Tag Archives: Nicola Pretorius

Preserved quinces in vanilla syrup

5 Oct

Preserved quinces in syrup (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

While many South African cooks and food writers often reminisce about their childhoods filled with quince memories, I only discovered these strange fruit in my adult years. At a friend’s mom’s house, she treated us to her very own preserved quinces with a swirl of canned evaporated milk. It was simply delicious.

Eighteen months ago, I read up on membrillo – a preserved fruit “cheese” made from cooked quince paste. I stored the paste in wax paper and have been maturing it since in a cool dark place in my garage, sampling the batch as it got older. Membrillo is a unique product – a thick, almost spreadable paste that can be cut with a sharp knife and enjoyed as a preserve with cheeses.

A few weeks ago, I found another tray of perfectly yellow and unblemished seasonal quinces at my local farm stall. Although quinces are a prize ingredient, they are very tough to work with. After skinning and coring them, my hands were ruined by their harsh, dry flesh (I would recommend wearing kitchen gloves if you have sensitive hands). Still, it’s such a satisfying process to see how these hard, almost inedible raw fruit can be transformed into something so delicate in flavour, colour and texture.

They are fantastic enjoyed as a dessert straight from the jar with a scoop of ice cream or cream, but they are also great to cook with (especially in venison roasts).

Ingredients:

  •  about 16 large quinces (not too ripe)
  • water for soaking
  • a squirt of lemon juice
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, sliced open lengthways, seeds removed and set aside
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Method:

  1. Peel and core the quinces, then place them immediately as you go into a large mixing bowl filled with water and a squirt of lemon juice. This will prevent them for discolouring while you work.
  2. In a large stock pot, place the water, sugar, vanilla pods, vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the water off the quinces, then add the fruit pieces to the hot syrup (do this in batched in order to prevent crowding). Poach each batch for 15 minutes or until tender (depending on the size of your fruit pieces), then remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Pack the warm cooked fruit tightly into sterilized glass jars, then fill up with hot syrup to cover the fruit. Cover with sterilized heat proof lids.
  5. Rinse the stock pot used for the syrup, then fill it half-way with warm water and bring to the boil (we are creating a water bath). Using tongs, place a cotton dish cloth at the bottom of the pot, then place the filled closed fruit jars on top of the cloth (to prevent the glass from touching the bottom of the pot). The water should just cover the glass jars. Bring to a slow simmer, then cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water, then set them aside to cool to room temperature. If sealed correctly, the jars will last in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.
Quinces change colour from white to a delicate pastel coral after being cooked. (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Quinces change colour from white to a delicate pastel coral after being cooked. (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Credits:

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

As seen on The Pretty Blog.

Spiced orange marmalade

18 Aug

Orange marmalade on mosbolletjie toast (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Orange marmalade on mosbolletjie toast (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

I would love to say that I grew up with marmalade and loved it from the start, but I didn’t. I grew up with sweeter-than-sweet apricot jam, and didn’t like the bitterness of marmalade at all.  When friends talked about their classic love of marmalade on toast, I simply did not share their view.

That was until recently when I decided to make my own. For this shoot, I wanted to focus on Winter produce, and something that adventurous food lovers could make at home. Citrus fruit are currently abundant in Stellenbosch, so I bought a bag of oranges and looked up a few recipes for reference. I sliced them thinly with my mandolin, cooked the slices in water until tender, then added sugar and aromatics to make a really fragrant marmalade (I added cloves, star anise, cinnamon stick and some cardamom). The texture of my marmalade resembled candied orange, and the taste was just out of this world…

We chose to shoot the marmalade on buttered mosbolletjie toast, and it was the most amazing flavour discovery – the aniseed taste of the mosbolletjies are a match made in heaven for the marmalade! Simply heavenly. Mosbolletjies are readily available in most advanced supermarkets, so give it a try if you find some.

These jars of marmalade make excellent gifts! Buy some beautiful glass jars (or re-cycle used jars), then label them with your own creative design. If properly sealed and stored, marmalade will keep for at least a year.

