Dinner at Ember Meat Room

7 Oct

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Last week I was invited to visit the brand new Ember Meat Room in Stellenbosch, Plein Street. This restaurant is headed by award-winning chef Michael Broughton (previously from the iconic Terroir Restaurant at Kleine Zalze which closed at the beginning of lockdown) and is centred around showcasing flame grilled locally farmed boran beef from Brenaissance Wine & Stud Estate (located in the Devon Valley, Stellenbosch). Ember Meat Room is one of three restaurants in The Farmers Collection – all three establishments launched during the very challenging Covid-19 environment that crippled hospitality industries worldwide during 2020 and 2021. This achievement speaks of vision, drive and tenacity by the team behind The Farmers Collection and I salute them.

Ember Meat Room is located next to their sister restaurant, Cucina, at 43 Plein Street across the town hall – right in the centre of Stellenbosch. The entrance is slightly hidden, featuring a discreet hallway that leads to a very dramatically lit restaurant space that is dotted with perfectly starched white linen covered tables within a dark, monotone, textured room with no windows (apart from the glass panel that showcases the kitchen). It transforms the vibey bustle of mid-town Stellenbosch into a uniquely discreet, private, upmarket atmosphere that sets a focused tone for food and wine.

The dinner menu is relatively limited, featuring three starters, four main courses, three sides and four desserts. The wine list is sourced exclusively from the Stellenbosch area only. To start, we were offered a bread board with butter and boran biltong.

We wanted to drink a red wine and our service representative recommended the Brenaissance Merlot – a wine that paired really well with the meat driven menu. I ordered the beef tartare as a starter and it was delightful, especially with the green oil that provided a smooth mouthfeel and bright flavour.

Schalk had the prawn risotto – a rework of chef Michael’s most popular starter from Terroir, with more smokey charred flavour and the wonderful sweetness of grilled corn.

For main course I had the wood fired fillet with a creamy brandy and mushroom sauce – classic flavours, very tender meat, served with potato puree and some grilled vegetables. Ember’s inhouse basting sauce must contain some type of activate charcoal, because all the grilled meats are pitch black on the outside – not from being burned, adding to the drama of the dark interior and emphasizing the beautifully pink colour inside.

Schalk had the proprietor’s cut, which includes three different cuts of beef, along with a beef jus. His favourite cut was also the fillet.

 

We ordered two sides to go with our main courses: the creamed spinach and the parmesan & truffle chips – I can highly recommend both.

For dessert, I enjoyed the Le KitKat – a stunning chocolate dessert that was one of the highlights of the dinner.

Ember Meat Room is a one-of-a-kind addition to the very competitive Winelands dining landscape. I look forward to discovering more that The Farmers Collection has to offer.

They are open for lunch (from 12pm) and dinner (from 6pm), Tuesday to Saturday.

To make a booking for 4 people or less, book now using their online booking system.
To make a booking for 5 people or more, please get in touch directly on ember@thefarmerscollection.co.za or 021 203 6255.

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15-minute ‘Spring greens’ soup

22 Sep

Today marks the officially turn of the seasons from Winter to Spring and for many of us it also marks a celebration of everything green and fresh after a long and cold Winter filled with heavier stews and other rich comfort foods. “Fresh” doesn’t always have to be “raw” –  if you can preserve something of that green freshness in the comfort of a smooth and utterly satisfying soup, I’d say you’re covering best of both worlds.

I wrote this recipe for First Choice Dairy after they asked me to create something for Spring, preferable something light or a side dish, incorporating their cream. Although I don’t associate cream with “light cooking”, this soup is indeed light and bursting with the intense green flavours of peas, broccoli, baby spinach, mint and leeks. I pulsed the vegetables (except the peas) in a food processor to match the size of the peas, then cooked it for a mere 5 minutes in vegetable stock. Immediately transferred to a blender, it is transformed into a smooth, beautifully green soup, adding the cool cream to stop the vegetables from cooking any further or losing their colour. By lack of any other fat or oil in the recipe, the cream provides the necessary luxurious roundness and smooth mouthfeel.

