Tag Archives: figs

Fudgy fig blondies

2 Mar

It is fig season in the Boland and I couldn’t feel more inspired! These must be some of the most beautiful fruit known to mankind – “dark with drama” on the outside, jammy soft and lusciously ruby on the inside. I grew up with the soft, light green variety of figs in our home garden. They were OK, but we never really loved them. Fast forward a few decades and I now know and adore quite a few varietals of figs, and I honestly love every single one.

My go-to way of enjoying figs will always be fresh, as part of a simple cheese board with preserves and fresh bread, or with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic in a caprese salad. But when it comes to baking, the possibilities are endless. I’ve posted my favourite fig frangipane tart some time ago – I make this tart every year during fig season a couple of times, it’s such an elegant dessert. But the other day I wanted to try something new, so I thought of my friend Anele Horn’s delicious raspberry blondies that she made at a dinner party a few months ago. She said the original recipe called for rhubarb and strawberries, so surely it should work with figs?

She sent me the link of the original recipe from Taste Australia, and I adapted it for the size of my small new cream enamelware tin (how beautiful?), reduced the sugar content (because my ripe figs were definitely sweeter than rhubarb) and simplified some of the steps. The results are absolutely dreamy: golden edges that are perfectly chewy and caramelized, the figs omitting a royal perfume and jammy texture, the centre gooey and fudgy with pockets of white chocolate chips. I’m going to be making these a few more times this season, that’s for sure!

PS: Thank you XTN Family Farm for the beautiful figs that I’ve had the privilege of experimenting with over the last week. If you are interested in buying +-750-800g boxes of fresh figs weekly from these Wellington-based orchards (seasonal; limited; Stellenbosch-based distribution), give me a shout and I’ll send you a price list: ilse@thefoodfox.com.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g butter, chopped
  • 240 g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) caster sugar
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract, or 10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla essence
  • 2 XL eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ,25 cups flour (310 ml/175 g) white bread flour or cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • about 4 medium-large ripe figs, sliced into quarters or wedges

Method:

*Note: I used a 17 x 23 cm enamel baking tin, which is not a regular size. You will get the same results with a 20 x 20 cm square tin, or a 16 x 26 cm oven dish – anything slightly bigger will also do, but don’t go smaller.

Preheat the oven to 180 C with oven rack in center of oven. Line a suitable baking tin (at least 3,5 cm deep, see *note above) with non-stick paper. Place the butter and 2/3 (160 g) of the chopped chocolate in a microwavable medium size mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then continue to microwave for another 30 seconds and stir. Leave to heat through and melt completely for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Now add the sugar, vanilla and eggs to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well mixed with a spatula or wooden spoon (do not whisk). Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then stir it into the butter mixture until just combined. Finally, add the remaining 80 g chopped white chocolate and fold in until evenly distributed, then scrape the mixture into your prepared tin. Use a spatula to create a flat even layer that reaches all the corners, then top all over with fig quarters/wedges, pressing them into the mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown and the centre has a golden colour all over. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin. To slice, tug on the baking paper edges and remove the blondie slab from the tin onto a chopping board. Slice into squares, then remove the paper. Refrigerate in an air tight container, and enjoy straight from the fridge or at room temperature. (Should last in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.) Can also be served as dessert, at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream.

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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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Sticky toffee pudding with figs and walnuts

29 Aug

Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage roasting dish and 400 ml mug in “Fig” – their brand new colour. This sticky toffee pudding is made with rehydrated dried figs and walnuts – absolutely delicious.

A week ago, Le Creuset SA launched their brand new colour, Fig: a warmer shade of violet with beautiful brownish hues – you can see the colour best (in its full glory) in the signature cast iron pots with lids. They sent me a stunning package with a selection of fig-coloured Le Creuset products (rectangular 30 cm heritage roaster, 400 ml coffee mug, medium spatula etc.) as well as a recipe card and ingredients for a decadent sticky baked pudding with dried figs and toasted walnuts.

I gave their recipe a whirl using my new Fig cookware and what a stunning pudding! Even though fresh figs are not in season, dried figs are easily rehydrated in boiling water before baking and they work incredibly well here. The walnuts also provide a welcome soft crunch and some deeper toasty notes. It’s a large pudding that will feed a crowd of up to 12 people (I suppose you can easily half it, using a smaller baking dish). Warm and comforting, soft and spongey, sticky and saucy – the stuff winter pudding dreams are made of.

