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How to make soft flour tortillas

31 Aug

Toast your freshly rolled-out tortillas in a hot dry skillet, for best results, then cover with a tea towel. Towel cloth by Cotton Company.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of “wraps”. I’ve always found them to be slightly dry, and I’m more of a fan of the filling than the vehicle. More recently though, I’ve been exposed to freshly made flour tortillas. They are not only “pancakes”, they are the fluffy flattened floury cousins of great bread. It’s like they’re the brothers of roti’s. The nieces to flatbreads.

Once you’ve tasted a good, freshly made tortilla, you’ll simply be hooked.

These tortillas will stay soft as long as you leave them to steam under a tea towel, and cover for storage afterwards.

 

With a recipe that doesn’t use yeast, these beautiful staples are dependent on the quality of the flour and the working of the dough. I’ve make the decision to switch to local stone ground flour a few weeks ago, and with it came an awareness of what natural wheat flour can become. Gideon Milling is a producer with a passion for biological farming and natural flour, and I support their cause.

Flour tortillas are excellent for stuffings like spicy shredded meat, avocado (or guacamole), mayonnaise, sour cream, sliced red onion, fresh tomato, lemon/lime juice, fresh coriander and much more. Such a fresh, stunning lunch/dinner. Also doubles as a pizza base. Freezes well.

 

Here’s a simple way of using your Gideon Milling Stone Ground White Bread Flour (apart from bread, pizza etc.). With a few very simple ingredients, you can have a stack of 15 tortillas on your table, in your fridge or freezer, easy to reheat and use in so many different ways.

Kids love tortillas, and my daughter would much rather eat one of these than a store-bought slice pf bread. They contain the good proteins, the good fats, and the good carbs for growing bodies (and the healthy balanced adults). And for me who isn’t necessarily growing in height anymore, it’s just the natural, sustainable, delicious, local choice.

Try your hand at making these tortillas and let me know your thoughts and results. The original recipe is from The Cafe Sucre Farine via my good friend Tasha Seccombe – her girls were so in love with these that they now have a standing weekly tortilla dinner date at home. I suspect it will be the same in our home.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (about 450-480 g) stone ground white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil, but I prefer EVOO)
  • 1 cup luke-warm/warm water

Method:

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (using your hands or a spoon or an electric mixer). Add the oil and water and mix to a sticky dough, then continue to mix and knead to a smooth dough – it shouldn’t take too long. Divide the dough into roughly 15 equal pieces, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes. The roll each piece out on a flour surface to a sircle of about 20cm in diameter, and toast it in a hot skillet on both sides until charry & cooked. Remove from heat, stack, and cover with a dry tea towel to keep it soft.

To serve: serve warm with your choice of fillings, like shredded slow cooked meat, tomato salsa, beans, sour cream, guacamole, fresh leaves, herbs, red onion etc.

Note: These tortillas freeze very well.

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A weekend at the Robertson Slow Festival, in pictures

20 Aug

The beautiful facade of Bon Courage Estate – one of the estates that we visited as part of the Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival 2019.

 

On the weekend of 9-11 August this year, we were invited to visit the 13th annual Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival – a celebration of the many experiences that the Robertson Wine Valley and Route 62 has to offer. Receiving a tailor-made itinerary, our weekend experience included visits to Rooiberg, Springfield, Esona, Arendsig, De Wetshof, Jan Harmsgat, Bon Courage, Excelsior, Viljoensdrift and Rietvallei, as well as two nights accommodation at Arendsig Family Cottages.

Two years ago, we visited the same festival and was absolutely blown away by the quality of the wines, the authentic country-style hospitality, and our discovery of hidden gems in the area. This year was no different – the Robertson Wine Valley remains one of our favourite destinations in the Western Cape. This “slow” festival offers unique experiences for small groups at a time at various estates where the owners, wine makers and chefs show off their best. It is a valley filled with so much to explore and I urge you to do the same. Take a look at our weekend in pictures with some comments as captions. Our 8 year-old daughter came along on this trip, proving that it is indeed a family friendly adventure for everybody.

Rooiberg Winery is well known for their landmark massive red chair displayed next to the road – the “biggest red chair in Africa”.

 

My favourite white wine of the day at Rooiberg – their Reserve Chardonnay 2016. A full bodied, complex wine with bright fruit flavours. Splendid!

 

A tasting of all five Pinotages available at Rooiberg. They produce quite a large range of wines – there’s something for everyone.

 

 

Purchase your “love lock” from Rooiberg and fasten it to their grid for a cheeky romantic moment (or just some family fun!).

