesame, sliced open and buttered
olive oil, for frying
4 x 200 g beef burger patties
a few tablespoons mayonnaise
a few fresh lettuce leaves
some sliced cucumber/gherkin pickles
125 g brie, sliced

Method:

Make the onions: Place the onions and the milk in a mixing bowl and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes (in the meantime, get on with the cranberry sauce below). Place the flour and braai spice in a bowl and mix well. Heat the oil (about 3-4 cm deep) in a pot over medium heat – test a strand of onion to see if it sizzles. Now take the onions out of the milk and drop batches of it directly into the spiced flour, coating it all over, then into the oil. Fry in batched until golden brown, drain on kitchen paper and set aside until ready to serve with the burgers.

Make the sauce: Place the cranberries and wine in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process to a smooth pulp, adding more wine if you prefer a looser result. Set aside.

Assemble the burgers: Toast the buns in a hot pan on the buttered sides, then place on serving plates. Spread the bottoms of the buns with mayonnaise and top with lettuce and pickles. Fry the patties in the olive oil until brown but still juicy, placing the sliced brie on top of each patty for the last minute and covering the pan so that the cheese can melt. Place the cheese-covered patties on top of each prepared burger bun bottom, then top with the cranberry sauce and fried onions. Serve at once.

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#SupportStellenbosch: a weekend with Kunjani, Fat Butcher, Mason Farming, Koelenhof, Villiera, Joostenberg and Knorhoek

20 Sep

The Stellenbosch hospitality and tourism communities have reopened with wide open arms after a devastating few months due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown in South Africa. Most of these establishments are now dependent on the support of locals, which will hopefully carry them through the following few months towards a brighter future. Visit Stellenbosch has come up with a fresh new rewards campaign – #SupportStellenbosch – aiming to stimulate our tourism economy and incentivise our residents to love where they live and experience local. The Support Stellenbosch campaign was specifically designed to call on residents to support local businesses, experience Stellenbosch as tourists and inspire their networks to discover what Stellenbosch has to offer, in times of COVID-19 and beyond.

Additionally, they’ve started the Support Stellenbosch Restaurant Rewards Programme, where restaurant patrons paying any bill over R200 with SnapScan will receive a voucher to the value of 50% of their bill (capped at a maximum of R400) to be redeemed at any participating restaurant within the campaign period. It will not cost restaurants any money to benefit from this campaign. A Restaurant Recovery Fund will finance the reward vouchers and they aim to raise R1.5M, donated by various stakeholders, corporates, and other benefactors. The duration of the campaign will be determined by the amount raised for this fund.

How does the restaurant reward voucher system work?

SnapScan manages the reward voucher system. For every SnapScan transaction of R200 or more, at any participating restaurant, a 50% voucher to the maximum of R400, will be issued to the user’s SnapScan wallet within 48 hours of the transaction. The wallet can be used to pay for future dining experiences during the campaign, and only at the participating restaurants, therefore keeping the funds within the local economy. The full amount of the SnapScan transaction will be transferred to the restaurant, and the reward portion will be claimed from the Restaurant Recovery Fund by SnapScan.

Visit Stellenbosch invited me and my family to explore a few Stellenbosch destinations last weekend, and to share our experiences with you, encouraging more locals (like us) to support our beautiful town and all that it has to offer. There are so many world class experiences at discounted rates available to us all in September and beyond, and our support will make a real difference to the industry as a whole.

Take a look at our weekend in pictures below, and be sure to follow the hashtag #SupportStellenbosch on social media for more ideas and offers. We stayed over at Kunjani Wines guest cottages including breakfast at their restaurant, we had a braai box from The Fat Butcher for dinner accompanied by ‘n farm produce hamper from Mason Farming, we did a wine & sorbet tasting at Koelenhof, we did a tasting and game drive at Villiera, enjoyed lunch at Joostenberg Bistro and another lunch at Knorhoek Wine Estate. We were bowled over by the genuine hospitality, passionate staff, quality offerings, scrumptious food and breathtaking scenery during our weekend. I am so proud to be a Stellenbosch local, and so enthusiastic about sharing more of this town and all it has to offer with you. I hope you will go on your own adventure, supporting Stellenbosch, soon.

 

What a view at sunset from Kunjani’s Shiraz Cottage front porch, where we stayed.

Thank you Visit Stellenbosch and all of the participating destinations for hosting us and for showing us once again how fabulous it is to play, eat and drink right here where we live – the best destinations, restaurants and experiences right here around us. Let’s support Stellenbosch!

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Sticky toffee pudding with figs and walnuts

29 Aug

Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage roasting dish and 400 ml mug in “Fig” – their brand new colour. This sticky toffee pudding is made with rehydrated dried figs and walnuts – absolutely delicious.

