Tag Archives: cheese

Smoked snoek and artichoke pie

24 Apr

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Ingredients: (makes one large pie; serves 8)

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

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

For the filling:

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

Method:

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

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

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One-pot pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese

22 Apr

If minimizing dirty dishes is something that appeals to you, this comforting one pot pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese is heaven sent.

 

I’ve been seeing so many recipes for one-pot pasta dishes, where the pasta gets cooked in the pot’s liquid along with other ingredients. I’ve always wondered if it’s really possible to get a good result – or is it just a spoof? Wouldn’t the dish be too stodgy at the end? Well, I finally tried it myself – hugely successful!

If I would have cooked a chicken broccoli cheese pasta dish before, I would have dirtied possibly three to four different pots/pans plus a colander, but in this case it’s all happening in one large pot. Easy, quick and really simple. No bechamel to be made, no cream used, and the results are wonderfully creamy and absolutely delicious.

This is comfort food at its best.

I made a video of the recipe for my friends at Le Creuset – you’ll find it here on their IGTV feed.

Cooking video screenshot while filming for Le Creuset’s IGTV.

 

I served this one-pot pasta dish with a few crispy croutons on top for crunch.

 

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

(Note: This recipe can easily be halved to serve about 4 people. Just use a medium size pot, perhaps 24 or 26cm diameter.)

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 kg boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite size chunks (I used thighs)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoked paprika
  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
  • 4 cups (1 liter) milk
  • 500 g uncooked pasta (preferably bite size shapes – I used rigatoni)
  • 400 g broccoli, cut into bite size chunks
  • 2 cups grated mature cheese (I used Dalewood’s Huguenot, but cheddar will also work)
  • about 1 cup small croutons*, for serving (optional)

Method:

In a large pot (I used a 30cm Le Creuset round casserole) over high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken. Fry for a few minutes until brown, stirring. Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Turn the heat down and remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon (you’ll add it back later). Now add the onion and fry over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, then add the stock and milk and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta, stir, put a lid on (keep a small gap open to prevent the liquid from boiling over the edges) and cook for about 8-10 minutes until almost al dente, stirring every now and then (it should still be a little firm). Add the browned chicken back to the pot, plus the broccoli, and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the cheese and stir briefly until just melted. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at once, optionally topped with small crispy croutons.

*To make small croutons: cut 2 slices of good quality bread like sour dough loaf into very small cubes. Add it to a pan with a splash of olive oil, salt & pepper, and optionally a few fresh thyme leaves. Fry until golden, then set aside to cool.

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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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Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne & tiramisu jars with Galbani Cheese

3 May

Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne and individual tiramisu jars – my ultimate Italian-style feast! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

When it comes to laid-back, festive, scrumptious food that’s packed with flavour, the Italians just know how. I’ve taken a few tips from their most popular traditional cheese-themed recipes to come up with my favourite three-course Italian-inspired feast: an over-the-top caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mozzarella, cheddar and mascarpone) and individual tiramisu cups with chocolate flakes and fresh raspberries. You can assemble the lasagne and tiramisu ahead so that you have more time to spend with your guests – the most important thing when hosting friends and family!

All my recipes serve 8, because they deserve a crowd. If you’re keen on a smaller gathering, just halve the ingredients to serve 4.

And don’t miss my video below – it shows how to make this killer lasagne.

Buon appetito!

My ultimate caprese salad with soft mozzarella, an array of tomatoes, fresh basil, pesto, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt flakes and ground black pepper. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ultimate caprese salad (serves 8)

  • 3 very big ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • about 400 g smaller tomatoes on the vine
  • a handful baby tomatoes, halved
  • 3 x 125 g Galbani soft white mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • a handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 3-4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter, interleaved with slices of mozzarella. Scatter with basil leaves and pine nuts, then drizzle with pesto (add a little olive oil to the pesto if it is very thick). Serve with olive oil and balsamic on the side, seasoned with salt & pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: The tomatoes will wilt on standing, so this salad is best served straight after assembling.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mascarpone, cheddar and mozzarella). Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (serves 8)

