Tag Archives: tomatoes

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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Beetroot salad with marinated tomatoes and goats cheese

10 Jan

The most colourful salad that you can imagine: shaved beetroot with marinated tomatoes and goats cheese (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few weeks ago I had a lovely wine tasting at Babylonstoren. They serve the most delightful snack platters at their tasting room, packed with fantastic fresh produce from their breathtaking, abundant gardens as well as a selection of locally sourced charcuterie and cheeses. It’s totally worth a visit and great value for money.

One of the most memorable items on these snack platters was a jar of marinated baby tomatoes. I assumed that they were slow roasted because of the intense flavour, but after enquiring about them the management confided that they were simply marinated overnight in a mixture of lots of red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh herbs.

I decided to give it a go at home, and after marinating a jar overnight I served it with a few greens, some shaved multicoloured raw beetroot and a few slices of crottin (goats cheese). What a magnificently colourful picture! I loved the crunchy, earthiness of the beetroot, the tang of the crottin and the bursting sweetness of the tomatoes. Such a stunning looking salad for summer entertaining.

Marinated rosa tomatoes with red wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for the marinated tomatoes: (serves 4)

  • about 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a sprig of rosemary, stalk removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely grated (optional)
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Place the tomatoes, rosemary and garlic in a 500g glass jar. Add the vinegar and oil and season with salt & pepper. Close the jar and tilt it over to mix all the ingredients. Refrigerate overnight to marinate (or for at least 6 hours).

For the salad: (serves 4)

  • a handful green leaves, washed
  • a few baby beets, peeled & finely sliced/shaved (mandolin cutter works best)
  • a few radishes, finely shaved
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • a chunk of crottin (goats cheese), sliced
  • one batch of marinated tomatoes (see above)
  • a handful mixed micro herbs (optional)

Method:

Arrange the leaves, beets, radishes, red onion, crottin and tomatoes on a salad platter or on individual plates. Top with micro herbs and dress with the tomato marinade. Serve immediately.

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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

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

Panzanella with smoked chicken, capers & basil

6 Feb

Panzanella: a traditional Tuscan bread salad (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

These days, most of us have access to great bread. Here in my hometown of Stellenbosch I can buy a large loaf of freshly baked sour dough bread any day of the week at Schoon de Compagne, and I use it in so many ways.

On the first day, I just eat it on its own, drenched with great quality olive oil or topped with a thick slab of cold Ayrshire butter. On day 2, I eat it toasted as bruschetta with various toppings: slow roasted tomatoes with garlic, marinated peppers, baked aubergines with feta, the list is endless. On day 3, I use it to make croutons or process it to make breadcrumbs for toppings and stuffings. The uses are infinite and the bread just keeps on giving. (For more ideas, check out Saveur’s 40 favourite recipes with stale bread.)

The Italians have great ways of using stale bread. They make fantastic soups, salads, meat dishes and even puddings with it – economical and oh so tasty. One of my favourite Italian inspired ways of using a stale loaf is to make panzanella, a traditional summery Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. There are many versions of panzanella, but mine contains tomatoes, yellow peppers, capers, basil, red onion and smoked chicken.

And here’s a handy tip: if you want to give your panzanella an authentic Italian look, don’t cut the bread, rather break it into chunks. This way the salad has so much more character. It’s a meal on its own, but don’t be afraid to serve it as one of many dishes on a lazy, extended, weekend lunch with lots of great wine in a shady spot under the trees.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a main meal, or 6 as a side dish)

For the “croutons”:

  •  about 3 cups of stale torn bread chunks (preferably sour dough or ciabatta)
  • 60 ml olive oil

For the dressing:

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/crushed
  • salt and black pepper for seasoning

For the salad:

  • 3 cups toasted croutons (see above)
  • 2 small smoked chicken breasts, sliced or torn into smaller chunks
  • 250 g mixed small tomatoes, sliced in half or in smaller slices
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and pith removed, sliced
  • 50 g capers (drained)
  • 1/4 cup of finely sliced red onion (optional)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves

Method:

  1. For the croutons: In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and then toast the bread chunks until they are golden brown on all sides. Toss often until ready, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. For the dressing: mix all ingredients together in a cup, using a fork to whisk. Set aside.
  3. For the salad: in a large mixing bowl, add the croutons, chicken breast chunks, sliced tomatoes, sliced pepper, capers, red onion and basil. Pour half the dressing over the salad, then mix well. Add more dressing according to taste – I like it when the bread absorbs a lot of the dressing, resulting in a softer tangy chew. Transfer the mixed salad to a beautiful salad bowl, and serve immediately.