A week ago, Le Creuset SA launched their brand new colour, Fig: a warmer shade of violet with beautiful brownish hues – you can see the colour best (in its full glory) in the signature cast iron pots with lids. They sent me a stunning package with a selection of fig-coloured Le Creuset products (rectangular 30 cm heritage roaster, 400 ml coffee mug, medium spatula etc.) as well as a recipe card and ingredients for a decadent sticky baked pudding with dried figs and toasted walnuts.

I gave their recipe a whirl using my new Fig cookware and what a stunning pudding! Even though fresh figs are not in season, dried figs are easily rehydrated in boiling water before baking and they work incredibly well here. The walnuts also provide a welcome soft crunch and some deeper toasty notes. It’s a large pudding that will feed a crowd of up to 12 people (I suppose you can easily half it, using a smaller baking dish). Warm and comforting, soft and spongey, sticky and saucy – the stuff winter pudding dreams are made of.

I’ve added a few touches of my own with the addition of salt in the pudding battter and in the sauce, a few less walnuts for the final topping and some other suggestions. You can definitely also substitute the dried figs for dried dates – they will work just as well.

Ingredients: (makes one large pudding that will serve up to 12 people)

Note: Slightly adapted from Le Creuset’s fabulous recipe for “Sticky Fig & Walnut Pudding”.

For the pudding batter:

  • 200 g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
  • 400 ml recently boiled water
  • 100 g butter, softened
  • 200 g light brown sugar
  • 4 x free range eggs (or just use large)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 350 g self-raising flour
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish (I’ve used Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage dish) with non-stick spray. Place the chopped figs in a bowl with the bicarb of soda and top with the recently boiled water. Stir and set aside to steep.

In a separate bowl, mix the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix – the mixture will look slightly curdled, don’t be alarmed. Add the flour and mix well, then add the walnuts, steeped figs, and all the liquids of the steeped figs. Mix to a runny batter, scraping the sides. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180 C or until fully cooked and golden brown. While the pudding is baking, make the sauce (you’ll pour it over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven).

For the sauce:

  • 350 g light brown sugar (or use demerara for a darker result)
  • 150 g butter
  • 400 ml fresh or longlife cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • about 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, for topping (optional)

Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved (watch it carefully as it can easily start boiling and will boil over the sides). Remove from the heat. Pour half the sauce over the freshly baked pudding as soon as it comes from the oven, then serve the remaining sauce on the side. Serve the pudding warm, optionally also with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

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Almond financiers (a step-by-step guide)

11 Aug

A few years ago, I discovered almond financiers while shopping at Joostenberg Deli. They produce a wide range of French-inspired pastries within their bakery, also including madeleines, croissants, etc. These unassuming little pastries looked intrigueing: no icing, no impressive decoration, just rectangular golden nuggets with their characteristic cracked tops. I’ve always been a sucker for any type of almond pastry, so I expected to love them. But when I finished all six in the packet by myself before even getting home, I knew I was hooked. Crunchy on the outside, densely moist in the middle, with the distinctive yet subtle almond flavour that all frangipane-style pastries are globally adored for.

I’ve since created a recipe for baking my own, using a mini-muffin tin instead of the original iconic rectangular molds that I cannot seem to find anywhere (I suppose they do look like little gold bars, and perhaps therefor the “financiers” name). I’ve baked many batches of these, and they never disappoint. Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to suit a number of easy substitutions (even using home-ground whole almonds) and to make sure that they didn’t stick to the pan as easily (the purists prefer buttering the moulds, but I honestly think non-stick spray does a better job).  I’ve also found David Lebovitz’s financiers post very handy, and specifically found the comments section very insightful (because so many people wanted to know if you atually stir in the egg whites without giving them a whisk first, and the answer is yes, you stir them in just a gloopy as they are). Apart from turning the butter into browned butter over the stove top, the rest is literally a stir-together vibe – it couldn’t be simpler.

I’ve created a few visuals in my kitchen, showing you what the process and the mixture look like – keep scrolling down to get the full recipe at the end of the post. Have fun in the kitchen and prepare to fall in love with these humble little nuggets.

Browned butter – take a look at the essential darker bits that form at the bottom of the pan. Keep swirling to prevent the butter from burning.

 

Separating my eggs – you’ll only use the whites, so keep the yolks for making custard later.

 

Add the ground almonds to a mixing bowl, along with flour, salt and sugar. Use store-bought “almond flour” (blanched ground almonds) or make your own by grinding whole almonds to a powdery consistency in a blender.

 

Add the yolks to the dry ingredients and mix to a sticky thick batter.

