Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Couscous a la me!

So, I've been meaning to share this one with you, since I rediscovered couscous a few weeks ago. This is very much like the Healthy Pasta I shared with you last week, it uses many of the same ingredients, but it tastes quite different. Now, I mentioned my eating plan before, and you may have noticed that I don't stick to it religiously (that would bore me, and you, to death), but I like to use the recommended items where possible. So here's what I had for dinner last night! Oh, and I'll be adding pictures to my posts, as soon as I can beg, buy, borrow or steal a decentish camera from someone!! (Any offers?!)

Couscous with veggies galore! Serves 4
Prep time: 20-25 minutes  
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 onion
4 yellow patty pans
1-3 baby marrows
20 cherry tomatoes
20cm of cucumber handful of frozen peas
half a can of whole kernel corn (or one fresh corn cob, boiled, with all the kernels scraped off) half a can of chopped tomatoes OR some Ina Paarman's tomato pasta sauce OR some tomato pesto 250g couscous, prepared to packet instructions (serves 3-4.

You can really use anything in this dish, but everything should be cut up quite small, I try to make everything pea sized, since I'm not keen on dicing peas, and I think everything should be more or less uniform. But the size is up to you.


  1. Dice all the veggies, after washing and top and tailing where necessary. Like I said, size is up to you, but I try make them all about pea sized for uniformity. 
  2. I do the onions first, because they take the longest to soften, then the marrows, patty pans, peppers and everything else, except the corn, cucumber and peas. 
  3. Fry it all up, in a little oil, on a medium heat, enough that it sizzles, but not high enough to burn, and keep it moving. If it starts to look a little dry, drop in some water, but not a lot, just enough to prevent it sticking to the bottom, and to help soften the marrows. 
  4. Throw in some herbs, or some curry powder, for extra flavour. I have some Zanzibar curry powder left from my holiday last year, which I threw in. Its not insanely hot, it just gives the food a good flavour.  
  5. Now, this works well as a dish on its own, but I made it with pork sausages, you can grill some chicken, make frikkadels (my recipe for which I will soon share), or anything you like really. Even steak! 
  6. Since it contains so many veggies, it fulfills nearly, if not all, of your 5-a-day quota, and the couscous is the starch, so you're pretty much good to go.  
  7. Now, while the veggies cook, make the couscous according to packet instructions. If it looks a little dry when the water has all soaked in, I add some more, and it's great, so feel free to be a little creative with the instructions. Or if, like my sister, you can't make anything without instructions, follow them to the letter!!  
  8. When the veggies are soft, season to taste and add in the chopped tomato or tomato pasta sauce, or whatever. Don't use tons, just enough to lubricate. I used a tiny bit of leftover pasta sauce, and half a can of chopped tomatoes. 
  9. Add in the frozen peas (either parboiled, or frozen, they melt really quickly) and the corn, which should already be cooked. 
  10. Once the peas are melted and warm, and the corn is warm, you can mix the prepared couscous and the veggie mix together.  
  11. Once it's all mixed, if its a bit dry throw in some more chopped tomato, but you should be good to go! Lastly, throw in the cucumber, so it provides a nice, crisp contrast to the warm couscous.
Even with all the chopping, this only took 25 minutes, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a dinner worth making! It got the thumbs up from my sister, and makes a fantastic standalone dish, or as an accompaniment to sausages, steak, chicken, whatever! My next goal is to learn to make tagine, so I can make this with it, how nice does that sound!? We all have to have goals! Enjoy!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

I Heart Steak Sandwiches!


I know I've been terribly lax lately, but I'm not good on Fridays. Or weekends. Or a lot of the days in between.
{Image source: FotoosVanRobin, flickr}

So, here's a little update from last week. Thursday night I cam home from work, tired. And I was going to be all alone, since my sister was working and the bf was studying. And what do I look like, a socialising machine? I was staying home with my book! And I wanted something that would be warm, would cook quickly and was satisfying. So, wandering around the shop, I decided on steak sandwiches. I like my steak quite rare, I only cook it for a few minutes a side, so what could be quicker? I had most of the other ingredients, salad and so on, at home, so I got a couple of small, floury Portuguese rolls, and I was away.

I cannot explain how incredibly delightful these were, and I don't think it would been expensive, especially if spread over more people. I'm a bit of a meat piggy, so I shared one steak between two small rolls, and took the other to work for lunch the following day, which was delicious. So here it is, my recipe for delightful steak sandwiches!

Steak Sandwiches
Serves as many as you cook steak for. This feeds 1 greedy, and 2 normal people.

2 Rump/rib eye/porterhouse/sirloin steaks (amount varies depending on how many people you're feeding, but average one steak person, with a little leftover for second helpings if they're a hungry bunch, and choose whichever cut makes you happiest!)
Tomato sauce - I had some Ina Paarman's tomato and basil pasta sauce left on the fridge, which worked wonders on these rolls, but ordinary ketchup would be fine too
Tomato, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Lettuce broken into managably small pieces for the rolls
Red and/or yellow pepper, sliced thinly (optional, I had some in the fridge that needed finishing, and it was delicious)
Couple slices cheese (any kind really, I usually have gouda or cheddar in the house, so I used that)
Salt and pepper to taste
Any other veggie you think would work well, I think fried onions would've been lovely, but I didn't have the energy to fry them!  

  1. Chop veggies thinly, so they're easy to lay on a sandwich or roll. 
  2. Cut off excess fat from the steaks, and season with a bit of salt, white pepper and some braai seasoning, if thats what you like.  
  3. Heat a cast iron, or heavy based frying pan with a little oil sprayed on the bottom. You want it quite hot, since you want to seal the outside of the steak quickly, to prevent all the juices leaking out during cooking. When the pan is hot, place the steaks in the pan, for a few seconds on one side, then flip to the other, to seal both sides. 
  4. When both sides are brown, turn the heat down a little, to prevent burning the steak. 
  5. Cook for a few minutes each side, turning often. Don't allow it to burn, and don't cook too long! 
  6. I know I fly in the face of some when I say this, but a decent steak is at its best when its still pink in the middle! 
  7. Good quality steak can be eaten nearly raw, so don't be frightened of it!! I, personally, like mine to be more than pink, I prefer my steak still mooing slightly, and cook it less than I've advised here. 
  8. When the steak is cooked to your satisfaction, remove it from the pan, and let it cool, while you spread the salad ingredients, cheese, sauce and so on onto the rolls. 
  9. When that's done to your satisfaction, the steaks will have cooled enough to handle, so slice the steak, into slice into 1cm thick strips and lay on top one side of the roll. 
  10. I like to put the cheese next to the warm steak, and let it melt slightly, but it really doesn't matter which way you do it! The whole thing took less than 20 minutes, and I was eating and reading happily! 
Make these when you're tired, and you won't be sorry! You can serve if with chips, if you like, or to make it stretch further, but it's great just as a standalone meal! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Foolproof Potato and Leek Soup - perfect for winter!

OK, so to be honest, and I always try to be, this isn't my recipe, but I did make it, and it was amazing. So I'm going to share it with you. The original recipe came from What Do I Want To Cook Today (that link goes straight to the recipe on her blog, in case you'd like it from the horses mouth, so to speak).

{Image source: Kara Reuter, flickr}

So, moving on. I did it slightly differently to the original last night, and ended up with a green, but no less delicious soup. I like the oniony ends of the leek, the green parts, so I remove all the icky bits and chuck them, retaining and using as much of the leek as possible. I also wanted leftovers for work, so I expanded on the recipe slightly.

Here's my version of this amazing soup:

Foolproof Potato and Leek Soup
Serves 4, with leftovers

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

4-5 medium to large potatoes, peeled, washed and diced
4 leeks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1-2 tsp cooking oil or butter (whichever you prefer to fry with)
750ml chicken stock
250-300ml full fat milk (depending how creamy you like it)
salt and pepper to season  