Note: If your loaf of stale bread has a very hard crust on the outside, cut it off before tearing the bread into chunks.

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

A Christmas picnic table with Poetry Stores: Part 2

17 Dec

My Christmas picnic spread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

With only one week to go until Christmas, everyone’s planning their spreads and feasts. A lot of us will not only have a Christmas eve dinner, but also a Christmas day lunch. I love to go traditional for a Christmas dinner with a hot roast and lots of sides, but when it is daytime I really prefer a cold Christmas spread, casual yet indulgent – something that you can even take on the road and have as a picnic in a beautiful location.

My choices for the perfect Christmas picnic table comes from The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell (R285 from Poetry Stores). Annie’s recipes are simple but scrumptious, and her book is a great choice for any al fresco feast. The maple roast ham is glazed with a beautifully dark mixture of black treacle, maple syrup and English mustard – easy to make ahead and simply delicious served cold or at room temperature. I’ve also chosen Annie’s recipe for gravadlax, a wonderful alternative to cold smoked fish. I used locally farmed trout instead of salmon for the gravadlax – use what you prefer and what you can afford. For a salad I chose Annie’s couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranate – one of the most beautiful salads to look at with bright green and red specs! I also made her aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes.

For dessert I tried Annie’s recipe for salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread – my favourite recipe of the day. These indulgent treats are totally amazing, a little over the top but perfect for a Christmas feast.

Me and Tasha used a selection of Poetry‘s beautiful wooden boards (oval wooden board = R399) to put this spread together, as well as some of their pretty colourful little bowls and placemats (pom-pom placemat = R99). For the shortbread we used a dainty white cake stand (R250) which also comes with a glass dome lid. All of these make beautiful Christmas gifts, so get to Poetry Stores this week and browse their full collection.

Maple roast ham with Dijon mustard, and aubergines with goat’s cheese and tomatoes (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Maple roast ham: (serves 6-8)

  • 1 x 2kg unsmoked gammon, boned and rolled
  • 3 outer stalks of celery, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 carrots, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 30 ml maple syrup
  • 5 ml black treacle
  • 10 ml English mustard
  1. Place the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Discard the water and start again with fresh water to cover, this time adding the chopped vegetables and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then maintain at a gently simmer over a low heat for  50 minutes. If necessay, top up with boiling water halfway through.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C. Tranfer the gammon from the saucepan onto a board using two forks. Remove any string around the ham and pull off the rind. Slice the fat at 2cm intervals with a criss-cross pattern, without cutting down as far as the flesh.
  3. Blend the maple syrup, treacle and mustard in a bowl and use this to coat the ham evenly oall over. Place the ham in a roasting tin and pour some stock to cover the base and prevent the drippings burning. Roast for 35-45 minutes until the glaze is mahogany coloured and dry. Leave to cool, then carve at home before your picnic.

Gravadlax with mustard sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Gravadlax: (serves 6-8)

  • 100 g rock salt
  • 100 caster sugar
  • 20 g yellow mustard seeds
  • a small bunch of dill, finely chopped, plus some to serve
  • 900 g salmon/trout fillet, skin-on, pin boned
  • little gem heart leaves or buttered rye bread to serve

Method:

