Smoked pork minestrone

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While completing the last batch of photographs for my new cookbook with Tasha Seccombe during February this year (due for launch in September), I collaborated with Le Creuset SA in providing me access to the most beautiful array of cast iron casseroles and ceramic servingware for styling purposes. One of the items that I particulary fell in love with, was this beautiful 31 cm (6,3 liter) oval casserole in Agave – a mesmerizing blend of dark teal and inky navy that seems to change in different lighting. It is probably the most beautiful Le Creuset casserole I’ve ever seen, to be honest. Mysterious, intense, regal.

For my cookbook, I used it to showcase a ridiculously tasty pulled pork dish (more to be revealed later), but in the meantime, I’ve reserved a few dishes to try in this new oval addition to my Le Creuset kitchen family. I baked an enormous oval mosbolletjie pull-apart potbread for Easter, which was so good I didn’t even take photos, we just gobbled it down with lashings of farm butter and a crowd of friends. This is the kind of casserole that you pull closer for special occasions and larger feasts, not only because of the size but also because of its royal look and feel.

On a recent visit to my favourite pork butchery & deli, I laid my eyes on some smoked kassler steaks, a beautiful bunch of seasonal kale and freshly picked butternut. I wanted to make a seasonal meaty smoky Italian-style vegetable soup – the kind of feel-good food that makes me excited about simple ingredients, about local produce and about cooking from scratch. Glugs of extra virgin olive oil to serve, generous gratings of aged parmigiano, fresh ciabatta for dipping. Life cannot get more delicious in these moments.

Here’s my easy recipe for a simple, seasonal, hearty, smoky and meaty minestrone using small haricot beans and rosmarino pasta. The yield is large, so if you don’t have a bunch of friends over you’ll be able to freeze numerous batches for when you’re too lazy too cook – trust me, you’ll thank me later. If you also own a very large cast iron casserole, this is the recipe to make it shine.

Ingredients: (makes about 4,5 liters; serves a crowd)

Note: All veg are peeled before dicing/chopping. You’re looking for a small dice of maximum 1 x 1 cm for best results, but to speed things up you can certainly also pulse in a food processor.

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for serving)
  • about 450 g boneless smoked pork, diced (I used kassler steaks, but you can also use neck steaks or even thick cut bacon)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • a small bunch kale, stalks chopped separately, leaves shredded separately
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 small/medium butternut, diced
  • 2 x cans whole tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • 2 stock cubes, dissolved in 1 liter boiling water (chicken or vegetable flavour)
  • 2 x cans cannelini beans, drained
  • 250 g dried rosmarino or orzo pasta
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • up to 1 liter boiling water extra, according to desired thickness
  • grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Using a big cast iron casserole (I used a 31 cm oval Le Creuset casserole with a capacity of 6,3 liters) over medium high heat, heat the oil and add the cubed pork. Fry until lightly brown, then add the onions, kale stalks and carrots. Fry for another 2 minutes, then add the garlic and smoked paprika, stirring for a minute. Add the butternut, pureed tomatoes, dissolved stock cubes in water and beans, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the pasta and shredded kale leaves, seasoning generously with salt & pepper and stirring well. Return to a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often as the pasta tends to stick to the bottom easily, then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 more minutes. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary. Add more boiling water if you soup is very chunky (I added a full extra liter of water, as the pasta continues to absorb water on standing). Serve hot in bowls with a generous grating of parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, with or without bread for dipping. Note: The soup freezes and reheats very well – freeze in smaller portions for easy midweek access.

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Lunch at Kleine Zalze Restaurant

1 Apr

The leafy courtyard at Kleine Zalze Restaurant – the best place to fully enjoy the breathtaking natural surrounds (when weather permits).

Exactly one year ago, many restaurants were forced to rethink their futures because of the global Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges it brought for the hospitality industry. Kleine Zalze made the decision to reimagine their award winning and iconic Terroir Restaurant into the refreshed Kleine Zalze Restaurant, with chef Nic van Wyk at the helm as head food consultant.

“In many ways Kleine Zalze is where everything started for me,” reminisces Nic, who opened Terroir Restaurant with chef Michael Broughton back in 2004. “Over my years of cooking across the Winelands I’ve always had a soft spot for Kleine Zalze, so I was thrilled when managing director and owner of the estate Kobus Basson asked me to be involved and advise on this new chapter.”

So, what has changed? The menu has been transformed to include more informal tapas-style snacks and small plates, all meant to be shared, with wine pairing options. The food is fresh, seasonal and fun, and you can either just have a quick bite or stay for a longer exploration of various dishes and courses (like we did). Kleine Zalze’s wines really shine as the food and wine pairings are cleverly put together and turn the dining experience into a multi-sensory feast. Otherwise, many of Terroir’s seasoned staff members are still there and the atmosphere and decor remains tranquil and inviting.

