Archive | Soups, salads & sides RSS feed for this section

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.

Share this:

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.

Share this:

Smoked pork minestrone

9 Apr

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.

Share this:

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.

Share this:

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.

Share this:

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.)

Share this:

Yesterday’s-roast-chicken and vegetable soup (plus how to stretch a roast chicken into 3 different meals)

7 Apr

While we’re all at home, we’re trying to make the most of lockdown spending quality time with our families. A lot of comforting home cooking is going on. Part of the goal is to stretch food as far as we can and not to waste a single crumb. A few days ago, I made my first trip into town after the lockdown started. Among a few essentials, I bought one “boerhoender” from my local butchery – a 2,4 kg chicken for R170 in total (great deal). I knew I had to make it count, so I planned to get at least 3 different meals out of it.

On day one, I made a chicken pot roast – in my oven at 180 C, 0n a bed of quartered onions and potatoes, sliced carrots and garlic, some herbs, lots of salt & pepper, and good quality olive oil. If you follow my Instagram stories, you might have seen it. We’re a family of 3, so we usually go for the thighs, legs and wings first (and of course, some of the crispy roasted skin).

My chicken pot roast iphone-photo that I posted to Instagram stories (check out my highlight “Lockdown Diary”). This is my 30cm Le Creuset casserole, to give some scale to the chicken.

 

I then removed the breasts, chopped them up, added mayonnaise and some leftover chopped fresh coriander (optional), seasoned well with salt & pepper, and those will be our chicken mayo mix for sandwiches on another day. To the fridge it goes (it will be good for at least 3 days).

This photo is from an earlier post in 2014 – chicken mayo with fresh herbs on toasted sourdough bread. If you don’t have fresh herbs, just mix the chicken with mayonnaise and season well with salt & pepper. Any bread will do! (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

On day 2, I made a very hearty chicken and vegetable soup using the leftover chicken carcass (with little meat left but all of the goodness of the roasting pot). I skimmed off most of the fat before doing so, but I do love some of those comforting fatty droplets on the surface of the soup – delivering a velvety mouthfeel with every spoonful. You can add whatever you have in your vegetable pantry, mostly finely chopped or shredded – I used more potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage and a few ripe tomatoes. To that, I added a few stock cubed dissolved in water and a few aromatics from my spice cupboard (again, use what you have on hand). The result is a large pot of hearty, fragrant, comforting soup to count as lunch or dinner, plus a few portions for the freezer. If you want to stretch it even more, serve it over freshly cooked pasta. It’s a super versatile and economical way to use one chicken!

This is my 26 cm Le Creuset casserole, showing you how generous the yield is for this left-over recipe. Chunky and hearty, yet soft and fragrant.

 

A hearty chicken and vegetable soup, made with yesterday’s chicken pot roast. You’ll see some of the original larger pieces of vegetables poking through here and there. The orange colour is from the carrots and tomatoes, but also from a hint of curry powder.

 

Ingredients for Yesterday’s-roast-chicken and vegetable soup: (makes about 3,5 liters)

  • leftovers of a homemade roast chicken, including everything that remained in the pot (sticky bits, vegetables, carcass, gravy – skim off any excess fat)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped (or roughly grated or shredded in a food processor)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled & roughly grated
  • 1/4 large cabbage head, finely chopped or shredded
  • a few rosemary sprigs, woody stems discarded (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary /dried mixed herbs)
  • 2 liters chicken stock (about 5 stock cubes dissolved in 2 liters recently boiled water)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Optional aromatics:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel (ground or seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

Method:

If you’re refrigerated the leftovers the day before, return it to a clean large pot (at least 6 liters capacity).  Add the onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, herbs and stock. Add whatever aromatics you want – look at the list above to see what I’ve added, giving the soup a deep, fragrant quality without being spicy. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer slowly for 1,5-2 hours. Turn off the heat. Remove the leftover carcass with tongs (be careful), and shred any leftover meat into the soup, discarding the bones. Season well with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with some bread, or over freshly cooked pasta. I love to grate some mature cheese over it, but that’s optional. Bon appetit!

Share this:

Smokey baked ratatouille

13 Feb

These days I cannot get enough of roasted vegetables – whether it’s in a salad, on a pizza, in a curry or just on its own. I think our bodies go through phases, needing different things, and mine is telling me that I need vegetables. It’s probably also to counteract the countless croissants and almond pastries that I consume every morning, so it’s only a good thing!