 

Next up, a stop at Springfield Estate. This is their wine tasting deck overlooking a beautiful pond and lush lawns.

 

One of my favourite wines of the day from Springfield, their unfiltered Méthode Ancienne Chardonnay 2016. Nuances of lime, Cointreau and oranges – a big wine with classical character.

 

All tastings at Springfield come with a complimentary tray of bread, olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The perfect way to unwind and enjoy the beautiful views. Thank you Lana!

 

The cellar walls and doors at Springfield are incredibly beautiful – probably the most picturesque facility in the Robertson Wine Valley.

 

 

Eating a quick bite at Esona before doing another tasting – their cheese & meat platters are generous and delicious (I asked for a very small bite to eat, the bistro platter menu items are lot bigger and more varied).

 

The “Taste the Difference” experience at Esona‘s underground cellar facility, where you will experience wine, preserves, art and music. Thank you Hirchill!

 

Booking into one of the self catering family cottages at Arendsig. This rustic cottage has a built-in braai in the kitchen, two bedrooms (one twin, one double), two bathrooms and a living area. Beautiful tranquil setting right between the vineyards. Thank you Lizelle & Lourens!

 

This is the late afternoon view to the left from the cottage stoep at Arendsig Family Cottages.

 

Arriving at the spectacular De Wetshof Wine Estate for a special wine maker’s dinner. Thank you Johann & team!

 

Long table dinner preparations – waiting eagerly for the guests to be seated at De Wetshof. Food by Mimosa.

 

One of the most impressive wines of the Robertson Slow weekend: the De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2016. Simply spectacular.

 

Starter at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Teriyaki & ginger salmon tartare, zesty daikon & grilled pak choy salad, lemon grass & lime drizzle. Served with De Wetshof Lilya Dry Rosé.

 

Entrée at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Butternut squash raviola, gorgonzola, fresh herbs & sherry reduction, toasted almonds. Served with the De Wetshof Finesse/Lesca Chardonnay 2018 and 2015.

 

Main course at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Rolled leg of lamb with garlic, thyme & lime, braised honeyed baby carrots & fennel with salsa verde, golden baby potatoes. Served with De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2016 and De Wetshof Naissance Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.

 

Dessert at the De Wetshof winemaker’s dinner: Rooibos pannacotta, strawberries, caramel twirl, wild malva anglaise. Served with De Wetshof MCC 2009.

 

Welcoming the new day on a crisp Saturday morning at Jan Harmsgat Country House’s restaurant outside Swellendam.

Dishing up from the generous breakfast buffet spread at Jan Harmsgat Country House. What a great way to start the day.

 

Getting a special “breakfast dessert” from the kitchen at Jan Harmsgat – chocolate quince tart with homemade pomegranate syrup & pomegranate ice cream (leftovers from the previous evening’s special dinner). Thank you Francois, it was spectacular!

 

The beautiful wintry pecan nut groves at Jan Harmsgat. This is definitely a destination where I’d like to spend more time. Stunning accommodation facilities too.

 

Next stop: Bon Courage for some epic vintage MCC. This is their Jacques Bruére Blanc de Blanc 2011.

 

My friend Elmarie Berry tasting some limited release red wines by Bon Courage at a table next to us. Thank you Lee-Irvine for the great tasting presentation.

 

The iconic teal blue velvet interior at Bon Courage.

 

Winemaker/owner Lourens van der Westhuizen, personally presenting a tasting of his single vineyard boutique wines at Arendsig‘s tasting area. What an exceptional range of wines. Thank you Lourens!

 

Five of Arendsig‘s unique single varietal wines (separate batches individually bottled). For serious wine lovers, this tasting is a must.

 

Starter at Excelsior Estate‘s 5-course winemaker’s dinner: Smoked snoek risotto. Thank you Peter de Wet & team!

 

Main course: Lamb shank with sweet potato mash & seasonal vegetables. Part of Excelsior Estate’s 5-course winemaker’s dinner.

 

Our Sunday morning started with an adventure on the water: a tranquil boat cruise on the Breede River with Viljoensdrift River Cruises. Thank you skipper Johan!

 

A river view from the boat with Viljoensdrift River Cruises.

 

The welcoming fire place at Viljoensdrift‘s wine tasting area.

 

One of our favourite wines of the day, and perhaps best value for money at R100 per bottle: the Viljoensdrift River Gradeur Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

 

Our last stop: visiting the pristine Rietvallei Wine Estate for a lazy lunch. Thank you Kobus, Elizabeth & team!

