Tag Archives: cheese

Bruschetta with labneh and slow roasted tomatoes

31 Mar

Labneh with slow roasted tomatoes

(photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius, recipe development by Ilse van der Merwe for FAIRVIEW LABNEH)

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining labneh cheese maker Shelly Zaidman at Fairview for a look behind the scenes at their manufacturing plant, and a taste of this new product range. Fairview Labneh is a soft white, medium fat Mediterranean style cheese made from strained yoghurt (100% Jersey cow’s milk), which gives it a fresh acidic taste and a smooth consistency, much like smooth cottage cheese.

Shelly is originally from Israel, but moved to Cape Town with her husband and three young kids a few years ago. She started making labneh for her family after not finding a suitable soft fresh cheese in SA for their household use. After some friends tasted it, she realised how popular it was with locals alike, and started selling it on a small scale. Soon, she hooked up with the people at Fairview to start producing it on a bigger scale, and her labneh is now available in many large retail stores.

In December last year, I had the pleasure of working with The Pretty Blog team on an official recipe development project for Fairview Labneh. Although labneh is such a versatile dip on its own, the sweetness and texture of Mediterranean-style slow roasted tomatoes just enhances all of the creamy and tangy qualities of the cheese. This simple recipe is my favourite way of enjoying labneh: spread generously on bruschetta, topped with these slow roasted tomatoes.

Fairview’s labneh is available in two flavours: 1) Garlic & Herbs and 2) Za’atar. Woolworths also stocks a version with red pepper pesto. Very delicious!

Ingredients: (serves 4 people as a snack/starter, served with bread)

  • 400g cherry/rosa tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 15 ml apple cider vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 15 ml light brown sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 g Fairview Labneh, Garlic & Herb flavour
  • sliced ciabatta/baguette, toasted (to serve)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a small/medium size roasting tray, add the tomatoes & garlic. Drizzle with olive oil & vinegar, then sprinkle with thyme, brown sugar, salt & pepper. Toss to coat.
  3. Roast for 50-60 minutes, or until the tomatoes at the edges start to turn dark and sticky.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Remove any hard thyme twigs.
  5. Place the labneh in a medium size dip bowl. Add the tomatoes and swirl slightly. Serve with good quality bread.


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How to make your own ricotta

17 Sep

Freshly made ricotta cheese (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I use a lot of ricotta cheese in my kitchen. It’s such a versatile ingredient, perfect for stuffings in pasta (like my cannelloni or ravioli), or for baked sweet treats. Doesn’t taste like much on it’s own, but just beautiful to cook with.

Although ricotta is not an expensive cheese, it is not always easy to find. Not all supermarkets stock it, and it can be a challenge to get hold of on short notice. So I looked up a couple of sources on how to make my own, and I was surprised at how easy it was!

All you need is full cream milk and a few spoons of lemon juice. I also add some salt for a really balanced flavour. I always keep the plastic moulds from store-bought ricotta, so it is easy to create a professional-looking product without having to buy special equipment. Although the yield is not really huge (2 litres of milk would give you about 180g of ricotta), it is truly a satisfying process and the results are fantastic.

My next project might be to make my own mozzarella! Watch this space…


  • 2 litres full cream milk
  • 5 ml salt (optional)
  • 45 ml fresh lemon juice


  1. Place the milk and salt in a large stainless steel pot and heat to a gentle simmer. While waiting, place a sieve over a large bowl and line it with clean cheesecloth/muslin (for draining the curds later).
  2. As soon as the milk starts to simmer, add the lemon juice and give it a good stir. Turn down the heat to very low, then wait until the mixture starts to curdle – it will only take a few seconds. (If you don’t have a gass stove, remove the pot from the heat just after it started to boil, then add the lemon juice and stir. Turn down the heat to very low, then return the pot to the heat.)
  3. Use a slotted spoon or metal mesh spoon (or small sieve) to remove the curds from the pot into the sieve lined with cheesecloth/muslin over a large bowl. Leave to drain for at least 10 minutes, then scoop into a ricotta mould (if you have one). Leave to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. If you don’t have a ricotta mould, just wait until it is well drained, then scoop into a plastic container and refrigerate. The ricotta will continue to release whey (the watery liquid) for another 2 or 3 days. Just discard the liquid.


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

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

Keep your store-bought plastic ricotta containers, they come in handy as a mould when making your own (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

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Roasted butternut and three cheeses ravioli with sage butter

8 May

Roasted butternut ravioli with ricotta, parmesan & blue cheese, drizzled with brown sage butter and topped with pine nuts (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

As the days are drawing darker and colder, all I want for dinner is comfort food. Not necessarily buckets full of mac ‘n cheese, but definitely something buttery and indulgent.

Although pasta is considered a relatively simple staple, it can certainly be turned into something spectacular if you take the time. I confess: making homemade ravioli is not really the fastest way to a great dinner, but it is so very much worth all the effort. Prepare all the different components ahead of time, and you can assemble it quick-quick with minimum fuss.

The rich filling is made with roasted butternut, fresh herbs, ricotta, blue cheese and Parmesan. It matches perfectly against the toasted pine kernels and nutty sage butter, somehow creating a synergy that feels lighter than the individual parts.

We are looking at various components here: 1) roasting the butternut, 2) making the filling, 3) making and rolling out the pasta dough, 4) assembling the ravioli, 5) making the sage butter, 6) cooking the ravioli, and finally 7) plating the ravioli with the butter sauce and some toasted pine nuts. Don’t be rushed – the whole process might take you 2-3 hours, so pour a glass of wine and get someone to keep you company!

