Monday, September 5, 2011

Angelfish Fishcakes

flickr cc {chooyutshing}
You know how life goes, one minute you're up, employed and struggling along from day to day, and the next, you're tossing around in the sea of unemployment, trying desperately to hold onto something familiar. Such has been my life for the past month, as I try to navigate the steps into the next stage of my life.

Sometimes I want to buck the shackles of full time employment, strike out on my own, and try to make a living off my wits and skills. Then my doubts crawl back into bed with me, and I'm convinced I'll never be able to make it work, I'll just live like a leech off my poor, long-suffering husband forever. So at the moment, I'm trying hard to come up with ways to make some bucks on the side, in my semi-employed state, and try to toss around ideas for what will come next. To that end, I've been applying to countless jobs - full time, part-time, freelance, and everything in between. I've been for a couple of interviews, but only one I really want. So while I wait to hear how that turns out, my thoughts turned to comfort, and for me, you may have realised, comfort equals food.

This is the second half of a batch of angelfish I got from Ocean Jewels Fish. I pan-fried these in seasoned cornflour at the suggestion of Jenny Morris, and while that was delicious, my sister was coming over for dinner, and we all know how she feels about fish.. So I took some of the fillets, and flaked them to create some absolutely divine fishcakes. These fishcakes were all about softness and subtlety, allowing the flavours of the angelifish to shine, while not being 'too fishy' for my fussy sister to deal with. This was an all round favourite, and one I can heartily recommend.

Angelfish Fishcakes (or Angelfishcakes, but that's a bit awkward)

1 fillet angelfish
± 2 tbsp cornflour
1 egg, lightly beaten
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper to season
2 large potatoes, washed
3-5 spring onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp chilli jam (or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tbsp apricot jam)
± 2 tbsp flour

  1. Spread the cornflour on a plate and mix with some salt and pepper to season.
  2. Dip the fish fillets in the flour to season, then dip in the egg, and back in the flour.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a pan, and pan fry the fillets in the olive oil until lightly golden, and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets.
  4. Remove to a plate, and allow to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, prick 2 potatoes all over with a fork, and bake in the microwave for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool, slice in half, and scoop out the baked flesh into a bowl.
  7. Flake the cooled fish into the same bowl, and mix them together.
  8. Add the spring onion, and stir. If necessary to bind, add some of the egg from your egg wash, but the fish is quite moist, and I didn't find I needed the egg.
  9. Stir through the chilli jam, and taste for seasoning (if you haven't added the raw egg, there's nothing raw, so the mixture is perfectly safe to eat). Add more seasoning, or more jam if necessary, to taste.
  10. Add a little flour, and mix, and flour your hands. Scoop tablespoonfuls out, and form them into little flat patties with your hands, rolling them in a little flour.
  11. Set aside on a plate in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.
  12. Heat some olive oil in a pan, and fry until light golden.
  13. Serve hot
 These were delicious with some salad and sweet potato fries, but they'd also work well as an appetiser dipped in aioli, or just as a snack. It's a little bit of PT to make these from scratch, but the next time you find you have leftover fish, this is a brilliant way to use up the leftovers.


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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Angelfish Spaghettini

flikr cc {sifu renku}
I've been working with the lovely Julie from Ocean Jewel's Fish lately, and just had to try some of her angelfish. A local fishmonger, Julie is committed to providing sustainable, SASSI green fish to the public, and works hard to keep her stocks sustainable and seasonal.

flickr cc {sifu renku}
I've got very little experience cooking with fish. For all the years I lived with my sister, she complained the few times I made it (she doesn't really like fish, preferring shellfish more), so I got out of the habit of cooking it. So while I have things like instinct and habit when cooking things like mince or chicken, with fish I'm a beginner.

I've been stalking Julie's blog (Ocean Jewel's Fish), and have been reading up on ways to cook fish that would fit into my lifestyle, and after all that.. I decided to make something up. What, you're surprised?! Do you know that I can't follow a recipe for toffee?

So here we have my attempt at a spaghetti marinara, with a light, delicate tomato sauce - similar to the one I made for my Bucatini, and gently poached and flaked angelfish, served over spaghettini, also known as angelhair pasta. Which is my version of a food pun (geddit? Angelfish Angelhair Pasta? *falls over laughing*) Right, enough of my bad jokes, let's get to the food, right?