For the beef Bolognese sauce:

  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, skinned & finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, stalks removed & finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried origanum)
  • 375 ml (half a bottle) dry red wine
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 250 ml boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, blended to a pulp
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the white sauce (béchamel):

  • 80 g (80 ml / 1/3 cup) President Butter
  • 80 ml (1/3/ cup) plain/cake flour
  • 1 liter full cream milk
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

For assembling:

  • 1 batch Bolognese sauce
  • 1 batch white sauce
  • 500 g fresh/dried pasta sheets
  • 200 g President Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 300 g Galbani Creamy Mozzarella (semi-hard), grated

For the Bolognese sauce: Heat the olive oil in a wide, large pot with a heavy base. Fry the onion, carrot and celery over medium-high heat until soft and lightly brown. Add the garlic and stir. Add the mince and stir, breaking up any lumps and scraping the bottom to loosen any sticky bits. Add the rosemary and thyme. Continue to fry on high heat to brown the meat slightly, then add the red wine, stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

For the white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat, then add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture becomes smooth and thickens slightly. Add the nutmeg, mustard and mascarpone and season well with salt & pepper. Set aside.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 180 C. In a large rectangular roasting tray or oven dish, start with a thin layer of white sauce, then a layer of pasta sheets (they will swell so don’t fit them too snugly), a layer of meat sauce, more white sauce, a layer of cheddar, etc. Continue and repeat, ending with a layer of white sauce and the grated mozzarella on top. Bake for 45 minutes until golden on top, then let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: I sometimes chop my onion, carrot and celery together in a food processor to save time. The cooked lasagne will continue to stabilize on standing, becoming firmer and easier to serve. The assembled lasagne (cooked or uncooked) freezes well – thaw completely before returning to the oven.

Individual jars of tiramisu, made with mascarpone, brandy and some chocolate flakes. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Individual tiramisu cups: (serves 8)

  • 5 XL eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 2 x 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • 1 Italian-style sponge finger biscuits (Boudoir/ladyfinger)
  • 375 ml strong coffee, warm
  • 75 ml brandy
  • cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 2-3 chocolate flake bars, for serving
  • fresh raspberries, for serving

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl. Use and electric whisk to mix until it is very thick and creamy. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth.
Clean and dry this whisk, then whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Add half the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and fold in with a large spoon, continuing with the second half and folding until you have a smooth, creamy, mousse-like mixture. Set aside.
Working quickly, cut the finger biscuits into thirds, and divide the pieces into 8 groups of 9 pieces each (for 8 cups of 250 ml capacity each). Place the coffee and brandy in a shallow flat bowl, then dip 4 cookie pieces at a time into the coffee mixture, and place them into the bottom of each dessert glass/jar. Top with a dollop of the mascarpone mix, then a sifting of cocoa powder. Top with a second round of 5 dipped biscuit pieces, then place the remaining half of the mascarpone mix into a piping bag and pipe dollops of the mixture at the top of each glass to cover the biscuits. Dust some cocoa powder over the top, then cover with plastic or lids (not touching the mixture) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, add some chocolate flakes and berries on top and serve straight from the fridge.

Note: The biscuits need time to soften in the fridge. If you serve them too soon, the cookies will still be tough. The tiramisu cups keep very well in the fridge for up to 3 days and the flavour improves with time.

(This post was created in collaboration with Galbani Cheese.)

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A festive cheese stack with Poetry Stores

27 Dec

An easy, yet impressive cheese stack with fresh berries and honey for dessert and as a centre piece (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Everybody loves a selection of festive cheeses when it comes to entertaining. It can be a generous starter, a light snack or even a classy dessert. In this case, it can also double up as a stunning centrepiece  for your festive table. So easy, yet really impressive.

Invest in a few rounds of beautiful whole cheeses and you’ve got dessert and gifts sorted in one go (wrap chunks of leftovers for your guests on their way home).

