Rainbow kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy, naturally fermented cabbage dish, similar to sauerkraut but with more of a kick.
There are more than 200 different types of kimchi, but this is a nice simple one.

Half a cabbage (I used red), cut into 2cm pieces (keep a large leaf of cabbage aside). 
You can also use Bok choi instead of cabbage
2 Tbsp rock salt
2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp Gochugaru (Korean chili pepper paste)  I used 1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce.

4 green onions, green parts only, chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced 
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
Fresh chilli, chopped

Sterilize the jars either by steaming, boiling or baking.
Wash all the vegetables.
Place the cabbage in a bowl.
Combine the cabbage and the salt, and then leave for about 2 hours so it starts to wilt and release about 1/4 cup of liquid.
Combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, chilli paste or Sriracha and carrots if you are using, and process in a food blender until it forms a rough paste.
Drain the cabbage and keep the juices.
Mix the cabbage with the chilli and ginger mix.
Pack into the jar making sure there are no air pockets.
Pour the remaining cabbage juices on top, making sure there is an inch of liquid above the kimchi.
Press the reserved large cabbage leaf on top to cover.
Loosely seal the jar, and let them sit for 3 to 5 days.
Keep in the fridge when the kimchi reaches the right flavour for you.

The gammon from hell

My mother, bless her, was not the greatest cook. She hailed from a large family of excellent cook, but  lacked a good eye for recipes. 
My earliest eating experience are known to me as "hit and runs" or potholes - ònce you hit them, you never came out the same way.
Time and again we would endure the weird flavour combinations, turkey neck stew (yes such a thing exists), apricot meatloaf, the latest take on ideal milk, and the ever looming waterblommetjie season with patience and quiet suffering.
Like me, my mother was also a champion burner, many things met their untimely death on an almost daily basis. You have to be truly special to consistantly burn microwave popcorn. Consistently.

Once in a while, however, there would be a real winner.
It was quite by mistake that my mother produced the most spectacular gammon one Christmas. 
Arriving flushed and defiant, she presented us, her most hardened critics, with the crispest, most tender gammon we have ever tasted.
She dubbed it The Gammon From Hell as the story goes it was the result of three recipes, 7 hours of cooking, three different basting sauces and 2 tins of fruit. She had unknowingly bought an uncooked cut of meat, and after boiling, basting and roasting it, realized it was still raw. She had then plonked it (my mother plonked food)  back in the boiling pot, basted it again and then roasted it for a second time. It was then baptised a third time, with two tins of pineapple rings upended over it to create the most tender gammon no-one has been able to recreate since.

My mother never really was one for jotting down a recipe so recreating her dishes is a bit like a scene from George's marvellous medicine ... However, one thing I know is that when I cook I don't need to hold myself back, whatever I end up with my family will endure with smiles and laughter as another food pothole is added to the long road of our lives. 

Here is my version of the gammon that stole Christmas.

Gammon from hell
2 or 3 kg Gammon
1 litre apple juice
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Water to cover

Sauce ingredients:
2 oranges
1 lemon
1 grapefruit
2 tbsp sugar
125ml cranberry sauce

1x 200g pack streaky bacon
5 fresh, tinned or dried pineapple rings
1/4 cup dried cranberries 

Place the gammon in a large pot, and pour over the apple juice.
Add the chopped celery, onion, tomatoes and the bay leaves.
Cover with water so the gammon is just covered.
Boil for 20 minutes for each 500g and an additional 20 minutes.
I like to put it in a slowcooker on low for 8 to 10 hours so it's starting to fall apart. It is advisible to turn the meat at least once to make sure there is even cooking and the top bit doesn't dry out.

Finely grate the zest of one orange, and half the lemon. Juice the oranges, lemon and grapefruit and combine the juices and zests in a pot. Add the sugar and reduce by half.

When your gammon has finished boiling, place it in a casserole or baking dish. Pour over the cranberry sauce. Layer the streaky bacon across it to form a bacon blanket and  pour over the reduced juices.
Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes at 180 °C. To serve layer with the pineapple rings and sprinkle with dried cranberries.

Hello Pumpkin

This is my first attempt at pumpkin pie. I thought it turned out pretty darn well.
I will roast the pumpkin next time, as this is said to give the pie a sweeter, more caramely flavour.