I had the pleasure of being invited a few weeks ago to experience their recent summer menu with a partner, and here is our lunch in pictures. We enjoyed five small plates each, allowing us to really get a thorough feel of the new offering. Although some of the menu items have changed since because of seasonality, you’ll get a great idea of what to expect and you can find the latest menu here (menu will keep changing with the seasons and with availability of ingredients).

Kleine Zalze Restaurant carries the authenticity and integrity of its predecessor, Terroir, with ease into the future. It remains one of the best spots for a lunch in the Stellenbosch wine region because of location (so close to town), setting, atmosphere, value and great service. Coupled with some of the best wines in the region from Kleine Zalze’s own cellar, this is a food and wine destination that’s hard to beat. As a Stellenbosch local, I recommend it proudly.

To start: Bread and flavoured butter.

One of the wines served as a pairing: Kleine Zalze’s Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017 – a stellar white.

Tomato, red fruit, fig leaf oil. The oil was a revelation – so much flavour locked up in fig leaves! And such a great addition to the tomatoes and fruit.

Roast eggplant, kecap manis, goat’s cheese.

Yellowtail pastrami, unripe strawberry, amasi, dill.

Octopus, red butter lettuce, salsa verde. One of our dishes of the day – superb.

Calamari, curry, avocado.

Farmed prawn arancini, laksa, lime.
Stuffed sirloin.

Fire roasted mushroom sosatie brushed with miso, seaweed vinaigrette.

Valrhona 66% Chocolate, yeast, banana, sourdough ice-cream.

Grilled nectarine, fermented honey, hazelnut, fynbos ice-cream.

Kleine Zalze Restaurant is open for lunch from Wednesday – Sunday:

Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday: 11h30 – 16h30
Thursday: 11h30 – 16h30
Friday: 11h30 – 20h30
Saturday: 11h30 – 20h30
Sunday: 11h30 – 15h00

Reservations are highly recommended.

Phone: +27 (21) 880 8167

Email: restaurant@kleinezalze.co.za 

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Bacon-wrapped pork neck roast with pecan apple herb stuffing, apple onion gravy and Jerusalem artichoke potato mash

26 Mar

I’m very proud to be teaming up with Klein Joostenberg Deli once again, bringing you my most festive pork roast for Easter. Joostenberg has always been my go-to butchery when I need superb pork cuts, and their boneless pork necks are just exquisite. Apart from being very economical, it is a cut that is much lower in fat than pork belly or shoulder and it is naturallly shaped in a log which makes it ideal for stuffings. In this case, I stuffed the neck with a mixture of herbs, onion, apple, pork mince, pecan nuts and bread crumbs, then wrapped it in streaky bacon to keep the meat moist and add extra flavour. It was placed on a bed of onion and apple quarters with beautiful yellow carrots, more herbs and some Joostenberg chenin blanc. I pureed the onion and apples with the pan sauce at the end of roasting to create a delicious pale gravy, adding a dollop of Dijon mustard. To serve, I made a Jerusalem artichoke and potato mash and served it all with Joostenberg’s Fairhead white blend – a flavour celebration that blew everyone at my table away. Absolutely scrumptious!

I hope you’ll try this stuffed roast, it serves a crowd, it’s easy to make and it is honestly one of the most delicious pork recipes that I’ve ever created. Find all the ingredients (and the wine) in the recipe at Klein Joostenberg’s deli and butchery. Happy Easter!

For the stuffing:

  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 rosemary sprig, stalk discarded, leaves chopped
  • 5 thyme sprigs, stalks discarded, leaves only
  • 300 g pork mince
  • 2 slices white bread, torn into chunks
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) pecan nuts
  • 1 apple, sliced into chunks (core discarded)
  • a small punnet (20 g) Italian parsley
  • 1 XL egg
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper

In a wide pan, heat the oil and fry the onion until translucent but not brown. Add the garlic, rosermary and thyme and continue to fry until the onion is soft and light brown. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, then add the mince, bread, pecan nuts, apple, parsley, egg, salt & pepper. Process to a coarse paste, then set aside.

For the pork roast & gravy: (serves 6-8)

If your roast is not butterflied you have two options: 1) use a large sharp knife to cut a hole along the centre from one end to the next, then use a wide nozzled piping bag to fill the centre of the roast, or 2) butterfly the roast so that you can layer the stuffing evenly and roll it up. I chose option no.1.

