The easiest, cheesiest cheese sauce for cheesy fries

8 Feb

This is the stuff dreams are made of: a super silky cheese sauce made with Dalewood’s award winning Boland™ cheese (and only 2 other ingredients).

 

I’ve been having this craving for golden potato chips covered in cheese sauce ever since we returned from our annual holiday early in January this year. I restrained these thoughts because of good intentions as part of a new “exercise and under-indulgence regime” (it was a brand new year, after all). And then I received an incredible cheese hamper courtesy of Dalewood Fromage about two weeks ago. And then Eat Out published this video about Bertus Basson’s burger joint, De Vrije Burger‘s cheesy fries. Well folks, I think the universe was trying to tell me something…

Needless to say, I immediately did some research on making the easiest, cheesiest, fuss-free, silky smooth cheese sauce. I came across a fantastic feature on Alton Brown’s site SeriousEats.com (one of my favourite resources for researching recipes) by J. Kenji López-Alt where he uses evaporated milk instead of a milk/butter/flour roux as a base, ensuring an incredibly smooth end result with a slightly sweet milky tinge to it. Using a really good quality cheese is at the centre of this recipe, because it only contains 3 ingredients, the last being a tablespoon of neutral tasting corn flour. So I chose Dalewood’s Boland™ – a semi-hard cheese with a hard rind made in the style of a Port Salut. It has a relatively mild and nutty flavour; savoury and slightly sweet. With its smooth, velvety texture, it was going to make my cheesy dreams come true.

Last night I finally put the recipe to the test. At first I thought I was going to add a little Dijon mustard and perhaps a little squirt of hot sauce and a pinch of salt. But the flavour of the Dalewood Boland™ was just perfect – strong and complex enough to ensure a deep, nutty, cheese flavoured sauce without the addition of anything else. The texture was velvety, indulgent and inviting. It was even better than I could have imagined.

I’m a little hesitant to admit that my husband and I finished the whole pot of sauce (and about 650 g of fries, loaded with chopped salami and chives) by ourselves. OK, I finished the last bit by myself with a spoon, straight from the pot. It was THAT good.

So give it a go. Also incredibly good on burgers, schnitzels, broccoli, macaroni, nachos, steak etc. Watch how to make it:

Ingredients for cheese sauce:

(based on a recipe featured on SeriousEats.com)

  • 250 ml (1 cup) evaporated milk (canned)
  • 250 g Dalewood Boland™, rind removed and coarsely grated
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) corn flour / Maizena

Pour the evaporated milk into a small saucepan and place over medium heat on the stove. In the meantime, toss the grated cheese and corn flour together. When the milk starts to boil, add the cheese & corn flour, lower the heat, and stir until the cheese has melted fully and the sauce is silky smooth. Remove from heat.

To serve: Pour over freshly made golden fries (potato chips), seasoned generously with salt flakes. Optionally top with shredded salami (or crispy bacon) and chopped chives, or sliced jalapenos and guacamole.

To reheat: Place the saucepan back on the heat and stir until runny and smooth. Alternatively, heat in a microwaveable container, stirring every 15-30 seconds until runny and smooth. Store in the fridge, covered.

Substitutions for the cheese: Substitute the cheese for any other cheese that is punchy in flavour, like a mature cheddar/gouda or a slightly milder Gruyere etc. The colour of the sauce will also be affected by your choice of cheese, so if you like a yellow sauce, choose a darker, yellower cheese.

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Chocolate fondant for two with my LG Neochef

31 Jan

This recipe makes two large chocolate fondants. Serve with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream – it’s the ultimate indulgence! (golden teaspoons by Hertex HAUS)

 

There are very few recipes out there that are written for two people only. As a standard, most serve four or six. So when you’re planning a special dinner for two, it can be very frustrating to sit with more leftovers than what you actually served, or worse – paying for ingredients for a party of six when you’re only hosting one guest.

I’ve made things easy for you by creating a recipe that saves you money time and energy. These chocolate fondants were baked in my LG Neochef microwave oven that also doubles up as a Smart Inverter oven. It heats to 160 C in only 2 minutes 50 seconds (!), using far less energy than most conventional larger ovens, perfect for cooking smaller batches. Melting chocolate with it’s microwave function is a breeze, as it only takes 30 seconds (read the recipe method below, you’ll see).

