Lamb ramen with star anise, ginger and chilli

14 May

Slivers of lamb on a bed of noodles in a fragrant lamb broth. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Ramen has made a huge splash over the past few years in the Western world, although it’s been a staple for in the East for ages. The stuff that we know as “two-minute noodles” turned out to be much more posh that we could have ever imagined! Served right, it’s light yet incredibly flavourful and packed with umami because of a magnificent meat broth, layered with deep flavours and exotic spices.

The good news is that it can be made with major shortcuts, and it’s also the perfect way to enjoy leftovers from your Sunday roast. These days you’ll find excellent lamb & mutton fonds (and some pretty decent stock cubes) in most supermarkets, which means you don’t have to start from scratch with a homemade stock. Add a few key aromatics like star anise, ginger, garlic, chilli, shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce, and you’re pretty much already there. Top with fresh bean sprouts, chopped spring onions and a few slices of roast lamb (or pan fried lamb steaks) and you’re ready to rock your ramen.

I made the ramen in the photo with homemade lamb stock (using roasted lamb bones, onion, carrots, celery, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and water). Whether homemade or store bought – use whatever you prefer and have time for.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 1,25 liters good quality lamb stock/broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, whole
  • 1 knob ginger, peeled
  • 1 star anise
  • 30 ml soy sauce
  • 1 chilli, halved and seeds removed (plus more for serving, optionally)
  • 3-4 large shiitake mushrooms (or other exotic mushrooms, like shimeji), sliced
  • 4 x 70g packets ramen noodles (noodles only, not spice sachets)
  • about 2 cups leftover roasted lamb, shredded, warmed (or about 300 g lamb steak, pan-fried and finely sliced)
  • one bunch spring onions, sliced, white part only
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • a handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, to serve

Method:

  1. Place the stock/broth in a medium size pot with the garlic, ginger, star anise, soy sauce, halved chilli and sliced mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, covered. Remove from the heat and let it stand while you prepare the noodles.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles until just tender. Drain and transfer to 4 bowls.
  3. Strain the broth through a sieve, then top each bowl of noodles with warmed lamb, hot broth, spring onions, sprouts, more chilli (optional), and fresh coriander. Serve at once.

This recipe was created in collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa. #CookingWithLamb #LambAndMuttonSA #WholesomeAndNutritious #CleanEating #TheWayNatureIntended

Share this:

Italian-style white bean soup with lamb knuckle

14 May

One of my favourite recipes this winter: a brothy white bean soup made with lamb knuckle and topped with salsa verde. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Although many of us know and love traditional South African bean soup made with red speckled beans, there’s another variety that you absolutely have to try. It is made with small white haricot beans (almost like Italian canellini beans, which are not very common in SA in its dried form). These beans are very smooth in texture and they tend to not fall apart as easily as their speckled cousins, resulting in a non-stodgy end result. This is a slightly thickened brothy soup with chunks of deliciously tender meat and beautiful, small, silky beans. Made with chicken stock instead of mutton or beef stock, the soup is also lighter in colour than most bean soups. A dollop of punchy green salsa verde adds just the right lift to this meal.

A single lamb knuckle, sliced by your butcher, is enough to add the meatiness that this soup needs. It’s an economical way to serve a stylish soup in a fresh way this Winter. Serve with crusty bread, if you like.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • about 600 g lamb knuckle, sliced horizontally by your butcher
  • 1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1-2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large (or 2 medium) carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 250 ml dry white wine
  • 2 liters chicken stock
  • 500 g small white beans (haricot)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • for the salsa verde:
    • a handful each parsley, basil & mint
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 2 teaspoons capers
    • 15-30 ml lemon juice
    • 45-60 ml olive oil
    • a pinch of salt
    • 10 ml Dijon mustard

Method:

  1. Heat the oil on high heat in a large wide pot (at least 6 liters capacity), then fry lamb knuckle in batches until browned on both sides (cut larger chunks of meat in half). Remove the meat from the pot and set aside, then turn down heat to  medium.
  2. Fry the onion, celery & carrot until soft, stirring often (add a little more oil if needed). Add the garlic & rosemary (add the sprigs whole, you’ll remove the woody stems later) and fry for another minute.
  3. The bottom of the pot should be coated with sticky brown bits by now. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze. Add the fried meat with all the juices back into the pot, then top with stock. Add the beans and stir. Note: Don’t add any salt until tright at he end, otherwise the beans won’t become tender.
  4. Bring to a simmer, stirring now and then, then turn heat down to low, cover with a lid and cook for about 2,5-3 hours until the meat is falling from the bone and the beans are really tender.
  5. Season generously with salt & pepper and remove from the heat to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
  6. To make the salsa verde, chop all the ingredients together by hand or in a food processor. Taste and adjust with more salt or lemon juice if needed.
  7. Serve the soup in bowls with a dollop of salsa verde (and some crusty bread for dipping, optionally).