  1. Comine the salt, sugar, mustard seeds and dill in a bowl. Scatter a quarter of the salt mixture over a piece of clingfilm large enough to wrap the two fillets up in when placed on top of each other. Place one fillet skin-down on top, scatter over 2/3 of the reamining mixture, then lay the second fillet on top so the thick part of the fillet is on top of the thin part of the fillet, and they lie flesh to flesh. Scatter over the remaining salt mixture, wrap in the salmon up tightly and then in foil.
  2. Weight the salmon down by placing something heavy on top, then refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the parcel every 12 hours. The sugar and salt will draw the juices out of the salmon and turn into a sticky bring.
  3. Unwrap the salmon and rinse the marinade off the fresh side. ome of the mustard seeds and dill should remain but you will get rid of the excess salt and sugar. Place the fillets skin-side down on the work surface, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Press some chopped dill into the surface.
  4. Trim the edges of the fillets, then slice the gravadlax diagonally off the skin, thicker than you would slice a smoked salmon. Serve with mustard sauce.

Mustard sauce:

  • 150 g soured cream
  • heaped tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • heaped tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 15 ml caster sugar

Mix it all together, then leave to stand for 15 minutes for the sugar to melt. Stir again and serve cold.

Couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranates (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranate:

  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • sea salt
  • a pinch of saffron filaments
  • 200 g couscous
  • seeds of 1 medium pomegranate
  • 75 g shelled pistachios
  • 90 ml chopped coriander
  • 90 ml chopped mint
  • zest of a lemon (finely grated)
  • 15 ml lemon juice
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • pomegranate syrup, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a small saucepan, season with salt, and add the saffron. Pout this over the couscous in a large bowl, then cover and set aside for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to break up the lumps. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Mix the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, herbs and lemon zest into the couscous. Whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil and some salt, them pour over the salad and toss to coat well.

Aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes: (serves 6)

  •  3 aubergines, sliced into 3cm thick rounds
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 300 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 150 g young firm goat’s cheese, cut into 1cm thick dice
  • coarsely chopped parsley

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Lay the aubergine slices out on a couple of baking trays. Brush with oil on both sides and season with salt & pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn and cook for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
  3. At the same time, scatter a little salt over the tomatoes in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Transfer the aubergines to a large roasting dish that holds them in a single layer. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil over the tomatoes, and gently toss, then mix with the goats cheese. Pile this on top of the aubergines, them return to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Scatter with parsley.

Salt caramel millionaire’s shortbread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread:

For the shortbread:

  • 225 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 115 g ground almonds
  • 5 ml vanilla extract

For the caramel:

  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 15 ml golden syrup
  • 275 g Caramel Treat (or dulce de leche)
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt

For the top:

  • 200 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 25 g white chocolate chips (optional)

Method:

  • Place all the ingredients for the shortbread in a food processor and whizz to form a dough. Press into a buttered baking tin (27 x 18 cm), then prick with a fork and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat oven to 140 C, then bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Leave to cool.
  • Place all the ingredients for the caramel in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring well. Simmer gently for 8 minutes, stirring often, then pour over the shortbread base and leave to cool completely.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then pour over the caramel and smooth the top. If you want to marble the surface, melt the white chocolate in the same way, then drop 1/4 teaspoons on top of the dark, marbling it with a cocktail stick. Work quickly.
  • Set aside in a cool place until set but still soft, then cut into squares and chill. Store in an airtight container.

 

Credits:

All recipes by Annie Bell, from her book The Picnic Cookbook.

Food preparation & text: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Ilse van der Merwe & Tasha Seccombe

Homeware: Poetry Stores

Gazpacho

12 Nov

Traditional Spanish gazpacho – a cold tomato soup (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I’m a huge fan of Spanish food, and it has always been a life long dream of mine to visit Spain with my husband as part of an extended Mediterranean food-travelling mission.  I’m longing to experience authentic Spanish, Italian, and French cuisine right there where it all started. I want to meet the local farmers, producers and shop keepers and I want to eat with them.

When I think of Spanish food, I always think of traditional tapas like jamón, prawns and squid, but also of paella (especially seafood paella) and gazpacho. Gazpacho is a fantastic cold soup for summer, made with tomatoes, peppers, stale bread, olive oil and vinegar. It is texturally just a joy to eat, and a perfect starter to an extended Spanish summer dinner party. It is always best to chill it for a few hours in the fridge in order to give the flavours time to release their magic – it is even better the next day, and the next. So make it ahead of time and serve ice cold.