Happy entertaining, everyone! Watch the video that I made in collaboration with Poetry Stores:

Wooden boards, black crockery and ornamental candle holders available from Poetry Stores.

Video produced by Skript.tv

Still photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Filmed at Bartinney Wine & Champagne Bar in Stellenbosch.

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Raspberry Swirl Frozen Cheesecake

4 Nov

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

You might have noticed some brand changes going on with Simonsberg cheese: they’re becoming Président. You’d be happy to know that it’s still the same fantastic products with the same taste inside the packaging.

I recently had the privilege of dreaming up a new recipe with one of the cheeses in the President range. I chose their iconic plain cream cheese (preservative free), because I just love the texture and taste – wonderful in desserts, especially. Dishing up beautiful, creamy, swirly frozen desserts for the upcoming festive season is always a crowd pleaser. Without the trouble of making real ice cream or working with expensive churners, this velvety frozen cheesecake with raspberry jam swirls is easy to whip up, delicious to eat and delivers big on the wow factor.

Top with fresh raspberries and chopped nuts for a show-stopping dessert.

Top with fresh raspberries and chopped nuts for a show-stopping dessert (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Make it in a regular loaf tin brushed with vegetable oil and lined with plastic wrap. A layer of wafer biscuits complete the “ice cream cake” feel and keeps the cake from melting too quickly when you turn it out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (strained)
  • 2 x 230 g tubs Président cream cheese, plain
  • 250 ml Parmalat fresh cream
  • 1/2 cup good quality raspberry jam
  • about 8 wafer biscuits
  • fresh raspberries and chopped nuts, to serve

Method:

  1. Prepare a medium size loaf tin: brush the insides with vegetable oil and line with plastic wrap.
  2. Pour the condensed milk and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Mix with electric beaters until thick and smooth.
  3. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the cream until just stiff (don’t overmix). Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Stir the jam well to make it a little runny. Swirl a few teaspoons full of jam on the bottom of the prepared tin, then top with one third of the cheesecake mixture. Repeat with more jam, more mixture, more jam and the last of the mixture.
  6. Arrange the wafer biscuits on top in a neat layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
  7. To turn out, remove the top plastic wrap layer, then open up the plastic on the sides. Turn over on a serving plate/board, then tug gently on the plastic to release the cake from the tin. Remove the tin and the plastic and serve in slices with fresh berries and chopped nuts of your choice.

Note: I prefer serving this frozen cheesecake after leaving it on the counter for about 15 minutes to soften slightly.

Président cheese products

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

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Arancini with aioli

20 Jun

Golden deep tried stuffed nuggets of risotto served with garlic mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Golden deep-fried stuffed nuggets of risotto served with garlic mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The Italians have a wonderful way of using up leftover risotto. They shape the cold rice mixture into balls, stuff the centres with cheese, cover the balls with breadcrumbs and deep-fry the lot to make arancini.

These little golden nuggets are just delightful. I prefer to use smoked mozzarella for the centres and serve the arancini with thick homemade garlic mayonnaise. It’s a great snack for welcoming guests at your festive dinner party this season, because you can prep them beforehand and drop them in the hot oil just before serving.

If you’d love to serve them on a flat board or slate tile, pipe some mayo on the board and place the arancini on the mayo to prevent them from rolling off.

One warning though: these are super addictive! Prepare to eat more than you think you will.

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a snack/canapé)

  • about 2 cups prepared left-over risotto, cooled (any flavour will do, but I love using saffron risotto or wild mushrooms risotto)
  • 100 g smoked mozzarella, cubed 1 x 1 cm
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 750 ml canola oil
  1. Take a small tablespoon of cold risotto and fill it with a cube of mozzarella. Shape the risotto to cover the cheese and roll it into a neat ball (cold risotto is easier to shape). Continue until all the risotto is used.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with some salt & pepper. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl, and the eggs in another.
  3. Dip each risotto ball into the seasoned flour, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs, covering it all over. Place on a clean plate and repeat.
  4. Heat the oil to about 180 C, then fry batches of arancini until golden all over – about 3 minutes.
  5. Serve with aioli.