 

Add the slightly cooled browned butter to the batter and stir until fully incorporated.

 

It’s a stirring game – no technique, very easy.

 

Keep stirring until the butter is fully incorporated.

 

Use two spoons to drop the batter into a mini-muffin tin that’s thoroughly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

 

Optionally, top with a few flaked almonds.

 

Bake for 12 minutes at 220 C (or 200 C for fan assisted ovens).

 

Remove carefully from the tin using a sharp small bladed knife, and cool on a rack.

 

 

 

French simplicity at its finest: freshly baked almond financiers, baked in mini-muffin tins.

 

Ingredients: (makes 24 mini-muffin financiers)

  • 100 g salted butter
  • 140 g (1 cup tightly packed) ground almonds / almond flour (or grind your own from raw almonds)
  • 180 g (4/5 cup) light brown sugar (or white sugar)
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) white bread flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL egg whites 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/4 cup flaked almonds (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the browned butter: Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling every now and then until melted. It will start to sizzle and bubble with a slightly “split” look. Continue to swirl from side to side (do not stir) every 15 seconds, watching it carefully. The large spattering bubbles will change to a gentler fine coffee-coloured foam – when this happens, check for a golden brown residue on the bottom of the pan. As soon as you spot this golden brown residue starting to form, remove the pot from the heat and keep on swirling until the foam subsides and you are left with a liquid, nutty, brown butter. Be careful not to burn the butter. The butter should now be around 80 ml in total, which is perfect. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 °C (or 200 °C if using fan-assisted oven). Spray a 24 hole mini-muffin tin generously with non-stick spray.
  3. Add the ground almonds, sugar, flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and stir with a spatula. Add the egg whites and extract and stir well – it will be a sticky, thick batter.
  4. Add the slightly cooled but still liquid browned butter and stir until well mixed. Divide the mixture evenly between the mini-muffin holes using two spoons. Top with some flaked almonds (optional) then bake for 12 minutes until golden brown and risen.
  5. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes in the pan before use a sharp small knife to loosen the sides of the financiers. Leave on a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
  6. Serve with tea/coffee. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note: If you are using unsalted butter, rather add 1/2 teaspoon salt. If not topping with almond flakes, the financiers with rise a little more and you’ll see more of the characteristic “cracked” top.

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Classic Cape tomato bredie

3 Aug

Classic South African tomato bredie with rice, served with Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Syrah (photography by Tasha Seccombe, ceramics by Mervyn Gers)

 

The perfumed fragrance of this humble Cape favourite will seduce you into second helpings. It matches perfectly with the Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Syrah from Anthonij Rupert Wines – a savoury red wine made from grapes from the Swartland, with light peppery spice notes and plum fruit flavours, bold and structured. Don’t substitute canned tomatoes for fresh ones – the magic lies in using fresh. The colour of your bredie will depend on the colour and ripeness of your tomatoes – don’t be alarmed if it is less red than in the picture, just use the ripest and reddest tomatoes you can find. Use a food processor to help with the dicing, if you want to skip some labour.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1,5 kg lamb/mutton rib chunks (or neck chops)
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 whole cardamom seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • a knob of fresh ginger, finely grated (1-2 tablespoons)
  • 1,2 kg ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced (optional)
  • cooked jasmin/basmati rice, to serve

Method:

In a large heavy based pot over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the rib chunks and fry on the fatty side until brown, seasoning with salt & pepper as you go (fry in batches if necessary). Remove the meat and turn down the heat to low.
Add the onions, cloves, cardamom & cinnamon sticks. Fry until translucent and soft, stirring often. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and sugar (and potatoes, optionally), and stir to loosen any sticky bits on the bottom of the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then place the meat back into the pot and stir.
Cover with a lid, then simmer over low heat for about 1,5 hours or until the meat is very soft and falls from the bone. You can remove the bones with tongs at this point, if you want to. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary. Serve hot with fluffy warm rice.

Note: This recipe was developed exclusively for Cape of Good Hope Wines, recipe/food preparation/styling by Ilse van der Merwe, photography/styling by Tasha Seccombe.

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Celebrating Bastille Festival with Leopard’s Leap

5 Jul

Leopard’s Leap’s Bastille Festival delivery menu for two, available online at R365 (excl wine and dessert).