 

One of Rietvallei’s well-known premium white wines from their heritage collection, the JMB Chardonnay 2017. We also tasted the Cabernet Franc 2014 and it was incredible.

 

On the menu: various platters, boeries & bowls for lunch at Rietvallei. It may seem like a humble chalkboard menu, but it was probably our most delicious meal of the weekend. Absolutely scrumptious!

 

Rietvallei‘s cheese & charcuterie platter at the Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival 2019: toasted bread, various artisanal cheeses, salami & cured sausages, cole slaw, beetroot, pickles, olives and green figs.

 

Rietvallei‘s Crazy Karoo Braai platter: Pork belly, brisket, braaied mielies, toasted bread, crispy carrots, pickles, sauces, cole slaw – an absolute delight!

 

The pristine lawns at Rietvallei, with wooden seating and umbrellas, and beautiful views. One can seriously get stuck here, in a great way!

 

Art exhibition at Rietvallei.

 

Live art happening at Rietvallei.

 

Make sure to follow the Robertson Wine Valley on Facebook for updates on their festival in 2020 – you wouldn’t want to miss out. Thank you to everyone in the valley for a fantastic weekend, we’ll be back for sure.

Contact the Robertson Slow Food & Wine Festival:

Tel: 023 626 3167

Event Enquiries: admin@robertsonwinevalley.com

Media / PR Inquiries: media@robertsonwinevalley.com

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JAN comes home to open KLEIN JAN in the Kalahari

24 May

Jan Hendrik at a bush camp fire. (Photograph supplied.)

 

Born and raised on a farm in Mpumalanga, South African Michelin-star Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen always knew he would one day return to the bush – to the campfires and the open skies of his home land. With a shared passion and vision for all things South African, a global partnership with the Oppenheimer family has led to this incredible new project that celebrates the unexplored culinary territory of the vast Kalahari.

KLEIN JAN will open its doors at Tswalu Kalahari, a first class unspoiled refuge that celebrates the simple, authentic splendours of this unique land. Driven by the values of local authenticity, heritage and sustainability of the environment, KLEIN JAN will become the place where this specific region’s culinary offering will be translated into world-class cuisine. Discovering this unexplored culinary territory with its unlimited potential has been a dream of Jan Hendrik’s for years.

In addition, JAN Innovation Studio will be opening its doors in Cape Town, where a team of chefs and students will continually develop and innovate South African cuisine. The Cape Town team will share their findings with their colleagues at Michelin star restaurant JAN in Nice, France, which will remain Jan Hendrik’s “mother ship”. In addition, South African diners can look forward to a series of pop-up dinners where they will be able to taste what Jan Hendrik and his teams have been up to.

JAN Innovation Studio will also be home to JAN the JOURNAL, a biannual publication that shares Jan Hendrik’s ideas, passion and curiosity about the culinary world. This collector’s book is available in both South Africa and in Europe.

I had the pleasure of talking to Jan Hendrik about his new plans a few weeks ago (see the video below), and to spend some one-on-one time with a young South African food icon and pioneer in his field. It was utterly refreshing to experience Jan Hendrik’s solid sense of self and his brilliant sense of humour. What a delightful conversation! I hope you enjoy the video – we shared a few light hearted moments that I’ll treasure forever.

#kleinjan #tswalu #JAN

 

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Grilled lamb skewers with lemon, honey & mustard

8 Dec

Grilled lamb sosaties with Dijon & wholegrain mustard, honey, fresh lemon juice & rind, and garlic. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

As we are enterting festive season, most of us would just want to light a fire and spend some time outdoors with the promising smell of something amazing on the hot coals. These lamb sosaties are easy to braai and really deliver on the flavour factor – sweet and tangy honey mustard with fresh lemons and garlic.

The marinade will also work well on lamb/mutton chops, or even on chicken. Enjoy the start of your holiday (if you’re lucky enough to have some time off), put your feet up and exhale!

Ingredients: (serves 6)

1,2-1,5 kg boneless leg of lamb
juice and finely grated rind of 2 small lemons
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
2 tablespoons (30 ml) wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Method:

Cut the lamb into bitesize cubes of about 2,5 x 2,5 cm and set aside.
Make the marinade: In a deep glass bowl of about 1,5 liter capacity, add the juice and rind of the lemons, the garlic, olive oil, honey, mustards and season with salt & pepper. Mix well, then add the meat cubes and stir to coat.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and marinate for 1-3 hours in the refrigerator.
Remove the meat from the fridge and skewer the blocks on sosatie sticks to make 6 or more skewers. Braai over hot coals until charred on the outside and slightly pink on the inside. Serve hot with more lemon wedges, and a side salad or braai broodjie.