This recipe serves up to 6 people.

1) For the roasted butternut: 

  • 500 g butternut cubes (skinless and seedless)
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 15 ml chopped sage
  • 5 ml chopped thyme

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. On a baking sheet, add the butternut cubes, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then toss slightly and add the herbs. Roast for a further 10 minutes until the butternut starts to turn brown and is soft when tested with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2) For the butternut & 3 cheese filling:

  • 1 x batch roasted butternut (see above)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (about 350 g)
  • 125 g blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 40 g)
  • salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, then process until you get a course pulp. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then process again to mix thoroughly. Scrape the filling into a mixing bowl, then wash and dry the food processor for the next stage.

3) For the pasta:

  • 500 g plain flour (or cake flour)
  • 5 XL eggs

Place the flour and eggs in a food processor, then process until it resembles large cous-cous grains (it takes about a minute). Turn the “grains” out onto a wooden board, then press it together to form a ball of dough. Lightly knead the dough to a smooth consistency, then cut it into 5 equal pieces. Using a pasta rolling machine, roll out each piece of dough to a very thin sheet (thinnest setting) of about 12 cm in width. Lay out the sheets on a large floured surface, ready for the next stage.

4) Assembling the ravioli:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • pasta sheets (see above)
  • ravioli filling (see above)

Using a pastry brush, brush half of each pasta sheet lenghthways with water (the reason we do this is to make sure the pasta sticks when we fold it over lenthways after filling it). Using a teaspoon to create “drops” of filling, place a row of filling drops lengthways down the middle of each pasta sheet, about 5 cm apart. Now fold the pasta sheet over lengthways, making sure the gently press out any air bubbles that are forming (press from the fold to the edges). When each ravioli sheet is tightly sealed, used a pastry cutter to create generous rounds of individual ravioli. Place them on a floured tray until ready to boil.

5) Making the sage butter and toasted pine nuts:

  • 250 g butter
  • about 20 – 25 fresh sage leaves
  • 20-30 g pine kernels

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and let it simmer until it starts to turn light brown and starts to smell nutty. Watch it carefully, or otherwise it will quickly burn and you’d have to start from scratch. Swirl it lightly every now and then. When you see that it starts to brown, drop all of the sage leaves into the butter, and fry it for about 10-20 seconds, swirling the butter around to cover all the leaves. The leaves will quickly fry and become crips. Remove from the heat at once and set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, carefully toast the pine nuts without adding any oil until they turn a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

6) Cooking the ravioli:

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. When the water is boiling rapidly, drop about 1/2 of the prepared ravioli into it, then cook for 4-5 minutes. They are ready when they are floating on the surface and the edges are just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon into individual serving bowls.

7) Plating the ravioli:

Working quickly, drizzle each portion of cooked ravioli with sage butter, and top with a few toasted pine nuts. Serve at once – freshly cooked pasta is always best served immediately!


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

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3 Cheese Soufflés

4 Jul

3 Cheese Soufflés (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

Many people are terrified of baking soufflés. These eggy, foamy treats have a bad reputation as being temperamental. People also tend to think that they are difficult to make, but they really aren’t. Temperamental, sometimes, but not difficult at all.

There are also tricks to take the temperament out of the treat. Here are my tips to bake great soufflés:

  1. Always use fresh eggs at room temperture. I use XL eggs for baking.
  2. Make sure you pre-heat your oven to the correct temperature for at least 15 minutes before putting the soufflés in, and shut the door of the oven as quick as you can after loading them.
  3. When folding in the whisked egg whites, do it lightly and never overmix the batter.
  4. While baking, never open the oven door until the baking time is up.
  5. After removing the soufflés from the oven, serve them immediately! Freshly baked soufflés will wait for no-one.

Remember, your soufflé will most probably always deflate to some extent after cooling down. It is not a flop, it is part of the charm! So don’t be scared to try this – it is certainly worth it.


  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 200 ml milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of grated cheese, mixing 3 of your favourites (I used mature cheddar, blue cheese and gouda)
  • salt, pepper
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 egg whites, whisked to stiff peaks


  • Pre-heat oven to 220 C. Butter 6 small ramekins (or 4 medium).
  • On the stove top over medium heat, melt butter, then add flour. Stir well for about 2 minutes.
  • Add milk in a steady stream, mixing well. Stir vigorously until sauce thickens and all lumps are gone. Remove from heat.
  • Add egg yolks and stir well until smooth.
  • Add cheese and stir well, but not until melted. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.(Remember that the cheeses are already quite salty)
  • Add some of the whisked egg whites to the mixture, and fold it in. Now add this mixture to the remaining egg whites, and fold in, working quickly and lightly. Do not overmix – keep as much air in the mixture as possible!
  • Pour mixture into ramekins, filling them about 2/3. Arrange on a baking tray, then put in the oven immediately. Bake for 15 minutes until well-risen and golden brown on top.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.


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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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Pizza my way

15 Mar

Pizza my way with spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, salami, feta cheese and basil

I started making pizzas at home about 3 years ago. I got the recipe for the pizza base out of “Huisgenoot Top 500 Wenresepte”, and I haven’t looked back since. I now prefer my own homemade pizza to restaurant pizza, unless it is made by a proper Italian establishment who can provide me with the real thing!

I like my pizza to have a very thin crust, with really tasty tomato base spread generously, then mozzarella cheese and the toppings of your choice. […]

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