  • 1,5 kg whole boneless pork neck
  • stuffing (see above)
  • salt & pepper
  • 3-4 onions, sliced into wedges
  • 2 apples, sliced (cores discarded)
  • a few sprigs rosemary
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • about 400 g smoked streaky bacon
  • about 8-12 whole carrots, medium size
  • 250 ml dry white wine (I used Joostenberg’s Chenin Blanc 2020)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml ) Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 160 C (convection, not fan assisted). Lay the pork neck out on a clean working surface, removing the stretchy string casing (if covered). Create a stuffing hole lenthways in the centre with a long bladed knife (or butterfly the meat for rolling up). Stuff it with the prepared stuffing, using a piping bag with wide nozzle (or spread the mixture in a thin layer all over the butterflied surface, then roll it up). Season it all over with salt & pepper. Cover the top of the roast with streaky bacon, slightly opverlapping, then use cotton string to tie up the stuffed neck into a neat log. In a large roasting tray, add the sliced onions, apples, rosemary, thyme and drizzle all over with olive oil. Place the prepared stuffed neck on top of the vegetables, then add the carrots on the sides (drizzle them with a little more oil) and add the wine into the pan. Roast without covering for 3 hours, then remove from the oven and make the gravy. While the meat is roasting, make the mash.

For the apple onion gravy:

When the pork roast is complete, transfer the meat carefully to a cutting board to rest. Remove the carrots to a serving plate, then transfer the onions, apples and pan liquid to a blender, discarding any whole sprigs of herbs. Blend to a smooth puree, then add the Dijon mustard and add more salt & pepper if needed. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a gravy jug.

Knobbly Jerusalem artichokes might seem tedious to prep, but they are so worth it.

For the Jerusalem artichoke and potato mash:

  • 4 large potatoes (about 800 g), peeled and quartered
  • salted water, for cooking
  • about 300 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and peeled
  • about 250 ml milk, for cooking, plus extra
  • 80 g butter, cubed
  • salt & pepper

Place the potato cubes in a medium size pot with enough salted water to cover them, then bring to a simmer and cook until very tender, then drain and set aside. In the meantime, place the Jerusalem artichokes into small saucepan with enough milk to just cover them (cut larger chunks in half). Bring to a slow simmer and cook until very tender. Place the artichokes with cooking liquid into a blender and process to a smooth puree. In another bowl, use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, then add the cubed butter, a splash of milk and the artichoked puree. Use the masher to blend well, and season generously with salt & pepper. Set aside until the roast is ready to serve.

To serve:

Remove the pieces of string, then serve the roast warm, sliced into rounds, with the warm carrots, mash and gravy on the side. Note: The gravy and mash can easily be reheated in the microwave before serving.

Preparing a wrapped stuffed pork roast is very rewarding! The prep is part of the fun. Pour yourself a glass of wine after using some for the roasting tray.
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Coq au vin pie

18 Mar

Easter is around the corner and I just had the privilege of creating an Easter-inspired recipe for La Motte with their iconic 2018 Millennium – a Merlot Cabernet Franc red blend. 

I immediately thought of the (also iconic) French chicken stew, coq au vin – a delightful dish made with red wine, mushrooms and onions, perfect for the cooler Autumn weather in the Boland. But for an Easter celebration, I really wanted to go the extra mile and turn the stew into a scrumptious (boneless) pie with a royal homemade sour cream pie crust. 

Making pie from scratch is not a quick meal, but it is certainly one of the most rewarding. My advice would be to start the day before, making the pastry (it needs quite a bit of folding and rolling) and making the stew. Let the stew cool, debone it, and refrigerate. Then assemble the pie about an hour and a half before you want to serve it – take your time with cutting out extra shapes using a cookie cutter or just a small sharp knife. I cut all my leaves by hand, making the grooves with the edge of the knife. This pie is quite saucy, so I prefer not to line the base of my pie dish, but to rather go over the top with pie shapes on top so that they stay super crisp. Bake any delicate or elaborate shapes on a separate lined baking sheet, brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with salt flakes – the baking time will be shorter than the assembled pie, so just keep an eye on it (about 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness).

I served this festive pie with a luxurious seasonal salad of honey glazed butternut with figs, pomegranates, spinach, blue cheese and pecan nuts. The salad and the pie both pair exceptionally well with La Motte’s 2018 Millennium, and the wine is available at 15% off between 15 March and 15 April 2021, available online or from the farm.

For the sour cream pastry:

Note: if you want to save time, use a good quality store-bought puff pastry instead for the crust.