I’ve added a few touches of my own with the addition of salt in the pudding battter and in the sauce, a few less walnuts for the final topping and some other suggestions. You can definitely also substitute the dried figs for dried dates – they will work just as well.

Ingredients: (makes one large pudding that will serve up to 12 people)

Note: Slightly adapted from Le Creuset’s fabulous recipe for “Sticky Fig & Walnut Pudding”.

For the pudding batter:

  • 200 g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
  • 400 ml recently boiled water
  • 100 g butter, softened
  • 200 g light brown sugar
  • 4 x free range eggs (or just use large)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 350 g self-raising flour
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish (I’ve used Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage dish) with non-stick spray. Place the chopped figs in a bowl with the bicarb of soda and top with the recently boiled water. Stir and set aside to steep.

In a separate bowl, mix the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix – the mixture will look slightly curdled, don’t be alarmed. Add the flour and mix well, then add the walnuts, steeped figs, and all the liquids of the steeped figs. Mix to a runny batter, scraping the sides. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180 C or until fully cooked and golden brown. While the pudding is baking, make the sauce (you’ll pour it over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven).

For the sauce:

  • 350 g light brown sugar (or use demerara for a darker result)
  • 150 g butter
  • 400 ml fresh or longlife cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • about 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, for topping (optional)

Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved (watch it carefully as it can easily start boiling and will boil over the sides). Remove from the heat. Pour half the sauce over the freshly baked pudding as soon as it comes from the oven, then serve the remaining sauce on the side. Serve the pudding warm, optionally also with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

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Balsamic leg of lamb with garlic & figs

21 Dec

Roast leg of lamb with garlic, figs, rosemary, balsamic vinegar and port. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Festive season is upon us and many of us are planning menus for a special celebration with family and friends. Every year, we as an extended family get together on Christmas eve for a showstopping hearty dinner, or on Christmas day for a lighter, mostly room temperature, yet elaborate festive lunch (summer days at the beach are just too hot for anything else). This lamb roast probably qualifies as a heartier dinner, served with all the trimmings and sides of your heart’s desire. Although figs are not in season at the moment, you can still find some imported ones in supermarkets here and there (I wrote this recipe right at the end of fig season when they were still on shelves everywhere). Otherwise, substitute them with beautiful firm halved plums – dark red and purple on the outside, yet golden on the inside.

A large leg of lamb or mutton in the oven smells like Christmas to me, and makes the best leftovers the next day. *Note: Ask your butcher to bend the long end of the leg bone by cutting almost through it but not all the way. This way it will fit snugly into a large roasting tray without hanging over the side.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

1 large leg of lamb* (about 3 kg)
45 ml olive oil
salt & pepper
3 sprigs rosemary, woody stems removed, chopped
2 whole heads of garlic, horizontally sliced in half
3/4 cup (180 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 cup (250 ml) port wine
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
about 8 large ripe black figs, some halved, some whole

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 160 C.
  • Place the leg of lamb inside a large deep roasting tray, fatty side down. Drizzle it all over with oil and season it generously with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary on both sides.
  • Arrange the garlic head halves around it, then pour the vinegar, port and white wine into the bottom. Cover with a lid or foil, then roast for 3 hours. Remove from the oven, then use tongs to turn the leg over with the fatty side to the top. Cover and roast for another 2 hours.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and turn the heat up to 200 C. Return the leg to the oven for 20 minutes to brown, then add the figs around the meat and roast for another 10 minutes – the figs should be just warm and soft, not falling apart.
  • Serve warm in the tray as a festive centerpiece, with a side of roast potatoes or vegetables and salad.

Note: This roast makes a hearty yet thin sauce – remove some of the fat from the top by skimming it off with a spoon at the end of the cooking process. If you prefer a thicker gravy, pour the skimmed sauce into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and thicken slightly by reducing it by 1/4 or by adding 2-3 teaspoons of corn flour (mix it to a slurry consistency with a few teaspoons of water before adding it). Stir well until thickened.

This recipe is another festive collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa.