Ingredients:

  • 2 kg oranges
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1,5 liters (6 cups) water
  • 2 kg white granulated sugar
  • 1 clove
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods

Method:

  1. Using a mandolin cutter or very sharp knife, slice the oranges in 3mm slices, discarding the ends.
  2. Add the sliced oranges, lemon zest and juice and water to a large stock pot (or jam pot), then heat to boiling point. Reduce to a slow simmer, then cook for 40 minutes until soft.
  3. Add the sugar & spices, then cook for another 30 -60 minutes (depending on size of pot and temperature) until soft setting point. Skim off any scum forming on the top layer. For soft setting point, test a teaspoon of the boiling liquid on a cooled saucer for reaching a jel-like texture. Don’t let the mixture get too dark.
  4. When the desired texture is reached, transfer the marmalade to sterilized* glass container, then seal.

*Note: To sterilize your glass containers and lids, place them in a large pot filled with water (covering about 2m above the top level), then bring to a boil. After 5 minutes, remove from the heat, then transfer to a drying rack using tongs. Dry upside down, then fill with warm jam/marmalade  and replace lids immediately.

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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Orzo salad with chorizo, spinach & parmesan

2 Aug

Warm orzo salad with chorizo & spinach (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Warm orzo salad with chorizo & spinach (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Orzo (also called risoni or rosmarino) is a type of short cut pasta, shaped like a long flat grain of rice. While my mother served it to us plain as a substitute to rice with meaty stews, I only really started enjoying cooking with orzo in recent years. It’s the strangely delightful mouth-feel that I love most – something that works very well in stews, soups and salads.

In this recipe, I’ve combined a few ingredients that I just adore. First and foremost I chose the king of preserved sausages: chorizo – in my opinion one of the best ways of creating bold flavours in an instant. Smokey, spicy slices of chorizo will trump everyone’s favourite crispy bacon any day, in my opinion. But the flavour will only be as good as the product, so choose wisely. The other ingredients that make this dish magnificent are smoked paprika, baby spinach leaves, ripe cherry tomatoes, shavings of Parmesan cheese and some grated lemon rind.

This is an easy and comforting meal for anytime of the year – winter or summer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

  •  a large pot of salted water, suitable for the stove top
  • 500g orzo pasta
  • roughly 225 g of good quality chorizo sausage
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 250 g ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoons) smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • juice and finely grated zest of one medium size lemon
  • salt & pepper
  • 200 g baby spinach leaves
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (add as much as you want)

Method:

  1. Place the pot of salted water on the stove and bring to the boil. Add the orzo, stir, and set your timer for 7 minutes.
  2. Remove the skin from the chorizo sausage, then cut the chorizo into fine slices/discs (if the skin is not too hard you can leave it on)
  3. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil, sliced chorizo & chopped garlic. Fry for about 5 minutes until the chorizo has turned slightly brown on all sides. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. (When the timer for the orzo goes off, drain the orzo in a colander, stir through a splash of olive oil and set it aside.)
  5. Add the cherry tomatoes and paprika to the pan with chorizo, and stir-fry for another minute.
  6. Now add the wine to deglaze the pan, cooking until the wine has reduced by half. Remove from the heat.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked orzo and the contents of the frying pan. Also add the lemon juice and zest. Stir with a large spoon to mix thoroughly. Season with salt & pepper.
  8. Now stir through the fresh spinach leaves (they will wilt slightly from the heat of the orzo – that’s perfect), and top with shaved Parmesan.

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

Spicy chicken livers on creamy polenta

26 Jul

Spicy pan-fired chicken livers on creamy polenta (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Spicy pan-fired chicken livers on creamy polenta (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Although mealtimes are mostly considered occasions of togetherness and sharing, there are some things that I love to eat when I’m all on my own. One of these companionless meals include a sticky cinnabon at Meraki in Stellenbosch (I love having sweet pastries for breakfast or lunch) – a messy affair that includes inherent licking of fingers. That leaves no space for talking or sharing, of course, so I choose to go there on my own.