 

To serve, I love adding as much luxurious goodness and texture as possible: a swirl of cream, a few drops of extra virgin olive oil, some smoked roasted pumpkin seeds, finely sliced sugar snaps, fresh pea shoots and mint leaves, and of course a few thick slices of fresh ciabatta that’s been freshly toasted with olive oil. The smoked pumpkin seeds add fabulous flavour and crunch, but if you’re looking for a meaty kick, you’re welcome to add a handful of crispy fried bacon nuggets.

This soup is wonderful served warm, but just as good served at room temperature. It’s a nutrient-packed, mood-lifting, flavourful celebration of a promising new season – happy Spring Day!

Notes:

  1. First Choice Real Dairy Cream (long life)  is available in 250ml and 1 liter tetrapacks. It has no preservatives and can be stored safely on the shelf for months. Once opened it should be refrigerated and used within 7 days. The tetrapacks are 100% recyclable.
  2. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop the vegetables and cook them a little longer, adding the peas half way through the process and cooking until everything is just tender. You’ll still need at least a stick blender to blend the soup to a smooth puree.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a main meal or 6 as a starter)

  • 750 ml (3 cups) vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
  • 200 g leeks, white parts only, sliced into chunks
  • 250 g broccoli, sliced into florets
  • 250 g frozen/fresh peas
  • a generous handful baby spinach
  • a small handful fresh mint leaves, stalks discarded
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) First Choice Cream
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • for serving: (all optional, but you can add all of these and more!)
    • a swirl of First Choice Cream
    • a few drops of extra virgin olive oil
    • a few tablespoons pumpkin seeds, smoked & roasted
    • croutons, or ciabatta brushed with olive oil and toasted
    • a few fresh pea shoots
    • a few mint leaves
    • a few sugar snap peas, finely sliced

Method:

Place the stock in a medium size pot over medium heat. While it is heating up, place the leeks and broccoli in a food processor and pulse until it matches the size of peas. Add the pulsed vegetables along with the peas to the stock and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn down the heat and simmer for 4 minutes, then add the spinach and simmer for another minute. Remove from the heat and carefully ladle into a powerful blender. Add the mint and cream and blend to a very smooth puree. Season generously with salt & pepper, then mix well. Serve at once, with a swirl of cream and your choice of toppings and bread (can also be served at room temperature).

This post was created in proud collaboration with First Choice Dairy.

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Miso glazed chicken espetada with fennel & cauliflower

17 Sep

This 4-ingredient miso glaze comes together in only five minutes and is absolutely scrumptious on chicken, fish, vegetables – you name it. But today, I chose a combination of boneless chicken drumsticks and thighs to create generous espetadas on long metal skewers – elegant enough for your next dinner party, yet easy enough for any day of the week. I baked them in the oven, but you can certainly also grill them over an open fire for a more smoky result and basted generously.

The creamy base is a mixture of fennel and cauliflower cooked in cream, blitzed to an ultra smooth puree. It is the most wonderful bed on which to serve these punchy glazed espetadas, with a sprinkle of fresh fennel fronds or fresh dill.

This recipe was created exclusively to pair with Pilgrim Wines’ unique Chenin Blanc – made from beautiful 35 year old vines planted in decomposed sandstone and clay in the Voor-Paardeberg. As the winemaker, award-winning Henry Kotzé, says: “The wine has a volume on the mouthfeel that transcends the norm, almost ethereal in a sense as it feels weighty and full but in tasting it, it ends off with a beautiful mineral salinity, so light to the touch with a vibrancy, it leaves you wanting some more.” I wholeheartedly agree. It’s an elegant, complex wine that will excite wine afficionado’s, yet accessible enough for any occasion. It pairs really well with the recipe below.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

Note: If you are going to serve these espetadas with the puree, start with the puree. It’s easy to reheat in a flash just before the espetadas are cooked through.

For the miso glazed espetadas: (serves 6)

  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) miso paste – I used yellow, but you can also use white
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup) good quality soy sauce
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) muscovado or demerara sugar
  • about 2 kg boneless chicken (I prefer thighs/drumsticks)

Preheat the oven to 220 C. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the miso, soy sauce, wine and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for 2-3 minutes and remove from the heat. In the meantime, skewer the chicken (if you are using boneless thighs/drumsticks, just fold each piece as you skewer it, but if you’re using breast meat, cut it into smaller chunks before skewering. Line a rimmer baking tray with non-stick baking paper, then arrange the skewers on top. Baste generously with the glaze, then bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the espetadas over and baste again, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes. The meat should be just cooked, not dry, so test a centre piece to see if it is tender and ready. Serve hot with your choice of sides/salad, or on a bed of the puree below.