Pumpkin pie with a pecan nut crust
Makes a large 14 slice pie (32cm pie dish)

Pecan crust:
3 1/2 cups pecan powder
1 egg yolk
1/3 C sugar or honey
6 Tbsp melted butter

Pie filling:
1kg peeled pumpkin
250ml cream
3 XL eggs, 1 egg white
2 Tbsp sugar or honey

100ml whipped cream
Spiced pecans (toasted with honey and christmas spices)

Mix the crust ingredients together, line a pie dish, firmly pressing down.
Chill the crust.
Cut the pumpkin into cubes and steam or boil until soft, 20 to 25 mins.
Sieve the soft pumpkin to get a smooth purée.
When the pumpkin purée is cooled add the cream a pinch of cinnamon, the eggs and fructose and beat well.
Pour into the pecan crust and bake at 180 for 45 minutes, or until the pie no longer wobbles.
After 10 minutes of cooking, cover the pie with foil to prevent the crust from burning.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool, decorating with whipped cream and pecans.

Fennel, apple and dried fig salad

Very easy and impressive looking salad, can be made on the spot or left to chill in the fridge until served.

2 medium sized fennel bulbs
2 golden delicious apples, washed and cored
100g dried figs
1/4 cup your choice of chopped fresh salad herbs: coriander, chives, flat leaf parsley, mint or dill

1/2 tsp mustard
2 Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp olive or macadamia oil
2 pinches of sugar or a little honey 
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the fennel bulbs into rings, and wash well.
Slice the apples and figs and combine all the salad ingredients.
Season with salt and pepper.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together until combined and pour over the salad.
Mix well and serve immediately or chill in the fridge for later.

Gingerbread flapjacks

50g pitted dates
1 medium banana
1 egg
1 Tbsp peanut or nut butter
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp raw cacao powder (optional)
60ml (4 Tbsp) Oat&rice flour flapjack mix (flours, bicarb and baking powder)
1/3 cup fresh or frozen berries or chocolate chips (optional)
1 or 2 Tbsp milk or water (if batter is too sticky)

Blend together the dates and peeled banana until smooth, add the egg, peanut/nut butter spices, cacao powder and blend well. Add the flapjack mix Leave for a minute or two to thicken slightly, then add the berries.
Heat a skillet on a medium heat with some coconut or cooking oil and spread a tablespoon of mixture per flapjack in the pan.
Turn when small bubbles form. If they start to burn and are still soft in the middle the batter is too thick. Use a Tbsp or more of milk or water to thin down the batter.
They will take a little longer to cook than wheat flour pancakes, but are well worth the wait! 
Enjoy with honey or toppings of your choice.

Banana blueberry oatie flapjacks

Makes 5 cups or 20 batches of flapjacks
For gluten free flour mix, use a combination of white, brown rice flour, potato starch and chickpea flour. Good combinations found here.)

Oat & rice flour flapjack mix
2 cups oatmeal (fine oat flour)
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup potato starch
2 tsp xantham gum
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp bicarbonate

Combine all the ingredients and store in an air tight container or jar.

Banana blueberry oatie flapjacks
1 medium banana
1 egg (or 2 tbsp peanut or treenut butter)
1 tsp vanilla essence or a pinch of vanilla powder
1 Tbsp peanut or treenut butter (optional)
1 Tbsp raw honey
60ml (4 Tbsp) Oat&rice flour flapjack mix
1/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Mash the banana, and add the egg, vanilla, nut butter and honey. Mix well.
Add the flapjack mix and stir until combined. Leave for a minute or two to thicken slightly, then add the berries.
Heat a skillet on a medium heat with some coconut or cooking oil and spread a tablespoon of mixture per flapjack in the pan.
Turn when small bubbles form.
They will take a little longer to cook than wheat flour pancakes, but are well worth the wait! 
Enjoy with more honey or toppings of your choice.

Quick pickled beetroots

These pickles will not last weeks and weeks like your regular pickles. They aren't too acidic. But they make an excellent salad, or braai accompaniment, and will last about 3 days in the fridge.