 

Franschhoek’s annual Bastille Festival is taking place virtually this year, making room for everyone to enjoy the festival from a safe distance within Covid-19 circumstances. Leopard’s Leap has joined in the French-inspired fun with a delivery menu from their popular rotisserie restaurant. They sent me this week’s classic French menu for two, consisting of the following (R365 for two, available 1-11 July 2020):

Deboned and rolled beef neck bourguignon

Lyonnaise potatoes

Dalewood Camembert (60g) with garlic, parsley, tarragon, extra virgin olive oil and chardonnay

Freshly baked sour dough bread

Grilled and marinated ratatouille vegetables with rosemary and tomatoes

Add your choice of dessert at an extra cost, or kids pizza meals – we tried the Pear, muscat and lemon clafouti with crème fraiche (R60 for two), an incredibly light crumb with the softest fruit, as well as the BBQ Pork Pizza (R85).

We couldn’t help but lay a table to enjoy this feast! What a delightful way to experience some local French flair in the comfort of your own home. Take a look at my pictures:

Two of Leopard’s Leap’s wines that we enjoyed as part of this feast: The Culinaria Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R110) and the Culinaria Grand Vin (R125) – both available for purchase online.

 

Deboned and rolled beef neck bourguignon – meltingly tender and boneless, rich and hearty. I added some of my own rocket leaves for a touch of green.

 

Perfectly golden Lyonnaise potatoes.

 

Grilled and marinated ratatouille vegetables with rosemary and oven dried tomatoes. The portions were very generous – there were two tubs like these, but I only plated one.

 

A beautiful medium-size freshly baked sourdough loaf with butter – perfect to enjoy with the baked camembert.

 

Such a simple addition, but so stellar: baked Dalewood Camembert (60g) with garlic, parsley, tarragon, extra virgin olive oil and chardonnay.

 

Sweet endings with the most delightfully light and moist pear clafoutis with crème fraiche. French simplicity at its finest.

 

Leopard’s Leap’s French-inspired Culinaria wine range is also available for purchase online – free shipping on any online order of 6 bottles or more, and you receive a free recipe booklet (valid 1-11 July 2020). The wines are all designed to be exceptional food partners.

Leopard’s Leap’s Rotisserie Restaurant will reopen for both Bastille Festival weekends (Fri-Sun, 09h00-16h00, 3-5 July and 10-12 July 2020) – the same menu that’s available for delivery. They’ve taken all the necessary safety measures, and luckily they have a lot of open spaces and fresh air.

Follow #FHKBastilleFest to see all the French festivities taking place until 11th July 2020, and check out Leopard’s Leap’s Facebook page.

 

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Chocolate eclairs with salted caramel custard and pecan brittle

28 Apr

 

During lockdown, many of my readers have shared how they are cooking recipes from my blog. It’s such a wonderful feeling – to know that my recipes can provide others with a little pleasure and inspiration during a very uncertain and serious time! Thank you so much for all of your feedback, photos, comments and shares. It makes me feel warm and valued, and it is a shining beacon carrying me through this uncertainty with all of you.

I am at a point where I’m searching for recipes that will bring the most amount of joy, for the least amount of money. With a limited spectrum of recreation and entertainment available during lockdown, baking and cooking has become just that: a recreational activity. Yet with limited funds because of limited (or no) work opportunities, many of us need to get really creative in making the most of what we have, while still feeding our families. Every now and then, a special homemade treat can provide some kind of light hearted escape from the gloom that otherwise hangs over all of us. And for me, in allowing myself this special joy, I choose hope.

One of my friends, Anele Horn, recently sent me a photograph of her homemade chocolate eclairs – she used a recipe from my blog that I haven’t made in years. Then I remembered that basic eclairs (choux pastries) are made of a handful of very simple ingredients: water, flour, eggs, sugar, salt. I also remembered that a custard filling can be made of very simple ingredients too: milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch. I found a recipe online for making salted caramel flavoured custard, because hey, it sounded like a good idea. With the addition of a simple caramel syrup (made from sugar and a little water) and some salt, I made a salted caramel custard perfect for piping into the choux buns, without buying a single exotic ingredient. So when my husband went to buy a few essential fresh supplies, I asked him to buy 2 slabs of the cheapest dark chocolate he could find (they costed R11,99 each) for the topping. I found a handful of pecan pieces in our cupboard (the last of my “lockdown” nut supply) and with a little extra effort I made a simple nut brittle (using just sugar and the nuts) that I chopped up for decoration at the end.

 

These were some of the best sweet treats we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in the past 5 weeks, and we only spent R24 (excluding the cost of the basic ingredients that we had in the house). The recipe makes about 21 medium size eclairs. I do hope that you’ll try it – SO worth the effort!

Notes for substitutions: You can also use whipped sweetened cream to fill the eclairs, and a very economical cocoa glaze for the top (if you have cocoa powder and icing sugar in your pantry). And yes, you can certainly also use cheaper peanuts for the brittle!