  • 3 cups (420 g) cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 250 g butter, cold, cubed
  • 250 ml thick sour cream
  • 1 egg, whisked, for brushing

In a large wide bowl, mix the flour and salt, then add the butter cubes, rubbing it into flat small discs with your fingers. When the cubes are all transformed into discs, add the sour cream and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together in a rough ball (don’t add any liquid, it will eventually become a soft ball of dough). Cover with plastic and rest the dough for at least 30 minutes (if it is a cool day, it can be rested on the counter top in a cool spot, but if it is hot, rather rest it in the fridge). Roll out into a rectangle on a floured surface, then fold into three layers (when facing horizontally, fold the right side to the middle, and the left side over both layers to the middle, making 3 layers). Immediately roll out again into a rectangle, and fold into three layers. Repeat a third time. Rest the dough for another 30 minutes. Now repeat the 3-part rolling and folding process. Rest again for 30 minutes. The dough is now ready to roll out into a 5 mm thick sheet (on a lightly floured surface) before cutting out and baking.

For the coq au vin:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 large free range chicken (about 1,5 kg), cut into quarters
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 medium onions, sliced into 1/8 wedges
  • 200 g streaky bacon, chopped
  • a generous handful thyme sprigs, leaves only (discard stalks)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) cake flour
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) dry red wine (I used La Motte’s 2018 Millennium)
  • 250 g portabellini mushrooms, halved

In a wide large pot/casserole with lid that can also go into the oven, over medium heat, add the chicken and fry on both sides until golden. Season with salt & pepper, then remove from the pot. Add the onions, bacon and thyme, and fry until the onions start to soften slightly and the bottom of the pot starts to turn sticky. Add the flour and tomato paste, and stir for a minute, then add the red wine and stir to loosen all the sticky bits on the bottom. Bring to a simmer, then replace the chicken quarters and add the mushrooms, pushing them down into the sauce. Cover with a lid and braise in the oven for about 1h15 minutes or until very tender and falling from the bone. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken pieces over, replace lid and leave to cool to a temperature where it is easy to debone. When cool, using tongs and clean hands, debone the chicken and shred the meat into chunks. Check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt  & pepper if necessary. Transfer the filling to a large deep pie dish and press down to create a flat surface. Now top it with the pastry. 

Preheat the oven to 180 C. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the rested pastry to a large slab of about 5 mm thick. To cover your round pie dish with pastry, measure a circle slightly bigger than the dish, then cut it out with a pizze cutter or sharp small knife (the dough will always shrink back a little while baking). Carefully place over the pie dish, then use a fork to make indents on the edges (if you want to). Brush with egg wash, then cut more small decorative shapes to adorn the edges and centre, using a cookie cutter or a sharp small knife. Brush all the extra shapes with egg wash. Cut a few slits into the top for steam to escape, then bake for about 50 minutes on the centre rack until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot. 

For the honey glazed butternut, fig, pomegranate & blue cheese salad:

Note: the glazed butternut can be made ahead before you bake the pie. Serve at room temperature.

  • 1 medium butternut, peeled and sliced into 1 cm thick slices (remove seeds)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 15-30 ml (1-2 tablespoons) honey
  • salt & pepper
  • dressing:
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • 10 ml Dijon mustard
    • 5 ml honey
  • about 150 g swiss chard spinach, chopped (stems finely sliced) – or use rocket leaves
  • 6-8 ripe black figs, sliced 
  • 100 g blue cheese, crumbled
  • seeds of 1/2 ripe pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 220 C. Arrange the butternut on a large baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle all over with olive oil and honey, then toss with a spatula to cover on all sides. Season with salt & pepper, then roast for 20-25 minutes or until brown on the edges and tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Make the dressing: add the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey to a small jar, season with salt & pepper and shake vigorously. Add the spinach to a mixing bowl, then add half the dressing and toss to coat all over. Transfer the dressed spinach to a salad serving platter, then add the glazed butternut, figs, blue cheese, pomegranate seeds and pecan nuts. Serve at once (the dressed spinach will continue to wilt on standing). 

This post was proudly created in collaboration with La Motte Wines.

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Autumn al fresco platter

12 Mar

An Autumn al fresco platter with Klein Joostenberg Deli.

This week, I teamed up with Klein Joostenberg Deli on the R304, Muldersvlei, outside Stellenbosch. I’ve always been a huge fan of their shop, because they are a passionate 5th generation family business, offering the most wonderful variety of seasonal produce, specialty deli products, fresh and smoked pork, cured meat, free range chicken, freshly baked breads and pastries, preserves, wine, gifts and so much more. It’s an absolute playground for a food enthusiast and stylist like me, because I usually find the most beautiful produce there that aren’t stocked in more commercial supermarkets, like specialty cheeses, small batch fresh farmer’s produce, and very large cuts of pork (like their beautiful deboned pork shoulders, usually around 4 kg each).

Some fresh seasonal produce now available at Klein Joostenberg.