This recipe was created in collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa. #CookingWithLamb #LambAndMuttonSA #WholesomeAndNutritious #CleanEating #TheWayNatureIntended

Share this:

Spicy lamb & chickpea stew

14 May

Naturally gluten-free, this fragrant and spicy lamb stew is easy to make, hearty, and perfect for Autumn & Winter. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

This easy North African-style lamb & chickpea stew is heartier than a soup, yet it doesn’t need to be served with any added starch. It is high in protein, relatively low in fat and naturally gluten-free.

I love the fact that it can be made with a few pantry staples like canned tomatoes and chickpeas, stretching a relatively small amount of meat to serve a crowd. Top it generously with fresh herbs like coriander, mint or parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Perfect Autumn fare!

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • about 800 g boneless lamb/mutton, cubed 2x2cm (leg works well, but any boneless meat will work)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground cumin
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) smoked paprika
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) harissa dried spice blend (or cayenne pepper)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
  • 500 ml lamb/mutton stock
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • finely grated zest (and 15 ml juice, reserved) of a fresh lemon
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • a generous handful fresh coriander/mint/parsley, to serve

Method:

  1. In a large heavy based pot with lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until translucent and soft. Turn up the heat and add the meat cubes, browning on all sides but not cooking through.
  2. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, harissa, cinnamon stick and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add the sugar, stock, tomatoes, chickpeas and lemon zest and bring to a simmer. Turn down heat to very low, then simmer for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring now and then to check that the bottom is not burning.
  4. Season generously with salt & pepper, add the lemon juice and stir in half of the fresh herbs. Remove from the heat. Serve in bowls with more fresh herbs.

Note: This stew can be made a day or two ahead and reheated – it also freezes well. Leg meat should take less time to get tender, but any cut will eventually get really soft.

This recipe was created in collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa. #CookingWithLamb #LambAndMuttonSA #WholesomeAndNutritious #CleanEating #TheWayNatureIntended

Share this:

How to make a cortado frappé with the GREENIS Smart+ Power Blender

8 May

 

A few weeks ago I received a Greenis 888OT Smart+ Power Blender from Greenis South Africa to try out and review. I’ve since discovered the world of power blending and it has been a major game changer in my kitchen.

This machine not only blends chunky liquids like soups to a silky smooth consistency in a flash, it also grinds nuts to become nut butters and pulverises grains to become flours. With its digital touch interface, LCD display, bluetooth compatibility, Japanese commercial grade stainless steel blades and 3,7 peak horsepower, you can be sure that you’re covered when it comes to premium power blending.

As compactness and practicality are core principles in the design of the Greenis FGR-8880T power blender, it carries the most portable (2 liter capacity) jar in the Greenis range, made from Tritan material that is 100% BPA free and super durable. The blade is able to crush pretty much any type of food ingredients, both wet and dry, soft and hard, small and bulky, thanks to the unique shape and quality stainless steel material. It is also equipped with a smart microchip which allows the blender to control operations more precisely and stably without overheating.

I’ve made hummus with the most velvety texture, smoothies and fruit frappés without any icy grains mentionable, and even smooth tahini using dry toasted sesame seeds and some olive oil. The machine does make a noise, but I suppose you wouldn’t expect anything else from a real power tool.

This cortado frappé is a spin on the classic cortado condensado of Spanish origin, where espresso and condensed milk is enjoyed in equal quantities to make a sweet dessert coffee. With the addition of ice, you can make a 3-ingredient iced coffee with a silky, creamy texture that will beat any coffee milkshake, any day.

The Greenis FGR 8880T is available from Takealot at R4699.00 and is available in white and black. For more visit Instagram @greenissouthafrica.