If you are not familiar with ratatouille, it is a popular French vegetable stew mostly made with tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, onions, garlic and bell peppers. There are many different ways of making ratatouille, varying from stewing the cubed vegetables to a very soft and marrow-like consistency, to a fresher version that will allow some texture. The purists even say that you need to cook all the vegetables separately before cooking them together, so that every vegetable truly tastes of itself.

The other day we visited my sister for a lazy, chilled-out dinner. They cooked steak on the fire and served it with a beautiful fanned-out baked ratatouille – simple perfection.  I decided to make my own version at home after they gifted me an enormous courgette from their garden. After buying tomatoes and aubergines, I found the giant courgette to be a bit tough on the skin-side for this dish, so I left it out completely (it did however turn out to make an incredible courgette coconut curry soup, though!) – you can definitely add some courgette slices if you want to. Starting with a rich tomato sauce at the bottom of the baking dish, I layered thinly sliced vegetables on top – I promise it’s a lot easier than it looks. I added a generous amount of smoked paprika to the sauce and over the top of the vegetables, which certainly isn’t traditionally French, but it lends a great smokey flavour and a deep red colour. Fresh thyme and lots of extra virgin olive oil completed the picture. I baked it for an hour and 20 minutes, but you can up the baking time to 2 hours for an even softer result.

You can serve ratatouille as a main dish, or as a side with grilled meat/chicken/fish, or even with pasta or rice. It’s also great at room temperature served as antipasti, or top it with a grilled egg over toast for breakfast. Leftovers can also be used as a pizza topping – absolutely delicious. It is a relatively inexpensive dish that really goes a long way, and it only improves in flavour the next day (and the next).

 

Ingredients: (serves 6)

For the sauce:

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped/grated
  • 2 x 400 g cans whole tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • about 10 ml (2 teaspoons) fresh thyme leaves (woody stalks discarded)
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper

In a medium size pot over medium heat, add the oil and fry the garlic for about a minute, stirring. Add the pureed tomatoes, thyme, sugar, paprika and season generously with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cook uncovered over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a wide casserole or baking dish (I used a 30 cm Le Creuset casserole) for assembling the ratatouille.

To assemble:

  • 1 very large or 2 medium aubergines, sliced thinly into rounds of about 3 mm thick (I use a knife, but you can also use a mandoline cutter)
  • about 6-8 ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly into rounds of about 3 mm thick
  • about 30 ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • about 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) smoked paprika
  • about 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful fresh basil leaves, for serving
  • grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Arrange the sliced aubergines and tomatoes in a circular row (or just in rows) on top of the sauce, making sure the tomatoes peep out behind the larger slices of aubergine – use two slices of tomato to match the width of the aubergines slices if necessary. Continue until the full surface of the dish is covered, then drizzle all over with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and thyme. Season generously with salt & pepper, then bake for 1,5 – 2 hours until very soft and roasted on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before serving (if you have the patience). Top with basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Share this:

Babylonstoren launches 12-year-old balsamic vinegar (video)

26 Sep

My favourite way of enjoying aged balsamic vinegar is with a classic caprese salad – fresh tomato, fior di latte (or bocconcini, in this case), fresh basil, salt flakes, the very best extra virgin olive olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Food from the heavens.

 

I had the privilege of recently visiting Babylonstoren for an up-close look at the bottling of their newly released balsamic vinegar. The team at Babylonstoren have invested in importing traditional Italian barrels (cherry, acasia, chestnut, oak, mulberry and ash wood) for their vinegar battery, made by F.Rensi of Modena. To get going, they imported genuine 12-year-old DOP balsamic vinegar from Modena, then started their own run using Babylonstoren’s shiraz grapes. To taste this, they’ll have to wait another 12 years!

In Italy, real Aceto Balsamic Tradizionale DOP is made only in Modena or neighbouring Emilia (“protected designation of origin”). This unique style of vinegar must be experienced first hand to appreciate the difference in taste (and price) to an everyday young balsamic vinegar that are commonly found in most supermarkets. It is rich, thick and intensely flavoured with complex yet softer notes, and can be easily enjoyed as is (a few drops in a spoon), a few drops over your favourite cheeses or charcuterie, salad or even over ice-cream. A small bottle will last you a very long time as it is used sparingly – perfect for really special occasions.