Another festive collaboration with SA Lamb & Mutton.

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Pulled pork sliders with BBQ sauce & slaw

21 Aug

Slider buns should be small enough to be eaten with one hand. Photography & styling by Tasha Seccombe. Food preparation & plating by Ilse van der Merwe.

Although I don’t eat meat every day, few things give me more pleasure than cooking a large pork roast. Pork is so versatile, flavoursome and easy to handle.

I’ve read up a lot on American-style pulled meat roasts and most of the recipes involve specialised smoking equipment. Although I’ve had the pleasure of teaming up with the guys of Santa Anna’s for a smoking extravaganza a few years ago, this recipe is meant for the home cook who doesn’t have the luxury of outdoor meat smoking equipment (yet). You can achieve great results in your home oven over low temperatures – all you need is time and patience.

I baked soft mini rolls for this shoot (get my recipe), but you can easily buy smaller cocktail buns in most supermarkets these days. The softer the roll, the better it absorbs the BBQ juices – almost like a “sloppy joe”.

This is a great way of serving an informal grab-and-eat lunch or dinner to a meat-loving crowd. Maybe there’s a game of sport involved in the background. Maybe some beers. But there will totally be cheers involved for the pulled pork.

Note: The meat takes 8 hours to cook, so keep that in mind when you start this recipe. The roasting flavour of the meat from your oven is an important part of the charm when inviting guests over – trust me. However, it can be made ahead and reheated with great success.

For the pork: (serves 6)

  • 2,5 kg pork shoulder, bone out, skin scored
  • 30 ml salt flakes (or 15 ml fine salt)
  • 10 ml freshly ground black pepper
  • 15 ml smoked paprika
  • 15 ml fennel seeds (or 10 ml ground fennel)
  • 250 ml apple cider (or apple juice or white wine)
  • 250 ml BBQ sauce (see below, or use a good quality smoky store bought BBQ sauce)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 120 C. Mix the salt, pepper, paprika and fennel together in a small bowl. Place the pork skin side up on a clean working surface. Rub all over with the spice mixture, getting the spices into the scored cracks. Place in an deep, oiled roasting tray and cover with foil. Roast for 8 hours on 120 C, or until the meat is soft enough to easily pull apart with two forks.

When the meat is soft, remove the excess fat, then pull the meat apart using two forks. Drizzle with BBQ sauce and mix through. Return to the oven at 230 C without the foil for about 10 minutes, just getting some dark stickiness on the edges. Serve on soft rolls with slaw and pickles.

For the BBQ sauce: (makes about 1,5 litres)

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 45 ml fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 x 400 g canned pineapple chunks, pureed
  • 1 x 410 g can tomato puree (not tomato paste)
  • 125 ml soft brown sugar
  • 60 ml Worcester sauce
  • 60 ml soy sauce
  • 30 ml white vinegar
  • 10 ml black treacle syrup*
  • 30 ml smoked paprika
  • 15 ml ground Chinese 5-spice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Using a large heavy based pot, heat oil, then fry onion over medium heat until soft. Add garlic & ginger and fry, stirring often, until it starts to catch and the edges turn golden brown.Add fruit puree, tomato puree, sugar, Worcester sauce, soy, vinegar, treacle, paprika & spice. Season with salt & pepper. Stir well, then bring to a simmer and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Stir every now and then to prevent burning. Transfer to a glass jar and cool to room temp, then store in the fridge. Use on roasts, chops, steaks, chicken and burgers, or as a dipping sauce.

*Black treacle syrup is a dark, bitter, thick and sticky syrup and has no real substitute (molasses comes close, though). If you cannot find it or don’t want to buy it especially for this recipe, just leave it out.

For the slaw:

  • 1 small head of purple cabbage (a little goes a long way)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • juice of a small lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:
Shave the cabbage using a mandolin cutter or food processor blade on thinnest setting. Place in a large mixing bowl. In another mixing bowl, mix mayo, sour cream, lemon juice and sugar. Add a pinch of salt & pepper and mix well. Pour over cabbage and mix well (it will always look like the mixture is too dry in the beginning, but it does spread eventually).

To serve:

  • slider buns, sliced open horizontally (buttered and toasted optional)
  • pulled pork (see above)
  • BBQ sauce (see above)
  • slaw (see above)
  • fresh coriander (optional)
  • pickled gherkins/cucumber, sliced

Serve warm pulled pork on soft buns topped with slaw, gherkins, fresh coriander (optional) and more BBQ sauce.