Notes on effort/skill levels:

  • The choux buns are moderately easy to make, but the following tools will make the process easier: a digital scale, an electric mixer (stand mixer) and a piping bag. Without these, you’re going to apply some decent elbow grease for mixing, and you won’t be able to pipe rows (just use two spoons instead to create round choux “balls”).
  • The salted caramel custard requires medium skill levels and time. It is best to make it the day before you want to make the eclairs, to split the effort into 2 days. Make the caramel first, let it cool, and then use it to make the custard. Let the custard cool completely before making the choux buns.
  • The nut brittle requires medium skill levels, but only because you’re working with very hot melted sugar that requires timing – otherwise it’s a simple recipe with only 2 ingredients. It is an optional extra, but I promise you it delivers BIG on added texture, luxury and flavour.
  • To melt chocolate: I do it in the microwave, so it should be easy enough. Just follow the instructions and be patient.

 

Ingredients: (makes about 21 medium size eclair buns)

For the salted caramel custard filling: (recipe adapted from Jo The Tart Queen)

  • 200 ml (170 g) white granulated sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) tap water
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) hot water from a recently boiled kettle
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk, preferably full-cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 125 g egg yolks (about 7 XL yolks)
  • 50 g (about 7 tablespoons or 105 ml) cornflour
  • 50 g butter, cubed
  • salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes, but if you’re using fine salt, use less)

To make the caramel: place the sugar and tap water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it come to a boil without stirring, only tilting the pan now and then. Boil until it changes colour to a light golden, and get your hot water ready. When it reaches a darker amber caramel colour, carefully add the hot water all at one (if will splutter!), then remove from the heat at once, tilting it from side to side to mix. Set aside to cool completely – you’ll use it later for the custard.

To make the custard: Place the milk and vanilla in a medium size pot over medium heat. While it is heating, whisk the yolks with the cooled caramel in a mixing bowl, then add the cornflour and whisk again to mix well. When the milk just starts to simmer, pour it carefully into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Now pour the mixture back into the pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the custard starts to thicken. Continue stirring until it makes a few slow boiling bubbles, then lower the heat to very low and cook for at least another minute or too until it becomes very thick. Remove from the heat, then  stir in the butter.  When melted, season with salt – you don’t want the salt to be overpowering, but you want to taste it. Transfer the custard to a wide container and cover with a layer of clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming, then leave to cool fully. Keep refrigerated until ready to use (will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator).

For the choux pastry:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 2,5 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 65 g (1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon) butter, cubed if cold
  • 140 g (250 ml / 1 cup) white bread flour or cake flour
  • 3 XL eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Add water, salt, sugar and butter to a small saucepan. Heat until the butter melts, then bring to the boil. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, cooking the paste until it thickens and pulls into a ball (it takes about 20 seconds for the mixture to form a ball). Remove from the heat at once and transfer the ball to the bowl of an electric mixer (if doing by hand, transfer to a large mixing bowl). With the K-beater fitted, turn on the mixer on medium-low, releasing steam from the hot flour mixture. Now add the eggs one at a time, mixing until it comes together before adding another (it will look like it is splitting at first, but be patient, it will come together). Continue until the mixture is smooth and glossy but still stiff enough to hold shape. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag, then pipe buns of about 8 cm long and 2,5 cm wide on a greased/lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them for swelling (or use two spoons to drop balls of paste on the baking sheet). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 160 C for 25-30 minutes (smaller buns will take 10-15 minutes) until the buns are golden brown and crisp to the touch. Remove from the oven and pierce with a small sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Leave to cool completely before filling.

For the nut brittle: (optional)

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecan nuts

Have a small baking tray ready, lined with non-stick baking paper. Place the sugar in a small pan or pot over moderately high heat. Leave until the sugar starts to melt (without adding any liquid), gently tipping the pan from side to side. When the sugar has melted, it will change colour. Watch it carefully, gently tipping the pan now and then, until it is a deep amber colour. Remove from the heat and add the nuts at once, tipping the pan to coat all over (only a few seconds). Tip out on the lined baking tray, using a silicone spatula to remove from the pan (work quickly before the caramel hardens). Use the spatula to flatten the brittle slightly. Leave to cool completely, then chop into smaller pieces for topping your eclairs. (Preferably don’t make this too long ahead, as it will become sticky again on standing. Keep in an airtight container, when completely cooled.)

For assembly:

  • about 150-180 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Remove the cooled custard from the fridge, use a whisk to mix it to a smooth consistency, then transfer to a piping bag. Cut the buns open on one side horizontally, then pipe the filling into each one. To melt the chocolate, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring inbetween with a spatula. After about the third or fourth session, it should be warm enough and fully melted. Spread each bun with chocolate on top (or transfer the chocolate to a small plastic bag or piping bag, and snip off the one corner to neatly pipe onto the buns). Top with a few shards of brittle. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Smoked snoek and artichoke pie

24 Apr

An old-fashioned smoky fish pie is one of the most comforting dishes to eat in my opinion, and a firm favourite from my childhood days.