Angelfish Spaghettini
Serves 2 (with leftovers for lunch)

2 angelfish fillets
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tsp Italian herbs
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 500ml carton of passata (strained tomatoes)
half a packet of spaghettini (spaghetti would work too, but I did like the finer texture of the spaghettini)
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil to saute onion
Parmesan (optional)
Lemon (optional)

  1. Cook pasta according to packet instructions, while you make the sauce and cook the fish. Spaghettini is finer than spaghetti, so cooked quicker. When cooked, drain, toss with a little olive oil (to prevent it clumping) and set aside.
  2. In a deep, wide pan, heat a little olive oil, and saute the onion over a medium heat until soft and slightly translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, Italian herbs, and smoked paprika, and stir, sauteing until fragrant - not more than a minute.
  4. Pour the passata into the pan, and bring to a light simmer. 
  5. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, and immerse in the passata, ensuring that both fillets are covered with the tomato sauce.
  6. Cook the fish for about 10 minutes per inch thick - I allowed mine go for about 5-7 minutes per side. To test for doneness, check that the fish is a solid white the whole way through. There should be no translucency when it is cooked.
  7. Using a spoon, flake the fish right there in the pan - you don't need this to be perfect, just break it up into smaller, more bitesize chunks. Angelfish does have small bones, but they aren't going to choke you, and they are too small to pick out before eating, and there really weren't enough to bother anyone.
  8. Serve the sauce over the pasta in a bowl, with a grating of Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon.
This light, flavourful dish is cheap, quick and delightful on a cold winter's night.

PS. Forgive me the flickr pictures, this went so quickly, there was no time for photos (I did say it was a quick weeknight supper), but these pictures are pretty close. Come to think of it, a pesto drizzle at the end would also be delightful. Try Pesto Princess for some delightful pesto options.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

To say I've been holding out on you is an understatement. I've been making these cookies for a year now (the original recipe is from the lovely Anya, via Ash, and was introduced to me shortly before my wedding last year). But you see, the trouble with these cookies is that, although the recipe makes a pretty large batch, they never last long enough to photograph! I invariably make them late at night, and by the time we've eaten a few, packaged the rest up (they make delicious gifts) and eaten the last few, I realise I've done it again, and I won't be able to blog them this time either.

So the last time I made them, for the cousin-in-law's birthday last week, I snapped a couple of quick ones on my phone. I even posed them with some milk for dramatic effect (then scarfed the cookies and the milk). They aren't great, but it will hopefully work. And for heaven's sakes, they look like chocolate chunk cookies - a light golden colour, with big chunks of chocolate, crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. You'll love them. If you don't, you're clearly not really human.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp almond essence
1/2 - 1 slab of chocolate (dark, milk, Top Deck, popping candy, whatever floats your boat)


  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of baking paper or Silpat. Do not try to use wax paper (as I have done) it will stick to the cookies, and you'll have to peel it off piece by piece. Frustrating.
  3. In a mixing bowl, melt the butter. 
  4. Add white and brown sugar, and the egg, stirring to mix.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt (I use salted butter, and don’t add salt).
  6. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix together until combined.
  7. Chop the chocolate, and mix into the batter.
  8. Using a cookie scoop (buy the smallest one on Yuppiechef here, and become a cookie scooping ninja) or a tablespoon measure and a spoon, or just roll into 1 inch balls, line up on a cookie tray, about 1-2 inches apart (they'll spread a little while baking).
  9. Bake at 180°c for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Check at 10 minutes, and take out as soon as the edges start to caramelise, and the centre is still soft to the touch.
  10. Remove from the hot cookie sheet as soon as you can, by simply lifting the baking paper off and onto a rack, as they continue to cook on the hot sheet.
  11. Allow to cool.Munch (that's an order).
Enjoy with a BIG glass of milk. And several other cookies. And your friends.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cooking with Le Creuset and Silwood Kitchens

If you hang out on Twitter as much as I do, with the group of wonderful foodies that I know, you will have noticed that many of those lovely ladies went to a cooking class held up Le Creuset at the Silwood Kitchen a few weeks ago. Linda posted about the class on her blog, The Squashed Tomato, Sam blogged on Drizzle and Dip, Bernice at Betty Bake was there too, among others. Although I was invited to the evening, I was on holiday that week, and was so upset to have missed the evening.