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5 recipes for a sneeze-free spring!

5 Oct

I absolutely love the arrival of spring in September and October. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with allergies during this transitional season between winter and summer, so Hippo.co.za asked me for my top 5 recipes that might just help you combat a light cold or a bout of hay fever. Also check out their article titled What Happens When You Catch the Common Cold?.

Did you know that some foods contain natural antihistamines? Yup – vitamin C, flavonoids and omega 3 can help you combat the sniffles and sneezes during this time of year in the southern hemisphere when the air is filled with pollen and dust.

Here are my top 5 recipes for a sneeze-free spring. Remember to drink lots of water too!

Orange, beetroot & brown rice salad (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

1. Orange & beetroot salad with spinach & wild rice: Oranges are rich in vitamin C (and flavonoids); so are beetroot and spinach. What more can we ask for?

Avo, blueberry and fennel salad (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

2. Avo & blueberry salad with feta & fennel: Blueberries are absolutely packed with incredible nutrients; no wonder they are classified as a superfood! Along with the good oils of avocado, this salad will boost you like few other.

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

3. Baked tomatoes with feta and garlic: Tomatoes are also rich in flavonoids and vitamin C, and garlic is known to be one of the best immune boosters around.

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

4. Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut sauce: These spring rolls are colourful, crunchy and filled with everything fresh and healthy that you can find. The peanut sauce is rich and savoury and contains fresh lime juice – all around so good for your immune system and well being.

So fresh, colourful and easy (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

5. Rainbow poke bowl: This colourful bowl is filled with everything that will boost your health: ginger, fresh fish, fresh vegetables, mango, seaweed and even avocado – sunshine in a bowl! It is easy to assemble and so very good for you.

While you are taking care of your health with these recipes, Hippo.co.za will help you compare Medical Aid quotes from a range of South African brands.

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A Raw Cake spread for Mothers Day with Poetry Stores

11 May

A “raw” cake spread for Mothers Day, featuring recipes from the book Raw Cake. Photography by Tasha Seccombe. All homeware, linen, teas and honey available from Poetry Stores. (Vintage round wooden plate is photographer’s own.)

You’re never too old to learn something new. I am turning 40 years young this year, and it is one of my goals to try as many new ingredients and food types as I possibly can. Earlier in 2017 I became a fan of tofu after being a skeptic for way too many years. It’s never a good idea to judge a book by its cover…

For this Mothers Day feature, I had the opportunity to cook three recipes for a special tea table spread from Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers’ new book Raw Cake, available from Poetry Stores. They are the duo behind The Hardihood in London – raw, handcrafted, superfood confectioners. Products by The Hardihood are plant-based and free from gluten, refined sugar, dairy and soy. Conveniently vegan and often raw, they use organic, sustainable ingredients to craft “clean candy”.

Being a self-confessed French pastry addict, it was hard for me to imagine a world of cakes without butter or sugar (or flour or eggs, for that matter). So I chose two recipes that really reminded me of the “good stuff” like rocky road and berry swirl cheesecake, as well as a recipe that tickled my fancy for the strange combination of ingredients like avo, mango & lime tart.

It was an absolute revelation to make these recipes. For one, there were many ingredients that I’ve never heard of, like maca powder and rice malt syrup. The dairy-free “cheesecake” was made by blending desiccated coconut with soaked raw cashews, rice malt syrup, lemon juice, fresh berries and coconut oil (you need a pretty powerful blender to achieve the right consistency). The rocky road consisted mainly of superfoods like goji berries, dried apricots, pitted dates, organic cacao powder, coconut oil and lots of raw nuts. And the avo mousse tart with mango & lime had the most incredible texture that you can imagine.

Unfortunately, most of these ingredients are not mainstream yet, but you’ll find them in good quality health stores with a relatively high price tag. The more familiar ingredients are easy to find, yet also expensive. If you don’t have serious budget constraints and want to reap the benefits of super healthy, raw food in the tastiest ways imaginable, this book is for you!

Here’s to all the mothers out there aiming to feed their families the best. Happy Mothers Day!

Tip: Shop your nuts at a weigh-and-pay shop – this way you only buy what you need, especially when a recipe calls for only 40 g of walnuts, etc.

“Raw” rocky road – a treat that you can eat and not feel guilty at all! Photography by Tasha Seccombe. (Vintage spatula is photographer’s own.)