The beauty of gazpacho, to me, lies in choosing perfectly ripe bright red tomatoes. Don’t use pale pink tomatoes that have been refrigerated for a few days, I find that they lose quite a bit of flavour that way. Rather leave your tomatoes on the counter for a day or 3 to ripen fully before you make this soup. That way you will have maximum flavour – it really does make a difference!

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a starter)

  • 1 kg tomatoes, skinned*
  • 1 red pepper, seeds and pith removed
  • 1/2 small English cucumber, seeded and peeled (optional)
  • 1 large slice good quality day-old bread, soaked in water, then squeezed to remove excess water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red/green chilli, stalk removed (I also use the seeds, but you can remove these it you prefer)
  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 ml apple cider vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • salt and black pepper

Method:

*To skin your tomatoes, use a sharp small knife to cut a shallow “x” on the bottom of each tomato. Heat a large pot of water to boiling point, then drop the whole tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Quickly remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and drop them into ice cold water. Now peel off the skins (they should come off easily) and set aside.

  1. Roughly chop the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber (optional), and bread into large chunks.
  2. Place in a food processor with the garlic, chilli, olive oil and vinegar. Process to a relatively smooth liquid, leaving just enough texture to your liking. I prefer my gazpacho a bit smoother than most people, but it’s up to you!
  3. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and add more vinegar or oil if necessary. Transfer to a suitable container for your fridge, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. The flavours will develop over time.
  4. Serve ice cold, with an extra garnish of chopped tomato, peppers or cucumber and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

 Note: The gazpacho in the photograph was made without cucumber. I sometimes add it, and sometimes don’t. The cucumber gives a great lightness to the soup, but if you prefer a deeper red colour, just leave it out.

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

Spinach ravioli with smoked mozzarella & fresh tomato sauce

6 Aug

Spinach ravioli stuffed with smoked mozzarella and ricotta, topped with fresh tomato sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This Friday we’ll be celebrating Women’s Day – a day where we are reminded that women played a big role in South Africa’s human rights history.  Back in 1965, a group of very brave women staged a silent march in Pretoria in front of the Union Buildings, against legislation that required African people to carry a special identification document which curtailed an African’s freedom of movement during the apartheid era.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come since 1965. Today, Women’s Day celebrates the respect, love and appreciation of women throughout South Africa. To me, it is not a political day, it is a day where we can treat each other with a little extra care and indulgence, just because we deserve it!

With the help of Poetry stores, I chose a recipe from the amazing book The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Kaldesi (available from Poetry). Being very sceptical of Italian cookery books (because everyone claims to cook like the Italians!), I approached this book with caution. But after spending a few minutes paging through the beautiful recipes and stories, I realised that this book is very authentic. I just couldn’t put it down. It might be my favourite recipe book of 2013 so far – a real inspiration for anyone who really enjoys traditional Italian recipes and ingredients.

Katie Caldesi was nominated for many awards after writing this book, and I can see why. She captures the soul of the people that feature in the book, and it translates onto the recipe pages. I look forward to spending much more time with this amazing book, and I’ll surely feature more recipes in the near future.

The recipe that I chose to feature for Women’s Day from The Italian Cookery Course, is part of a masterclass feature in the book: “Spinach pasta stuffed with smoked mozzarella with fresh tomato sauce”. It’s a bright green spinach pasta, filled with smoked mozzarella cheese and ricotta, topped with Giovanna’s fresh tomato sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. It is simply sublime in flavour, rich from the cheese filling, yet light from the fresh tomatoes in the sauce. It is a beautiful plate of Italian goodness, perfect for a Women’s Day celebration.

May every lady out there feel special on Friday. I love being a woman!