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Lamb steak salad with figs, rocket, grilled courgettes and yoghurt dill dressing

15 May

Pink slivers of lamb steak with figs and grilled courgettes on a bed of rocket, drizzled with a yoghurt dill sauce. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

There’s certainly more than one way to enjoy a good steak – and it doesn’t have to include potato chips and heavy sauces. Whether it’s Winter or Summer, a scrumptious lamb steak salad is such an enticing way of serving perfectly grilled pink meat on a beautiful platter.

Substitute the ingredients with whatever’s seasonal and to your liking – tomatoes, aubergines, mushrooms – the variations are endless. The yoghurt sauce is packed with herbs and has an extra tang thanks to fresh lemon juice and some Dijon mustard – a match made in heaven with the rich lamb flavours.

Take a look at my easy how-to video:

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a light meal)

  • 4-6 courgettes, thinly sliced into long ribbons
  • 600-800 g lamb steaks (or boneless leg of lamb, cut into thick steaks)
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a bunch fresh rocket leaves
  • 4-6 large ripe figs, quartered
  • for the dressing:
    • 3/4 cup double cream yoghurt
    • a few sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
    • 15-30 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 10 ml Dijon mustard
    • 15-30 ml extra virgin olive oil
    • a pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Using a griddle pan, grill the courgette ribbons over a very high heat (without any oil) until the ribbons have charred marks on each side (can also be done over a fire). Set aside.
  2. Place the steaks on a plate, drizzle with oil and season well with salt & pepper. Grill the meat in the same hot pan for about 3 minutes a side (depending on the thickness of your steaks). Set aside to rest while you assemble the rest of the salad.
  3. On a large platter or on individual plates, arrange the rocket leaves, grilled courgette ribbons and sliced figs. Slice the lamb steaks into thin slivers, then arrange on top and season lightly with salt & pepper.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together, then drizzle over the top. Serve with more of the dressing on the side, along with fresh lemon wedges and more olive oil.

This recipe was created in collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa. #CookingWithLamb #LambAndMuttonSA #WholesomeAndNutritious #CleanEating #TheWayNatureIntended

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Mothers Day Lunch with Poetry Stores

12 May

A delectable home cooked feast from Barbara Joubert’s book KOSTALGIE, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

There’s nothing that says “I love you” like a thoughtful, scrumptious and beautiful home-cooked meal. The recipes in Barbara Joubert’s (Afrikaans) book Kostalgie are the perfect choices for a Mothers Day lunch at home, with flavours and influences from her travels all around the world.

I have never made caramelized figs before, and they truly are just magnificent to look at. Almost too beautiful to eat! With the creamy custard tart, they are the stuff dreams are made of.

I love slow roasted pork – it seems to always get raving reviews in my house. I opted for serving the pork with buttery beans instead of potatoes, because of my choice of pasta and tomatoes as a side dish (a stunning meal on its own too).

Have a happy Mothers Day everyone!

Barbara’s book, the homeware and beautiful black floral scarf are all available online and in store from Poetry Stores.

Tagliatelle with burst tomatoes, blue cheese and rocket. Photography by Tasha Seccombe

Homemade tagliatelle with burst tomatoes and blue cheese (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the tagliatelle:
300 g (535 ml) cake flour
3 eggs
20 ml olive oil
10 ml water

For the burst tomatoes:
125 ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves
550 g small red and yellow rosa tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
a handful fresh basil leaves
100 g blue cheese
40 g rocket

For the tagliatelle:
Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer with dough hook. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Switch the machine on at low speed. Add the olive oil and water. Increase the speed until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, you can add a little water. Knead for 10 minutes with the machine, then take the dough out and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature. If you have a pasta machine, sprinkle a little flour on your working surface and on the rollers of the machine. Cut the dough into smaller pieces. Set your machine on number 7 and feed the dough through. Set it one setting lower, feeding the dough through until you get to number 1 (the thinnest setting). Hang the pasta sheets over the back of chairs for about 20 minutes to dry out a little. Attach the tagliatelle attachment to the machine, then feed the sheets through the cutter. Place the bundles of cut tagliatelle onto a baking tray sprinkled with flour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a little olive oil, then add the pasta and cook for 3-5 minutes. Drain and top with the roasted saucy tomatoes.