Rocky Road (makes 9-12 pieces)

155 g ( 1 cup) dried apricots (sulphur free)
40 g (1/2 cup) walnuts
60 g (1/2 cup) hazelnuts
80 g mixed currants or raisins
55 g (1/2 cup) goji berries

For the chocolate mix:
150 g (3/4 cup) coconut oil, melted
60 g (3/4 cup) cacao powder
30 g (1/4 cup) coconut sugar
170 g (1/2 cup) rice malt syrup
60 g (1/2 cup) pitted dates, soaked for 30 min
Line a 15 cm square baking tin with baking paper. Place all the dry mix ingredients in a high-powered food processor and pulse on high until just broken up and mixed together but still chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and clean out the bowl of the food processor.
Next, make the chocolate mix. Add the coconut oil, cacao, coconut sugar and syrup to the clean food processor and blend on high, then add the dates and blend until smooth and combined. Make sure you don’t over-mix the chocolate or it can separate. If this happens and there is a lot of extra oil, add in some more cacao powder and malt syrup until it becomes smooth.
Pour the chocolate mix over the dry mix and stir together with a large spoon until well combined. Scoop into the baking tin, pressing the mixture down to ensure it is compact. Place in the fridge for 3-4 hours or the freezer for 1 hour until it has completely set, then cut into 9-12 pieces. They will keep well in the fridge for up to 7 days.

My notes: My food processor wasn’t powerful enough to pulse the dried apricots, so I opted to cut them by hand instead. Also, I used a 20 x 13 cm baking dish and got 18 medium size squares – remember to really put pressure on the mixture when you compact it, otherwise it will be very crumbly.

Blueberry Lemon Swirl Cheesecake – not containing and cheese or dairy or gluten! Make your cake look extra pretty with a selection of edible flowers. Catch the interesting ingredient list below. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Blueberry Lemon Swirl Cheesecake (serves 8-12)

For the base:
130 g (1 cup) cashews
50 g (1/2 cup) pecans
60 g (1/2 cup) pitted soft dates
2 tablespoons rice malt syrup or alternative liquid natural sweetener
1 tablespoon maca powder (optional)
pinch of Himalayan salt

For the filling and topping:
60 g (3/4 cup) desiccated coconut
390 g (3 cups) cashews, soaked in warm water for 2 hours then drained
340 g (1 cup) coconut oil, melted
125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, plus extra to decorate
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
200 g ( 2 cups) fresh or frozen blueberries (I used a mixture of blackberries and blueberries)
edible flowers and coconut flakes, to decorate
Line a 20 cm round springform cake tin with baking paper. For the base, place the nuts in a high-powered food processor and blend on high until coarsely ground, then combine with the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Press into the cake tin.
For the filling, place the coconut in a high-powered blender and blend on high until fine, then add the cashews, syrup and coconut oil and blend again until the mixture is as smooth as possible, scraping down the sides to incorporate all the mixture. Transfer half the mixture to a bowl and set aside. Add the lemon juice, zest and turmeric to the mixture left in the blender and blend until smooth. Taste, and add more lemon juice if it needs more flavour, and more sweetener if it’s too tart. Pour into a second bowl, setting aside a few tablespoons of this lemon cream in a piping bag to chill for later. Add the other half of the mixture to the blender with the blueberries. Blend until combined and add more sweetener if needed. Pour it back into the bowl so that you now have two bowls with two colours mixture.

Spoon equal sized dollops of the purple mixture and the yellow mixture at random onto the cake base, alternating between colours, until you have used it all up. Wiggle the tin from side to side to settle the mixture, and swirl through the mix using a knife or a chopstick, to create a pattern. Transfer to the fridge overnight or the freezer for 3-4 hours until firm. Remove from the tin and decorate with the lemon cream, edible flowers, coconut flakes and lemon zest. Chill until ready to serve.

My notes: Use a very powerful food processor / blender to achieve a smooth texture for the cheesecake mixture. Use the turmeric powder with caution, as it can tint the mixture very bright yellow.

Mango, lime and avocado mousse tart. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Mango, Lime & Avocado Mousse Tart (serves 8-12)

For the crust:
130 g (1 cup) macadamias
100 g (1 cup) pecans
95 g (3/4 cup) pitted dates, soaked for 30 minutes or until soft
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
pinch of salt

For the filling:
3 small avocados, stoned
zest and juice of 1 lime
100 g (1/2 cup) coconut oil
1 large mango, peeled and destoned
170 g (1/2 cup) rice malt syrup or coconut syrup
pinch of Himalayan salt

Line a 20 cm round pie tin with baking paper.
First make the crust. Place the nuts in a high powered food processor and blend on high until broken up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again until well combined and the mixture sticks together. Press into the pie tin, and clean out the bowl of the food processor.
For the filling, blend the avocados in the clean food processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until everything has been broken down and the mixture is silky smooth. Pour over the base and place in the fridge for 2-3 hours to set.