Another solitary eating preference is take-away burgers. I am convinced that they taste better in my car, parked outside the burger joint, with the radio on. The other dish is pan-fried chicken livers. My husband doesn’t like them, so I always make them when he’s away on business, when I can have the pan of creamy goodness all to myself without making any substitute dishes for him.

So if you also love chicken livers, here’s my recipe for one of the best ways to enjoy them: in a creamy, spicy sauce, on a bed of creamy polenta. If you don’t like polenta, just get some crusty bread and dip away. This is a dish best enjoyed without any guilt or time limits – company optional.

Ingredients: (serves 1 very hungry person, or 2 people as a light meal)

For the creamy polenta:

  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) polenta
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh cream
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the water & salt over high heat to boiling point, then add polenta and stir well. Lower heat to a slow simmer, then cook for 5-10 minutes until it starts to thicken, stirring often to prevent burning.
  2.  Add cream and parmesan cheese, then stir until the cheese has melted. Season with salt & pepper. Polenta will thicken on standing, so if yours solidifies after leaving it for too long, just add a little boiling water and stir well.

For the spicy chicken livers:

  • 30ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250 g chicken livers
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) garam masala
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) paprika or smoked paprika
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) Worcester sauce
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) fresh cream
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • a handful of chopped coriander leaves (or parsley)

Method:

  1. In a medium size pan on the stove top, heat oil over medium heat then fry onion until soft and translucent.
  2. Add chicken livers, then fry until for about 5 minutes until it is golden brown outside.
  3. Add masala, paprika, tomato paste and Worcester sauce and stir well. Add cream and bring to the boil. Cook for about 3-5 minutes uncovered until the cream has thickened. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve immediately on a bed of polenta, or with crusty bread. Top with some chopped coriander leaves.

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

Two of the best malva pudding recipes

22 Jul

Marvellously moist malva pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Marvellously moist malva pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This is my third post about malva pudding in the past 3 years – just shows how much I love this classic South African dessert! I first posted about it in  August 2011, then again in March 2012 – the second one a malva pudding with a twist.

The recipe that I’ve followed since 2011 is originally by Helmine Myburgh from her book “So eet ons aan die Kaap” (1990) – an old-school illustrated Afrikaans cookbook. Helmine’s recipe was then included in  Huisgenoot’s Top 500 Wenresepte (2006), and I was completely hooked. Her pudding was the most velvety version that I had come across, and I loved the smooth fine texture.

Then I discovered Michael Olivier’s post about Maggie Pepler’s malva pudding recipe from the late 1970’s. Michael worked with Maggie at Boschendal’s restaurant, and asked her to teach them how to make this pudding from her original recipe. I’ve made Maggie’s recipes also a few times, and I have to say that it just remains a show stopping dessert every time.

A few weeks ago, I served Maggie’s malva pudding to my #Stellenblog colleagues and guests as part of a local food demonstration, and everyone raved about the lightness of the texture. It’s like a sea sponge, so delightful, with creamy caramel flavours.

I’ve decided to post both recipes – both are classic, and quite similar in ingredients. Just a note on the batter: it’s quite thick and sticky, and spreads out thinly in your baking dish. Don’t worry, it rises quite a bit, and with the added soaked-up sauce it becomes even higher. The biggest difference? Helmine’s malva pudding has a slightly finer, smooth cake texture, while Maggie’s pudding has a unique spongy texture. Both taste absolutely heavenly – check the quantities of cream, eggs and sugar in both, and see which one tickles your fancy!