For the burst tomatoes:
Heat olive oil in a large deep pan. Add the garlic whole and fry for about 2 minutes to flavour the oil. Add the tomatoes and fry until they burst. Season with salt & pepper. Tear basil leaves in pieces and mix with the sauce. Cut slices of blue cheese and arrange on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with rocket and serve.

My notes: A good quality store bought tagliatelle will also work well, if you don’t have a pasta machine.

Overnight leg of pork, so soft that you can pull it with a fork. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Overnight leg of pork (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

100 ml olive oil
2 kg leg of pork (I used boneless)
juice of a lemon
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
250 ml white wine
8 baby leeks
1 x 439 g can chestnuts

Preheat oven to 200 C. Place half the olive oil in a roasting tray. Place the pork in the bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Rub the garlic all over. Season with salt & pepper, then add the rest of the olive oil. Place in oven with skin side down. Remove after 30 minutes, then turn the leg over with skin side up. Cover with foil. Lower heat to 140 C, then roast for 6 hours.
Remove the netting around the meat, then add the bay leaves, wine, leeks and chestnuts. Roast uncovered for an hour at 180 C. Remember the skin won’t be crispy. The meat will be soft enough to pull apart with forks.

My notes: The original recipe calls for leeks, which were unfortunately out of stock everywhere at the time of the shoot, so I substituted these with slices of red onion. I also couldn’t find chestnuts, but I’m sure these will be stocked at a good exotic speciality store.

Custard tart with caramelized figs. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Custard tart with caramelized figs (serves 8-10)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the dough:
200 g (360 ml) cake flour
50 g (60 ml) caster sugar
100 g (110 ml) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
45-60 ml cold water

Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Mix until the butter is well incorporated. Add the yolk and mix. With the motor running, add the water spoon by spoon, until it just comes together. Remove from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200 C. Roll out dough on a floured surface. Line a greased 18 cm tart tin with the dough, then prick with a fork all over. Line with baking paper on top and fill with dried beans. Bake blink for 10 minutes at 200 C. Remove paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes until the base is cooked.

For the filling:
10 egg yolks
20 g (40 ml) cornflour
125 g (150 g) caster sugar
2 ml vanilla powder
200 ml milk
500 ml cream

Whisk the yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and cream together in a pot, but don’t let it boil. Add the cream mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Pour back into the pot, then continue stirring over medium heat until the custard thickens. (You don’t want to make scrambled eggs!) Pour the custard into another bowl and place a piece of wax paper on top to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature. Pour filling in baked tart base and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C. Let it cool overnight, preferable in the fridge.

For the caramelized figs:
500 g (625 ml) sugar
100 ml water
about 25 small figs

Put the sugar and water in a large pot with a lid and place over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Now remove the lid and let it boil until it reaches a light caramel colour. The caramel will continue to darken, so remove from the heat immediately. Carefully dip the figs into the hot caramel and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper to cool. Place on top of the cooled tart when ready to serve.

My notes: The recipe doesn’t mention what size eggs to use, but I found that XL is adequate. I found that I needed to increase the baking time for the base and for the assembled tart to achieve a golden brown result. I couldn’t find small figs, so 9 large ones were enough as a substitute. Don’t caramelize the figs long before you’ll be serving the tart, as the caramel will eventually start to melt as the figs release steam and water, and you’ll be left with syrupy half-coated figs. (Remember, the caramel will harden on standing in the pot, so when you’re done dipping the figs, carefully add some boiling water to the caramel and leave to soften before cleaning.)

This post was created in collaboration with Poetry Stores.

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Goats cheese, green fig & walnut log

21 Dec

Make your own festive cheese roll with chunks of green fig and nuts (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There’s no easier way to entertain than with cheese and crackers – perfect for a lazy glass of wine, a simple starter or even an elegant dessert. Although there’s nothing wrong with just unwrapping a few blocks of your favourite cheese and serving them on a platter, this recipe goes the extra mile and delivers something beautifully tasty that looks like a lot more effort than it actually is (always a good thing).

If you love blue cheese, goats cheese and green figs, this simple recipe will have you longing for more opportunities to entertain friends and family. The mixture firms up quickly in the fridge so you don’t need hours to prepare. A stunner for special occasions like Christmas, Easter and everything in-between.