I have a massive sweet tooth and dessert is usually a huge priority when I serve a special dinner. If you feel a 250 ml dessert will be too big for you, make this recipe in four smaller ramekins and freeze the extra two for another time (the mixture freezes exceptionally well, just add 5 minutes to the baking time and bake from frozen).

Over the past few months I’ve explored more and more functions of my LG Neochef. I’ve even defrosted, proofed and baked croissants in about 35 minutes in total, with incredible results. This machine makes the impossible possible, using little energy and saving space. Find more info, see my recent review post.

Ingredients: (makes 2 large or 4 smaller fondants)

  • 15 ml butter, melted, for brushing
  • 10 ml cocoa powder
  • 60 g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (preferably 70% cocoa)
  • 60 g butter
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 XL egg yolk
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 15 ml brandy/whisky (optional)
  • 15 ml brewed espresso or very strong coffee (optional)
  • 60 g cake flour, sifted
  • a pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Using 2 x 250 ml size ramekins (or 4 x 125 ml ramekins), use a pastry brush to brush the insides with melted butter, then place in the freezer for 2 minutes. Brush the ramekins again with butter and dust all over with cocoa powder, tipping the powder all around the insides and into the next ramekin as you go. Refrigerate the ramekins until ready to use.
  2. Place the chocolate in a large deep mug and place the  butter on top. Place in the Neochef and press “start” (it microwaves automatically at max strength for 30 seconds) then remove – the butter would have melted and the mug would be heated, so tip the mug from side to side to cover the chocolate all over with the warm butter. Leave to stand for at least 5 minutes before starting to stir with a spatula. Leave to stand further until fully melted and smooth.
  3. In the meantime, place the egg, yolk and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix well with electric beaters until creamy and light. Give the chocolate mixture one last stir to make sure it is completely melted, then fold it into the egg mixture.
  4. Place the low rack in the Neochef and preheat to 160 C (press the “cook mode” button until it shows 180 C, then turn the knob down to 160 C and press “start” twice).
  5. Add the brandy, espresso (both optional, but adds great flavour), flour and salt to the mixing bowl and fold in carefully. Divide the mixture between the two (or 4) ramekins.
  6. The Neochef should play a tune to let you know it is heated to the correct temperature. Press the “stop/cancel” button, then turn the knob to the right until it displays 18 minutes (for smaller ramekins, turn to 12 minutes). Put the ramekins on the low rack, close the door and press “start”.
  7. When the time is up, remove the ramekins with oven mitts, run a knife along the edges and turn out carefully on 2 plates. Dust with more cocoa powder and serve with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. I’ve also added some chopped pistachios, but that is totally optional. Serve immediately to enjoy the full lava-ish effect – absolutely heavenly.

Note: Chocolate fondant is meant to have a lava-like melted interior. Do not overbake this dessert, as it won’t have the same charm. If you’re nervous about turning it out, rather underbake it slightly and serve inside the ramekins – no stress!

PS: If you are baking these in a conventional oven on fan mode, reduce the baking time slightly as oven fans tend to heat a little higher than regular ovens. All ovens are different, so it might take more than one take to get it perfect!

(I have received an LG Neochef as part of a collaboration project, which I am enjoying fully. All views and opions are my own.)

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2 Michelin-starred chef opening pop-up restaurant in Franschhoek as part of world tour

29 Jan

Chef Piet telling his story to guests at the preview of his pop-up shop.

Double Michelin-starred Belgian chef Piet Huysentruyt will soon open a pop-up restaurant at The Conservatory on Happy Valley Road in Franschhoek.

The pop-up is a touring version of Huysentruyt’s Likoké Restaurant in Les Vans in France’s Rhône Valley. With his philosophy of honouring his roots, his rock & roll soul and his sentimental emotions, a ‘standard’ pop-up restaurant as a way to keep busy during the French winter simply wouldn’t do and eventually developed into a world tour, just as a rock band would do.

On the back of his t-shirt, more info about the Likoké On Tour pop-up restaurant tour.