Helmine Myburgh’s malva pudding: (see photograph)

For the batter:

  • 20 ml butter
  • 250 ml caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 12,5 ml fine apricot jam
  • 5 ml baking soda
  • 125 ml milk
  • 5 ml brown vinegar
  • 250 ml cake flour, sifted
  • a pinch of salt

For the sauce:

  • 250 ml cream
  • 180 ml sugar
  • 125 g butter
  • 125 ml boiling water
  • 5 ml vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a deep medium-sized ovenproof dish.
  2. With electric beaters, cream butter with caster sugar. Add eggs one by one, and mix well after after each addition.
  3. Add apricot jam and mix well.
  4. Stir baking soda into the milk, then add the vinegar to the milk. Now add the milk/baking soda/vinegar mixture alternately with the sifted flour and salt to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well between each addition.
  5. Pour batter into greased baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes in the pre-heated oven or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. The pudding becomes dark on top very easily, so keep an eye on it while baking, and cover it with foil for the last 15 minutes, if necessary.
  6. While the pudding is baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover with a lid to keep warm.
  7. When pudding is done, remove from oven, then pour over all of the sauce. Leave to stand for at least 15-30 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, custard, whipped cream, or all of the above.

Maggie Pepler’s malva pudding: (as published by Michael Olivier)

For the batter:

  • 250 ml flour
  • 15 ml bicarbonate of soda
  • 250 ml sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 15 ml apricot jam
  • 15 ml vinegar
  • 15 ml melted butter
  • 250 ml milk

For the sauce:

  • 125 ml cream
  • 125 ml milk
  • 50 ml sugar
  • 125 ml hot water
  • 125 g butter

Method:

  1. Set oven at 180°C. Grease, with butter, an ovenproof glass or porcelain container approximately 23cm x 23cm x 5cm.  Do not use an aluminum, enamel or any metal container.
  2. Cut a piece of aluminum foil to cover it while the pudding is in the oven and grease it well with butter on one side.
  3. Sift the flour and the bicarb into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  4. In another bowl beat the egg very well and add the remaining ingredients (excluding those for the sauce) one by one, beating well .  Using a wooden spoon beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, cover with the foil, greased side down and bake for 45 minutes in the present oven until well risen and brown If not sufficiently baked the dessert will not take up all the sauce making it stodgy inside.
  6. When the pudding is almost done, heat the ingredients for the sauce, ensuring that you melt all the sugar and butter.  When the pudding is done, remove from the oven, take off the foil and pour over the sauce.  The pudding will take up all the sauce.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, though warm is best, with a little thin cream or a vanilla custard.

Credits:

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

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

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Chocolate brioche

20 Jun

Dark and moody, buttery and decadent chocolate brioche with Nutella (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Dark and moody, buttery and decadent chocolate brioche with Nutella (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

My sister is a keen baker. She specifically loves baking ciabatta loaves for her family and for dinner guests, and uses great quality stone ground flour for her bread. They also have a beautiful little outdoor pizza oven at the farmhouse where they live in Somerset West, which bakes amazing pizzas in just 2-3 minutes – fantastic.

My sister also loves baking cakes and pastries. She has dozens of little colourful page markers inside her food magazines that she uses as recipe references, and have passed quite a few of her favourite recipes on to me.  Last year, she gave me a 10 page spread from Rooi Rose of July 2013 featuring amazing bread recipes and baking tips. I use it as a reference often!

So when I got the idea of baking a chocolate brioche, I first consulted my sister’s baking references, then my trusted range of recipe books at home. Strangely, none of them contained a recipe that I liked. I was looking for a dark brown all-chocolate loaf, not a white loaf with a chocolate filling (which can also be amazing, by the way). In the process I came across Herman Lensing’s recipe for a chocolate brioche that he did for Sarie Kos – a rich buttery loaf with a chocolate filling and a chocolate sauce drizzled over the top. I decided to adapt Herman’s recipe for what I had in mind, and serve it with lashes of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread.

Herman’s recipe makes 2 large loaves, which I found can sometimes be a little too much for a small household. I halved the recipe, but kept some more yeast in the list of ingredients for the smaller mixture to rise as well as the large mixture does.

This is a recipe that I’ll be passing back to my sister for her collection – such an indulgent treat, especially for breakfast on a rainy Winter’s weekend. Enjoy!

Note: The dough needs to rest overnight in the fridge, so remember to start the process the night before if you want to eat it freshly baked for breakfast.