Ingredients for Fresh Tomato Sauce: (serves 6)

  • 1kg fresh, ripe and very red tomatoes, quartered
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon caster sugar (optional)
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

  1. Put the tomatoes, basil, and onion in a large heavybased saucepan over medium heat (no oil!). Cover the pan, shaking it frequently, and leave on the heat for 45 minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and softened. Remove the basil leaves.
  2. Use a stick blender and whizz up the tomatoes to a smooth puree, skins and all.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic. Fry over medium heat until it becomes fragrant, then add the pureed tomatoes.
  4. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes until the mixture has reduced and the flavour has become concentrated. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

Ingredients for Smoked Mozzarella Filling:

  • 250 g smoked mozzarella (or scamorza)
  • 150 g ricotta
  • a good pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt, to taste

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients well. Be careful with the salt as the mozzarella is already salty.

Rolling out the green pasta dough with my pasta machine (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for Spinach Pasta Ravioli: (I have adapted this recipe by mixing the dough in my food processor, but you can also mix it by hand)

  • 200 g fresh spinach (or 100g cooked spinach)
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 300 g flour, plus a little extra
  1. Cook the spinach first: I like to sautee the spinach leaves with olive oil in a large pan until it has wilted, then remove from the heat and let it cool. Spinach will lose about 50% of it’s weight after being cooked, so we are looking for about 100g cooked spinach for the rest of the recipe.
  2. When the spinach has cooled, place it in a small mixing jug with one of the eggs, then blend with a stick blender to a smooth green paste.
  3. Add the flour, remaining egg, and green paste to your food processor, then mix until you get a ball of dough that starts to come together (it only takes about 20-30 seconds).
  4. Remove the dough from the processor bowl, then place it on a floured wooden board and press together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough, one piece at a time, to a thickness of about 1mm (almost thinnest setting). Lightly dust the pasta while working with it.
  6. Placing balls of filling on the pasta sheets (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

    Lay out the sheet of pasta on a lightly dusted surface to prevent sticking. Place heaped teaspoons of stuffing on one side of each sheet (lengthways), then fold it over and press down to stick the 2 layers together. If your pasta sheets look dry, use a pastry brush and water to make the surface a bit sticky before folding it. Make sure to press out any air bubbles around the stuffing.

  7. Fold the pasta sheets over the filling, then press down around it to get rid of air pockets before cutting it into squares (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

    Use a fluted pastry cutter (or pizza wheel cutter) to cut the ravioli into squares, aiming to leave about 2cm between the end of the filling and the edge of the pasta square. Place the ravioli on a lightly floured tray, spaced apart in a single layer. Set aside until ready to cook, but not longer than an hour otherwise it will start to stick to the surface. You can also freeze them at this stage.

  8. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook the ravioli for 3-5 minutes (until al dente), then drain through a colander – the filling will completely melt on the inside, so don’t be alarmed if the ravioli look “deflated”, just handle with care! Serve with the fresh tomato sauce (see recipe above) and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Credits:

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe

All recipes from: The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi, available from Poetry stores at R295

Bracelet: Poetry stores, R30 (Poetry supports the Ikamva Labantu programme to empower women. Proceeds from this handmade bracelet provide earnings and upskilling for local bracelet-makers as well as enterprise development opportunities in South Africa.)

Large plate, smaller bowls and wooden spoon: Wonki Ware from Poetry stores (ranging from R65-R399)

 

Orzo with roasted tomatoes and feta

18 Jun

Orzo with roasted tomatoes, leeks, onions, garlic and feta, topped with parmesan shavings.

My good friend and fellow blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs recently published an outstanding recipe for a Greek roasted lamb dish with orzo, “Mike’s Youvetsi”. She made this dish for us at her house last year, and I have since completely fallen in love with orzo as an ingredient. It’s got something to do with the mouthfeel of the orzo – to me, it is much more than flat rice-shaped pasta.

Last week I attended a function at the V&A Waterfront where we were served the most delicious buffet lunch (#DiscoverDelicious). One of the dishes included a rice dish with roasted butternut, peanuts and danish feta. It reminded me of how fabulous a meatless dish can be if served with really flavoursome roasted ingredients and just the right type of starch. I longed for Jane-Anne’s orzo dish (it truly is spectacular, especially if you’re a fan of lamb), but decided to go the meatless route for a quick roasted tomato & orzo dish with added leeks, onions, garlic and thyme.

