Tag Archives: cucumber

Vietnamese chicken & vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce

19 Dec

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

If you have never eaten these translucent rolls before, you just have to give it a try. Unlike deep-fried Chinese spring rolls, Vietnamese-style spring rolls are made with water-soaked rice paper. They are absolutely beautiful to look at and such a joy to eat: tender and moist on the outside (yes, it’s a weird kind of texture), packed with all the freshness that resembles Vietnamese cuisine on the inside.

But the star of this show is the peanut sauce – a deeply savoury, complex dip that will make you fall in love with it, bite by bite. This sauce is so good that I can eat it with a spoon. So much more than “just” a peanut sauce.

Note: Although Asian pantry ingredients might not be cheap, they go a very long way. Invest in these few pantry ingredients (like hoisin sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce) and you’ll be able to cook up some magic for quite a few meals.

For the peanut sauce:

  • 1 cup unflavoured, natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup good quality soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
  • 5-10 ml fish sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 medium size garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth (or give it some elbow grease with a wooden spoon). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary – it should be deeply savoury, nutty and a little sweet and sour all in one.

For the spring rolls: (serves 4-6 as a starter)

  • 16 Vietnamese-style large rice paper rounds
  • water, for soaking
  • 1 baby red cabbage, finely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely julienned
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely julienned
  • 2 bunches spring onions, finely sliced
  • a few red chillies, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 punnet mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, steamed/grilled and shredded with 2 forks
  • 1 small bunch fine bean sprouts (optional)

Method:

  1. Prep all the ingredients according to the list, then place each one separately in bowls in the correct order, as listed, from left to right (place about 5cm deep clean room temperature water in a bowl that is wider than the surface of the rice paper). Place a clean damp folded tea towel next to the water bowl on a clean work surface.
  2. Soak one rice paper at a time for about 30 seconds or until just soft. Remove from the water, then place on the tea towel to drain slightly while you fill it.
  3. Place a small amount of cabbage, carrots, cucumber, spring onions, chilli, mint, basil, coriander, chicken and sprouts horizontally in the middle of the soaked paper. Carefully but firmly fold over the bottom of the paper, then the sides, then roll it up to form a stuffed roll. Set aside and cover with a damp clean tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to serve (not more than 2 hours, preferably) or serve immediately with the peanut dipping sauce.

Note: “Julienned” vegetables is a style of cutting that resembles very fine strips. If you have trouble doing this, rather use a coarse grater to produce similar strips in long strands.

And: Omit the chicken for a just-as-good vegetarian option.

Some of the exotic ingredients for my spring rolls. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Share this:

Lamb & feta burger with mint pesto & yoghurt

25 Mar

Lamb & feta burger with  mint pesto (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Lamb & feta burger with mint pesto (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Being able to make a really good burger at home is one of the most satisfying things any meat-lover can do. Many of us grew up having take-away burgers as a special treat on weekends when we were children. My siblings and I loved almost any take-away burger, because the ones we tried to make at home just never tasted as good.

Well, the tables have turned. I now believe that anyone can make a burger at home that can beat the best gourmet burger in most restaurants. If you use care and source the best ingredients you can find, you can make a pretty amazing burger – so amazing that you might not want to get take-aways ever again.

Although I’m a huge fan of the classic beef burger with cheddar cheese and pickles, this juicy lamb burger is a total knock-out for a special occasion.

Here are my top 3 tips for creating an awesome burger:

  1. Buy fresh, soft burger buns, and always toast the sliced sides with butter before assembling your burger.
  2. Use coarsely ground great quality fresh meat for your pattie. That means 100% leg of lamb or 100% pure beef rump.
  3. Don’t overcook your meat – it should still be juicy in the middle.

Ingredients: (makes 4 large burgers)

  • 600 g boneless leg of lamb, minced (ask your butcher to do that for you)
  • 2 rounds (about 80g) of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 punnet fresh mint
  • 1 punnet fresh parsley
  • 50 g cashew nuts
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 round soft hamburger rolls, buttered and toasted in a pan
  • double cream yoghurt (the thickest you can find)
  • a handful of watercress
  • finely sliced cucumber

Method:

  1. Mix the lamb mince, crumbled feta, salt & pepper in a mixing bowl – using clean hands works best. Divide the mixture into 4 balls, then flatten them carefully, shaping the edges to form a round disk. Always make the pattie a bit wider and thinner than the end product that you have in mind, because they shrink back to a thicker, smaller pattie in the pan. Set aside.
  2. For the pesto: in a food processor, add the mint, parsley, cashews and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper, then process to a course paste. Scoop into a smaller serving bowl and set aside.
  3. In a non-stick pan, heat some olive oil over moderately high heat, then fry the patties about 3-4 minutes a side, taking care when you flip them over because the feta tends to stick (use a spatula). You are looking for a crisp outer layer and a juicy center. I prefer my center to still be pink. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to rest.
  4. To assemble the burgers: Place the bottom half of a toasted bun on a plate, then add the watercress, burger pattie, some yoghurt, some pesto, some cucumber and then the top half of the bun. Enjoy!