 

I’ve been craving a smoked fish pie for weeks (because of a packet of smoked snoek in my freezer) and I finally got to baking one. This must be one of the most comforting things to eat – creamy and packed with smoky flavour, plus an easy press-in crust with zero sogginess that’s made with cheese, resulting in a crispy, flaky coating all around the pie that tastes like grilled cheddar crackers.

I’ve combined a few recipes into one, consulting my sister’s notes from her handwritten recipe collection plus her favourite recipe from Kook & Geniet, as well as Heilie Pienaar’s chapter for savoury pies and tarts from The Ultimate Snowflake Collection cookbook. I wanted something that had an easy, tasty crust (not store bought puff pastry) that required little skill, plus something that wouldn’t require me to separate eggs and fold in whisked egg whites at the end. I don’t mind making a white sauce for a base, as it was specifically the mouth-feel that I was after, but I didn’t want to use a separate pan for frying any other ingredients like onions.

The cheesy crust bakes to a golden crispy perfection all around the filling.

 

The result was the following: I used Heilie’s recipe for a press-in crust (no rolling out of dough) that involves flour, digestive bran, butter and cheese (you already know this is going to go well) and a white sauce based filling that involves stirring in a few whole eggs at the end. Into the filling went deboned flaked smoked snoek, chopped canned artichokes (you can also use canned white asparagus or mushrooms), chopped gherkins, more cheese, Dijon mustard and some parsley (use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh).  It gets baked for about 40 minutes at 180 C, filling your kitchen with the most delicious smell. It’s a deep pie, so you can use a large spoon to dish up generous helpings. Creamy, smoky, cheesy filling with a crisp bite of tangy gherkins here and there, coupled with a heavenly toasted flaky cheese crust. Serve with a crisp salad, if you want to.

This is what the press-in crust looks like before adding the filling.

 

Note: I used a round baking dish of 25 cm diameter and a depth of 5 cm. That means you can use any deep baking dish (round/square/rectangular) with a similar depth and a total volume of around 2,4 liters.

Ingredients: (makes one large pie; serves 8)

For the press-in crust: (crust recipe from Heilie Pienaar’s “Spinach & Cheese Pie” featured in The Ultimate Snowflake Collection)

  • 200 ml (110 g) cake flour
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup or 20 g) digestive bran
  • 125 g cold butter, cubed
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250 ml (1 cup) grated mature cheese like cheddar/gruyere etc. (I’ve used Dalewood’s Huguenot)

For the filling:

  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) cake flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) Dijon mustard
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 XL eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2-3 cups (about 325 g) boneless flaked smoked snoek (start with about 500 g snoek with bone-in; I ordered a large frozen packet from Wild Peacock Products)
  • 1 cup mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cups canned artichoke hearts/quarters, chopped into smaller pieces (or substitute with canned chopped asparagus or mushrooms, or any cooked chopped vegetables of your choice, like peas/spinach/corn/broccoli/cauliflower/courgettes etc.)
  • about 1/3 cup gherkins, chopped
  • a handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method:

For the crust: place the flour, bran, butter & salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the cheese and process until its starts to clump together. Turn it out into a large greased baking dish of about 2-2,5 liters (I used a round 25 cm dish with a depth of 5 cm).  Using clean dry hands, press the crust evenly into the bottom and sides of the baking dish. Distribute thicker patches to cover the base and sides all over. Set aside.

For the filling: before you start, make very sure that your smoked fish is completely free of any small bones – this will take a little time, but it’s essential. Now make a white sauce: in a medium size pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir for a minute. Add the milk all at once and stir vigorously with a whisk until it starts to thicken, getting rid of any lumps. When the sauce has thickened to the consistency of a medium-runny custard, remove it from the heat. Add the mustard and nutmeg and season with salt & pepper. Stir well. Add the eggs and stir very well until it’s smooth and incorporated. Add the snoek, cheese, artichokes (or veg), gherkins and parsley. Stir well, then transfer the filling into the prepared baking dish. Smooth the top. Bake at 180 C for about 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown (the top of the filling won’t brown too much). Remove from the oven and serve hot with a crisp green salad.

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How to make the best hummus, from scratch

27 Mar

Loaded hummus – image from my book Cape Mediterranean, photography by Tasha Seccombe, plates by Mervyn Gers Ceramics, background textile by Hertex.