Their first destination was Huysenstruyt’s native Belgium, followed by stopovers in Japan, Indonesia and Singapore.  Franschhoek is the restaurant’s last and only African stop before heading back home. The restaurant team is being followed by a TV crew, writer and photographer with a view to publishing a book about their culinary world tour.

Chef Piet attended the Ter Duinen Culinary Institute against his parents’ wishes. He went on to work at some of Belgium’s and France’s most prestigious culinary institutions before opening his own eatery in the late 1980s. His efforts were finally rewarded with a Michelin star in 1994.

His cuisine became famous for his rebellious and unconventional combinations of noble ingredients and offal, but also of “surf and turf”.  When he published his first book with food photographer Tony Leduc, it was aptly titled “Contemporary and Stubborn”. They also made history by coining the original phrase “food porn”!

Feeling somewhat misunderstood and underappreciated, Piet closed his first restaurant and went on to become a celebrity TV chef – creating more than 20 cooking shows and selling more than 4 million books over the past 15 years.

Likoké welcomed its first diners in 2013 and received a Michelin star a mere five months later.  The Gault et Millau Restaurant Guide awarded it three toques later the same year as well as its Discovery of the Year accolade. Today the restaurant is ranked 39th on the WBP Stars World’s Best Restaurants List.

The African stop on Likoké’s world tour has particular sentimental significance for Piet as his restaurant carries the nickname his father was given while living in the Belgian Congo. Huysentruyt says Likoké’s core values reflect his family’s roots in Africa, his love of southern France’s terroir and his desolate past in Belgium where he learned to appreciate the beauty of simple products.

I was invited to exclusively experience some tasters of what can be expected at the upcoming pop-up a week ago, hosted by the rockstar chef himself, Piet Huysentruyt. Here is my experience in pictures:

Chef Piet pouring tasters of Beetroot | Coconut | Yoghurt, Carrot | Saffron | Passion | Yoghurt and Celery | Tarragon | Cucumber.

Liquid tasters served on a vine branch.

Pork Tartare | Pickles (one of my favourite dishes of the day).

Avocado cracker.

Belgian waffle | Mushroom.

Chef Piet getting ready to plate.

Tomato | Franschhoek trout. A stunning, light dish packed with flavour.

Moules Frites.

Pork Trotter Beignets | Cauliflower.

Moambe | LFC. A tongue in cheek version of KFC.

Biltong | Grill. Slices of almost carpaccio beef on smoking hot fire logs served with a sprinkling of cheese.

Stoverij | Friet. That golden deep fried item in the background was a potato chip, Belgian-style. Just incredible! Underneath the melba toast there was a very good meat stew. Also one of my favourite dishes of the day.

Apple | Honey | Goats Cheese.

Chocolate | Beetroot | Buttermilk.

Chef Piet’s beetroot-stained hands adding the finishing cocoa dust on the dessert. There were also smoked almond financiers served after this dish.

Likoké in Franschhoek will be open from Tuesday to Saturday, between 28 February and 15 March. It will be located at The Conservatory on Happy Valley Road.

Cost: Set Menu of 12-15 courses for R1250 per person (R1900 with wine).

Bookings: 071-365 9612

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Review: The Bertazzoni La Germania Americana 90cm gas/electric stove

18 Jan

Last year I was scrolling through Instagram one morning and came across a range of Italian stoves imported by Chef’s Pride. Although I’ve never heard of this company before, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly beautiful their range of freestanding stoves were. They were so beautiful that the thought of them kept me up that night, to be honest.

I decided to contact Chef’s Pride suggesting a collaborative campaign where I would receive my very own Bertazzoni La Germania Americana 90cm gas/electric freestanding stove to try out, cook with and review in exchange for creating original content for them over a period of time. As with all of my collaborations/endorsements/reviews, I only publish reviews if the end verdict is positive (negative reviews never get published, I rather send a list of constructive criticism to the client). Well friends, I’ve been cooking on my Bertazzoni since December and this stove is rocking my world.