Easy pickled beets
6 medium beetroots
50g sugar
125ml water
125ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp coriander seeds
5 black peppercorns
Pinch of fresh thyme
Orange peel (optional)

Wash the beetroots and then boil until tender. This will take 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the beets. 
Drain and leave to cool. 
Peel the beetroots (they will peel very easily) and slice.
Place a pot on the heat and add the sugar. When it starts to melt, stir well until it turns to a medium brown caramel. 
Leave to cool slightly and add the water.
Return to the heat until the caramel melts into the water.
Add the wine vinegar, coriander seeds, peppercorns, fresh thyme, orange peel and the sliced beetroots.
Heat until the beets are warm and then leave to marinade.
Serve warm or cold.

DIY "motherless" white wine vinegar

If you are like me and have half empty bottles of relatively good white or red wine lying around. Don't throw it away, if the bottle is open or closed (white wine doesn't last too long) you can make your own wine vinegar with only these two ingredients, no "mother" needed.
A mother is the dense cloud of cellulose and acetic acid that you normally find lurking on the bottom of old bottles of vinegar. It looks revolting but is very useful in turning wine to vinegar. For this recipe you need just your old wine and some raw unpasteurized vinegar.

Makes just less than a cup of wine vinegar.
Mix together:
1 cup white or red wine 
3 Tbsp raw vinegar (unfiltered)

Pour into a bowl or wide necked bottle and cover with a cloth so the wine vinegar can breathe. Secure the cloth with an elastic band. The vinegar will need to be in contact with air to start to form vinegar.
Leave for at least three weeks.
Shake daily to mix up the film ( this is the mother) that will form on top.
After about a month, taste to see if it is to your liking, and then bottle and use as desired. Once it becomes vinegar, it can spoil if left unsealed.

White wine vinegar is great for cooking and dressings, as it add a lot more flavour and less acidity than your cheaper apple cider or malt vinegars. The better the quality of wine, the more flavour the wine will have.

Spiced pumpkin hot cross buns

Something a little different for the Easter holiday. 

Spiced pumpkin hot cross buns
Makes 8 buns
180ml milk
80g butter
3/4 cup (100g) roasted pumpkin chunks
2 tsp (5g) yeast
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
3 cups Sasko cake flour
1/4 cup raisins or cranberries
1 Tbsp candied mixed peel (optional)
Milk for brushing

1/4 cup Sasko cake flour
40ml water

1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp water

You will lose about half of the fresh weight of pumpkin by roasting, so start with 200g fresh peeled pumpkin to end with 100g roasted pumpkin. You can steam or boil the pumpkin as well to save time, you won't lose as much weight as with roasting, but the roasting will give a more intense flavour.

Heat the milk and butter together until the butter melts.
Add roasted pumpkin and blend with a hand blender until smooth.
Leave to cool.
Add yeast and egg and blend until smooth.
Add sugar, spices, flour, raisins or cranberries and mixed peel if using and mix well.
Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes and set aside to double, about 40 minutes.
(At this stage you can leave the dough in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning).
Divide dough into 8 balls and leave to double on a greased tray, about 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C.
Mix the flour and water for the cross, and roll out the dough. Glaze the buns with milk. 
Cut out 1cm strips and place on top of the buns to make crosses.
Place the tray into the oven and reduce temperature to 180 and bake for 25 minutes until golden, and buns bounce back once pressed.
Mix the honey with the water and glaze.


Hail Caeser (Cardini) !

Caeser salad with a bit of a twist.
I'm not partial to anchovies, so I rarely keep the tinned varieties in the cupboard, probably because I've never had a decent one. I'm sure they are much more delicious than I imagine, but when I came home from the Tokai market with a pack of farm reared bacon from Cure, I had to see how it would go on top of a Caeser salad.
I had some half stale rye bread, a head of cos lettuce and some organic eggs lying around, so I wasn't going to hold back because I had no anchovies.

Caesar salad with crispy bacon, chunks of toasted rye and pea shoots.
Serves 2
For the salad
Head of cos, washed well
Handful of Pea shoots
4 or 6 rashers bacon
2 slices stale bread, torn
1 tsp Olive oil
Clove of garlic, crushed
Parmesan shavings

For the dressing:
2 fresh eggs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp mustard
Juice of half a lemon
 2 Tbsp Olive oil
Black pepper

Wash the salad leaves and arrange in bowls.
Heat a pan and fry the bacon until crisp.
Cut into peices and set aside.
In the same pan, add the bread chunks, add the oil and fry until crispy, season and add the garlic.
Put aside with the bacon.
Fill the frying pan with water, and add the two eggs, still in their shell.
Bring to the boil, remove and cool slightly.
Crack the eggs, separating the egg yolks into a bowl.
Whisk the egg yolks with the crushed garlic, mustard and lemon juice.
Season and add the olive oil drop by drop.
Top the salad leaves with the bacon, croutons and pea shoots, Parmensan shavings spoon over the dressing and enjoy immediately.

How to get your husband to cook.

Someone seems to like me, way over at Sasko.
Last time I received a beautiful picnic hamper of their newest bread loaves to play around with, and this time before Vday, a beautiful box arrived on my doorstep. A quick peek inside revealed it to be chockablock with saskos new Quick Treat range:

Chocolate muffin mix
Cheese and chive flavoured muffins
Vanilla flavoured muffin mix
Bran muffin mix
Scone mix
Cookie mix
Flapjack mix
Pancake mix

Since it's the beginning of the year, I'm attending many soirées and parties, and us South Africans being so fond of our bring and shares these were ideal for something quick to rustle up and bring along. It's also a very ideal way to get your hubby to start cooking. Hand him the packet, lay out the ingredients, and in no time you will have flop proof goodies while you put your feet up and read on the couch.
Since I can't process wheat flour as well as I used to I like to add things to the mixes to bulk them out and add more fibre so I can enjoy them too!
It also makes them a little more different.
Each pack will need the addition of oil or butter, eggs milk etc. the ingredients I've listed are additional ingredients to make the recipes a little more exciting. These little beauties are available at most stores for only R12.99 each. Well worth stocking up on a few of these for the cupboard.

Apple and Cinnamin muffins 
(makes 12 muffins)
1 pkt Sasko Vanilla muffin mix
2 golden delicious apples, chopped
1 tsp Cinnamin
50ml milk
Sugar and Cinnamin to top

Follow packet instructions adding the chopped apples and Cinnamin. Add an additional 50ml milk to the mix. Spoon into a muffin tray and sprinkle the muffins with sugar and Cinnamin.

Blueberry flapjacks 
(makes about 15 flapjacks)
1 pkt Sasko flapjack mix
50g blueberries
50ml milk

Follow packet instructions adding the blueberries and an additional 50ml milk to the mix. Spoon into a hot pan. Cook at a medium heat in batches of three and serve hot with maple syrup or berry sauce.

Carrot, beetroot and bran muffins
(makes 12 muffins)
1 pkt Sasko bran muffin mix
2 carrots, grated and peeled
1 large beetroot, peeled and grated
50ml milk

Follow packet instructions adding the grated carrot and beetroot. Add an additional 50ml milk to the mix. Spoon into a muffin tray and sprinkle the muffins with sugar and Cinnamin

Chilli chocolate muffins with salted caramel centers
(makes 12 muffins)
1 pkt Sasko chocolate muffin mix
50g Lindt Chilli chocolate
60ml caramel sauce with a good pinch of salt

Follow packet instructions adding the grated chili chocolate. Add an additional 60ml milk to the mix. Half full the muffin trays. Spoon one teaspoon of salted caramel in each centre, cover with the remaining muffin mix.

Courgette and cheese muffins
(makes 12 muffins)
1 pkt Sasko cheese and chives muffin mix
4 small courgettes, grated
1/2 cup grated cheddar
Small bunch of chives, chopped
60ml milk

Follow packet instructions adding the grated courgettes, grated cheddar and chopped chives. Add an additional 60ml milk to the mix. Spoon into a muffin tray and bake until golden brown.

Cranberry and walnut cookies
(makes 24 cookies)
1 pkt Sasko biscuit mix
100g walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Follow packet instructions adding the chopped walnuts and cranberries. Bake until golden brown.

Pecan and pumpkin scones
(makes 12 scones)
1 pkt Sasko scone mix
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
30g chopped pecans
Follow packet instructions, reducing the milk from 140ml to 100ml. Add the puréed pumpkin into the egg and milk mix and follow the remaining steps. Brush the shaped scones with milk and top with the chopped pecans. Bake until risen and cooked through.

Stuffed savory pancakes
(Serves 4)
1 pkt Sasko pancake mix
2 cups savory mince
1 1/2 cups bechamel sauce (white sauce)
1/4 cup grated cheese

Follow packet for the pancakes.
Keep 8 pancakes aside, and freeze the rest for another day.
Fill the pancakes with the savory mince filling and roll up to form cigars.
Place the filled pancakes into a baking dish.
Cover with the bechamel and grated cheese. Bake at 180 until the cheese is melted and the filling is hot.
Serve with a crisp green salad.

Oh fi'g 'oodness sake!

This recipe took me 2 days to make. I'm still deciding as to whether that was pure and utter madness or not, as it was a rather grueling 2 days, but then again I did decide to make 2 kgs of the little buggers.
My husband is over the moon, so it looks like preserved figs with everything for the next long while (we have drastically cut down on our sugar intake since June, so anything sugar infused is met with much excitement).

It all started as a rescue operation really.
Last year was our first fig season for our little tree, so they did not ripen. We picked them and donated them on to a granny so she could make fig preserve.
We were rewarded with 2 jars, one of which I dropped on the floor. So 1 jar.
This year we were a bit greedy. So when our little fig tree exploded with about 2 hundred figs we rubbed our hands with glee at the jars and jars of ripe fig jam we could foresee lining the kitchen cupboard (sugar addiction rearing it's ugly head again).

You can imagine our horror, when we noticed that the figlets were starting to droop and turn yellow as the days progressed.
Apparently figs have 2 seasons so the first crop in Oct is perfect for preserves as they don't ripen, and the second in Jan is when they will.
After several google searches, water, compost etc dumped on the tree, with no changes, I decided it was time to attempt my own preserving..

After following this recipe,
And then this one as the boiling instructions were a little unclear.
And then this one as boiling instructions were still unclear

I realized at the third recipe, that I had forgotten to soak the figs in a lime or bicarbonate solution.
The first few recipes were for Sikalai gliko, spoon sweet figs and the third for preserved figs, but the methods were still similar so I plowed on, even though I could end up with mounds of sticky, deflated figs instead of firm tear-shaped Bon bons.

In the end they were perfect.
So here is my step by step recipe for fool proof preserved figs. I halved the recipe, as I made 2 kgs.

Figs on left. Perfectly translucent.
Figs on right, not boiled in water long enough, started to droop, therefore did not soak in enough sugar syrup and did not become completely translucent. 

Preserved green figs.
Disproved fig preserving theories:
I did not soak the figs in lime or a bicarbonate solution, so I'm not sure if this step is really necessary.
If it looks like you have enough sugar syrup. You really don't.
You don't have to use rock hard figs, they definitely look nicer, but I used slightly droopy softer ones.

1 kg green figs, poked and soaked
1.5 kg water
1.5 kg sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Addition 1kg sugar and 1kg water for more syrup for bottling.

1. Trim the green figs at the top, so they start to ooze white latex.
2. Use a chopstick or thick needle to make a hole in the base to release more latex (I poked a hole through the bottom right by the end point of the fig, where it starts to go red).
3. Rinse the figs twice to remove latex, then soak in a bucket of fresh water. Use a plate or a weight to keep the figs fully submerged. Soak overnight.
4. Place the soaked figs in a pot of clean water and bring to the boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Strain the figs and place them in cold water to cool down. 
5. In a new pot of water repeat step 4. Boiling the figs 15 mins, straining, and cooling in fresh cold water.
6. Heat the 1.5kg sugar and 1.5kg water in a large pot. Stir until sugar has dissolved and then boil for 5 minutes.
7. Add the cooled figs and boil for 15 minutes, using a large spoon to turn the figs and make them submerge evenly.
8. Soak the figs in this sugar syrup overnight, weighing them down so they are fully submerged.
9. Bring the syrup and figs to the boil.  Add the juice of 1 lemon.
Boil until the figs are completely clear and translucent (not read- a-newspaper translucent, but you will see the difference, as the fig is a uniform dark grey green all around and firm). This step will take up to 2 hours.The sugar syrup will be thick, and reduced to just over a third of the level you started with. 
10. Boil the remaining 1kg sugar and 1kg water and lemon juice while the figs are cooking. You can add this to the figs, after the first hour of cooking, if your pot is large enough, or boil separately to the same consistency as the fig syrup.
11. Tightly pack the figs into sterilized jars (boil the jars in water, or bake with hot water in the oven until hot). Pour in the syrup, giving an extra 3cm above the figs, as they will absorb syrup overnight. Seal with sterilized lids.
12. Eat! Or store for later.

Thirty, Flirty and Thriving.