Preparation time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour for chilling
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 200 g creamy blue cheese (gorgonzola, Simonzola or similar)
  • 100 g plain, soft goats cheese log (chevin)
  • 2-3 preserved green figs in syrup, drained and cut into small chunks
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) brandy
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 50 g shelled walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, for coating on the outside (I’ve used a mixture of black & white, lightly toasted)
  • melba toast, for serving (or crackers of your choice)
  • fresh fruit and/or preserves, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together the blue cheese, goats cheese, figs, brandy, nutmeg and walnuts using a wooden spoon.
  2. Spoon the chunky mixture onto a sheet of grease-proof baking paper and carefully roll into a neat sausage shape. Place in the fridge to firm up until ready to serve – at least 1 hour.
  3. Spread the sesame seeds out in a thin layer on a large plate. When ready to serve, unroll the cheese log from the wrapping paper, then roll it in the sesame seeds to cover all sides. Place on a serving board and serve immediately with melba toast or crackers, fresh fruit and preserves.
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A Timeless Festive Dinner with Poetry Stores

9 Dec

The new Noir homeware range from Poetry Stores with recipes from the book "The Story of a House" (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The new Noir homeware range from Poetry Stores with recipes from the book “The Story of a House” (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If you like adding a touch of drama to your festive table this December, don’t miss out on the new black homeware range available from Poetry Stores, Noir, imported from Portugal. It is simply breathtaking and the perfect choice to pair with a few gold accessories.

I’ve had the pleasure of creating a timeless festive dinner spread in collaboration with Poetry Stores using these beautiful pieces of homeware and three recipes from the stunning book The Story of a House – Fables and Feasts from La Creuzette by Louis Jansen van Vuuren & Hardy Olivier. Most of the recipes are French-inspired and perfect for entertaining a crowd for a grand occasion.

Here are three of Louis and Hardy’s recipes from their book, fit for royalty:

Salmon tartare from the book “The Story of a House” (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Salmon Tartare (serves 4)

  • 480 g smoked salmon, cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 80 g cucumber, diced
  • 80 g radish, diced
  • a large pinch of toasted sesame seeds
  • a large pinch of chopped pink peppercorns
  • 120 g Granny Smith apple, diced
  • fresh mint, chopped (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

  • 100 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 150 ml sesame oil
  • juice of 2 large lemons
  • freshly ground salt & pepper

Mix all the ingredients for the tartare. Make the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients together and serving with the tartare. The tartare is also delicious with finely chopped mint sprinkled on top.

Leg of lamb with gremolata from the book "The Story of a House" (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Leg of lamb with gremolata from the book “The Story of a House” (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Double Leg of Lamb (serves 12)

  • 1 double leg of lamb or 2 individual legs of lamb

For the seasoning:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped rosemary leaves, plus sprigs for garnishing
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (500 ml) lamb stock or water

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry red wine
  • 1 litre stock from the oven dish
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cornflour

For the gremolata:

  • grated or finely chopped peel of 4 lemons
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Remove most of the fat from the leg of lamb, but not all of it, as it lends delicious flavour to the sauce.

With a sharp knife, make small incisions about 1 cm long and 2 cm deep all over the legs,. Make the seasoning by mixing the salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and mustard. Rub it into the meat, particularly into the incisions, and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200 C.

Place the legs in a large, deep oven dish. Combine the olive oil and lamb stock and pour over the meat. Roast uncovered for 20-30 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 160 C. Cover with a lid or seal it tightly with foil. Roast for approximately another 90 minutes. Test the meat by inserting a meat thermometer close to the bone – it is done when the temperature is 60 C, as the flesh will still be beautifully pink.

Pour some of the pan juices over the meat, place it on a rack (so that the meat doesn’t lie in the liquid) and roast in a hot oven (200 C) for 5-7 minutes to form a lovely crispy crust. Turn off the oven and pour all the liquid out of the oven dish, but let the meat rest in the oven while you make the sauce.

Heat the wine and 3 cups (750 ml) of the stock over a low heat and boil it to let the alcohol evaporate. Stir the cornflour into the remaining cup (250 ml) of stock, stir it into the rest and cook the sauce until thickened.

Combine all the gremolata ingredients. Serve the meat with the gremolata sprinkled on top and the thickened pan juices in a separate jug.

Variation: Soak 2 handfuls of half-dried prunes in brandy overnight and add to the liquid in the oven dish about 40 minutes before you plan to remove the meat from the oven and serve it.