The roasted tomatoes are also fabulous as a topping on freshly baked bread, but I decided to toss it with freshly cooked orzo topped with chunks of feta for a Greek inspired dish. This can certainly be a meatless main course, but I think it will be fantastic served at room temperature as a side dish on a buffet table. I used only 250 g orzo, but you can certainly use up to 500g for this recipe. It is very rich in flavour and such a satisfying dish!

 

Freshly roasted tomatoes, onions, leeks and garlic with thyme.

Ingredients for roasted tomatoes:

  • 1 kg tomatoes (mixed sizes)
  • 1 onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme, stalks removed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • about 30 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 30 ml soft brown sugar
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C.
  2. Arrange the tomatoes in a large roasting tin. Slice the bigger tomatoes, but leave the small ones whole.
  3. Add the sliced onion, leeks, garlic, thyme, then drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with the sugar, then season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 200C until the tomatoes and onions are soft and slightly charred.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Ingredients for the orzo dish:

  • 250 g orzo (or 500 g orzo if you are serving this as a side dish in a buffet spread)
  • water and salt
  • a little extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 x batch roasted tomatoes (see recipe above)
  • 200 g feta, crumbled or diced (or danish feta)
  • shavings of parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. Cook the orzo in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender – about 7 minutes. Drain and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Add the cooked orzo to the roasted tomatoes and mix well. Transfer the contents to a suitable platter or large bowl, then top with the feta and parmesan cheese.
  3. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Summer linguine with basil & cashew pesto

15 Jan

Fresh linguine with basil & cashew pesto, mixed tomatoes and fior di latte (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Every time I eat linguine or spaghetti with a basic basil pesto, I feel very Italian – in a “pretend” kind of way. It is the opposite of what we grew up on in South Africa, believing that pasta always needs a chunky, heavy meat sauce.

This simple way of enjoying pasta is synonymous with my motto for the new year, keeping things uncomplicated, yet robust. The most basic meal can turn into something fabulous if you use fresh, great quality ingredients, and do as little to it as possible.

For this recipe, I varied from the well-known classic basil pesto with the use of cashew nuts instead of pine kernels – a slightly more economical choice which means that you don’t have to use the nuts too sparingly and can add some as a final topping for extra texture. Cashews still provide a strong nutty flavour, and is in no way a compromise. I also added some fresh halved cherry tomatoes, which I tossed through the pasta while it was still piping hot. The tomatoes warm up slightly, but retain their fresh crunch and flavour.

As a last addition, I also added shreds of fior di latte – wonderfully mild and milky pieces that work so well in the traditional caprese salad of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

This dish makes me feel rejuvenated, inspired and longing for travels abroad. Buon appetito!

Ingredients for pesto:

  • 2 punnets basil (about 40 g in total)
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
  • 50 g cashew nuts

Ingredients for pasta:

  • 500 g linguine (plus water and salt for boiling)
  • about 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved (or use a punnet of mixed small tomatoes)
  • 120 g fior di latte, torn into  shreds
  • 50 g cashew nuts, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. In a food processor or electric chopper (or manual pestle & mortar), process/pound all ingredients for pesto together to a chunky paste. Set aside and start making pasta immediately, otherwise discolouration might occur.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil, then cook pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add olive oil, then toss to coat. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add pesto, then toss to coat well.
  4. Now add tomatoes, mozzarella and cashews. Toss again, then serve immediately with some extra olive oil on the table.

Note: If you want to keep the pesto from discolouring, blanch the basil leaves in a large pot of boiling water for no longer than 3 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and immerse in ice water immediately. Continue making pesto as above, then transfer to an airtight container and top with a thin layer of olive oil before storing in the fridge, covered. Will keep for about 3-4 days, perfectly green.

WIN with SPAR Freshline! One lucky reader can win SPAR vouchers to the value of R200 when you answer this easy question: Name one  ingredient/product from the SPAR Freshline range which featured in this recipe. Leave your answer as a comment at the bottom of this post. Winner will be notified on Friday the 18th of January 2012.

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: Tasha Seccombe & NicolaPretorius.

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