Firstly, let’s get the specs on the table:

  • Model: Bertazzoni La Germania Americana, burgundy, dual fuel (gas/electric), 90 cm
  • 5 gas burners (one 0.48-5.00 kW dual ring lateral wok)
  • 11 multi-function settings (on electric oven models)
  • dual oven fan for even heat distribution
  • oven dimensions 400 x 760 x 470 mm / 142 liter
  • thermometer on facia displays oven temperature
  • single hand electronic automatic ignition
  • safety termocouple/valves (flame failure device) on each burner
  • seamless single piece stainless steel squared worktop
  • cast iron pan supports
  • large soft/cool touch control knobs
  • triple glass drop down oven door with soft close hinges
  • utility drawer and oven cooling fan system
  • Retail price: R22 685
  • Available online from www.chefspride.co.za and www.yuppiechef.co.za 

This is a large, sturdy, solid stove. It doesn’t rattle and it doesn’t wobble. The legs can adjust in height, so I’m happy to have it at its maximum height which is around 90 cm. The door handle is very solid and the door closes softly. The oven is wide enough on the inside to accommodate my largest baking trays, sometimes even two standard trays next to each other. Because of the even heat distribution, I can bake four trays of cookies, two trays next to each other on two different shelves, without seeing much of a difference in cooking colour on the four trays. I have also slow roasted 23 kg of pork shoulders at once in this oven overnight in four different roasting trays – it was a tight fit but it worked! Incredible.

The oven preheats to any temperature in about 10 minutes, according to the built in thermometer. This is a great way of checking actual temperatures, and I’ve found that I can slightly turn down the oven temperature on fan mode because it heats to roughly 20 degrees C more than the regular element. Which is exactly what it should be doing.

There is a large storage compartment at the bottom, which is perfect for storing unused trays and racks out of sight.

The gas top works seamlessly with single handed electronic ignition and I have not noticed any throttling on the gas outlets – just smooth blue flames. The smallest gas plate is very small and I love this, because I regularly cook with small saucepans and many other gas tops don’t cater for really small pots (the flames usually leak around the sides and causes the sauce to burn there). The large centre dual-ring plate evenly heats my biggest pots easily (I sometimes need to cook with a 20 liter pot) and is powerful enough to keep a very large pot boiling.

Cleaning is made easy with very few seams on the inside (almost none) and no seams on the top stainless steel panel. The door can be removed for intensive cleaning, as well as the inside glass panel (I won’t be doing that very soon, though).

This stove is pure pleasure to cook with and I highly recommend it for serious home cooks, but also for anyone seeking classic Italian styling and flair in their kitchen. Find this burgundy Bertazzoni La Germania Americana also in cream, black and stainless steel online via www.chefspride.co.za or www.yuppiechef.co.za.

The beautiful Bertazzoni La Germania logo shield on the front of the oven.

 

The centre dual ring gas plate (one of 5 in total, including 1 small, 2 medium, 1 large and 1 wok).

 

Solid gas plate knobs, cool and soft to the touch, with electric single hand ignition.

 

The iconic thermometer on the Bertazzoni La Germania Americana.

 

The massive 142 liter capacity oven with two oven racks and 4 oven rack slide-in settings.

 

Twin fan for quick and even heat distribution.

 

The oven function knob and sturdy stainless steel oven door handle which closes softly.

 

Contact Chef’s Pride for more information about this oven and others in the range:

Physical address: 10 Bell Crescent, Hennopspark, Pretoria

Web: www.chefspride.co.za

Tel: 012-653 3132

Email: info@chefspride.co.za

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Revamped small plates menu at Majeka House

17 Jan

The table at the entrance to Makaron Restaurant, Majeka House.

 

Yesterday, I attended a media lunch preview of the revamped popular small plates menu at Makaron Restaurant, Majeka House in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch. This restaurant was named as one of the top 30 in SA by Eat Out Magazine in 2017 and remains a favourite dining spot for locals and international visitors alike.

One of the pigs in Majeka House’s iconic pig collection.

 

After a welcome drink at the plush M Lounge and a quick site tour of their luxurious premier (entry level) and poolside (premium) hotel rooms, we took our seats at the iconic golden tables in Makaron Restaurant to sample chef Lucas Carstens’ finest new offerings.