Ingredients: (makes 1 large loaf)

  •  450g cake flour
  • 50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 50g (60ml or 1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 15g instant dry yeast (1 and a half sachets)
  • 10g (10ml) salt
  • 6 XL eggs
  • 250ml butter, cut into small blocks
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Method:

  1. Using a stand mixer with K-beater attachment, place the flour, cocoa powder, caster sugar, yeast, salt and eggs in the bowl of the mixer and mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. You should have a stiff dough mixture.
  2. Now add butter a bit at a time, mixer running, until all the butter has been incorporated. You should have a smooth sticky dough.
  3. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover, then refrigerate overnight to rest.
  4. Turn the mixture out on a floured surface, then roll it out to a thickness of about 1cm. Fold the dough and repeat 2 times. Now roll it up and place inside a greased bread tin, OR cut into 3 strands and plait for a different look (place on a greased baking tray). Leave the dough in a warm area to rise for 60-90 minutes, until double in volume.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180C for at least 15 minutes, then brush with the whisked egg and bake for about 30 minutes until done. Serve warm with lashings of Nutella spread.

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

Sardines and tomato on toast

17 Jun

Portuguese sardines and roasted tomatoes on toasted ciabatta (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Portuguese sardines and roasted tomatoes on toasted ciabatta (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

My father is a very unique guy. At 63 he is one of the fittest and most active people I know – even after his 5-part heart bypass 18 years ago, and a serious back operation in 2012.

We sometimes jokingly refer to my dad as “oom Sunley”, because that’s what the neighbourhood kids used to call him. Everyone knew oom Sunley, because he had (still has) a larger-than-life personality. The older boys of the neighbourhood regularly had their run-ins with my dad when he silenced their rock band practice sessions on Sunday afternoons (in the middle of his precious nap time).

In his younger days, my father was a world champion canoeist and one of the top SA athletes of his era. Later in his life, he competed in the Argus cycle tour, ran the Comrades marathon, and did the Boland 90 hiking challenge – to name a few. He loves extreme physical challenges, and has the tough mind and stamina to match.

After retiring 8 years ago, my parents now live in Keurboomstrand. My father is a keen fisherman and that’s how he loves to spend his time. When I say fishing, I don’t mean parking off on a camping chair with a brandy in hand. He walks up to 8 kilo’s over rugged terrain with all of his heavy gear, stopping halfway to dive out a few kilograms of led sinkers, then catches up to 6 mussel-crackers at a time which he (obviously) carries back home over his shoulders. That doesn’t happen everyday, but it happens more often than anyone would like to believe. If you know oom Sunley, you’ve probably seen him do stuff like this.

The one trait of my father that I cherish most, is his lust for life. He is just filled with passion, excitement and positive energy. It is a quality that very few people possess, and something that I truly aspire to. The other quality that he has, is the intense belief that he installs in others, and specifically installed in me as a child – a belief that I am good enough to do anything, achieve anything, or be anything  that I put my mind to. It has made a tremendous impact on who I am today.

My father loves food, and that’s something that the two of us love to share. He is very interested in my cooking, and cheers me on when I cook for them at their house over the holidays. Like me, he loves cream, butter, sugar and all things decadent. But when he’s on a fishing trip, he prefers the simpler things in life: canned fish, sweetcorn, corned beef and chocolate.

This Father’s day, I wish I could have dished up this recipe for brunch at my parent’s place. It’s a spin on that “end-of-the-month sardines on toast”, using the best bread, the best tomatoes and the best sardines you can find. Unpretentious food like this is very much a representation of my father: an honest man of quality and integrity – not perfect, not too refined, but a great man. And a damn good father.

Special thanks: To Schalk, my  husband, who brought me a stash of these amazing canned fish goods from his recent trip to Portugal. He sure knows how to make his ingredient-obsessed wife happy.