Roast chicken on Rye with Fennel Coleslaw

A funny thing happened.
Well, I turned thirty (no that's not the funny thing), but a few months into being thirty my body just decided to change.
My metabolism shifted, foods that I ate with glee no longer agreed with me, they started to make me feel bloated and my stomach was not happy.
The funny thing is my dad told me when I was a kid how he loved rye bread, how it just agrees with him, and how he really can't "process" white bread and flours.
I used to laugh and go, "Yuck, rye bread!"
Now my stomach absolutely adores rye bread, it practically purrs with happiness when I tuck into a few toasted rye slices, and so I made a compromise, 70 and 80% rye seem to be the least brick-like varieties, and they seem to go down rather well.
So for now, all my recipes will be easier on the digestion, and without the use of white flours, so no sticky little cakes and doughnuts (sigh) the stomach has spoken.
Yet true to form, they will still be delicious to eat.

Roast chicken on rye with Fennel coleslaw
Serves 2

Fennel coleslaw:
2 small salad spring onions
2 baby fennel bulbs
1 small carrot, peeled and grated

Good slaw dressing: 
Juice of half a lemon, 
1 tsp olive or macadamia oil
Bad slaw dressing: 
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise

4 slices rye bread
4 slices roast chicken

Slice the spring onions and fennel bulbs.
Mix with the grated carrot and add your choice of dressing.
Layer two slices of bread with the chicken slices, and top with the coleslaw, finish with the top slice of bread and serve immediately.
You can butter and toast the rye, its totally up to you :)

These are a few of my favorite things

If you are going out and about and your sharpest sneakers just quite don't cut it at the Biscuit Mill, then head off to the market in Stellenbosch at the Oude Libertas. The waffles are deliciously naughty, handmade, hot and syrupy with either cream or ice cream. And you can buy anything from cheeses to  falafels, homemade eats to lunch, there really is something for everyone there.

I recently bought a bottle of Carrol Boyes wine for my sister-in-laws birthday from this market. (I later received a bottle from Pick 'n Pay together with a deliciously large hamper of Lindt chocolates all ready for Easter!) My favorite lunch is an oozy wedge of ripe Camembert, crusty bread, and a couple of Portion 36 Kalamata olives. Simple pleasures!

Onto my next favorite subject: chocolate!

Lindt have created a new hazelnut Lindt bunny, which my husband and I voraciously ate tested out one night last week. It had little nuggets of crunchy hazelnuts in the chocolate, we flattened it rather quickly. Deee-licious, just in time for Easter! Enter the code found on any of the 100g bunnies before 20th April to win a family cruise!

Lindt is holding a bunny race at the V&A, definitely worth diarising, even if it's only your kids that are allowed to ride the giant fluffy Lindt bunnies.
From Thursday 17th to 21st April, at Barrow Court, 11 to 2pm, and 3-6pm, sounds like fun!

Lekker by die see

Lunch at die Strandloper in Langebaan, is more than just lunch. It's 10 courses of freshly cooked seafood. Mussels, Angelfish, Hottentot,  Kreef (crayfish) farm style bread and homemade preserves are just some of the delicious things that I will be tucking in to today. It's just plain paradise. So as I sit here, with my toes in the sand,  the smell of garlic butter and mussels wafting in the air, and the dulcet sounds of the resident crooner and his interpretations of classics like, "no woman no Braai ", all I can think is why don't we do this everyday?

Three hours later, I'm quite relieved we don't eat a 10 course meal every day, because we practically rolled out there.
But do yourself a favour, it is worth it to trek out there.. Every course was delicious, homemade and authentically South Africa, from the braaied Snoek and "asbrood" ("ash bread" - bread cooked on the fire) to the lamb waterblommetjie Bredie (traditional pond flower stew) finished off with "vetkoek" (twisted donuts soaked in syrup) and rooibos tea.


Freshly Blogged Challenge. Week 12 - cooking with the big guys.

