Tag Archives: olive oil

Mediterranean-style focaccia

20 Jul

Mediterranean-style focaccia topped with red pesto, olives, feta and pine nuts.

Focaccia bread is very similar in style to a regular Italian pizza, but is usually a bit thicker and stuffed or topped with herbs and/or other ingredients. In this recipe, I have taken my favourite pizza dough and rolled it out thickly, then topped it with a red Moroccan style pesto, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, sliced Calamata olives, feta and pine nuts. I serve it hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, plus some Deluxe Hummus for dipping.

This is the perfect starter to a Mediterranean feast, or just as a snack on it’s own. Warning: this focaccia is very addictive! Enjoy!

Ingredients for dough: (serves 4-6 as a starter)

  • 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

Ingredients for toppings: (these are just guidelines, adjust the quantities as you like!)

  • 2 T Medi Deli Casablanca Pesto
  • 2 T Medi Deli Grated Parmesan Style Cheese
  • 10 olives, halfed and stoned
  • some feta chunks
  • 1 T Medi Deli Pine Nuts
  • to serve: extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, Medi Deli  Humus Deluxe


  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix untill a sticky dough forms. Knead untill 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 220 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. On a well floured surface, roll out into an oval shape. Transfer to a large baking tray lined with baking paper.
  4. Spread with pesto, then use the blunt back end of a knife to poke holes in the surface (or use your fingers).
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan, top with olives, feta and pine nuts.
  6. Bake at 220 C for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.
  7. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil, some salt flakes and freshly ground pepper, and a bit of humus on the side as a dip.

Marinated chicken with lemon, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs

5 Mar

Poached chicken, marinated in lemon, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs, served with bruschetta (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

One of the very hot new trends on the food scene is tapas-style eating. And may I say: it is my favourite way to feast! Sharing platters full of snacks, dips, bruschettas and bites with friends around a big table is such a fantastic way to celebrate.

This recipe for poached chicken, marinated in fresh garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs, is seriously one of the tastiest ways to eat chicken. The poached chicken becomes so soft that it almost melts in your mouth while the juicy sauces run into the crispy toasted bruschetta. And best of all: you can make it a day ahead and dish it up at room temperature when lunchtime arrives.

The recipe is an adaptation out of Ina Paarman’s book “The Good Food Cookbook”. I bought it 12 years ago while I was still studying Consumer Science in Textiles at the University of Stellenbosch. It was a cheap little book back then, but has remained one of the timeless classics in my cupboard, along with Phillippa Cheifitz’s “Lazy Days”. These books have played a big part in inspiring me to follow my passion for food and cooking.

Recipes are meant to be shared, so here’s my version of Ina’s superb marinated chicken:


  • 1 large whole free-range chicken
  • 2 large carrots, cut into thick chunks
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 litre good quality chicken stock (if you don’t have access to fresh stock, use dissolved cubes)

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup great quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 big tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 big tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock, reserved from the cooked chicken
  • 1 cup organic cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)


  1. Skin the raw chicken by simply pulling the skin off the body and thighs. Don’t bother too much with the wings. Place it, breast side up, in a large heavy-based saucepan with the carrots, onions, garlic and chicken stock.
  2. Cover with greaseproof paper, pushing the paper down to the level of the liquid. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, then simmer on low heat for 1 and a half hours until the chicekn is very tender and starts to come away from the bone. Remove from the heat, then turn the chicken over (breast side down) to cool in the liquid – this takes an hour or 2.
  3. In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the marinade together and leave to stand at room temperature to allow flavours to develop.
  4. When chicken has cooled, remove from pot and reserve 1 cup of stock for the sauce (keep the rest in the freezer for your next recipe). Discard the onion and carrot.
  5. Tear the meat from the bone into long strips and add the cherry tomatoes. Beat the reserved stock into the marinade, then pour over chicken and tomatoes in a porcelain dish and cover with clingfilm, pushing the clingfilm down onto the mixture to expel as much air as possible. Refrigerate overnight to let the flavours mature. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  6. Serve with toasted bruschetta and a green salad, or as part of a tapas style menu.