The process in a nutshell: grapes are picked, berries de-stemmed & pressed, must is boiled & pumped into a tank to ferment, 15% (maximum) wine vinegar is added, then the mixture is aged in barrels, each year being transferred to smaller barrels as it loses volume. After 12 years maturation, a small portion is drawn from the smallest (oldest) barrel and bottled each year. Babylonstoren limits bottle volume to 100 ml to comply with traditional regulations.

This product is available from Babylonstoren’s Farm Shop at R450/100 ml.

Take a look at my recent experience:

 

Shiraz grapes are used for Babylonstoren’s own batch, infusing a South African element into their imported DOP. (photo supplied by Babylonstoren)

 

The balsamic vinegar is bottled by hand in very small batches each year. (photo supplied by Babylonstoren)

 

Black gold, bottled. (photo supplied by Babylonstoren)

Share this:

Instant Pot clear roast chicken broth

8 Feb

A clear chicken broth made in my Instant Pot with leftover roast chicken carcass, some vegetables and spices. Easy and affordable.

 

I received an Instant Pot last year, to test and review and perhaps post one of my favourite recipes. After missing the deadline for posting a recipe as part of the festive season (my schedule at the end of 2018 was just a mess), I decided to keep on using this fantastic machine and see what my favourite way of using it really is.

As you might know, the Instant Pot has revolutionized the way many people cook and has instigated a global fan-community of note. It’s a 7-in-1 smart-cooker: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker, steamer, sauté pan, warmer and yoghurt maker. I’ve never owned a pressure cooked or a slow cooker, but I know how to make rice, how to steam and the rest. My biggest mission was to make bone broths and stocks that would truly unlock the most flavour possible out of very simple, humble ingredients.

The Instant Pot.

 

I’ve made quite a few bone broths since – beef, mutton, chicken and a combination of all 3. Although the Instant Pot has a setting for broths and soups, I’ve found that I got really incredible, crystal clear results with the slow cooker function over 12 hours. I’ve used raw bones and I’ve used roasted bones, and both yielded fantastic results with deep flavour.

My motto this year is to buy less and not to waste anything. A broth is an excellent way of utilizing “older” vegetables and leftover roast chicken bones (or a shop bought rotisserie chicken carcass, after you’re cut the meat from it) that might have otherwise landed in the bin. Use whatever you have on hand and try it out – this recipe makes around 2,5 liters and it freezes really well. It can also be utilized as a great stock, just season the end result with less salt.

This broth can easily and safely be made overnight with no stress about anything boiling over on your stovetop. You can of course also pressure cook the broth if you want it to be ready faster, and by using the ‘Delay start’ timer, you can run it during the day while you’re at work and come home to either a bone broth or stock ready to use.

I love serving my broth in a drinking cup, with a small drizzle of soy sauce and a piece of fresh or preserved ginger – so light, yet hearty in taste and rich in nutrients. I’ve also added a sprinkle of seaweed and dried blossoms on the broth in the photograph as a colourful suggestion of serving it to guests.

This Instant Pot is a great addition to my kitchen and I cannot wait to try more recipes like silky cheese cake and homemade yoghurt. You can buy it online from Yuppiechef for R2199.00.

Note: You can also use a whole raw chicken for this recipe, and shred the tender slow-cooked meat afterwards for a bulked up meaty alternative. Sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley.

Crystal clear broth results using the Instant Pot’s slow cook setting over 12 hours.

 

Ingredients:

1 deboned rotisserie/roast chicken carcass, with pan juices

2 onions, peeled & halved

2 celery sticks, cut into large chunks

1 large carrot, cut into large chunks

1 kale leaf (optional)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large knob fresh ginger, peeled and halved lengthways

1 slice of lemon

10 whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

3 liters water

salt, to taste

soy sauce and fresh sliced ginger, for serving (optional)

fresh herbs or edible flowers, for serving (optional)

Method:

Place the chicken bones, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, lemon, peppercorns, bay, star anise, cinnamon on the Instant Pot and add 3 liters of water. Cover with the lid, select the “slow cook” function and set the time for 12 hours. Wait for a few seconds, you’ll hear a soft beep and the timer will start. Leave to cook until the timer is up, then leave to cool in the pot. Strain through a regular fine metal sieve, then season generously with salt. You’ll see that the broth can do with a lot of salt. If you’re using preserved ginger for serving, you an also add a few teaspoons of the preserving ginger liquid for some added sweetness. Serve warm in cups or bowls with a dash of soy sauce and more ginger.

Store any leftover broth covered in the fridge for up to 5 days (freezes well too).

Share this: