Tag Archives: Winter

Classic French Coq au Vin

2 Sep

Classic French coq au vin (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Over the past few days, we’ve been bombarbed by torrential rains in the Cape. It’s been the most rain we’ve had all winter, coupled with stormy winds – terrible weather for anyone who had to be outside or on the road.

We had our monthly food shoot last week with the dream team from The Pretty Blog. Although we always have the best time  creating beautiful pictures, dark and stormy weather is not necessarily our friend when it comes to food photography lighting! After scanning my house for the best spot to do the shoot (we usually shoot on the stoep, but it was way too windy and cold), we decided to set up at my bedroom window. A bit cramped to say the least, but we pulled it off!

I wanted to feature one last hearty winter stew before the Spring weather starts to settle in (we cannot wait!), so I decided on one of my favourite classic French dishes: coq au vin. This is a simple stew of chicken, small onions, bacon, and mushrooms, simmered in red wine. The red wine turns the chicken purple – a bit alarming at first, but it then settles into a dark and hearty broth, totally delicious for a cold winters day.

Traditionally, the French serve this stew with bread or with pasta, but we like to eat it with white rice or even mashed potato. Choose whatever you like!

Ingredients: (serves 4-6, but this recipe can easily be doubled to feed a large crowd)

  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 8 chicken pieces (about 1 kg)
  • 16-20 “pickling” onions, skinned and whole (small pearl onions)
  • 125 g streaky bacon, cut into small cubes
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 250 g button mushrooms (or portabellini)
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) flour
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) red wine (I use a good Bordeaux blend like Sutherland’s Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot)
  • salt and black pepper


  1. In a large heavy based pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then fry the chicken pieces in batches until the skins are golden. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. Add the onions, bacon & thyme, then fry until the bacon becomes crispy and the onions get a nice colour on the outside. Add the mushrooms and fry for another minute.
  3. Add the tomato paste & flour, then stir well. Now add the red wine. Give it a good stir, then add the chicken pieces and meat juices back into the pot. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes. Check on the chicken every now and then to make sure that the pieces are submerged in the sauce and gets coloured purple on all sides.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, then stir gently without breaking up the meat. Serve warm with rice, potatoes, pasta or bread, and some steamed green vegetables like beans or broccoli.


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.

(Photography by Tasha Seccombe)


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Buttermilk pancakes with caramelised bananas, cream and salted pistachios

5 Jul

Fresh pancakes with caramelised bananas, cream and pistachios (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

We’ve officially hit the middle of the year, and that means an icy winter ahead of us. The cold weather certainly makes us all long for the smell of warm, comforting winter foods. But there are few things more comforting than the smell of freshly made pancakes.

This is my favourite recipe for deluxe buttermilk pancakes, from Phillippa Cheifitz’s book Lazy Days. If you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, just use full cream milk mixed with 15 ml lemon juice. But I have to say that the buttermilk just adds a luxuriously soft finish to the pancakes.

There’s nothing wrong with cinnamon sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a traditional pancake fix (Phillippa likes to spread her pancakes with homemade apricot jam!), but in this case I topped them with caramelized bananas, covered in a brown sugar and butter sauce. To make these even more deadly, I prefer to drizzle them with double thick cream and a sprinkling of roughly chopped salted pistachio nuts. Sweet, salty and crunchy, yet delicately soft and gooey.

I can have this for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. So bring on the icy weather – I’ll bring the pancakes!

Ingredients for buttermilk pancakes: (country pancakes, recipe by Phillippa Cheifitz)

Makes about 12 pancakes. Batter will keep in the fridge, covered, for a few days.

  •  6 XL eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30 ml sugar
  • 375 ml (1  1/2 cups) cake flour, sifted
  • 500 ml buttermilk (or use full cream milk mixed with 15 ml lemon juice)
  • 30 ml melted butter (or canola oil)
  • canola oil for frying


  1. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then whisk/beat together until smooth. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Place a medium size pan over medium heat, then use a heat proof basting brush to lightly coat with oil.
  3. When the pan is hot enough, add a ladle full of batter to the pan, swirling it around to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until golden brown, then flip over using a spatula to brown the other side. Note: If your batter looks too thick, add some cold water and mix well before adding another ladle to the pan.
  4. Stack the pancakes on top of each other, then make the topping.

Ingredients for caramelised banana topping: (enough for about 4 people)

  • 60 g (about 1/4 cup) butter
  • 2 x ripe, firm bananas, sliced into chunks diagonally
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 30 ml cream
  • double thick cream for serving (or whipped cream, or clotted cream, or mascarpone)
  • about 50 g salted pistachios, roughly chopped


  1. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a medium sized pan, then add the banana slices. Fry for about 1 minute, turning once.
  2. Remove the bananas from the pan,  then add the brown sugar and cream to the remaining butter in the pan. Stir until the sugar has melted and the sauce is thick (not too dark) – add a touch more cream or butter if necessary. Remove from the heat as soon as it looks ready, and return the bananas to the pan. Swirl gently.

To assemble:

  1. Fold each pancake into quarters and arrange on a plate (about 2 per person).
  2. Top with the caramelized bananas and sauce, then drizzle with thick cream and sprinkle with some chopped pistachios. Serve at once.


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.


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Courgette soup with Boursin cheese

27 Jun

Thick, decadent courgette soup with Boursin cheese, perfect for Winter! (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

My friend Francille told me about this soup recipe a few weeks ago while we were discussing Winter menus – she’s a serious recipe collector and her book collection puts mine to shame. One of her friends heard this recipe on the radio somewhere, and it was passed on via hearsay. So there’s no way to tell where it originally came from!

This is an extremely simple recipe, containing only 5 key ingredients: courgettes, garlic, chicken stock, tomato paste and Boursin cheese – a soft and creamy French cowsmilk cheese similar to cream cheese. Boursin cheese can be found at most supermarkets with a well stocked cheese section, but if you cannot find it you can sibstitute it for plain cream cheese and some freshly chopped parsley & chives. The result with the Boursin cheese is just absolutely delicious, so make the effort to get a hold of it!

The result is a rich, thick and decadent soup with deep flavours – perfect as a starter if served in small portions, otherwise also great as a main course served with fresh artisanal bread like a proper sour dough. If you are counting kilojoules, don’t even bother – this one is only for those who love to throw caution to the wind!

This soup is a great reason to love Winter. Enjoy!


  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • roughly 750 g courgettes, sliced
  • 15 ml tomato paste
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 150 g Boursin Cheese (garlic and fine herbs flavour) – OR 150 g plain cream cheese plus 30 ml chopped parsley & chives
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped parsley and/or chives for serving (optional)


  1. In a medium size stock pot, heat the oil and fry the garlic over low heat for a minute. Add the sliced courgettes and tomato paste, and fry for another minute, stirring.
  2. Now add the chicken stock and bring to the boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until the courgettes are tender.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat, then use a stick blender to carefully blitz the soup to a very smooth consistency.
  4. Add the Boursin cheese, then blend again until smooth and creamy.
  5. Return to the heat and season to taste. Reheat until the soup just reaches boiling point, then remove from the heat and serve hot.
  6. Garnish with extra herbs if necessary.



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: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

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