A smooth and creamy cortado frappé using espresso, condensed milk and ice cubes, made with the Greenis Smart+ Power Blender.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • a double espresso (or 60 ml very strong coffee), cooled for better results
  • 60 ml condensed milk

Method:

Turn the machine on and select the cold drinks setting. Add the ice cubes, espresso and condensed milk and press “on”. The machine will blend for 30 seconds with short pause intervals every 10 seconds. Pour and enjoy immediately.

Share this:

Moroccan-style lamb tagine with harissa and preserved lemon

3 May

This lamb tagine is fragrant and mild, topped with zesty preserved lemon. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

There are few things as inviting as the smell of a fragrant, spicy, exotic lamb tagine bubbling away in your kitchen. I used a dry harissa spice blend that you’ll be able to find in most supermarkets, but a fresh harissa paste will also work well. Adjust the heat by adding more dried/fresh chillies to your liking, if necessary. I prefer a fragrant tagine that is more spicy than hot.

Preserved lemon is a magical yet common Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredient made with lemons, coarse salt and water. It has a very distinctive taste – you only use the rind, sliced. Specialty stores stock it now and then in SA, but you can also easily make your own (it takes 3 months to mature, but it will last for years on the shelf, unopened). If you cannot find preserved lemon, substitute it with fresh lemon rind, finely grated.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

60 ml olive oil
1,2 kg boneless lamb (or mutton), cubed into bite size portions
salt & pepper
10 ml cake flour
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
10 ml dried ground harissa spice blend (or 15 ml harissa paste)
10 ml ground cumin
10 ml ground coriander
5 ml ground ginger
15 ml ground paprika
1 liter warm lamb stock (or chicken stock)
1/2 cup dried pitted dates (or dried apricots, sliced)
1/2 preserved lemon, skin only, sliced into strips (plus more for serving)
a handful flaked almonds, toasted, for serving
a handful mint and/or coriander leaves, for serving
cooked cousous or rice, for serving

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based large pot (or tagine) over high heat. Fry the meat cubes in batches, seasoning with salt & pepper. Add the flour to the last batch and stir well for one minute before removing the cubes from the pot. Turn down the heat to low.
  2. Add the onion & garlic and fry for about 3-5 minutes until it is soft. Turn up the heat to medium, then add the harissa, cumin, coriander, ginger and paprika. Stir for one minute.
  3. Add the stock and stir well with a wooden spoon to loosen all the sticky bits on the bottom. Add the fried meat back to the pot, along with the dates and preserved lemon. Stir and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is really tender, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent the bottom from burning (the dates have a high sugar content).
  4. When the meat is tender, remove from the heat and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with couscous or rice, topped with more preserved lemon rind, toasted flaked almonds and fresh mint/coriander.

Note: This tagine can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving as the flavours improve on standing (store in the refigerator overnight). Freezes very well.

This is the fourth recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipes for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & lemon, Italian-style lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi, and easy lamb chop bourguignon.

Share this:

Easy lamb chop bouguignon (French-style stew in red wine)

20 Apr

This hearty lamb chop stew in red wine is based on the classic French beef bourguignon, perfect for colder evenings. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Beef bourguignon is probably one of the best-known classic French dishes, also famously featured in the movie Julie & Julia. This fuss-free version is made with delicious lamb chops – a hearty, upgraded “plan B” for when the weather is not ideal for a braai. Yes, there’s more than one way to enjoy a chop. Bring on winter, please!

This recipe is also perfect for making in a cast iron potjie over the fire, if you prefer.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

45 ml olive oil
1,2 kg lamb chops
salt & pepper
250 g streaky bacon, chopped
2 large onions, peeled & quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
5 sprigs thyme, woody stalks removed
30 ml tomato paste
10 ml cake flour
750 ml dry red wine (a Bordeaux-style blend works well)
250 g small mushrooms (or halved if bigger)
500 g tagliatelle, cooked & buttered, for serving
a handful fresh parsley, chopped, for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy based large pot (that has a lid) over high heat. Fry the chops in batched, browning them on both sides and seasoning with salt & pepper. Remove from the pot and turn down the heat to low.
  3. Add the bacon, onions, garlic & thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring.
  4. Add the tomato paste & flour, stirring.
  5. Add the red wine and stir to loosen any sticky bits on the bottom of the pot. Now add the browned meat and juices back to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and braise for about 2,5-3 hours or until the meat is just starting to fall from the bone. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 10-15 minutes (covered), then remove from the oven.
    Serve hot with freshly cooked tagliatelle (or rice or potatoes) and scattered parsley.

Note: This tagine can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving as the flavours improve on standing (store in the refigerator overnight). Freezes very well.

This is the third recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipes for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & preserved lemon and Italian-style lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi.

Share this:

How to make great pizza: from scratch, at home, without a pizza oven

17 Apr

After many requests, here it is! My essential guide to making exceptionally tasty pizza at home, from scratch, without a pizza oven.

We’ve been making pizza at home for many years, at least once a week. Pizza is obviously a popular item all over the world because it’s tasty, but making it at home is also a great way to spend time together and get people excited about midweek dinner. You won’t be able to serve 6 pizzas at once, but it will be a sharing-kinda-evening with everyone choosing their favourite toppings. My 7 year old daughter has always loved pizza, but now that she’s gotten used to my homemade version over the past few years, she’s turning her nose up at restaurant pizza (which is becoming a problem when we do eat out!).

So let’s talk pizza: this is almost a New York-style pizza with a thin crust (but not the thick outer rim), freshly made with Italian whole peeled tomatoes, grated mozzarella cheese (not fior di latte), salami and fresh basil leaves – you can leave the salami and add whatever you want. New York-style pizzas have a signature way of cooking where the tomato sauce and grated cheese integrate in the oven to form an almost “orange” top with a slight release of oil from the cheese, resulting in a look very different from the Italian (Neopolitan) classic made essentially with white blotches of fior di latte (fresh mozzarella) and a wood fired oven which results in spotty, blackened crusts.

Of course I also enjoy a proper wood fired Italian pizza made with fior di latte, but I’ve found that this semi-New York-style satisfies a much wider audience in my house.  There’s no pizza oven at my place, so I’ve learnt how to use my regular oven (a Bertazzoni La Germania Americana) with a few tips and tricks to reach incredible temperatures, straight onto a pizza stone (using a regular sheet of baking paper) without extra flour or a baking shovel. The results are just this: you’ll want more.

Here are my top 10 tips for making great pizza at your home. Once you try it, you might never order in again.