To celebrate the start of Autumn in my local region, I’ve decided to put together an al fresco platter to showcase the bounty of the season. I found the most terrific fresh black figs, pears, pomegranates and red plums, and decided to team it up with Joostenberg’s famous chicken liver paté (it is the very best), some other preserves like peach chutney and aubergine relish, a freshly baked walnut and raisin loaf, melba toast, silky butter from Oakdale, two fabulous cheeses from Dalewood Fromage (Huguenot and Wineland Blue Camembert) and some fresh pistachios from Sonqu River (seasonal now). A Joostenberg platter wouldn’t be complete without their pork, so I made an Asian-inspired glaze to go with their pork rashers – such a hit! I served it with Joostenberg’s Klippe Kou 2018 Syrah, an organic estate wine made from grapes growing on a single property.

What better way to taste the season than an informal, generous platter.

I hope you’ll also make the most of Autumn’s bounty by checking in at Klein Joostenberg and selecting your personal favourites. An informal platter is such an easy way to entertain, and it always brings the “wow factor”!

My Asian-inspired glazed pork rashers.
Want to make these glazed rashers? Find the easy recipe below.

For the Asian-inpsired pork rashers: (Note: Joostenberg stocks a fantastic variety of exotic pantry ingredients from all over the world, so you’ll find all of the ingredients below there. They also sell readily spiced rashers if you’re keen on a more local BBQ flavour.)

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
  • 4 teaspoons (20 ml) rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Chinese 5-spice
  • a few drops sesame oil
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 4 large fresh pork rashers

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line a regular baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Mix the hoisin, soy, honey, vinegar, spice, sesame oil and salt together in a jug. Place the rashers on the baking paper lined tin, then brush them all over with the marinade. Roast for 15 minutes at 180 C, then turn over and baste again. Roast for 15 minutes more, then repeat twice more (total roasting time to be 1 hour). Some of the marinade will blacken on the pan during roasting, that’s alright. Remove the pan from the oven and cut into smaller chunks, then serve immediately.

Take a look at some of the items on my shopping list for this platter: fresh figs, Joostenberg’s walnut & raisin loaf, two cheeses from Dalewood Fromage, Joostenberg’s chutney and chicken liver pate, pistachios from Sonqu River, Joostenberg Butchery pork rashers, Oakdals butter, red plums, pomegranates pears and Chinese 5-spice.

Contact Klein Joostenberg:

A – Klein Joostenberg. R304 Muldersvlei, Stellenbosch, 7607

T – 021 88 44 303

E – deli@joostenberg.co.za

GPS – – 33 82’ 66 21 S / 18 79” 55 15 W

https://joostenberg.co.za/the-deli/

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Strawberry gazpacho – a #zerowaste recipe with First Choice

21 Dec

Bright, festive strawberry gazpacho, made with bruised strawberries that might have otherwise went to waste. Drizzled with a strawberry leaf and basil oil.

I’ve learned so much over the past year about what I throw away, and how to minimize waste to a point where there’s hopefully none. The team from First Choice have launched a #newnorm campaign in order to raise awareness about #zerowaste, and I’m wholeheartedly on board with spreading the word.

There are so many small things that you can do to make sure you really get the most out of what you buy. We love strawberries, but if they’re not eaten straight away, some of them might look bruised or become overripe after a few days. Here’s a great way to use those “slightly sad” strawberries – make a bright and festive gazpacho!

In case you didn’t know, strawberries are excellent when paired with more salty or sour flavours. They love a drizzle of balsamic vinegar too, so remember that for next time! In this case, I’ve added a few bold ingredients like green chilli, a ripe tomato, red wine vinegar and olive oil to make a smooth and bright gazpacho – an elegant starter for your summery festive celebration. The flavours are complex and bright and the colours are so vibrant. Use the strawberry leaves to make a beautiful green drizzling oil – yes, you can totally eat strawberry leaves!

What are you doing to minimize waste in your home cooking?

Check out my how-to video:

Ingredients: (serves 3-4 starter portions)

  • about 500 g strawberries (they can be lightly bruised or slightly overripe, no problem)
  • 1 large ripe tomato, quartered
  • 1 green chilli, stalk removed and halved lengthways
  • 1 slice white bread, crusts removed and cut into quarters
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 15 ml red wine vinegar
  • 30 ml First Choice extra virgin olive oil

Remove the leaves* from the strawberries and reserve them for later. Place all the ingredients (except the strawberry leaves) in a blender and blend until very smooth. Refrigerate until cold, then serve chilled with a drizzle of green strawberry leaf & basil oil.

*For the strawberry leaf and basil oil:

Place the reserved strawberry leaves and a few basil leaves in a small blender. Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use, and use within 2-3 days. Can also be used over salads or as a dip for fresh bread.