For the fennel & cauliflower puree:

  • about 500 g cauliflower, cut into smaller florets (you can use the stems too)
  • 1 medium head of fennel, finely sliced, with some fronds
  • 250 ml cream
  • salt & pepper, to taste

To serve:

  • a few dill sprigs (optional)
  • a pinch of black sesame (optional)

Place the cauliflower, fennel and cream in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn down the heat to low, cover with a lid (keep it open with a small slit to prevent the cream from boiling over) and cook until tender – about 12 minutes. Transfer the hot cooked vegetables and cream to a blender and blend until very smooth, seasoning with salt & pepper (remember, the miso glaze is very salty, so don’t be too heavy on the salt here). Serve with the miso glazed espetadas and a few extra fennel fronds or fresh dill and a sprinkle of black sesame.

(A proud collaboration with Pilgrim Wines.)

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Hake, herb and spring vegetable spaghetti

13 Sep

September is Heart Health Awareness Month and I’ve partnered with I&J and MSC to bring you this scrumptious, easy, #feelgoodseafood hake pasta recipe.

In case you don’t know, the heart-healthy mark (Heart Mark) and the blue MSC label (the Marine Stewardship Council that certifies sustainable seafood) on I&J’s hake fillets & medallions boxes are a great form of assurance that I’m playing my part for the environment and for my health. I have a family history of heart disease and have been diagnosed with light arrhythmia at the age of 30 (an irregular heart beat), so I’m very aware of heart health and making responsible health choices.

I&J’s Deep Water Hake is wild caught in the pristine depths of the Atlantic Ocean, 100% natural, flash frozen for ultimate freshness and peace of mind, free of antiobiotics/preservatives/colourants and high in Omega 3. It’s also a great source of proteien, and MJC Halaal endorsed. I chose to use the hake prime medallions, because they’re conveniently boneless and skinless.

 

This quick and simple fish pasta recipe takes only about 15 minutes to cook (after prepping and chopping) and is a winner any day of the week. Packed with the bright green flavours of spring, it is a fresh and healthy meal for the whole family!

Have a look at my how-to video at the bottom of this post, and find the full recipe below.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 450 g frozen I&J Prime Medallions Hake, sliced into 1 cm rounds
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) cake/bread flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable/chicken stock
  • about 400g spaghetti (plus salted water, for cooking)
  • 125 g (a medium punnet) sugar snap peas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method:

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the spaghetti. In the meantime, using a large wide non-stick pan, heat the oil and fry the sliced hake on both sides until lightly golden and just cooked, seasoning with salt & pepper. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the spaghetti to the boiling water (stir every now and then to prevent sticking, and place a timer on 7-8 minutes for al dente). While the spaghetti is cooking, add the garlic and lemon rind to the same pan that you fried the hake in, over medium heat. Stir for half a minute, then add the flour and stir briefly. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, stirring. Now add the sugar snaps, fried hake, and the freshly cooked spaghetti, topping with parsley, dill and parmesan. Use tongs to mix well, then plate and serve immediately in bowls. 

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My mother’s legendary aniseed brioche (anysbeskuit)

30 Aug

For the past 30 plus years, my mother Erna Uys has been baking the best aniseed brioche I’ve ever tasted. I say aniseed brioche and not “mosbolletjies”, because although this loaf might look like mosbolletjies, it simply isn’t. She calls it “anysbeskuit”, but I’ve also read that it is known as “soetbeskuit” – a tall and feathery sweet brioche flavoured with aniseed that you can also break into tufty fingers for drying out as rusks. My mother’s recipe doesn’t contain any fermented grape juice, which is the key ingredient to traditional South African mosbolletjies – an identical looking loaf that is usually made shortly after grapes are harvested in the Boland. What makes her recipe different is that it contains condensed milk, and more than double the amount of aniseeds that are found in other aniseed brioche recipes.

When I was a child, my mother used to bake for a local bakery called “Die Koskas” (The Food Cupboard) here in Stellenbosch. Her aniseed brioche (which most people just called mosbolletjies because it looked exactly like it) were baked in massive loaf pans, still luke warm when she delivered them, keeping the bags open to release the last bit of steam. People used to wait in line to buy these, so her loaves never really even hit the shelves before being lapped up.