  1. Make a pizza base sauce from scratch: This is probably the biggest contributor to the flavour of your pizza. Most store-bought sauces just don’t hit the spot. If you think you can use tomato puree straight out of a can as a base sauce, you are horribly mistaken! Please don’t do it. My recipe includes no tomato puree (I find it too concentrated), but rather canned whole Italian tomatoes, pureed. Use a little more olive oil (than you think is adquate) to fry your garlic in, this way the garlic won’t burn easily. I add salt, pepper, sugar and dried origanum. My secret ingredient, smoked paprika, is optional, but adds phenomenal smokiness. Simmer and reduce the sauce for about 25-30 min over low heat, with a lid partially on so it doesn’t splatter all over your stove top. You’re looking for a hearty, bright red tomato puree that is slightly chunky.
  2. Use a good quality flour for your dough: For me there’s only one option, and that is stone ground white bread flour. Not only is it a more natural choice, but the texture result is far superior to processed and bleached commercial cake flour (there are scientific reasons for that, like the strength of the gluten etc. – I won’t go into it here). I’ve recently converted from making dough in my stand mixer to making dough in my food processor, after reading about it on Serious Eat’s Pizza Lab (a great read, by the way). It’s so much faster to make, and results in a really smooth dough that rises a little faster too.
  3. Be choosy about cheese: Not all mozzarellas are equal. Choose a good quality mozzarella and grate it coarsely, by yourself (ready-grated mozzarella are usually coated with a floury substance that prevents it from sticking together, and when that melts the result is just not the same). And don’t be tempted to use too much – it makes the pizza heavy and the base will be soggy.  If you are using fior di latte, tear it into chunks and arrange it with some space inbetween, as it will melt and “pool” to the sides. For this option, you won’t want to cover the full base, you’d still want some red spots inbetween.
  4. With toppings, less is more: This is a rookie mistake I see over and over again. A Margherita with salami, bacon, mushrooms, onion, red pepper, feta, artichokes and extra garlic WILL be a soggy mess. Choose 2 of your favourite toppings, if you must, and add it sparingly. That way, you’ll enjoy a much better end result with proper crunch. Lastly, remember to put the toppings on top of the cheese, not under (otherwise nothing gets cooked, it only gets horribly mushy).
  5. Properly preheat your oven: That means at least 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll be surprised how much it changes your game. Pizzas need exceptionally high temperatures to bake from scratch and cook through all the lovely layers. A moderate hot oven just won’t win the game.
  6. Choose the right oven setting and rack position: In my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana, I’ve found that the convection oven gets hotter quickly, but it doesn’t give enough directional heat from below – which is what you specifically want for a crispy base. The regular baking setting, using the top and bottom elements at the same time without convection, works fantastic for me. To make the most of the bottom heat, the pizza should definitely be baked on the lowest rack.
  7. Choosing between a pizza stone or a baking tray: I’ve had great results with both options, but the pizza stone still wins. I recently bought a nice cheap-ish one from Agrimark for only R220,00 (it even includes a pizza slicer!). The cool thing about the stone is that it absorbs and radiates heat, which means that it contributes to raising the heat even more with proper preheating. Remember to place it in the oven BEFORE you turn it on, otherwise it might crack (and only remove it after the stove has cooled properly). Another option is to buy untreated terracotta tiles from a tiling company – I’ve used it many times with phenomenal results. This way you can also pack them tightly together to create a larger baking area on your bottom tray for baking more than one pizza at a time – great for entertaining larger crowds. Last note about using baking trays: assemble the pizza on the BACK of the tray, that way it will slide off easier without having to go over a lip (see next point about using baking paper for sliding). These days you can also find lipless baking trays that work perfectly.
  8. You don’t need a shovel: Cooking the pizza directly on the hot pizza stone is what you’re aiming for. If you had a proper pizza oven, you’d use a shovel to get it in and out – it looks great, but it’s quite a technique to master, using just the right amount of flour/semolina underneath the fully assembled pizza to slide it onto and off again – believe me, it can be a disaster. In your kitchen, you probably won’t have the space for it anyway. So make your life easier by just using sheets of regular, non-stick baking paper (NOT wax paper). Transfer the rolled dough onto it, then assemble from there. This way, you’re left with an easily sliding device: sliding it onto a tray, onto the stone, off the stone, onto a board – you’ll easily get the hang of it. You can tug on the edges because it never really becomes too hot to touch (just be careful not to touch the actual stone or the oven). The paper will turn a little brown, but it won’t catch fire (unless you forget it in the oven…).
  9. Serve it on wood: Slice and serve the pizza immediately after cooking, on a flat wooden board. Hot pizza on regular ceramic plates turn sweaty quite quickly – not nice. Top with fresh herbs for extra flavour and texture.
  10. Condiments, anyone?: Many people love a little extra salt and freshly ground pepper on a pizza, but if your base and sauce is properly seasoned it shouldn’t even be necessary. I do like the crunch of a few salt flakes on top, so I always add that. Hot sauces like Tobasco or Sriracha are also crowd pleasers, so make a little condiment station in the middle of the table if you want to – totally optional.

Pizza base sauce recipe: (serves 6-8 – recipe can also be halved)

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 x regular cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 10 ml sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml dried origanum
  • 2,5 ml smoked paprika

Heat the oil over medium heat, then fry the garlic until fragrant but not brown. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, origanum and paprika, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes until almost reduced by half (keep partially covered to prevent splattering).

Pizza dough recipe: (makes 8 medium or 6 large – recipe can also be halved)

  • 600 g (4 cups) stone ground white bread flour
  • 10 g (15 ml) instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
  • 1,5 teaspoons (7,5 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) luke warm water
  • 15 ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for oiling hands and bowl)

Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the water and olive oil and mix for 15-20 seconds or until it forms a ball. With oiled hands, remove the dough and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let if proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.

To make your pizza:

  • flour, for rolling out dough
  • about 125 g mozzarella per medium pizza, roughly grated (about 1 kg for 8 medium pizzas)
  • toppings of your choice (optional, like sliced salami, ham, mushrooms, crumbled feta, wilted spinach, etc.)
  • fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • condiments like hot sauces (optional)
  • salt flakes & freshly ground pepper (for serving)

When you place your dough in the bowl for proofing, then is a good time to start pre-heating your oven, with shelf on bottom position (if using a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf before turning the oven on). When the oven is hot (more than 240 C) and the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough into 8 portions (for medium pizza). On a floured surface, roll out the dough into thin circles (about 27-28 cm for medium), then transfer to a square sheet of non-stick baking paper on the back of a baking tray or on a lipless baking tray. Use the back of a spoon to cover all over with the cooked tomato pizza base sauce (see above), then top with mozzarella and your choice of topping, used sparingly. Carefully slide directly onto the hot pizza stone (or if you don’t have a stone, just place the baking tray in the oven). Bake for 4-7 minutes until golden brown on the edges and bubbly on top. Remove by carefully tugging on the baking paper and sliding the pizza onto a tray again. Transfer to a wooden serving board and remove the baking paper. Slice, top with fresh basil and serve at once.