Fig clafoutis from the book "The Story of a House" (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Fig clafoutis from the book “The Story of a House” (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Fig Clafoutis (serves 6)

  • 700 g purple figs
  • 30 g soft butter, plus a little extra to grease the dish
  • 120 g cake flour, plus 10 g for the dish
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (250 ml) milk
  • 120 g castor sugar

Heat the oven to 180 C. Cut off the fig stalks. Cut a cross into the top of each fig and press so that it gapes slightly. Grease an oven dish or ceramic dish (not too deep) with a little butter, sprinkle in 10 g of flour and arrange the figs in the dish. Beat the eggs, milk, sugar and butter together and sift in the flour. Fold the flour into the mixture.

Pour the mixture over the figs and bake for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot with a scoop of crème fraîche.

Get The Story of a House – Fables and Feasts from La Creuzette by Louis Jansen van Vuuren & Hardy Olivier available online from Poetry stores at R599.

All homeware, cutlery, glassware and accessories available from Poetry Stores, except small dessert plate. (Linen not included.)

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Beef burger with brie & figs

12 Sep

Beef burger with brie and green figs (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

Burgers, anyone? I can catch my husband in a trap with a homemade burger. He would probably eat it everyday if I served it. Me too, if all the factors were just right.

So, what makes a great burger? Here’s my list:

  • Ideally, you should use the best quality meat for your pattie, like coarsely ground steak (sirloin, rump or fillet). Flavour wise, you’re already halfway there.
  • The pattie should be a generous size, but not too thick. A thick burger is difficult to eat.
  • The pattie should be well seasoned.
  • The pattie should not be overcooked – the meat should be juicy. I also baste it with barbecue sauce while it’s grilling, to make it really juicy.
  • The bun should be really fresh and soft, but toasted on the inside. That extra buttery crunch of a toasted bun makes a huge difference.
  • Other toppings, like cheese, tomato and lettuce is completely optional, but melted cheese adds great flavour to a burger.

I can eat a toasted bun with a great beef/lamb burger pattie any day – just like that. But add the right mix of toppings, and it turns into something spectacular. Like a combo of oozing brie and sliced sweet green figs – just heavenly!

For this burger, I used regular ground lean beef mince – it is cheaper and it is available in almost every supermarket. Because this meat is not steak quality, I mixed it with some breadcrumbs and an egg for extra tenderness. If you can get hold of ground rump steak, you don’t have to used any breadcrumbs or egg at all, just salt and pepper!

Ingredients: (makes 3 extra-large patties or 4 large patties)

  • 500 g lean beef mince
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 small slice of bread, finely crumbed
  • generous amount of salt and pepper (at least 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper)
  • oil for frying (I used Canola oil)
  • ½ cup of store-bought spare rib sauce or barbecue sauce
  • 3 or 4 hamburger buns
  • one block of brie cheese (we used Fairview)
  • sliced preserved green figs (in syrup)
  • lettuce leaves, tomato slices

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine mince, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix well with a clean hand.
  2. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Put meat mixture on top, and press down to flatten slightly. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap, then roll out evenly with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 15 mm.
  3. Remove top layer of plastic wrap, then use a large round cookie cutter or dessert bowl to cut out rounds of about 12-15 cm in diameter. They will look completely oversized, but they shrink quite a lot while cooking! Remove the meat mixture in-between the patties, then cut out the plastic around each pattie – it is easier to handle individually this way.
  4. Heat some oil in a large pan over moderately high heat. Frying one or 2 patties at a time, transfer them to the pan (I put them in the pan facing downwards, then peel off the plastic from the tops immediately). Fry on each side until charred but still juicy inside, basting with spare rib sauce.
  5. In the meantime, butter the buns, then toast them in a dry pan over moderate heat until golden brown.
  6. Assemble the burger, starting with bun, leaves, tomato, then the well-basted pattie and cheese. Pop under a grill for 30 seconds to melt the cheese, then top with figs and the top half of the bun. Serve immediately with fries or a baked potato!

Tip: Onion marmalade work very well as a sauce on this burger. Otherwise, add your choice of mayo, tomato sauce, or barbecue sauce.

Credits:

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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Nicola Pretorius

 

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