 

Two weeks ago, I hosted 100 guests for a book conversation at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch, with the charismatic Douw Steyn of The Talking Table leading the talk. My book, Cape Mediterranean, was one of a few cookbooks being featured at the arts festival and I had the pleasure of demonstrating one of my favourite dishes from my book to the guests – loaded hummus. My hummus recipe was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s hummus recipe from his book Jerusalem, and I haven’t served hummus without chopped olives, pine nuts and parsley since I’ve tasted his version.

I’ve experimented with various machines in making hummus over the last few years. From making it with a stick blender,  to a universal chopper, a small food processor and a power blender. I’ve had some luck here and there achieving very smooth results, but I’ve always been in search of a machine that could effortlessly make the smoothest hummus. I’ve since come to a few conclusions for achieving a truly smooth, creamy, silky result: 1) don’t use canned chickpeas unless you’re in a hurry and looking for an instant fix, 2) soak your chickpeas overnight in a water and baking soda mixture, 3) cook your chickpeas until very soft, 4) use a powerful food processor that has the space and capacity for the load you want to process, and 5) process it long enough until it changes to a light coloured, creamy consistency – at least 2-4 minutes.

For the book conversation and hummus demonstration, I partnered with Kenwood South Africa, where they supplied me with their top-of-the-range Kenwood MultiPro Excel Food Processor FPM910 – the largest in its capacity on the market in SA (4 liter bowl capacity). It has a very powerful motor at 1300 W and works like a dream. With standard attachments of every kind that you can possibly imagine, this is a premium addition to any serious cook’s kitchen and certainly a proud addition to mine. I had to make 8 liters of hummus in total for the tasters at my Woordfees talk and the Kenwood MultiPro Excel handled it with the utmost ease – doing double batches of this already large quantity recipe at a time, in 4 batches (plus a nut filling for 120 baklava cigars, during the height of load shedding – it was crazy!).

The Kenwood MultiPro Excel is Kenwood’s top-of-the-range large food processor with a capacity of 4 liters. Here it is on my kitchen table at home.

I made this how-to video of my recipe featured in Cape Mediterranean, showing you how to make hummus from scratch at home. Hummus is a high proteien, low carb, versatile dip/spread/topping/base – generally not expensive to make, and it freezes well. If tahini is too expensive for your budget, substitute the tahini with a teaspoon or two of unflavoured peanut butter – believe me, it adds just enough nutty flavour and works like a charm. I love topping my hummus with chopped olives, chopped parsley, paprika, olive oil and pine nuts like Yotam Ottolenghi does, but hey, it’s just as good with a simple drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cut some carrot sticks, cucumber, or whatever you prefer to dip (yes, potato chips and nachos and sliced bread all love hummus) and call it a party.

You can order my book online for delivery after the “lockdown” period – most of the recipes are very simple and will hopefully bring you much joy. You can also order the Kenwood MultiPro Excel FPM910 from Yuppiechef at R9199 (with so many attachments I cannot even count them – also including a large capacity thermoresist blender jug and a mini grinder), they’ll also deliver after lockdown. Stay safe and look after each other±

Ingredients: (makes almost 1 liter hummus, enough to feed a crowd as a dip)

  • 250 g uncooked dry chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • about 1 liter water, for soaking, plus more for cooking
  • 1/3-1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1/3 cup tahini (or substitute with 1-2 teaspoons unflavoured peanut butter)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 30-60 ml water
  • for topping: (optional) smoked paprika, chopped olives, chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts or toasted flaked almonds (or both), baby capers etc.

Method:

Place th chickpeas with 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda in a non-reactive bowl. Top with water and leave to soak overnight (at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours). Drain the water, then add the soaked chickpeas to a pot, along with another teaspoon of bicarb and top with water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum/foam that forms on the surface. Cook until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and leave to cool slightly.

In a food processor, add the cooked chickpeas, along with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, tahini, cumin and salt. Using a powerful food processor like the Kenwood Multipro Excel, process until very smooth and creamy, adding enough water to loosen it up (about 3-4 minutes). Taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Serve swirled on a plate, topped with more extra virgin olive oil and your choice of toppings. Serve with bread or crackers or sliced vegetable sticks.

Thank you Kenwood South Africa for your continued support – I’m inspired to discover this wonderful machine in its full capacity.

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A heritage of sharing: The new menu at Pierneef à La Motte

24 Sep

The entrance leading to Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.

 

Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant has always been about sharing. Sharing food stories and sharing food favourites. It is this personal concept of heritage cuisine that is the inspiration behind the restaurant’s new offering. Everything served in the restaurant shares a creative line from the South African food story.”