  1. Chop and wash the leek, until all sand is washed off. There will be a lot, leeks are sandy creatures. 
  2. Melt the butter, or heat the oil in a large saucepan. When hot, throw in the onions, leeks and potatoes. 
  3. Saute lightly on a medium to high heat, for a few minutes, until all veggies have been added.
  4. Turn down to a medium to low heat, and fry until almost soft, but not coloured, stirring regularly, for 10-15 minutes. (Note, I used the green parts of the leek, but if you want a pure white soup, only use the white parts of the leek, obviously. I didn't mind the green tinge, I thought it made it more interesting, and made it more healthy (we all know green is good for you!)
  5. Having made the stock, add it and the milk (just 250ml for now). 
  6. Simmer on a medium heat, and try not to let it boil, as it changes the milk. 
  7. When the potatoes are cooked through, (the smaller you chop 'em, the quicker this will be!), which shoul take about 10-15 minutes, take it off the heat, and let it cool for a bit. 
  8. Using a stick blender, blend it to the desired consistency. I like my soups quite thick and tasty, but if it's too thick (potato is a natural thickener), just add come more milk, stock or just water to loosen it up a bit. 
  9. If it's gotten really cold by now, heat through again, being careful not to boil. 
  10. Serve with crusty buttered bread or toast, with chopped chives on top. 
* Note from future self: I'm just going through my old posts, and came across this one! It's winter again in Cape Town, and I was wondering which soup to make next - this looks like a winner to me! Make this, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baby pasta shells with peppers and chorizo


I'm on an eating plan at the moment, and all sorts of things have been denied me, foremost among them pizza and pasta, and all things comforting. In Cape Town's recent spate of unseasonably freezing weather, I decided to tweak my plan. I figured as long as I was eating a whole host of encouraged, recommended things, I could have it with pasta, and here's what I came up with, from what was in my fridge. I'm a fan of using what I've got, I don't like to have to buy a whole lot of new ingredients for every meal. So use what you've got, and see how it comes out. This is what I did a few nights ago.

{Image source: steeljam, flickr}

Baby pasta shells with peppers and chorizo
Serves 2 (with leftovers for work the next day, score!)

1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 yellow pepper
diced 4-5 yellow patty pans (or any other kind of soft marrow, baby marrow, baby squash, etc.)
1/2 a punnet, or about 10 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
1 onion
1 tsp garlic
150g frozen peas
1 or 2 chorizo sausages, diced
1/2 packet sundried tomato pesto
1-3 cups baby pasta shells
half a bunch (or 10-15 leaves) fresh basil
  1. After chopping, dicing and otherwise preparing the veggies and chorizo, start throwing them into a non-stick pan. I always start with the onion, as it takes the longest to cook down, and unless it's a salad I don't like raw onion. So start with the onions, then the chorizo, since its quite fatty, I like to fry it on quite a high heat at first, to fry out some of the fat. I used chorizo for the spiciness of the sausage, but actually, any meat can be used, or none. Bacon, ham, chopped chicken breast, etc. would all work well here. 
  2. At this point you should start the pasta. By the time it's done to packet instructions, your veggies and stuff should be more or less ready.
  3. Then throw in the peppers. These are really good for you, and increase your 5 a day intake, which is great. Apparently these beasties, and their spicier cousins, the jalapeno, have all sorts of goodies in them that speed up your metabolism, and generally keep you healthy, AND, they taste good too! 
  4. Toss in some garlic at this point, to allow it to fry down, then the tomatoes and anything else still left. 
  5. The peas can go in a bit later, and its probably good to throw them in the microwave with some water for a short time, (3-5 mins, depending on your machine) before you throw them in. 
  6. When the pasta's nearly cooked, this sauce should be a colourful, well, saucy looking thing in the frying pan. 
  7. Drain off any excess oil, and tear the fresh basil into smallish pieces. Mix together the tomato pesto and the pasta, then the sauce, and stir in the fresh basil right at the end. 
  8. Add sea salt and ground pepper to taste, but I found it didn't need much. Oh, and I threw some grated mozzarella on after, just to be naughty! 
This is a fantastic thing to whip up on a week night, and despite all my ramblings here, doesn't take long. Mostly only as long as it takes for pasta to cook. And if you can enrol someone else to chop the veggies? It's a breeze!! Happy dinner, people!!

What on earth's for dinner?

You may very well ask.

You come home from work, starving, and discover there's nothing in the fridge.
Now what? In this day and age, I suppose you could go out to eat, and I will be recommending that at times. But for the most part, especially when it's nasty out, you just want to stay home, and eat something comforting.

So here, I'll tell you about my responses to the eternal and inevitable conundrum,
What on earth's for dinner?
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