Here is my photographic journey through the dishes that I tasted yesterday, all of which are on the current small plates menu (available until around March 2018). Diners are encouraged to choose four to six small plates per person, with or without wine pairings (I highly recommend the wine pairings though, as recommended by their acclaimed sommelier Brenda Karamba). This way you can taste your way through more than one dish without the heaviness of huge portions, savouring many different flavours and textures, mostly influenced by traditional South African cuisine and produce, with refined yet unpretentious flair.

Compliments from the kitchen: ceasar taco, crispy chicken skin & truffle, beetroot & trout cracker.

Roosterkoek & bokkom butter, mosbolletjie en korrelkonfyt.

Poached oyster, peaches, pickled sea vegetables.

Eggplant tartare, artichoke, turnip.

House smoked hake, celeriac, dill, whey soured onions.

Zucchini risotto, raw mushrooms, cured egg yolk shavings. This was my favourite dish of the day. It has been on the menu since chef Lucas started his journey with Makaron and it is still a firm favourite for many diners.

Leipoldt’s springbok rafeltjievleis, stewed fruit, apricots, onion.

Suckling pig, suurvytjie basting, sweet potato, nasturtium flower vinegar.

Banana tartare, roasted yeast caramel, sour dough ice cream, grated fudge.

Fermented blueberries, olives, olive oil.

Mini toffee apples.

Chef Lucas Carstens explains his revamped menu.

So what’s the verdict? The style, attention to detail and great service offered at Makaron Restaurant remains unrivaled. This is a restaurant/hotel situated in a residential area, competing with all the big wine estates (and their views) and still they remain one of the top players in an extremely competitive arena. Chef Lucas’s food is elegant, inventive and downright delicious – keeping a focus on simple ingredients being meticulously prepared. If you have not visited Makaron Restaurant before, do so this year.

Check out Majeka House’s January special stay-and-dine offerings, as well as their April specials for a decadent Autumn breakaway in the heart of the beautiful Winelands.

Makaron Restaurant is open for dinner only from Monday to Sunday, 18h30-21h00 (last orders).

Compile your menu from 4 to 6 small plates per person:
4 small plates R450–R770 with wine pairing
5 small plates R565–R940 with wine pairing
6 small plates R675–R1100 with wine pairing
Note: For groups of 5 and more the same amount of dishes must be selected.
Contact Majeka House:
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Grilled harders with smoked paprika butter

15 Jan

Scored whole harders, brushed with smoked paprika butter and braaied over hot coals. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

My father is a fisherman. He retired from a corporate job 12 years ago, relocating to Keurboomstrand and fishing as often as he likes. Not only is he a good fisherman, he is a cunning hunter who knows the sea and its currents, the shifting beaches and the favourable winds, the lesser traveled trails and the unforgiving rocky coastal territory. He is a fisherman in heart and soul.

When I was young, I went fishing with my father and brothers often. I caught small fish like “strepies”, galjoen and harders. One of my favourite early food memories is of my dad helping me to pan-fry a whole small galjoen at our camping site one December – one that I had caught myself. Bliss.

This year, I want to eat more fresh fish. Sustainably caught fish are at the top of my list. Although harders are on SASSI’s orange list because of damaging huge drag nets, smaller batches are being hand-caught by many fishermen and you can buy them fresh from various fish shops and harbours.

For this shoot, I had my very first opportunity to scale, gill and gut fresh harders from scratch – quite an adventure. It is not difficult at all, so give it a google and try it yourself! But if you’re not in the mood for a mess, ask your friendly fishmonger to take care of it.

I love the idea of plating whole fish instead of neatly filleted little steaks. Just score the skins and brush them with a delicious smoked paprika butter. Braai over medium hot coals until done. Serve with fresh bread or boiled potatoes and a fresh green salad.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 6 fresh harders, gilled & gutted & scaled
  • 125 ml butter, melted
  • 10 ml smoked paprika
  • 5 ml chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • juice of a lemon (plus extra lemon wedges, to serve)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Rinse the harders under running tap water and pat dry.
  2. Use a sharp knife to score the skin on the fillet sides.
  3. Mix the melted butter, paprika, chilli flakes, garlic and lemon juice. Season generously with salt & pepper.
  4. Brush the butter mixture all over the harders, then braai them on a grid over medium-hot coals (turning often) for 8-10 minutes or until just cooked. Baste with the butter often. Don’t overcook.
  5. Serve warm.
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Mini lemon meringue pies

11 Jan

Mini lemon meringue pies made with sweet shortcrust pastry and toasted Italian meringue. It’s easier than you think! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

What is better than lemon meringue pie? The mini version. Why? Because popping one perfect miniature lemon meringue pie into your mouth in one bite is just immensely satisfying.

