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.