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

Recipe selection & development, testing and preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photographed by Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Ilse vand der Merwe and Tasha Seccombe

Franck Dangereux’s oil bread

23 Feb

Freshly baked oil bread with onions and rosemary, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt flakes (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

The smell of freshly baked bread never seems to lose it’s magic. It is probably one of the simplest ways to make people feel warm and happy – by sharing a loaf of bread that just came from your oven.

If I ever have to choose my last meal, it would simply have to be great bread accompanied by the best extra virgin olive oil. I love to drench fresh crusty bread in great olive oil, the fresh green smell of the olive oil enhanced by the warmness of the bread.

In Franck Dangereux’s recipe for “oil bread”, you can have these two elements of bread and great olive oil all wrapped into one – cut into iconic “fingers”.  Franck published this recipe in his book “Feast” while he was still the head chef at Constantia Uitsig’s award-winning La Colombe Restaurant. He is no longer with La Colombe, but has moved on to co-own The Foodbarn – a magnificent restaurant and deli in Noordhoek, Cape Town. Franck is renowned for his excellent baking and his honest approach to simple, quality ingredients.

This recipe is one of my favourites: truly rustic, yet stylish enough for fine dining. The only catch is that you need a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to prepare the dough – it is very sticky and will take a lot of time and effort to mix by hand. But if you have access to a stand mixer, this will become a total favourite in your house: a recipe that is timeless and delicious, every time.


1 kg flour (I use white bread flour)

20 g salt (about 1 tablespoon)

10 g instant yeast (or 25 g fresh yeast)

750 ml lukewarm water

olive oil

sliced onion and chopped rosemary for topping


  1. Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer on low-speed, fitted with the dough hook or beater. With the motor running, add the water all at once.
  2. Mix on low-speed for 20 minutes. Put a wet cloth over the dough and leave it to prove at room temperature for 45-60 minutes.
  3. Generously spread oil on 2 baking trays with your hands. With your hands still oily, divide dough in 2 and put each half in a baking tray. Leave it to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Again with oiled hands, stretch the dough to fit the trays. Top with anything you like: sliced onions, rosemary, garlic, basil, olives, anchovies. Leave to prove at room temperature for a further 45 minutes.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.

Tip: I always drizzle the bread with olive oil before baking AND after baking – it just brings out the flavour and colour of the bread beautifully.


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

Recipe selection, testing and preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photographed by Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Ilse vand der Merwe and Tasha Seccombe

Meatballs with fresh herbs in rosa tomato sauce

4 Nov

Meatballs with herbs baked in a rosa tomato sauce

I have a list of 5 pantry essentials that I cannot live without. They are:

  1. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil – the best I can find.
  2. Fresh garlic – I have a new mincing gadget that takes the effort out of chopping garlic.
  3. Canned whole tomatoes – big roma tomatoes or small rosa tomatoes (they are on special often, and are SO versatile).
  4. Salt flakes – I prefer Maldon, because the flakes are just the right size.
  5. Fresh cream – these days I buy cream in 1 litre containers; the 250 ml’s just don’t last in my house.

I recently started using great quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil as a condiment instead of an “ingredient” – that means you add it to your food after plating up, and not while cooking. It turns most pasta dishes, salads and breads into the stuff dreams are made of. That obviously means you have to use the best. I can recommend Tokara Olive Shed’s range of olive oils – my favourite is their Frantoio varietal: really fruity and robust with a wonderful green tinge. Other locally produced extra virgin olive oils that I love are Morgenster, Vesuvio, Kloovenberg, Willow Creek and Saint Sebastian Bay.

Coincidentally, I used 4 out of 5 of my listed essentials for my meatballs (I could have sneaked in the cream as well, but the sauce don’t really need it).  The great thing about canned tomatoes is that you can blitz it up to make a smooth sauce, or keep it chunky for stews etc. And you are skipping all the effort of boiling fresh tomatoes in order to remove the skins. Instant bright red moreishness without any of the canned taste, available all year round.