Aniseed brioche is a labour of love, mostly because you need patience. It takes long to make because the rich dough needs a few hours to proof properly, a second proof of about an hour or two when inside the tin and another 50 minutes of baking time. But once you’ve tasted the warm feathery tufts slathered in butter, you’ll know why it’s special and why people go crazy for it. I’m sharing this special family recipe in collaboration with Gideon Milling, using their South African grown, stone ground cake wheat flour – a fantastic all-purpose flour that I use very often for anything from cakes to pizza.

Here are a few notes on this recipe:

  • My mother’s original recipe calls for 2,5 kg cake flour, which is just too large a batch for regular home baking (it yields 3 extra large loaves which might feed at least 30 people). I changed the recipe to use 850 g cake flour, still resulting in an extra large loaf by anyone’s standards.
  • *If you want to bake this loaf in one extra large pan, you’re going to look for something about 35 cm long and 15 cm wide. The largest pan that I own (pictured in this post) is 34 cm long and 9 cm wide, resulting in the tops rising above the pan’s sides if I use all of the mixture, so I’ve recently started filling it with only 75% of the dough, filling a very small second pan on the size with the remaining dough. However, my mother’s pans are large and wide enough to “contain” the dough and result in two rows of very neat looking smooth rounds on top. You can certainly also split the dough up and bake two large loaves of about 25 cm x 10 cm, or three medium loaves of 20 x 9 cm – this way you can gift one or two loaves to a friend.
  • My mother insists on frothing her instant yeast in water with some sugar, although technically you should be able to add it in with the dry ingredients. I follow her guidance.
  • If you want to make sure that your loaf doesn’t stick to the pan, rather just line it with baking paper. Most modern pans are relatively non-stick these days, but some older pans tend to stick, even when greased well. The brioche is VERY tender when warm from the oven, and will break if it cannot slide out easily.
  • This loaf will last quite a few days on the shelf, wrapped in plastic. It might become a lot firmer, but will regain its magic with the help of a toaster. The great thing is that it slices very neatly the older it gets, so you can make beautiful melba toasts (dry out in the oven at 70 C for about 1 hour) that will keep for weeks in an airtight container. Perfect addition to your next cheese platter.
  • This loaf makes wonderful rusks – sliced each individual segment lengthways (or break it with the use of a fork to keep the feathery look), then dry out at 70 C for about 5 hours without it getting any colour.
  • Aniseed are small little spice seeds and have a distinctive liquorice flavour. They cannot be substituted with similar sounding whole star anise or similar looking cumin seeds – it’s a completely different spice.

Here are some how-to photographs to guide you through your first “anysbeskuit” adventure:

Start with using good quality natural stone ground flour, like Gideon Milling’s cake flour. The dough is enriched with a free range egg, butter and condensed milk, and flavoured with aniseed. It need 2-4 hours to proof – it should triple in size.

I use a kitchen scale to make sure my balls are all an even size. Shape them by hand to ensure a smooth surface.

Make sure your pan is very well oiled. The balls should fit tightly and should preferably only cover the lower third (or maximum lower half) of your pan. They will proof to double in size, and rise even more while baking.

 

Ingredients:

(makes 1 XL loaf or 2 large loaves or 3 medium loaves – see *pan size guides in notes above)

Prep time: 20 min for mixing & kneeding, 2-4 hours for proofing, 15 minutes for shaping, 1-2 hours for second proof, 50 minutes for baking.

  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) luke warm water
  • 10 g (3 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 200 g (250 ml) white sugar
  • 850 g (6 cups) Gideon Milling cake flour
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt
  • 20 g (3 tablespoons) aniseed
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) condensed milk
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 1 XL egg, lightly whisked
  • 250 ml warm water (warmer than luke warm, but not boiling)
  • oil, for brushing the bowl & tin
  • for the syrup: 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water

Method:

In a medium jug/bowl (about 500 ml capacity), add the warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir, then leave to froth for about 10 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients ready. To the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large mixing bowl, if doing this by hand), add the rest of the sugar along with the flour, salt & aniseed. Stir to mix. When the yeast mixture is frothy, add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl in the following order: condensed milk, butter, egg, warm water and then the frothy yeast mixture. Mix on low speed using the K-beater for about 30 seconds, then switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 10 minutes (if working by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture become sticky, then knead for at least 10 minutes until the mixture is very smooth and soft, adding a little flour if the mixture is sticking to the working surface). Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl with room for proofing, then shape the dough into a smooth ball and add it to the bowl. Cover with plastic and leave to rise in a warm area until tripled in size – 2 to 4 hours depending on weather conditions.