Please note that all of these photos were taken by the highly talented Werner Prinsloo from nineteen86 photography, and cannot UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES be copied, borrowed, hi-jacked or the like for your own purposes. Don't steal people's work y'all.
Freshly Blogged sadly has come to an end.
After 11 weeks of cooking and writing challenges, I was chosen as one of the Top 3 (what an honour) and flown to Joburg on Thursday 26th September for a finale cook off with two others, Anel Potgieter and Sam Taylor.
Having never been to Johannesburg before, so I was highly excited and very nervous; quite a toxic combination for a turbulent plane trip I found out. I landed feeling a little bit green, but happy.
We were whisked away by a taxi to our rooms for the night, Sun Square opposite the Monte Casino.
Met with Dom, our PR lady and Lisa Visser from Pick 'n Pay who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes of the Freshly Blogged campaign to make sure everything works together.
Some sun, salad and 2 glasses of white wine later...
It was time for our "press conference" - some TV interviews with Expresso and Good morning Africa.
Time ticked by quickly and very soon it was time to cook at 8pm, live at the Chef's Theatre at the Taste of Jo burg.

We had 30 minutes to whip up as many dishes as we could with some amazing ingredients -
Well aged steak, fresh beetroot, baby fennel, onions, a lemon, sundried tomatoes,dark Lindt chocolate, spring roll wrappers, 2 pears, ciabatta bread, fresh Tarragon and a whole salmon trout.
We also had a pantry of ingredients at our disposal: milk, cream, flours, salad ingredients, fresh herbs and a few other lovely things like blueberries and micro herbs.
Thinking back now I would have done some things differently!
But during the craziness of cooking in front of an audience and camera crew with only 30 minutes, it was difficult to settle on just a few dishes, and which ones exactly. I started randomly chopping veggies, and waiting for inspiration to hit, while Justine Drake walked around asking us questions while we cooked. On one occasion she actually saved me from burning my onions, thanks Justine!
In the end I made:
Salmon trout and creamy Tarragon sauce and Steak on Ciabatta with baby fennel.
I tried valiantly to make a third dish of pear spring rolls with chocolate sauce, but did not have enough time to do so. 

And the winner was...
The lovely Sam walked away the winner with a roundtrip for two to Germany, a day trip to Mangwanani spa and an Ipad. Anel and I got Ipads and a voucher to Pick 'n Pay.

All in all it was a wonderful learning experience, and I most definitely would do it again. It was so great to be able to meet everyone face to face and to have had such lovely ingredients to work with, as well as a minion (thank you minion, I'm sorry I forgot your name :/ but you were fab!) and of course getting to meet the foodie greats, Justine Drake, Anke Roux and Yvonne Short was just the cherry on the whole Freshly Blogged cake. Definitely something to brag about to the grandchildren one day...

Salmon trout and creamy Tarragon sauce
serves 2

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 Tbsp french tarragon leaves, chopped
2 x 400g Salmon trout fillets, deboned
200ml cream
Black pepper
Lemon slices to serve

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Heat the oil in a pan.
Add the sliced onion and 1 Tbsp of tarragon leaves.
Cook on a medium heat until the onion is cooked through, about 5 minutes. remove from the pan.
Add the fish, skin side down to the hot pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the fish in the oven for a further 2 minutes to cook.
In a pot boil together the cream with the cooked onion and tarragon. Season well and reduce until half.
Plate the fillets with the tarragon sauce, the remaining chopped tarragon and lemon slices.

Steak on Ciabatta with baby fennel
serves 2

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 slices ciabatta
2 Tbsp sugar
40ml water
60ml white wine vinegar
2 baby fennel bulbs, sliced
400g Rump steak
1 lemon, juiced

Heat the oil in a pan.
Add the slices of ciabatta bread and toast on both sides.
Mix the sugar, water and vinegar together. Add the sliced fennel and leave to marinade.
Heat a griddle pan on the stove. Add your steak when very hot, pour over lemon juice and season with salt an pepper.
Cooking time depends on the thickness of the steak, your best judgement is by how soft the middle of the steak is to your touch, the firmer the meat becomes, the more well done it will be cooked.
Slice the steak and place on top of the toasted ciabatta and top with the fennel.

Freshly Blogged Challenge. Week 11

Pulled pork, tortilla baskets and mexican toppings.
Vote here.
Week 11 was incredibly tricky, our list was: 2 avocadoes, 1 punnet tomatoes, Werda spicy mexican bean salad, sour cream, coriander and spring onion. We could add our choice of meat, and in order to do something extraordinary for the semi final round I knew that I had to do something utterly crazy and out there. Either the judges would think it was nutty or ingenious. I was hoping for the latter.