I was recently invited to experience this new offering at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant – a refined Franschhoek destination rich with cultural heritage. After an inspiring guided tour in the La Motte Museum of the current exhibition by MJ Lourens, titled “Land Rewoven” (as a conversation with the existing collection of Pierneef’s works), we made our way to the restaurant. Chef Eric Bulpitt’s new menu invites guests to start with shared dishes inspired by the various food cultures and stories from South Africa’s rich culinary heritage – a variety of breads, spreads, salads and meats, accompanied by condiments from “Granny’s pantry” – fruit and vegetables pickled or preserved, chakalaka or chutney, kaiings or kluitjies. It’s amazing how simple items like curried beans or pickled beetroot can conjure up clear memories from my childhood – items that I despised as a child (yet it always landed on my plate courtesy of my dear Mother) but these days adore as an adult.

Keeping with the heritage theme, Pierneef à La Motte’s à la carte menu offers a choice of individually plated main courses with Chef Eric’s signature modern approach. While this menu changes regularly according to the season, availability of ingredients and the Chef’s inspiration, options might include celeriac baked in a salt crust, lowerland grains and truffle sauce (a stunning vegetarian dish that I can highly recommend), free-range pork, slow cooked for 12 hours, broad beans from their garden and pork broth, as well as wood-fire roast spring chicken brushed with fermented chilli and creamed mielies, or aged beef rump from Bonnievale with roasted shallots and baby carrots.

All dishes are offered with La Motte Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche’s wine recommendations, available at estate prices. However, the acclaimed wine list also includes other interesting South African as well as international wine choices.

The two-course menu of a shared starter and main course costs R335 per person (wine and service fee excluded). Dessert can be ordered as an additional course at R115. The dessert menu is a trip down memory lane, revealing a legacy of nostalgic sweets in a way that charms and comforts. Decadent baked dark chocolate with chocolate biscuit and rose ice cream (reminding me of a refined combination of “bazaar pudding” and chocolate fondant), lemon meringue with lemon curd, burnt meringue and vanilla tuile, or sago pudding, honey and boerenmeisjes (probably the best sago pudding I’ve ever tasted). A selection of South African cheeses, preserves and lavash is also available.

Our lunch was the best I’ve ever experienced at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant – I was in a state of pleasure and nostalgia by the end of our desserts which I didn’t want to end. Well done to Chef Eric and his team for hitting the flavour nails on the head.

The restaurant also offers a lighter option to enjoy after a wine tasting, mountainside hike or visit to the La Motte art gallery. Choose between the Winelands Cheese Platter or a seasonal Farm Plate – both including a glass of wine at R150 per person.

In line with the principle of heritage food, menu choices are ethical and sustainable, making use of seasonal, local and artisan ingredients.

  • Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00 – 15:30.
  • Reservations are recommended and can be made online, T +27(0)21 876 8800, E pierneef@la-motte.co.za
  • The charming La Motte Farm Shop hosts an array of delicious South African-inspired baking and confectionery to be enjoyed in the estate gardens or as a take-home treat.
  • Current menu (subject to change)
  • Current wine list

High ceilings and delft plate installations dominate the elegant spaces at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.

 

A photo wall with some of the Rupert Family’s portraits provides a personal touch.

 

Plush seats and contemporary wooden tables.

 

The delightful shared starter offering at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant – an array of salads, bread, vetkoek, pickles, spreads and whipped beef fat.

 

La Motte’s range of wines are carefully paired with each course and comes highly recommended.

 

Celeriac baked in a salt crust, lowerland grains and truffle sauce – my choice of a main course (vegetarian). This was my dish of the day – a fantastic celebration of simple ingredients, varied textures and that luxurious base note of fresh truffles infused in the sauce. I’ll be back for more.

 

Schalk’s main course: Free-range pork, slow cooked for 12 hours, broad beans from their garden and pork broth. Exceptionally tender and delicious.

 

Schalk’s dessert: sago pudding, honey and boerenmeisjes. Take note of the glass bowl that reminds of your ouma’s house, as well as the paper doilie. This was the best sago pudding I’ve ever taste. A must on the menu.

 

My dessert: baked dark chocolate with chocolate biscuit and rose ice cream. The pudding is hidden underneatht the biscuit (see next photo).

 

Reminiscent of a dark chocolate fondant mixed with an old-school “bazaar pudding”, this dessert was exactly what I hoped it would be: warm, decadent, soft and oozing in the middle, with the delicate hit of rose water ice cream.

 

Having a quick chat to thank Chef Eric Bulpitt at the end of our meal.

 

The entrance to the charming Farm Shop at La Motte. Well worth a visit.

 

The entrance facade at La Motte.

 

Thank you to chef Eric Bulpitt and the team of La Motte for hosting us.

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