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

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Share this:

Retro trout mousse

5 Jan

Light and creamy trout mousse with cucumber "scales" (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Light and creamy trout mousse with cucumber “scales” (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few years ago I came across a Church bazaar in Stellenbosch that specializes in selling used goods, almost like a “white elephant” table or a car boot sale. Many of the vendors had kitchenware at their stalls. I was amazed at this treasure cove filled with stuff that I could use for food styling and photography, but also for cooking.

It was a total blast from the past. I bought many different items, including a 60 year-old meat carving set with wooden handles (from an 82 year-old lady that got it as a wedding present back then), a crate filled with vintage Consol and Ball jars dating from the 1950’s (perfect condition), a 1970’s mandolin cutter (that would later chop off the tip of my finger) and a beautiful copper fish mould that looked like it had never been used.

I’ve used the copper mould a few times and absolutely fell in love with the retro-ness of it. I had a recipe for a salmon mousse that I adapted for using with fresh trout. After turning out the mousse on a plate, Tasha broke the news to me that she thought it was way too ugly and that we needed to make it look prettier (the mousse lost the scale patterns on the surface because I had to dip the mould in warm water from the outside to turn it out successfully). I then sliced some fresh cucumber with my mandolin cutter like they did back in the heydays of moulded fish dishes, and the result was quite astonishing to all of us. Totally retro, totally fabulous.

This is a great way of stretching one trout fillet into a crowd-pleasing starter. It is light and creamy and perfect for summer entertaining. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  •  one fresh trout fillet, about 350g
  • 1 cup water
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) powdered gelatine
  • 1/2 cup cooled chicken stock
  • juice of a small lemon
  • a large handful of chives/dill/parsley, chopped
  • 250 g plain cream cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup cream, whipped
  • thin cucumber slices and green leaves/microherbs, to serve

Method:

  1. Place the trout fillet and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Close the lid and simmer for about 8 minutes until the trout is just cooked. Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool slightly, the remove the skin and bones and flake the meat.
  2. In a cup, mix the gelatine and chicken stock, then leave to sponge for 10 minutes. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat while stirring to melt the gelatine without boiling. When melted, remove from the heat to cool slightly.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, add the flaked fish, cooled gelatine mixture, lemon juice, herbs and cream cheese. Process to a smooth pulp, then season generously with salt & pepper.
  4. Now add this mixture to the whipped cream and fold in gently to mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to your fish mould (sprayed with a non-stick spray), then cover with plastic wrap and leave to set in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours.
  5. To unmould, dip the mould on the outside in hot water for about 3 seconds, then carefully turn out on a large plate. Decorate with cucumber slices and greenery, then serve with crackers.
Trout mousse on melba toast (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Trout mousse on melba toast (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

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

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Ilse van der Merwe & Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Share this:

Quinoa salad

27 Jan

A summery quinoa salad, inspired by a traditional Middle Eastern “tabbouleh” (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Although quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) has been around for ages in South America, most people in South Africa are still getting used to this seedy superfood. Being very high in protein and free of gluten, most of us can eat it with a clear conscience. Yes, it looks kind of like a mini bean sprout, but have a mouthful and you’ll agree that it tastes like a member of the grain family – filling and really appetising.

I love serving cooked quinoa in a cold salad. It is a fabulous side dish for dinner, and makes the perfect leftover lunch for the next day. Crisp summer flavours of a traditional Middle Eastern tabbouleh (bulgur wheat salad with tomatoes, cucumber, mint, parsley & lemon) are the perfect cornerstones for a great summery salad, so I substituted the bulgur wheat for quinoa and it worked like a charm.

I used tricoloured quinoa, but you can use whatever you can find.

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a side dish)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) uncooked quinoa
  • 4 med-large ripe (still firm) tomatoes, seeded & diced
  • 1 small English cucumber (of 1/2 large cucumber), seeded & diced
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely sliced spring onions
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely chopped mint
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • juice of a small lemon
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Place water and salt in a medium size pot on the stove top and bring to the boil. Add quinoa, then turn heat down to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and leave to cool completely.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the chopped tomato, cucumber, spring onions, parsley, mint and garlic.  Add the lemon juice & olive oil, then season with salt and black pepper & mix well.
  3. Now add the cooled quinoa, and mix until well combined. Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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

Share this:

How to boil and bake a bagel

6 Mar

Freshly boiled and baked bagels with smoked trout, cream cheese and cucumber (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I recently needed to buy 200 bagels for a market where I showcased the trout products of my brother-in-law’s trout farming business. I filled them with cold-smoked trout and cream cheese, and they “flew” from my table. During this process, I realised that these beautiful rolls-with-holes weren’t so easy to find. After ordering them in bulk at Checkers (the ONLY place that could help me on such short notice in Stellenbosch), I decided to try my hand at baking/boiling them myself – a few weeks later.