For the aioli:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 30 ml lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • about 180-250 ml canola oil

In a blender or food processor, add the yolks, garlic, mustard and lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper then blend well. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated and thick and creamy. Transfer to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Tip: Use a small plastic bag to pipe blobs of aioli onto a serving board, then “stick” the arancini onto each piped blob to keep from rolling around.

Credits:

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

Photography & styling: Tasha Seccombe

This recipe has been featured on The Pretty Blog.

 

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Roasted vegetable lasagne

24 Jun

A slice of layered vegetable lasagne (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

A slice of layered vegetable lasagne (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

The colder months in Stellenbosch are magical. Trees turn gold to orange to deeply auburn, then shed their colourful leaves in the streets before standing bare against the moody grey skies of the Cape.

Staying indoors brings a whole array of cozy comforts in the shape of baked pastas, slow cooked roasts, and hearty stews. One of my go-to winter favourites have always been a classic beef lasagne al forno, but this time I’ve decided to make use of the beautiful array of seasonal vegetables for a meat-free, cheesy, creamy delight: roasted vegetable lasagne.

You can adjust the choice of vegetables to whatever you prefer – I’ve chosen butternut, broccoli, courgettes and spinach for a layered effect of yellow and green. Other great choices are tomatoes, aubergines and leeks.

I choose to make the pasta sheets from scratch, but you can also use store-bought lasagne sheets that’s been pre-cooked for a few minutes. This is a great dish to make ahead of time, just pop it into the oven 45 minutes before dinner time. It also freezes very well.

Freshly baked vegetable lasagne straight from the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Freshly baked vegetable lasagne straight from the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Ingredients for roasted vegetables:

  • about 5 cups of diced vegetables of your choice
  • about 60 ml olive oil
  • 45 ml chopped fresh herbs (like thyme, rosemary, chives & basil) – or 5 ml dried herbs
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

Ingredients for white/bechamel sauce:

  • 125 g butter
  • 125 ml flour (1/2 cup)
  • 1 litre of milk (4 cups)
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

For assembly:

  • about 250 g uncooked lasagne pasta sheets (or roughly 400 g fresh pasta sheets)
  • 250 g grated mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 300 g ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 80 g parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • some extra grated cheese for the top, a mixture of mozzarella & parmesan works best
  • a sprinkling of mixed herbs, for the top

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 C. In a large roasting tray, arrange diced vegetables, then drizzle with oil and season well with herbs, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until tender and golden brown on the edges. Remove and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan on stove top, melt butter on medium heat, then add flour and mix to form a paste. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring, then slowly add milk while stirring. Keep stirring vigorously over medium heat to form a smooth sauce. Season with nutmeg, salt & pepper, then set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta sheets in a large pot of salted boiling water until just undercooked – about 6 minutes. Drain and get ready for assembling the lasagne immediately (otherwise they might start sticking together). Please note: if you are using fresh pasta sheets, you don’t have to pre-cook them, you can go straight to assembling.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, carefully mix together the mozzarella cheese, ricotta & parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a large deep rectangular oven dish, start layering the lasagne: start with a thin layer of white sauce, then pasta sheets, then veg mixture, then cheese mixture. Keep layering – you should repeat this about 3 times. End with a thick layer of bechamel sauce, then sprinkle with some leftover cheese mixture and some chopped/dried herbs. Bake at 180 C for at least 45 minutes, or until golden brown, bubbly and gooey. If the top starts to get too dark before the lasagne is cooked, cover with foil and return to the oven.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Bruschetta with labneh and slow roasted tomatoes

31 Mar

Labneh with slow roasted tomatoes

(photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius, recipe development by Ilse van der Merwe for FAIRVIEW LABNEH)

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining labneh cheese maker Shelly Zaidman at Fairview for a look behind the scenes at their manufacturing plant, and a taste of this new product range. Fairview Labneh is a soft white, medium fat Mediterranean style cheese made from strained yoghurt (100% Jersey cow’s milk), which gives it a fresh acidic taste and a smooth consistency, much like smooth cottage cheese.