I was inspired to make meatballs after reading an amazing recipe for “Classic Meatballs” on www.saveur.com . The recipe generated a lot of negative comments on their site – people thought they used too many ingredients and that the recipe wasn’t “classic” at all. I say: do whatever you need to do to make your food taste great. If your “classic meatballs” contain 100 ingredients, that’s cool too. Food is meant to be enjoyed, people! Lighten up!!

So here is my meatball recipe with lots of ingredients, but there is a reason for every single one. And they taste bloomin’ fantastic – ask my husband.

Ingredients for meatballs:

500 grams lean beef mince

2 slices of bread, processed to fine crumbs (I used whole-wheat, but white is also good)

about 6 sprigs of spring onion, finely sliced (white parts only)

a handful of fresh basil, finely chopped

a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, lightly mixed

Ingredients for rosa tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large cloves of garlic (or 5 small cloves), minced or finely chopped

125 ml (1/2 cup) red wine

2 cans whole rosa tomatoes (you can also use the bigger canned roma tomatoes and chop them roughly in chunks)

50 g (about 2 heaped tablespoons) tomato paste

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular paprika)

salt and pepper to taste

For serving:

Great quality extra virgin olive oil

Spaghetti or ciabatta.

Extra basil leaves and chopped parsley.


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs together with clean hands. Now roll balls of around 4-5 cm in diameter, arranging them in a medium size oven-proof dish. I used a 25 cm round dish.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  3. In a medium size sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium to high heat. Add one of the raw meatballs to the oil, breaking it up. Add the garlic and fry with the meat untill golden brown.
  4. Add red wine and deglaze. Cook on high heat untill the wine is reduced by half (should take about 2 minutes).
  5. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Give the oven dish a carefull shake to distribute the sauce evenly.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-45 minutes, or untill the sauce starts to darken on top.
  8. Remove from the oven, sprinkle generously with extra herbs, and serve with spaghetti, crusty bread, and lots of great cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.

Spicy tomato sauce for pizza, pasta and meat

3 Mar

Meatballs with my versatile spicy tomato sauce

Yes my darlings, it is true: I’ve created a fantastic spicy tomato sauce so versatile, you can practically use it on anything. I started making it as a tomato sauce for my pizza bases, and then realised that it also tasted great on pasta. It also works very well with meat and chicken. Lo and behold, it can even be turned into a soup! […]

Glorious Saturdays in Stellenbosch

19 Feb

My Blackberry's view of my berry compote breakfast at Tokara deliCATessen

These days, my 14 week old daughter decides what time we get up in the morning. This glorious Saturday morning, it was at 05h20. Needless to say, there was just no way to make her go back to sleep again, so we got up and went for a walk in our neighbourhood. It was an absolute perfect morning in the Winelands, and we needed to make it count. […]

It ain’t cheating if it tastes this good

7 Feb

It’s a beautiful drive to Lourensford Farm in Somerset West for their monthly farmer’s market weekend. But once you enter those gates, the view is just breathtaking: perfectly kept green vineyards surrounded by the most majestic blue mountains. It’s really spectacular.

Once parked on a shady patch of grass, we made our way over to the coffee stand on Saturday morning and ordered refreshing iced coffees to sip on while strolling through the food isles. I’ve been there many times before (my brother-in-law is the local rainbow trout farmer, and I have to say his trout is epic) so I kind of knew what to expect. But this time I found 2 new products that are just fantastic. […]

Bread to die for

1 Feb

Great ciabatta straight from the oven

A friend once asked what I would have for my so-called “last meal”. The answer is simple: great bread, drenched in the finest extra virgin olive oil. Just like that. But it has to be really great bread. And that is not very easy to find.

If you are, like me, an obsessive home cook, you must have tried your hand at baking bread. The thing is: most recipe books contain bread recipes that come out like a basic white farm loaf, or variations of it. I’ve always searched for a great recipe that would deliver a real Italian ciabatta loaf. I prefer mine to be densely heavy, with some holes (not too many), and a very spongy but slightly “moist” texture. It should feel alive when you touch the inside. […]