My notes: I used a fluted pie tin which is very difficult to line with baking paper. I used a non-stick baking spray instead.

This post was written in collaboration with Poetry Stores. All homeware, linen and the cookbook available online and in store at Poetry Stores.

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Pan-fried potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce

26 Apr

Pan fried gnocchi with crispy sage and brown butter on blue cheese sauce. Bliss in a bowl. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Some classic dishes are not to be tampered with. They are beautiful in their simplicity, their uncomplicated perfection, their timeless deliciousness.

I feel that way about potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce. It was the very first recipe that I’d published on my blog www.thefoodfox.com on 21 January 2011. Over the past few years since that post, I’ve published hundreds of recipes, cooked MANY batches of gnocchi (not only for myself but also for groups of guests while catering) and learned that you always return to simple, old favourites.

I’ve also learned that making gnocchi is not as difficult as everyone says. You just need to “understand” your potatoes and know that they are going to react slightly differently each time (the texture and water content will be different for every single batch). Once you get the hang of the consistency in the dough, the rest is truly child’s play.

I often make potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce at home for my family. I sometimes add a swirl of truffle oil or a drizzle of sage butter, but you don’t even need to. I mostly boil the gnocchi, but some days I prefer golden pan-fried nuggets of plush pillowy potato. Serve them straight from the pan as they can slightly lose their crispy exterior texture on standing.

Note: For the blue cheese sauce, I prefer using a strong-flavoured gorgonzola-style cheese. The blue veins of the cheese don’t completely melt into the cream, it remains delicately textural. The sauce always looks a little too runny at first, but be patient – when you serve it in bowls with the gnocchi, it is just right. Leave the salt & pepper up to your guests as the cheese can sometimes be very salty already.

Making potato gnocchi is not difficult once you get the hang of it. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ingredients for gnocchi: (serves 6)

  • 1 kg floury potatoes, skin on
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 generous teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 250 g cake flour (about 2 cups)

Method:

  1. Boil or bake the potatoes until they are completely tender. Cool slightly and remove the skins (in Italy they believe that cooking the potatoes in their skins add a lot of flavour to the gnocchi).
  2. Press the cooked potatoes through a sieve (this is a laborious process, but the end result is well worth it) or use a potato ricer to create finely minced potato.
  3. Place the fine potatoes in a mixing bowl, then add the egg, salt, pepper and half of the flour. Use a fork or spoon to mix it, adding more flour as you need it (you might not need it all). Turn it out on a floured surface and delicately knead the mixture until it forms a ball that resembles smooth bread dough. Do not over work the dough – you’re looking to create a smoothly textured potato dough that is not lumpy but just kneaded to the right consistency.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, then roll out each piece on a large floured working surface, one at a time, into a long sausage shape of about 2cm thick. Use a knife to cut each strand into gnocchi, flicking the pillows as you’re cutting (so that they don’t stick to the knife or to each other). Quickly toss in a light coating of flour, then pan-fry in butter on both sides until golden (about 1-2 minutes a side). Serve with blue cheese sauce.

For the blue cheese sauce:

  • 500 ml fresh cream
  • 200-250 g gorgonzola-style blue cheese

Method:

Place the cream in a small sauce pan over high heat. When it just comes to a light simmer, crumble the blue cheese into the cream and turn down the heat to very low, stirring for a few minutes until the cheese is completely melted. Pour a pool of sauce into bowls, then top with pan-fried gnocchi (and optionally some crispy fried sage leaves and a few drops of truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil).

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Mar(ch)tini time!

9 Mar

Classic martini (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Summer’s officially over and we’re marveling in the milder weather and muted tones of March. However, I’m not quite ready yet for steamy hot chocolates and mulled wine, so let’s celebrate this beautiful new season with a range of colourful martinis (sporting Poetry‘s range of beautiful glassware, of course) – from the bold and classic to something a little more playful.

With all the beautiful olive and berry colours in Poetry‘s stores at the moment, these martinis fit right in. Adjust the strength of the alcohol according to your preference. Some prefer their martinis with minimal dilution, others can only enjoy it over lots of ice and with a little added juice or soda.

Classic martini

This one is stirred, not shaken, to preserve the translucency of the gin and dry vermouth. I serve it with one green olive, no twist (lemon), no brine (not dirty).