Find more info about my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana stove on www.chefspride.co.za.

Share this:

Lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi

5 Apr

Lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi, basil and parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

This is hands-down one of the most comforting dishes I’ve ever eaten. It is made with boneless lamb that’s been cubed into 1 x 1 cm blocks – don’t stress about the labour, it goes quickly and it’s actually quite therapeutic (read: pour yourself a glass of wine while you do it). You can use chops, leg or even stewing meat, just remove the bones and chop-chop-chop. The result is a chunkier ragu than those made with ground meat, very tender with an incredible mouth-feel and packed with simple, robust flavours. Just the way the Italians intended.

I love serving this ragu with gnocchi, but it also works well with pasta – homemade is best. Fresh basil and grated parmigiano is compulsory. Bellissima!

Ingredients: (serves 6)

45 ml olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
1-2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, woody stems removed & finely chopped
1 kg boneless lamb/mutton, cubed into 1 x 1 cm pieces
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped, with juice
salt & pepper
5 ml sugar
about 750g-1 kg fresh gnocchi, cooked, to serve (or 500 g dried pasta, cooked)
a handful fresh basil leaves, to serve
grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

  1. In a heavy based large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onion, celery, carrot and rosemary until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the cubed meat and turn up the heat. Fry until it starts to catch (get brown and sticky) on the bottom stirring often – this is important, so be patient. It takes about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Add the chopped tomatoes with juice, season with salt & pepper, add the sugar and stir. Bring so a simmer, then turn the heat down low, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until very soft. Stir every now and then.
  4. Serve with cooked gnocchi or pasta, with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.

Note: Store-bought gnocchi don’t pan-fry well and should rather be boiled briefly in salted water until they pop to the surface. Freshly made gnocchi can be directly pan-fried in butter until golden, it only take a few minutes over medium heat and it is most definitely my preference.

This is the second recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipe for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & preserved lemon.

Share this:

Product review: Achilles Chef’s Knife by Sternsteiger

4 Apr

Share this:

A weekend in the Elgin Valley

31 Mar

The most incredible view of Elgin Wine Valley from the stoep at Almenkerk Wine Estate, Elgin.

 

Last week I spent two days in the Elgin wine valley with my husband and daughter, visiting a few wine estates and restaurants for a taste of their characteristic cool climate region.

This post is a photographic journey of our experience. The valley is so breathtakingly beautiful that you cannot even try to communicate it via pictures. It sometimes felt like we were in another country, perhaps Italy or France, enrobed by the rolling green hills, pristine vineyards and gardens, luscious fruit orchards and fading blue mountains in the distance. It was a feeling of discovering a gem that’s been right under our noses, still unpolluted by the commercialized machine of mass tourism. This valley is generous in all of its glory – unprecedented cool climate wines, honest and personal countryside hospitality, robust flavours and an earthy tranquility that transcends time and space.

We started our trip with a wine tasting at the picturesque Almenkerk Wine Estate followed by lunch at the newly launched Rojaal Eatery (already proving to be a favourite among the Elgin locals). After a laid back night in (watching cricket next to the fire place with a few glasses of wine) and stayover at the plush manor house at Elgin Vintners, we enjoyed breakfast and took a stroll around the vast gardens and surrounding grounds. A generous wine tasting of Elgin Vintners followed, after which we took a drive to Oak Valley for an indulgent lunch at The Pool Room, balming in the most perfect Autumn weather. My 7 year-old daughter found her own magic along the way by making friends with the winemaker’s kids at Almenkerk, playing in their cellar, riding a horse with the very friendly local farm girls and taking a swim in the rain at Elgin Vintners, watching tv in her huge bed, eating freshly picked pears from the surrounding orchards and playing in the puddles at The Pool Room.

Elgin is situated off the N2 just 45 minutes outside Stellenbosch and there are so much more to explore. We’ll certainly be back soon to sip, savour and see more. This is a weekend getaway that almost feels like a trip to the most beautiful countryside of Europe, only much better, because it is right here on our doorstep and costs a fraction of traveling abroad.