Bagels with smoked salmon (or in this case trout) and cream cheese are considered to be traditional American Jewish cuisine. And it is definitely one of my favourite types of sandwiches, if you can call it that. I’ve always known that a real bagel is boiled, but I could never understand how a boiled bun could become such a golden brown puffy thing, and not a soggy mess. The thing it, it is actually boiled for only a few seconds and then baked. So it all started to make sense!

I think the trick to these bagels is to give them enough time to rise (I don’t always have the patience!), and to treat them very “lightly”. No hard handling – especially after boiling – or you’ll spoil the shape. Otherwise the results are truly satisfying.

Nothing beats the taste of a classic freshly baked bagel filled with locally cold-smoked trout, cream cheese and dill. Simply scrumptious.

Ingredients for bagels: (makes about 10)

(recipe adapted from The Ultimate Snowflake Collection)

  •  500 g (875 ml) white bread flour
  • 10 ml salt
  • 10 g (1 sachet) instant dry yeast
  • 50 g (60 ml) sugar
  • about 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 1 XL egg white, lightly beaten
  • poppy/sesame/caraway seeds for sprinkling on top
  • a few litres of water for boiling

Method:

  1. Place flour, salt, yeast and half the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  2. Add enough lukewarm water to mix to a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for  about 30 minutes, or doubled in size.
  4. Knock down the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough into 10 pieces. Flatten each piece to about 9-10cm in diameter and press a hold into the middle of each, using the back of a wooden spoon (or roll the pieces out into long strands and twist the ends together to form a circle).
  5. Place the dough on a non-stick baking tray (lined with baking paper), then leave to rise for another 25-30 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 220 C.
  7. Fill a large, wide pot/saucepan with water (about 5cm deep), add the remaining sugar and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has melted. Submerge each bagel in the boiling water for just a few seconds, then remove carefully with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  8. Now place the boiled bagels on greased/lined baking trays and brush them lightly with beaten egg white. Sprinkle with seeds, then bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. When cooled, slice open and serve with cream cheese, freshly chopped dill and cold smoked trout or salmon.

 Note: These bagels freeze quite well. Thaw for 60 minutes on your kitchen counter, then pop them into a hot oven for 3 minutes.

Credits:

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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe and Ilse van der Merwe.

Share this:

Garlic pitas with double-cream tzatziki

28 Nov

Garlic pitas with double-cream tzatziki (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

When it comes to Summer tapas, simpler is always better. And when you love Greek food as much as I do, you simply have to go with freshly baked garlic pitas dipped in thick, double-cream tzatziki.

I roll the dough out in 2 large pita bases, or make 8 small hand-size pitas. Don’t be shy with the garlic – you have to commit on this one. I have to admit, after doing this shoot (eating on the job is a prerequisite) I was a walking garlic bomb for 2 days straight. It felt great – true Greek style!

For the tzatziki, I based my recipe on the authentic tzatziki that we had in Athens when we traveled there in 2010. It is very thick, almost like a cucumber and mint “salad”, made with well-strained cucumbers and double-thick Greek yoghurt. Add some olive oil and I’m back in a taverna on the cobbled streets of Plaka.

Ingredients for pitas:

  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour
  • 2 t (10 ml) instant yeast
  • 1 t (5 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 t (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1 T (15 ml) olive oil
  • for topping: 8-10 garlic cloves, crushed, mixed with 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

Method for pitas:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix until a sticky dough forms. Knead until the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 240/250 C for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2 (for large pitas) or 8 (for small pitas). On a well floured surface, roll out one piece at a time into circular shapes, adding a little more flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a large baking tin lined with baking paper.
  4. Spread with garlic & olive oil topping, season lightly with salt & pepper, then bake for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Serve immediately on a wooden board.

Ingredients for tzatziki:

  • 1/2 cucumber, seeds removed and coarsely grated
  • 250 ml double-cream Greek yoghurt
  • 2-3 T chopped fresh mint
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Method for tzatziki:

  1. Spread grated cucumber on a clean tea towel over a wire rack, sprinkle with salt, and drain for 15-30 minutes. Make sure that most of the water is removed from the cucumber by wringing it lightly in the tea towel if necessary.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix yoghurt, mint, olive oil and garlic. Add drained cucumber and season with pepper.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Credits:

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

Food & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Nicola Pretorius

Glasses and Tablecloth : Poetry

Simple, Greek-inspired food. (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

Share this:

Watermelon “carpacchio” with gorgonzola, almonds, cucumber and crushed basil oil

10 Mar

I bought a massive watermelon 2 days ago, so big and heavy I could almost not pick it up. It was on special, so I just crossed my fingers hoping that the texture and taste would be as impressive as the size. To my delight, it was perfect.

I’ve been a huge fan of watermelon in summertime since I was a kid. My father would cut us huge wheels and we would sit at our campsite in Keurboomstrand’s Arch Rock Caravan Park each with our own sharp knife to cut tailored bites and remove the pips. I am totally happy to eat my watermelon on it’s own, but sometimes a watermelon this big in a household as small as mine calls for some creative culinary adventures. […]

Share this:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram
YouTube