Note: Proudly created in collaboration with First Choice SA.

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Garden salad with carrot top pesto, feta, croutons and almonds – a #zerowaste recipe with First Choice

10 Dec

As you might know, I’m currently shooting my second cookbook with a seasonal theme, and I’ve been acutely aware of seasonal produce over the past few months. Our friendly neighbour has planted a small vegetable garden, and he’s offered to share his abundent garden peas for the past few weeks with us – what a pleasure. He recently invited us to harvest the last of his peas, so I wanted to make a garden salad to celebrate this final harvest. In the process, I also came across the most beautiful freshly picked baby carrots and radishes from another farm nearby. Their leaves were so beautifully crisp and fresh that I had to do something with them! I mean, can you even eat carrot tops? I never knew, but yes, you certainly can. And they make the MOST delicious pesto too, as I subsequently discovered.

My zero-waste garden salad with carrot top pesto, croutons, feta and almonds.

First Choice has asked me to join their #newnorm campaign of making greener life choices and choosing a #zerowaste approach to cooking. I’ve learned so much during the past few weeks, becoming acutely aware of what I throw away, what I recycle and how I consume. There are many small choices you can make to minimise waste, such as only buying what you need, and making time to consciously preserve (freezing etc) what you won’t eat now. But I’ve always thrown out carrot tops, and now I’ll never do that again! My freezer is filled with a few small jars of the most delicious carrot top & radish leaf pesto, and I really urge you to try it!

For the garden salad, use whatever fresh and seasonal produce you can get your hands on. I’ve also made croutons from the last few slices of a great sour dough loaf – never toss those stale slices out! It’s a celebration of a few very simple ingredients that might have otherwise ended up in the bin, yet turned into a feast. Watch my video here:

Which choices do you make to work towards #zerowaste cooking?

Ingredients for the pesto:

a bunch of fresh carrot tops, washed & drained – I’ve also added some radish leaves (you can also add a handful of your favourite herbs, if you want to use some)

1/2 cup mature cheese, grated (any hard cheese will do, I’ve used a mixture of mature gouda and pecorino)

1/4 cup nuts (I’ve used flaked almonds, but most nuts will do)

a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I’ve used Fresh Choice’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor (if some of your carrot tops are very woody, rather transfer those parts into your compost bin) and process to a bright green pesto. Add more oil if needed and scrape down the sides in the process. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary – pesto should be well seasoned!

For the salad:

  • a bunch of baby carrots and baby radishes, washed and slided
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a bunch of salad leaves, rinsed and drained
  • a few fresh peas
  • a cup of freshly made croutons (toss cubed stale bread in olive oil with salt & pepper, and bake in the oven at 200 C for 7 minutes)
  • 1-2 rounds of First Choice feta, crumbled
  • a handful toasted nuts (I’ve used flaked almonds)

To a mixing bowl, add a generous dollop of pesto and a swirl of olive oil to loosen the pesto. Mix lightly with a spoon, then add your sliced carrot and radishes and toss to coat. On a salad platter, arrange the salad leaves, then top with the dressed veggies, a few peas, croutons, feta, toasted nuts, and finally a few more dollops of pesto all over. Serve at once.

Enjoy your waste-free feast!

(Created in proud association with First Choice and Woodlands Dairy.)

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Cherry and almond ice cream (and a visit to the Cherry Time Farm)

30 Nov

Decadent, creamy cherry ice cream, with a hint of almond.

A few weeks ago, my family and I had the privilege of joining a small group of guests at the Cherrytime Farm (part of Dutoit Agri) outside Worcester, for picking our own cherries from their cherry trees. I’ve never even seen a cherry tree before, so the prospect of picking plush ripe cherries sounded incredible.

After being welcomed, we roamed the vast orchards in the trickling rain and picked a few bags of the most beautiful fruit you can imagine. Most of my images look enhanced, but the cherries really are that vibrant in real life – you have to see it for yourself to believe it. We even enjoyed a delicious picnic-style lunch in the middle of the orchards – what a memorable day!

Fresh cherries on one of the cherry trees at Dutoit Agri’s cherry farm.
A picture perfect setting for a picnic!

Guests enjoying fresh cherries and snacking on picnic platters.

You can also order these boxes of cherries online.

A peek into our picnic-style lunch. Delicious!

Some of my picked cherries, at home.

Back home, I was so excited about our freshly picked harvest that I didn’t dare to cook them for days – we only enjoyed them daily as it, fresh and juicy and incredibly delicious. My daugher packed a few for her school lunch box daily. Then I used some to cook a fabulous cherry galette for my new seasonal cookbook (part of the Spring chapter, because cherries have a short season of November and December only – look out for the book in stores in September 2021) and a few days later I took on the project of making a proper cherry & almond ice cream from scratch. It was a complete triumph! And with the last few cherries, I made four small jars of cherry conserve that I’ll sparingly use over the festive season.