Ingredients for roasted tomatoes: (makes enough for at least 6 slices of toast)

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 15ml light brown sugar

Ingredients for sardines & tomatoes on toast:

  • a few slices of good quality ciabatta or sour dough bread
  • olive oil for brushing
  • roasted tomatoes (see above)
  • good quality canned sardines (1 can will probably serve 2 people, so adjust quantities accordingly)
  • a handful of roughly chopped parsley

Method:

  1. For the roasted tomatoes: Pre-heat oven to 160 C. Grease a baking tray with oil, then half the tomatoes and place cut-side up on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sugar, then roast for 1 hour at 160 C.
  2. For the toast: brush one side of each slice of bread with oil, then toast in a griddle pan or toasted until golden brown. Remove and serve at once.
  3. To assemble: Place enough tomatoes on each slice of toast to cover the surface, then top with sardines and scatter with parsley. Season with extra salt flakes and pepper if desired, as well as an extra drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Credits:

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

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

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Potato gnocchi with panfried mushrooms & sage butter

30 May

Potato gnocchi with panfried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Potato gnocchi with panfried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Potato gnocchi has a bad reputation for being difficult and temperamental. I recently got the hang of it and it is now a regular favourite in my household. It’s amazing how the humble potato can be turned into something so delicately soft and dreamy – little pillows of potato delight! I also sometimes serve them on top of a hearty roasted tomato & chorizo stew with lots of extra parmigiano – my husband’s favourite.

I recently bought myself a potato ricer for making proper potato gnocchi. It’s a weird contraption that almost looks like a giant garlic press. But it works like a charm to get rid of any lumpy cooked potato bits. If you want a smooth result but you don’t have a ricer, press the cooked potato through a sieve (you’ll need a bit of elbow grease for this, but the result is worth the effort).

For the gnocchi:

  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 300 g cake flour (you might not need all of it)
  • 10 ml salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the potatoes in a large pot filled with salted water (in their skins) until tender. Drain off water and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Remove potato skins, then press through a potato ricer or a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside (you can leave it to cool completely if you want to).
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add riced potatoes, beaten egg, 1/3 of the flour, the salt and pepper. Mix with a fork, then continue to knead to a smooth dough, adding a little extra flour as you go, if necessary. You are looking for a workable consistency that feels like a very soft dough, but not sticky at all. Don’t add too much flour at this time as you want to keep a light texture.
  4. Divide the mixture into 4 balls, then roll each ball out into long strips, using extra flour on your surface to prevent sticking. Carefully cut into little squares/pillows and sprinkle with a little extra flour to prevent them from sticking together (I like to toss them around a bit in the flour to make sure they are fully covered).
  5. Heat a large pot filled with salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and cook for 1-2 minutes or until it rises to the surface. Do not overcook – they will become sticky and soggy. Drain and serve immediately with cream sauce and/or sage butter and pan-fried mushrooms.

For the sage butter:

  • 125 g butter
  • a large handful of fresh sage leaves

Place the butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until the butter starts to turn golden brown and starts to smell nutty. Add sage leaves and remove from heat at once, swirling the butter round to fry the leaves evenly. Set aside.

For the pan-fried mushrooms:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  •  about 500 g mixed exotic mushrooms (break/cut larger mushrooms into bite-size pieces)
  • 125 ml cream
  • salt & pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the oil on high heat in a large pan, then add the mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add cream and reduce a little to form a thicker sauce that will coat the mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper. Note: the mushrooms with absorb the cream on standing, so serve this immediately.

To assemble: Have the sage butter and mushrooms warm and ready before you cook your gnocchi. Serve the gnocchi in bowl topped with pan fried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter. Top with some grated parmesan cheese.

Credits:

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

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

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Roasted sweet potatoes with brown sugar & orange

22 May

Roasted sweet potatoes with ann orange & brown sugar sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Roasted sweet potatoes with an orange & brown sugar sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

When I was a child, my Mother used to roast whole sweet potatoes in the oven for dinner, skin and all. She didn’t do much to them, so they didn’t look very inspiring to us. Still, they oozed this sweet natural syrup from the inside when they were cooked – a little sneak-peak into what to expect from the soft and juicy roasted flesh inside.