I usually make my lemon meringue pie crust using crushed cookies and butter, but these miniature casings work better with sweet shortcrust pastry (whip it up in the food processor). The simple filling of condensed milk and lemon juice contains no egg and thus need no baking (bonus). But the pièce de résistance is the thick and luxurious toasted Italian meringue topping. Do you need a sugar thermometer? Nope.

So if you’ve never had Italian meringue before, here’s what you’re missing out on: it’s like the inside of a “Sweetie Pie” – that white marshmallow fluff that gets coated with chocolate and set on a round wafer. It is simply egg whites whisked with piping hot sugar syrup, cooking the mixture to a point that it is very stable, glossy and thick and needs no further baking. Using a kitchen blowtorch, you can optionally toast the edges to look really cool. No weeping golden droplets that are associated with classic lemon meringues. Just perfectly creamy, toasty, dreaminess.

I bet if you try these, you won’t go back to regular lemon meringue pie for a long, long time.

Note: You’ll need a mini muffin tin to make these. I use this recipe often when I cater for a crowd and the pies store very well. Keep covered in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Baked mini shortcrust pastry cases, ready to be filled with a condensed milk & lemon juice filling. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Ingredients: (makes at least 24)

For the filling:

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl and use electric beaters to beat until thick and smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use – it will thicken more on standing.

For the pastry:

  • 250 g cake flour
  • 125 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 XL egg yolk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water

Place the flour, butter, caster sugar, salt and egg yolk in a food processor. Process well, then add the cold water little by little until the pastry comes together in a ball. Immediately stop processing, turn out onto a clean surface and press together into a disc shape. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Spray a mini muffin tray with non-stick baking spray.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of 2-3 cm, then cut rounds of about 8 cm to line the insides of the mini muffin tray. Carefully nudge them into the holes, then use a fork to gently prick each pastry circle on the bottom. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden, then remove and set aside to cool. Repeat with remaining pastry.

For the Italian meringue:

  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 4 XL egg whites

Place the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, swirling it around in the beginning to melt the sugar evenly. As soon as it comes to a rapid boil, set a timer for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, start whisking your egg whites until stiff peaks form. As soon as the syrup is ready (after boiling for 5 minutes) remove it from the heat and, with the whisk running on medium-high speed, pour the syrup in a small but steady stream into the egg whites until everything is incorporated. The mixture will be very hot. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and has a thick, glossy texture. Cover and refrigerate until needed, or transfer to a piping bag fitted with the desired nozzle and use at once. I prefer using a twisted wide star-shaped nozzle.

To assemble:

Place the cooled pastry cases on a serving plate. Use a teaspoon to fill each case with a dollop of filling. Pipe the meringue filling neatly on top, then use a kitchen blowtorch to add a toasty finish. Serve at room temperature.

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MCC cocktail with blackberry & rosemary

31 Dec

MCC with bruised blackberries and sprigs of rosemary. Cheers! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

It’s the last day of 2017 and I’m spending it with family and friends at our favourite place in the world, Keurboomstrand. It’s been a good year, probably the best in the last 7 years since I’ve started this blog. I’ve made a few important decisions to minimize stress, to focus on my health and fitness, to spend more time with my family, to sleep more and to get rid of stuff that I didn’t really need. I’ve also narrowed down my food service portfolio to mostly content creation (recipes, photos and videos), which means a more focused approach with room for constant self-improving, less working hours, a less chaotic life in general and also finding myself in love with what I do all over again. What a joy! Although there’s a lot more changes to be made and implemented in my life and many fabulous new projects to be revealed in 2018, I think a toast is in order to celebrate 2017.