  • ice
  • 2 parts gin (or vodka)
  • 1 part dry vermouth
  • 1 green olive

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice blocks. Add the gin and vermouth, then use a long spoon to stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass and add a olive. Serve immediately.

Dirty martini on the rocks with extra olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Dirty martini on the rocks with extra olives

This martini will put you straight into party mode! Shaking it results in a beautiful almost light green icy coloured drink, and the brine adds just the right amount of salty flavour that works so well with the bitterness of the gin. The extra ice makes it less intimidating to drink, and the extra olives provide you with a snack while you’re sipping.

  • ice
  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part vermouth
  • 1/2 part olive brine
  • ice, to serve
  • thin strip of lemon rind, to serve
  • pitted green olives on a skewer, to serve

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice blocks. Add the gin and vermouth, then close the shaker and shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with extra ice. Add the lemon twist and olive skewers. Serve immediately.

Black and blue martini with lemonade and thyme (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Black and blue martini with lemonade and thyme

If you’re not into the boldness of straight-up martinis, this one with black- and blueberries might tickle your fancy. It’s a little milder, a little sweeter and even a little tinge of pink! The thyme adds a lovely fragrance to the drink.

  • ice
  • 2 parts gin/vodka
  • 1 part vermouth
  • 1 blackberry, bruised
  • a few blueberries, bruised
  • 1 sprig of thyme (plus more for serving)
  • ice cold lemonade, to top up with

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice blocks. Add the gin, vermouth, blackberry, blueberries and thyme. Shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a glass, then top up with lemonade to taste. Garnish with more berries and a sprig of thyme. Serve immediately.

Red martini with bitters (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Red martini with bitters

This fruity cocktail is stunning to look at, fruity with the extra juice added, yet it still has that martini twang in the background. A dash of bitters adds depth of flavour.

  • 2 parts gin/vodka
  • 1 part vermouth
  • ice cold berry juice (I used cranberry), to top up with
  • ice, to serve
  • raspberries, to serve
  • a dash of bitters

Fill a glass half full with ice blocks. Add the gin & vermouth. Top up with juice. Garnish with berries and a dash of bitters. Serve immediately.

Note: This post was written for Poetry Stores. Find featured glassware, homeware, linen and clothing online at www.poetrystores.co.za.

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No-churn fruity frozen yoghurt

28 Feb

Melon and strawberry frozen yoghurt in sugar cones (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If there’s one dessert that everyone loves in the hotter months, it’s ice cream. Dreamy cones of delicious, ice cold creaminess. Unfortunately most ice creams are quite rich in calories (because good ice cream really needs lots of cream) and sugar. If you’ve ever tried making your own, you probably know that a proper home-made custard in a proper churner works best. But very few of us has ice cream churners at home, and very few of us will take the time to make a custard from scratch to start with – it can be quite intimidating. Although I have to mention: the end result totally justifies the effort.

So what’s the alternative? If you really want to enjoy a homemade cold treat with half the effort and more than half the kilojoules, try this: an easy frozen yoghurt made from freshly frozen chunks of banana and other fruit, double cream yoghurt and honey. Whizzed in a food processor (or blender). That’s it.

I’ve seen various versions of this mixture all over the internet, but the basics stay the same. Cut fresh banana and fruit into smallish chunks, freeze in a single layer, pop into your processor with the yoghurt and honey, and give it a whiz. The banana is essential as it provides the smooth, thick texture that we all associate with proper ice cream. It’s all natural, it’s beautiful, and it tastes delicious.

It’s not too difficult to make frozen yoghurt at home. You just need a food processor. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients: (makes about 1 liter)

  • 2 medium-small bananas (peeled and cut into bite-size chunks)
  • roughly 400 g ripe strawberries, stalks removed and cut into chunks (or ripe paw-paw or other soft fruit of your choice, peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 500 g double cream yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup honey (adjust to taste)

Method:

  1. Place the banana and fruit on a small tray in a single layer. Freeze for 2-3 hours.
  2. Place half the frozen fruit with the yoghurt and honey in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and thick, then add the rest of the fruit and blend. It should resemble soft serve consistency. Taste and add more honey if needed.
  3. Place in a plastic container with lid, then refreeze for at least 3 hours until ready to serve.

Note: If your food processor is struggling to process the frozen chunks, start by adding a few chunks at a time with the yoghurt, continuing until all the fruit is mixed. A stronger machine works easier.

PS: Frozen fruit that have spent more than 3 hours in the freezer might become very hard to process with regular smaller machines. Leave them out of the freezer for 15 minutes before processing.

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