I thought I’d give my roasted sweet potatoes a little make-over, something to match their dreamy texture and delicately sweet taste. To make things easier, I pre-cook the sliced wedges in water for just a few minutes, then transfer to a roasting tray and cover with a deliciously decadent brown sugar and orange sauce. Then they go back into the oven to become sticky and golden. The result? A beautiful, simple dish that taste as good as it looks!

Serve these as a sweet side dish with your favourite roast meats this Winter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg medium size sweet potatoes, washed, cut lengthways into quarters
  • rind of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (juice from about 2 oranges)
  • 1 cup (250ml) demerara sugar
  • 60g butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 10ml corn flour / Maizena, dissolved in 30ml cold water

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 C.
  2. On the stove-top, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, then drain and transfer them to a large deep roasting tray.
  3. In a saucepan, add orange rind, orange juice, demerara sugar and butter. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring often. Season well with salt & pepper, then add dissolved corn flour and stir for a few seconds until it thickens. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes in the roasting tray, making sure that they are covered all over. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until the sauce starts to turn golden brown at the edges and the sweet potatoes are completely tender. Serve hot.

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

Easy English pork pies with onion gravy

15 May

Individual pork pies with onion gravy (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Individual pork pies with onion gravy (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

I’ve always had a special interest in comfort food, and the Brits do it so well with their traditional pub fare. The idea of proper bangers with buttery mash and savoury gravy makes me want to grab a warm blanket and head for the couch.

Although I’ve never been to the UK, I’ve seen so many beautiful pork pies on TV and in recipe books. In Britain, they make their traditional pork pies in a round baking mould, rather than a flat pie dish. I’ve used my metal dariole moulds (also used for chocolate fondants etc.) to bake these pies, as they are the perfect size and shape to produce a nice round pork pie. You can use a large muffin tin if you don’t have these. The English also mostly use homemade shortcrust pastry, but in this case I took a shortcut and used store-bought puff pastry.

Making onion gravy takes a little patience, but it really isn’t difficult the result is totally worth it! If you prefer a smooth gravy, just give it a blitz with your stick blender.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 600g fresh pork sausage (coarsely textured)
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 x rolls puff pastry or shortcrust pastry (400g each)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten for egg wash

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion & thyme and fry until it is soft but not too brown – about 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
  2. In the meantime, remove the sausage meat from the casings (cut it open lengthways with kitchen sears), and place in a mixing bowl. Add the fried onions, allspice & nutmeg, then mix well (you can use your clean hands).
  3. Butter/grease 6 dariole moulds, then use the pastry to line each mould, pressing down gently. Fill each pastry case with pie filling, then place a round of pastry on top of each pie and pinch it together. Trim away any excess pastry, then brush with the egg wash on the tops.
  4. Place the prepared pies on a baking sheet, then bake at 220C for 25 minutes. Carefully turn the pies out of the moulds (I use a clean tea towel to assist), then turn them upside down place on a baking tray. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes to brown the bottoms.
  5. Remove from the oven and serve with mashed potatoes & gravy.

For the onion gravy:

  • 15ml (1 tablespoon) butter
  • 30ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 4 onions, peeled and finely sliced (not chopped)
  • 10ml (2 teaspoons) brown sugar
  • 15ml (1 tablespoon) balsamic vinegar
  • 250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
  • 15ml (1 tablespoon) Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • 10ml (2 teaspoons) cornflour/Maizena mixed with 15ml (1 tablespoon) cold water – optional

Method:

  1. In a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, add the butter & olive oil. Now add the onions and stir well. Cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. You’re looking for very soft and slightly golden onions.
  2. Turn the heat up to high, then add the brown sugar & balsamic vinegar. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it reduces and starts to caramelize.
  3. Now add the stock & Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer (turn the heat down to medium). Simmer for 5 minutes without a lid, then season to taste with salt & pepper. If you like to thicken your gravy, you can now add the cornflour/water mixture and stir to thicken. If you like a smooth gravy, use a stick blender to create a smooth sauce. Transfer to a small gravy jug and serve hot.

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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