In the meantime, oil the inside of your preferred *tin/s using a pastry brush. When the dough is ready, divide it into 12 balls of the same size (about 170 g each). Lightly oil your hands, then shape each ball by pushing it from below through the hole you make by pressing your thumb and forefinger together, pinching it at the bottom to stay round, then arrange tightly in rows in your tin/s. Again, cover with plastic for a second proof – you need the dough to almost reach the top of the tins. While it is proofing, preheat your oven to 170 C and arrange your oven rack to be in the lower third. Remove the plastic from the tin when the dough has proofed enough, then bake the loaf for 1 hour at 170 C. In the meantime, make the syrup by stirring the sugar and warm water together in a cup.

When the baking time is up, have a clean, thick folded tea towel ready, then turn the freshly baked loaf out onto the towel (the loaf is too soft for a cooling rack at this stage). Brush with the syrup, then leave to cool slightly before serving warm – tearing off the “bolletjies” one by one to reveal their natural feathery nature. The loaf can also be sliced (when cooled), if preferred. Best served with butter (and optionally also jam).

– In proud collaboration with Gideon Milling. –

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Lemon semolina syrup cake

25 Aug

This easy, scrumptious, moist, bright yellow cake is the fourth and final recipe in the series #WhenLifeGivesYouLemons with LemonGold. It is made with four whole boiled LemonGolds (they’re seedless, so no need to remove seeds) and gets drenched in a lemony, almondy syrup as soon as it comes from the oven. The bright yellow colour doesn’t only come from the yellow fruit pulp (skins and all), but also from the use of extra virgin olive oil, locally sourced free range eggs and pale yellow semolina, resulting in a truly golden colour. Fine semolina lends a tender soft crumb, light as air.

The cake can be stored on the counter, covered, for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 1 week. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or at room temperature with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients: (serves at least 8)

  • 4 LemonGolds
  • water, for boiling
  • 180 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 140 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL free range eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) fine semolina
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) baking powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish with non-stick spray (mine is 24 x 30 cm).

Cover the lemons with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cover with a lid, then cook until soft (about 30 min). Remove with tongs and cool slightly, then remove the hard woody end stubs and cut into quarters. Blitz until smooth in a food processor. Now add the olive oil, sugar, salt and eggs. Process until well mixed, scraping the sides. Add the semolina and baking powder and pulse to mix.

Scrape the mixture out into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface, edging the mixture evenly into all the corners. Bake for 30 minutes (while you make the syrup) – the centre should be cooked and the surface golden. Remove from the oven and cut into diamonds, then ladle the syrup all over.

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • juice of a LemonGold
  • 5 ml almond essence

Boil all the syrup ingredients for 1 minute, then set aside to cool. 

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, or at room temperature with a strong coffee.

 

 

 

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Italian-style hake with lemon butter, capers and parsley

18 Aug

This punchy, easy, big flavour recipe is the third in a four-part series that I’ve created in collaboration with LemonGold. It’s based on the superb Italian classic, fish “piccata” – a one-pan fish dish that is lip-smackingly delicious and so very easy to make for an anyday dinner or weekend lunch.

If you don’t have access to fresh hake, a packet of quality medallions or fillets will work perfectly – it’s what I’ve used as well. Thaw before cooking, then pat dry, dust in flour and cook as instructed below. If you need some serving suggestion inspiration, take a look at my lemony labneh and roasted aubergine salad – both would make wonderful companions for this recipe.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • about 450 g hake medallions/fillets, boneless (fully thawed if frozen)
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) butter
  • salt & pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) baby capers
  • 60 ml/g (1/4 cup) butter
  • juice and finely grated rind of 2 LemonGolds
  • a handful Italian parsley, finely chopped

Method:

Use kitchen paper to pat the fish portions dry. In a large non-stick pan over medium heat, heat the oil and butter, then dust each fish portion in flour and place in the pan. Fry on both sides until just cooked and golden (about 2-3 minutes a side), seasoning with salt & pepper as you go. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan while still warm, add the capers, frying for a few seconds, then add the butter, lemon juice and rind, stirring to mix. When the butter has melted and the sauce is bubbling, remove from the heat, then add the chopped parsley and stir through. Plate the cooked fish, then spoon the warm sauce over each portion and serve immediately.