Note: My recipe for cherry and almond ice cream is not a quick one, it is traditionally custard based and you’ll need an ice cream machine to churn it. I realize that many people don’t have ice cream machines, but perhaps you can subtitute this traditional ice cream recipe for something a little simpler like this no-churn cheat’s ice cream (just omit the coffee & brandy) which is made from whipping condensed milk and double-cream. Continue with swirling in the cooked cherries as per the recipe below, and freeze immediately.

Order your fresh cherries today from Cherry Time online. Having a box of plump, juicy cherries in my fridge has brought us so much joy, I cannot even describe it. Some of the most beautiful and delicious fruit in the world!

My cherry & almond ice cream, ready to serve.

A few scoops of cherry ice cream with fresh cherries – happiness in a bowl!

Ingredients: (makes about 1,2 liters)

For the chunky berry swirl: (prep time – about 20 minutes, plus time for stoning and cooling)

  • 500 g fresh cherries, pitted, halved
  • 70 g white sugar

Add the stoned cherries and sugar to a small saucepan, then place over medium heat. When the fruit starts to release their juice, stir every now and then until the sugar has melted completely – it will take a few minutes. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes until the fruit is soft but still chunky. Remove from the heat to cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to use.

For the ice cream base: (prep time – 25 min plus 1 hour cooling plus at least 3 hours in the freezer)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2,5 ml almond extract (optional, but I love the combination of almond with cherries!)
  • 350 ml milk
  • 350 ml fresh cream
  • a handful flaked almonds, toasted (for serving, optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the salt, vanilla and almond extract until light in colour. Add the milk and cream to a medium pot and heat until you can just still dip your finger into it. Remove it from the heat and add it in a slow stream to the whisked egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Now pour the mixture back into the pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to a very runny custard (it must coat the back of a spoon), but it must not boil. Pour the custard into a plastic container and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before churning.

Using an ice-cream machine, churn the ice cream according to the manufacturers instructions (mine takes about 45 minutes). When it is ready, pour the chilled chunky berry sauce into the ice cream, giving it a quick few folds with a spoon, then scoop it into a container suitable for freezing. Cover and freeze immediately for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

To enjoy, remove the ice cream from the freezer and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before scooping (depending on the temperature outside, but I like mine a little soft). Enjoy as is, or top with toasted almond flakes for a great extra crunch and some toasty almond notes.

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Dinner at 96 Winery Road (new small plates menu)

9 Nov

One of our favourite plates of the day: 96 Winery Road’s popular “Hollandse Pepper Fillet”.

96 Winery Road has been a popular and prominent family restaurant in the Winelands for the past 24 years. Established in 1996 on Winery Road off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, they’ve always been known to serve “real food”, aspiring to the apt definition by Nigel Slater: “By ‘Real Food’ I mean big flavoured, unpretentious cooking. Good ingredients made into something worth eating. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, nothing careless or slapdash, just nice uncomplicated food. Simple food cooked with care and generosity.” With their characteristic thatched roof, fireplace and friendly service staff, the team from 96 Winery Road has remained steadfast throughout lockdown, reopening their doors recently with an adapted small plates menu suited to the changing needs of their loyal customers.

The thatched entrance to 96 Winery Road.

My family and I were invited to experience this brand new menu last week and I’m so happy to be sharing our dinner in pictures. Senior Sous Chef Ryan Zaayman and his team treated us to no less than 8 different dishes from the small plates menu (4 plates per person). The menu still contains some of 96 Winery Road’s most popular items like the “Hollandse fillet” smothered in a punchy black peppercorn sauce and served with perfectly golden fries topped with grated parmigiano, but they’ve also added some new items like the “new style kabeljou sashimi” with Ponzu and Japanese mayo – both our favourite dishes of the day. Service is friendly and swift, and we enjoyed a series of fantastic Ken Forrester wines per glass, generously served, of which the wooded Old Vine Chenin Blanc was my personal favourite. Do check out their carafé wine menu, available per 250ml and 500ml.

96 Winery Road is not what you’d call a “trendy hotspot”, but there’s a good reason why they have remained a local favourite and a beacon on the very competitive Winelands restaurant scene for the past 24 years: serving really delicious food paired with great wine, consistently doing what they believe in with skill and integrity.