I have always wanted to try my hand at making a luau. Its a very authentic and rather ethnic way of cooking meat, using heated stones to slow cook pork, chicken and veggies to perfection. Its quite strange as basically you dig a hole and make your own type of "earth oven", wrap your food up and then bury it to cook for a few hours.
It does seem like quite a bit of preparation, but the hardest part really is digging the hole, the other items needed are pretty much what you have in the garage.

I do need to say that our first try at this flopped, because we didn't use enough stones. Second time round we used bricks, They worked brilliantly well, and our oven was still hot even when we dug it up 4 hours later. The next time we make this I am definitely going to try cooking a chicken and veggies too.

The beauty of this type of cooking method is that your food can never burn. The meat cooks indirectly from the stones, so it wont scorch or dry out.

My recipe is based on "cochinita pibil" - the Mexican pulled pork dish eaten throughout Mexico at celebrations and festivals, like the dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).
For traditional spices, marinate your pork in a mixture of lime juice, annatto, oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamin, black pepper, allspice and garlic. Then cook in banana leave. For safety's sake, I wrapped the pork leg profusely in many layers of foil, shiny-side in, to keep all the lovely juices in - and anything else out!

In the end we had succulent fall-off-the-bone pulled pork with coriander and bean sauce. Serve with tortilla bowls and all the best Mexican toppings: guacamole, tomato salsa, sour cream and refried beans for an authentic Mexican meal.

Week 11
Mexican pulled pork
2kg pork leg
2 boxes Werda spicy mexican bean salad
1 cup water
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 cup fresh coriander
2 spring onions, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple or wine vinegar
2 Banana leaves

Flour tortillas
Makes 12
3 cups cake flour
1 cup cornflour
1/2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
flour for rolling.

Refried beans:
2 Tbsp Peanut or sunflower oil
Drained beans(from above recipe)
Cherry tomato salsa:
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tsp apple or wine vinegar
1 tsp Peanut or sunflower oil
2 avos, peeled
1 tsp apple or wine vinegar
Sour cream:
250ml Sour cream
Spring onion and coriander

Mix the bean salad with water and strain.
Blend this sauce with 4 Tbsp of beans, tomatoes, coriander, spring onion, salt and vinegar.
Pour half of this over the pork and leave to marinade while you build your fire pit.

Line the inside of a pot with 2 layers of foil. 
If using banana leaves line the foil with leaves and then place meat in,.
Pour in marinade. Cover again with leaves and a top layer of foil. 

Place on top of more foil, and wrap tightly in eight layers.
Set aside for when your coals are ready.

To make a pit oven:
You will need:
A flat cement slab or igneous rock, 11 bricks, 2kg charcoal, 1 bag wood, edible leaves (banana, rosemary, bay, lemon/lime, fennel). a braai grid, cardboard/or an old towel, sand (to cover).

Dig a hole that is 2 times deeper and 2 times wider than your wrapped meat. On the bottom, lay down the cement slab or flat rock. To build the sides, make a circle using 9 bricks placed upright (see picture). Place last 2 bricks on top.
Make a fire inside and around the bricks, using charcoal and wood. Burn for at least 3 hours. (Oven is ready when drizzled water evaporates immediately of of bricks). Move most of coals to the outside of the circle.

Cover coals with leaves. Place leaves in the centre of the bricks and place pork on top. Top with 2 hot bricks. Place braai grid on top and cover with cardboard or an old towel. Cover with an inch of sand. Cook pork for 4 hours.

To make tortillas:
Sift flour, cornflour and salt. Add water and oil to form a dough. Mix until smooth.
Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide into 12 balls. Roll each ball out to 2mm thick on a floured surface.
Heat a large pan and dry fry the tortillas for a few seconds on both sides until they bubble.
Keep warm for serving.

Refried beans:
Heat oil and fry beans for 2 minutes until browned.

Chop tomatoes and spring onions, toss with vinegar and oil

Mash 1 and  a half avos with the vinegar and salt.
Fan the half avo on top by making small slits in the bottom and pressing down gently.

To serve:
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Make tortilla bowls by pressing tortillas into fluted bowls. Bake for 10 minutes.
Make 5 baskets to serve.

Shred the pulled pork. Boil the juices for 5 minutes until reduced.
Add the remaining sauce from the bean salad and add the shredded pork.
Mix well and place in one basket.
Fill other baskets with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and refried beans.
Serve hot with sliced spring onion and fresh coriander to garnish.