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Citrus, soy & sesame chicken with rice

16 Aug

After recently making my annual batch of citrus jam (sometimes it’s orange marmalade, sometimes naartjie, sometimes a combination, but this year it was a special batch of freshly picked naartjie & lemon jam from a friend’s farm – less marmalade-ey, more jammy, almost no bitterness, very “sunny” flavoured), I’m thinking of all the wonderful ways to use my generous batch of beautiful orange-coloured preserves. Apart from eating jam on toast every day (which is totally not a bad idea), there are so many more ways to use marmalade. A glaze for meat is a one way to put your citrus jams to use, and this recipe uses jam ánd fresh fruit juice to make the most of citrus season.

I’m always searching for easy mid-week recipes that pack a punch and take little time to prepare, and this recipe ticks all the boxes. I love locally produced free-range deboned chicken thighs – although they’ve a tendancy to be quite expensive, I really believe that if you’re a clever shopper, you’ll be able to find them on special every now and then. There are also deboned chicken drumsticks on shelves these days – such a great cut that will work equally well. The texture of brown chicken meat is simply the best.

I’m a sauce lover, so this recipe needed to be saucy enough to spoon over rice. I used my naartjie/lemon marmalade plus some fresh lemon juice, soy sauce, fresh ginger and garlic, resulting in a very punchy, sweet and sour and salty end result. If you prefer something a little milder, substitute the lemon juice with naartjie or orange juice instead. I’ve thickened the sauce slightly with some corn flour (old-school style, I promise it’s fantastic) but if you prefer a runny sauce just leave out that step. Serve warm over rice with grilled or steamed greams (broccoli is my go-to) and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Comforting, punchy, real food – easy to make, great to eat any day of the week.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • about 500 g boneless free-range chicken thighs/drumsticks, sliced into chunks
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) soy sauce
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) citrus marmalade (orange/naartjie/clementine)
  • 60-80 ml (1/4-1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice (or orange/naartjie/clementine)
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) dark sesame oil
  • about 15-30 ml fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 10 ml corn flour (Maizena), mixed with about 30 ml water
  • cooked rice, to serve
  • steamed/grilled broccoli/greens, to serve
  • sesame seeds, to serve (optional)

Method:

Before you start the chicken, cook your rice and greens and set aside, keeping it warm, ready to plate (the chicken cooks very quickly).

In a medium, deep pan (I used a 25 cm iron skillet), heat the oil and when the pan is hot, add the chicken. Fry for a few minutes, stirring often until you have some golden colour on some of the strips – they don’t have to be fully cooked or brown yet. While the chicken is frying, add the following to a medium jug: soy sauce, marmalade, lemon juice, sesame oil, ginger, garlic – mix well. Add the mixed marinade to the pan and stir through, then bring to a simmer. After about 3 minutes, add the cornflour mixture and stir through. Cook for 5-7 more minutes or until just cooked, then remove from the heat. Plate the chicken and sauce over warm rice in bowls with broccoli/greens, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Note: The chicken & sauce reheats superbly and make great leftovers.

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Roasted aubergine & sweet potato salad with lemon & mint

12 Aug

Soft, sweet and earthy roasted vegetables, zippy lemon dressing, creamy hummus, crunchy fresh rocket & toasted pine nuts. This is everything I love in a salad.

This hearty vegetarian salad is the second recipe in a series of four that I’ve created with LemonGold, #WhenLifeGivesYouLemons. It is a wonderful combination of umami-rich roasted aubergine and earthy sweet potato with a zesty lemon, mint and garlic dressing, served with fresh rocket leaves on a bed of hummus and/or labneh, topped with slivers of red onion and toasted pine nuts. I can eat this every day of the week for lunch or dinner, but it is also such a stunning salad to serve as part of a bigger festive spread with fish or chicken or a scrumptious lamb roast.