May your last day of 2017 end on an exceptionally high note, and may your 2018 reveal bright new opportunities! Let’s toast to love, health, freedom and more great choices in 2018. Cheers!

Note: This cocktail is so simple, yet it looks absolutely stunning. Bruised blackberries are added to your MCC flute along with a sprig of rosemary that aids as a fragrant stirring stick. It’s  a dramatic touch that will bring your party to life in an instant.

Ingredients:

  • MCC (or sparkling wine or prosecco)
  • some blackberries
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Method:

Pour the MCC into the champagne flutes, but don’t fill it up right to the top yet (leave some space). Add a few blackberries to each glass and use a teaspoon to lightly crush them, releasing their purple juices. Add a sprig of rosemary to easy glass and serve immediately.

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Mango lassi popsicles with white chocolate and pistachios

21 Dec

Natural fruit, yoghurt and honey is all that’s inside these popsicles. Add white chocolate and pistachios and it’s a festive dessert fit for kings! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Mangoes are the kings of fruit, in my opinion. Velvety, rich and dense – they are just incredible to eat and so luxurious to use in smoothies and desserts.

If you don’t know the term “lassi”, it’s a popular Indian yoghurt-based smoothie, sometimes incorporating spices. You can make it using canned mango pulp out of season (contains less fibres), but it’s such a treat to use fresh ripe mangoes in season. A drizzle of honey adds extra sweetness, because when the lassi is frozen the sweetness is much less pronounced. When frozen solid, dip the popsicles in melted white chocolate and immediately into crushed pistachios for a truly elegant yet fun dessert. Loved by adults and kids alike!

Ingredients: (makes about 9 small popsicles, depending on the size of your popsicle moulds)

  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into cubes (pip discarded)
  • 250 ml plain yoghurt (I use double cream)
  • 15-30 ml honey
  • 80 g white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the mango & yoghurt in a food processor and blend to a silky smooth pulp. Add honey to taste and blend again. Remember, the lassi will taste less sweet once it is frozen, so make it a touch sweeter than you think.
  2. Pour into popsicle moulds and add an ice cream stick. Freeze for at least 3 hours or until solid.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave (30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth). Carefully remove the popsicle from their moulds, one at a time, dipping them into the chocolate and then quickly sprinkle with chopped nuts. The chocolate will solidify quickly, so work as fast as you can. Arrange/balance the covered popsicles on a rack and immediately back into the freezer until ready to serve.
  4. Serve straight from the freezer.

Note: For a slightly more exotic flavour, add some crushed cardamom seeds to the mango lassi mixture before freezing.

Photography and styling: Tasha Seccombe

Recipe, text, food preparation and co-styling: Ilse van der Merwe

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Summer fruit caprese salad (with watermelon and nectarines)

20 Dec

This is the second recipe in a two-part series that I have created in collaboration with Galbani cheese using their soft mozzarella. I am such a fan of the classic caprese salad – an Italian crowd favourite of mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil leaves. I’ve done many caprese variations on my blog, but this is a fresh take using summer fruit instead of tomato and it works beautifully!

I’ve used a fruit baller to create beautiful watermelon balls (that almost resembles skinned tomatoes), or you can also use an ice-cream scoop. Then I added sliced nectarines, sliced mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and lastly some salt flakes and freshly ground pepper. The sweet fruit pair incredibly well with all the savoury notes of the classic caprese – such a great, fresh, summery combo!

Buen appetito!

A spin on the classic caprese salad, using watermelon and nectarines instead of tomatoes. So fresh and summery!

 

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a side salad)

  • about 4 cups fresh watermelon, scooped into balls (or sliced into blocks)
  • about 4 ripe nectarines, sliced into wedges
  • 2 x 125 g balls of Galbani mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful fresh basil leaves
  • salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Method:

  1. Arrange the scooped/sliced watermelon, nectarines and mozzarella on a large salad platter.
  2. Scatter with basil, then season with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Serve at once, along with crusty bread to mop up the dressing.

Note: This salad needs to be served directly after plating, as it can wilt on standing.

Galbani mozzarella.

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