Shelly is originally from Israel, but moved to Cape Town with her husband and three young kids a few years ago. She started making labneh for her family after not finding a suitable soft fresh cheese in SA for their household use. After some friends tasted it, she realised how popular it was with locals alike, and started selling it on a small scale. Soon, she hooked up with the people at Fairview to start producing it on a bigger scale, and her labneh is now available in many large retail stores.

In December last year, I had the pleasure of working with The Pretty Blog team on an official recipe development project for Fairview Labneh. Although labneh is such a versatile dip on its own, the sweetness and texture of Mediterranean-style slow roasted tomatoes just enhances all of the creamy and tangy qualities of the cheese. This simple recipe is my favourite way of enjoying labneh: spread generously on bruschetta, topped with these slow roasted tomatoes.

Fairview’s labneh is available in two flavours: 1) Garlic & Herbs and 2) Za’atar. Woolworths also stocks a version with red pepper pesto. Very delicious!

Ingredients: (serves 4 people as a snack/starter, served with bread)

  • 400g cherry/rosa tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 15 ml apple cider vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 15 ml light brown sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 g Fairview Labneh, Garlic & Herb flavour
  • sliced ciabatta/baguette, toasted (to serve)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a small/medium size roasting tray, add the tomatoes & garlic. Drizzle with olive oil & vinegar, then sprinkle with thyme, brown sugar, salt & pepper. Toss to coat.
  3. Roast for 50-60 minutes, or until the tomatoes at the edges start to turn dark and sticky.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Remove any hard thyme twigs.
  5. Place the labneh in a medium size dip bowl. Add the tomatoes and swirl slightly. Serve with good quality bread.

Labneh

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How to make your own ricotta

17 Sep

Freshly made ricotta cheese (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I use a lot of ricotta cheese in my kitchen. It’s such a versatile ingredient, perfect for stuffings in pasta (like my cannelloni or ravioli), or for baked sweet treats. Doesn’t taste like much on it’s own, but just beautiful to cook with.

Although ricotta is not an expensive cheese, it is not always easy to find. Not all supermarkets stock it, and it can be a challenge to get hold of on short notice. So I looked up a couple of sources on how to make my own, and I was surprised at how easy it was!

All you need is full cream milk and a few spoons of lemon juice. I also add some salt for a really balanced flavour. I always keep the plastic moulds from store-bought ricotta, so it is easy to create a professional-looking product without having to buy special equipment. Although the yield is not really huge (2 litres of milk would give you about 180g of ricotta), it is truly a satisfying process and the results are fantastic.

My next project might be to make my own mozzarella! Watch this space…

Ingredients:

  • 2 litres full cream milk
  • 5 ml salt (optional)
  • 45 ml fresh lemon juice

Method:

  1. Place the milk and salt in a large stainless steel pot and heat to a gentle simmer. While waiting, place a sieve over a large bowl and line it with clean cheesecloth/muslin (for draining the curds later).
  2. As soon as the milk starts to simmer, add the lemon juice and give it a good stir. Turn down the heat to very low, then wait until the mixture starts to curdle – it will only take a few seconds. (If you don’t have a gass stove, remove the pot from the heat just after it started to boil, then add the lemon juice and stir. Turn down the heat to very low, then return the pot to the heat.)
  3. Use a slotted spoon or metal mesh spoon (or small sieve) to remove the curds from the pot into the sieve lined with cheesecloth/muslin over a large bowl. Leave to drain for at least 10 minutes, then scoop into a ricotta mould (if you have one). Leave to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. If you don’t have a ricotta mould, just wait until it is well drained, then scoop into a plastic container and refrigerate. The ricotta will continue to release whey (the watery liquid) for another 2 or 3 days. Just discard the liquid.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

Keep your store-bought plastic ricotta containers, they come in handy as a mould when making your own (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

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