Thank you to Yolandi de Wet PR for putting our itinerary together, and a special thank you to Almenkerk, Rojaal Eatery, Elgin Vintners and The Pool Room for hosting us so generously. We absolutely loved our stay.

Tasting the Lace range by Almenkerk, starting with a cool climate sauvignon blanc. Elgin is also well known for producing excellent apples and pears.

The Almenkerk Estate range, featuring their premium sauvignon blanc.

The cake table at Rojaal Eatery. This place is situated in a warehouse-type building with a fun, eclectic, colourful style of decor.

Old and new meets at Rojaal Eatery. Housed in a former flower-packing shed overlooking one of the fruit region’s many valleys, Rojaal (the Afrikaans word for abundance) was established in 2016 by enterprising apple farmer Arno Reuvers.

Pork belly with slaw and baked pears at Rojaal Eatery. Portions are generous and the style of cooking is “abundant”, just like the name suggests.

Fish cake with guacamole on a squid ink bun, onion rings and potato wedges. This was really delicious! Rojaal Eatery is now also open for dinner on Fridays and they are very popular with the local Elgin community – a great testament to their establishment.

Happiness is… crispy house-made chicken strips! At Rojaal.

The recently renovated manor house at Elgin Vintners. The house has four rooms, three with on-suite bathrooms. The house is also suitable for larger functions like weddings and can be rented out as a whole. We stayed in the Denniston and Browne rooms, both with king size beds and on-suite bathrooms.

The majestic garden view from the stoep at Elgin Vintners.

The wine tasting room with wine display, also doubling up as a tv room with fire place and wine tasting bar. At Elgin Vintners.

Exploring the garden at Elgin Vintners. Spot the squirrel…

Ready to go for a stroll to find the horses! At Elgin Vintners.

Some pretty magical pathways in the garden at Elgin Vintners.

On our way to the horses at Elgin Vintners.

One of the local farm girls showing us how cool life can be around horses. They were all so friendly! At Elgin Vintners.

One of my favourite farm views of our stay at Elgin Vintners, on our way back to the manor house.

Morning dew in the rose garden at Elgin Vintners manor house.

The swimming pool next to the manor house at Elgin Vintners. Although it was slightly rainy, my daughter took a dip and it was surprisingly warm!

Freshly picked pears on the wine tasting counter at Elgin Vintners.

Tasting The Century, a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon at Elgin Vintners.

An incredible wooded chardonnay by Elgin Vintners.

So this is why it’s called “The Pool Room”! Surely an iconic view, surrounded by beautiful, painted sculptures.

Our table could not have been more in the center of this restaurant – almost like a dream, so picturesque. At The Pool Room.

The interior of The Pool Room at Oak Valley. The restaurant is independently run to the rest of the estate.

The service area at The Pool Room, with host Emma Gordon in the middle. Her husband, Gordon Manuel, is the chef. Together, they run the restaurant as partners.

Amouse bouche: mole with chargrilled veg and crispy poppadoms. So robust in flavour!

Starter: citrus cured hake with garden salad and flowers. So fresh!

Trout, avocado mousse, citrus dressing, garden greens.

Our choice of wine with our lunch: a shiraz from Oak Valley, the larger estate where The Pool Room is situated on.

Grass-fed beef rump steak with thrice fried chips. This was Schalk’s main course. The flavour of the meat was intense and earthy – such a privilege to eat beautifully prepared produce from the estate itself!

Acorn-fed pork cutlet with caulflower puree, baked apples, and crackling. This was my main course and it was superb.

Pannacotta with candied orange and raspberry sorbet. Such a great combination of textures and flavours.

Peach frangipane with honey and ice cream. This was my dessert and the PERFECT end to an incredible meal. We were there for 2 and a half hours and we could have stayed for much longer – so tranquil!

A perfect Autumn day in the Elgin wine valley, having  a dreamy lunch at The Pool Room while my daughter played around the pool. We had a few drops of rain, but no wind. Cool and slightly overcast. I could have stayed there forever.

 

Contact details:

Almenkerk Wine Estate: 021 848 9844, ruth@almenkerk.co.za

Rojaal Eatery: 021 204 1085, bestuurder@rojaal.co.za

Elgin Vintners:  021 848 9587, info@elginvintners.co.za

The Pool Room: 021 859 4111, poolroom@oak-valley.co.za

Yolandi de Wet PR: 082-772 7519, yolandi@yolandidewetpr.co.za

Share this:
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram
YouTube