Cooking can bring so much joy into our lives, especially if it is simple and stress-free with big flavour results. This is one of those recipes – so very easy to make, but really packing a punch in terms of flavour and the comfort that it brings. LemonGolds are very juicy seedless lemons, which make them a joy to cook with. You’ll only need one LemonGold to make this zippy, minty dressing. Along with the extra virgin olive oil it gets absorbed into the cooked vegetables, contrasting with the creamy hummus, crunchy pine nuts and peppery rocket leaves – an ode to my adoration for Yotam Ottolenghi’s style of serving roasted salads on a bed of hummus or yoghurt.

This salad is a complete meal suitable for a vegetarian main course, or serve it as part of a bigger spread.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main meal)

  • about 8-10 small sweet potatoes (or 2 large), washed and sliced into wedges
  • a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 large aubergine, sliced into fingers
  • for the dressing:
    • 3 tablespoons LemonGold juice
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
    • a handful mint leaves, finely chopped (plus a few extra for serving)
    • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup store-bought hummus (or labneh, or yoghurt, or a combination)
  • a small bunch fresh rocket leaves
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220 C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a bowl, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss/stir to coat all over and tip the wedges into the baking tray, evening them out in a single layer. Repeat with the aubergine fingers – olive oil, salt, toss/stir, into the tray. Roast for 30-35 minutes until golden and fully cooked, then remove from the oven and tip back into the mixing bowl.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the dressing: in a medium jar, add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and mint, then season generously with salt & pepper and give it a good shake. Pour all over the roasted vegetables (in the bowl) and leave to cool until ready to plate.

To assemble: On a large plate or salad platter, swirl a thin layer of hummus/labneh/yoghurt (or combo) and top with some rocket leaves. Now arrange the dressed roasted vegetables on top, adding more rocket leaves, fresh mint leaves, slivers of red onion and toasted pine nuts. Spoon the remaining dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

Note: This salad is best served slightly warm or at room temperature, assembled right before serving. The vegetables can be roasted and marinated in the dressing ahead of time.

(This post was created in proud collaboration with LemonGold SA.)

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Lemony labneh

4 Aug

When life gives you lemons, make this lemony labneh!

Labneh is a luxuriously soft, creamy, yoghurt cheese that originated in the Middle East. If you haven’t tasted it yet, it is absolutely delicious (similar to a soft, tangy, plain cream cheese or a mild soft goats cheese) and very easy to make at home. You can either serve it as a spread in a bowl, or shape small balls that are dropped in extra virgin olive oil – alongside freshly toasted bread it is a simple yet royal feast.

This recipe is the first in a series of four (#WhenLifeGivesYouLemons) that I created for LemonGold, a stunning seedless lemon varietal that is extra juicy and wonderful to cook with. The recipes form a lemon-themed menu that is Mediterranean-inspired, simple to make and absolutely packed with flavour. Do follow the cooking videos along on Instagram and Youtube – I’ve had so much fun in the kitchen creating these recipes and I hope you will have too!

Serve your labneh with warm toasted bread (as a spread or in balls), topped with grated lemon zest, za’atar spice, extra virgin olive oil and a few thyme leaves.

Notes: Adding the lemon juice to the yoghurt after straining, results in a softer spreadable cheese with maximum lemon flavour. If you’re looking for a firmer result, add the lemon juice to the yoghurt before straining, and strain the yoghurt for up to 2 days before serving.

Ingredients: (makes about 2 cups, depending on the consistency of the yoghurt that you choose)

  • 1 liter (4 cups) natural/plain full cream yoghurt
  • 2,5-5 ml (1/2-1 teaspoon) salt
  • juice of half a LemonGold
  • extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • za’atar spice, for serving (optional)
  • rind of half a LemonGold, finely grated
  • fresh thyme leaves, for serving
  • freshly toasted bread (pita/baguette/ciabatta/sourdough), for serving

In a mixing bowl, add the yoghurt and salt and stir well. Line a sieve with a thin cotton cloth (at least 40 x 40 cm big) or cheese cloth and place it over another bowl, then pour the yoghurt mixture into the lined sieve and close it with a rubber band or a piece of string. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 24-48 hours (depending on how thick you want your labneh – a thicker result will mean a smaller yield). Scrape the labneh into a serving plate, swirl it into a circle using the back of a spoon, then top with a sprinkle of za’atar, a grating of lemon rind, a few thyme leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Store covered in the refrigerater for about a week.

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