Small Plates Menu: 2 plates – R210 | 3 plates – R300 | 4 plates – R390 (choose 2, 3 or 4 plates per person)

Panko crumbed Dalewood brie, wild rocket, spicy bacon jam

New style sashimi, Ponzu, fresh ginger, Japanese mayo, coriander, sesame oil

Smoked kudu carpaccio, basil, Grana Padano, Evoo, pistachio nuts

Slow roasted pork belly, baby fennel and apple salad, red wine jus vinaigrette

“Hollandse” pepper fillet”, peppercorn and brandy cream

Confit duck, Korean BBQ sauce, glass noodles spring onion, cashew nuts

Wagyu slider, blue brie, tomato chutney, rocket, coleslaw

Grilled artichoke and baby veg salad, Aioli

Spinach and Ricotta tortellini, exotic mushrooms, beurre noisette, sage

Loin of lamb, hummus, Dukkha, lamb jus, harissa crumble

Prime cut of Cape Wagyu beef, supplement – R150

Desserts:

Crème brulée

Chocolate mousse, meringue shards, strawberries

Lemon tart, raspberry sorbet

A simple, warm interior of wooden tables and chairs, and tiled floors.

New style sashimi, Ponzu, fresh ginger, Japanese mayo, coriander, sesame oil.

Panko crumbed Dalewood brie, wild rocket, spicy bacon jam.

Confit duck, Korean BBQ sauce, glass noodles spring onion, cashew nuts.

Spinach and Ricotta tortellini, exotic mushrooms, beurre noisette, sage.

We enjoyed our small plates menu each with a different wine from Ken Forrester. This is the Renegade.

Loin of lamb, hummus, Dukkha, lamb jus, harissa crumble.

Lemon tart with raspberry sorbet and in the back a plate of chocolate mousse with meringue chards and fresh strawberries.

Senior Sous Chef Ryan Zaayman, who has been with 96 Winery Road since 2017.

Address:

96 Winery Road Restaurant
Winery Road
Zandberg Farm

96 Winery Road is open seven days a week. In the mornings, they serve freshly-brewed coffee and bakes from the oven including stuffed croissants. The new Small Plates menu is available daily for lunch, and for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.

Open times:

Deli – daily from 9h00
Breakfast – Served until 11:00, last orders in at 10:30
Lunch – daily from 12h00 to 15h00
Dinner – Wednesday to Saturday 18h00 to 21h00

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Salty peanut butter & milk chocolate bars

28 Oct

It’s only in recent years that I discovered a much loved American classic – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. If you’ve tasted it, you’d know that it is completely addictive, with a layer of smooth set peanut butter filling encased in milk chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of delicate salty, nutty and creamy, especially for peanut butter lovers, of course. I do love peanut butter, although I’m not that huge on sandwiches – I’d rather just eat it straight from the jar. But if you want your peanut butter fix in a treat form, this is it.

A few years ago, I joined a book club for the first time. It was a small group of friends that all had the same goal in mind – more quality time with like-minded friends. One of the first books we read was Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, a great read for anyone with a palate for a great story (multiple storylines at the same time) and American food culture. In the book, “Pat Prager” makes these award winning peanut butter squares that end up (spoiler alert) on a world class menu. Well, I tried making my own version of those exact squares, and they are magnificent. The thing is, I knew that the American palate is slightly different to the South African palate, so I adapted it to include less butter, less sugar and more salt. “Pat” specifically used milk chocolate, although I would have chosen dark, and I have to say it works perfectly in this setup.

So here is my version of Reese’s peanut butter cups / Pat Prager’s peanut butter squares, sliced in a bar format (disclaimer: it’s rich, so we did slice a few into squares afterwards for the folks that can’t stand the magnificent overload). It’s an easy no-bake recipe that only requires a food processor. Fabulous treats in a few minutes! Keep these in the fridge, because they set beautifully when colder and melt in your mouth very quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 1 x 200 g packet digestive biscuits
  • 80 g butter, melted
  • 1 cup (250 ml) smooth unflavoured peanut butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (310 ml) powdered icing sugar (loosely packed)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 150 g milk chocolate

Method:

In the bowl of a food processor, add the biscuits and process to fine crumbs. Add the melted butter, peanut butter, icing sugar and salt, and process until well mixed. Turn the mixture out into a medium size square (or rectangular) tin lined with baking paper – mine was 20 x 20 cm, but I’ve also used a 30 x 20 cm for a shallower end result. Use a spatula to distribute it evenly and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. In the meantime, break the chocolate into blocks and place in a microwavable jug/bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir gently, then repeat until the chocolate is almost melted. Let it stand to warm through and stir until completely melted and smooth. When the peanut butter filling is cold, pour the warm melted chocolate over the top and smooth it all over with a spatula, working quickly before it sets. Regrigerate for 10-15 minutes, then cut into bars or squares before the chocolate hardens too far. Store in a container with lid in the refrigerator.

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