As luck would have it, however, the lovely Gill at Le Creuset invited me back to another class last week, so one dark and stormy night (no, really, it was pelting rain), I went over to Silwood and enjoyed a lovely evening of cooking with strangers who became friends.

We started off with the basics, and although I consider myself someone who can cook, I've had no formal training, so the small things we learnt were, for me, the most important. Take crushed garlic, for example. Most people, myself included, have used the bottle crushed garlic, or the nutcracker-like instrument specifically design to squash garlic, but gets most of it stuck in the holes. But Gary, our chef-teacher for the evening, showed us a simple, small trick, of crushing the garlic using the point of a knife and salt flakes as an abrasive. You dice the garlic roughly, then sprinkle it with salt and, using the point of a knife, gently flatten the garlic along the board, and before long, there's a small pile of lovely fresh, crushed garlic. SO much better than anything from a bottle!

Anyway, this may be old news to you, but it was brilliant, to me. We made a paste with the garlic and some chopped herbs, and rubbed them all over and into the skin of a lovely pork loin, which had been scored down to the meat, then popped into the oven to cook.

What was especially wonderful, was how, instead of doing one dish or course at a time, Gary expected us to multitask, cooking the pork, while making the dessert, a deliciously decadent chocolate fondant, which is, let me tell you, the easiest thing in the world to make.

I don't have the recipes on hand, but if you'd like more detailed recipes, I'd be happy to provide them. I want to make the fondants for a party soon, so I'll post the recipe for that as soon as I can.

In short, if you're ever invited to one of these evenings, do your best to go - you'll have a lovely evening, learn some new things, and go home with some lovely goodies from Le Creuset, as well as some show-stopping recipes!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Thursday's Masterclass

Do you remember the masterclass I attended, where I didn't learn to poach anything (my fault, not Neill's), but I did learn all about food conscience and eating ethically? Well, Neill Anthony's holding another masterclass this Thursday evening, and although I can't make it, I think you should go. And here's why:

As with all of Neill's masterclasses, he celebrates local South African farmers and producers, and this one focuses on local, South African beef. An accomplished chef, Neill will take you through every item on the menu, showing you the tips and tricks of the chef trade, and will open your eyes up to preparing food in ways you never thought was possible.

The 'steak and chips' is bound to be an eye-opener, with slow roasted rib-eye steak, truffled horseradish chantilly cream and thrice cooked chips - can you imagine that? These are Heston Blumenthal thrice cooked chips, so they'll be heaven! The whipped lemon curd will be incredible, I can tell you that with authority, since I've had it, and I nearly died.

I'll say it once more: you should go. It's R300 per person for a detailed and personalised masterclass, with wine and dinner afterwards, cooked during your class. It's like going to your favourite restaurant, where you get to ask the chef all the questions you've always wanted to know. 

Contact Neill by email to book: info (at) neillanthony (dot) com.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

From Farm to Fork

So, this post was meant to open with a heartwarming story of how masterclasses show you what's possible in the kitchen, wow! Look at this amazing dish I whipped up using the mad skillz I learnt at the masterclass I went to last weekend! But, yeah. Life rarely works out like that for me, and I'm going to need a few more attempts at this before I can show it to you, my trusting readers.

The masterclass was, however, extremely inspiring and motivating, and taught me a lot, not just about how I should not be allowed to poach anything (snigger), but how we can all change small things in our lives to make a big difference.

Hosted by Matt Allison and Neill (2 L's, please, darling!) Anthony, the class aimed to show how well it is possible to eat, while being conscious of where food comes from, and trying to eat seasonally and locally.

Neill, a chef, has trained with the best, has worked with Gordon Ramsay, and knows a thing or two about, well, a lot. He seems to love to teach, he wants to show people how easy it is, and he revels in purees, mousselines and espumas. I'm not kidding, all those items were on our menu on Saturday!

Matt is a multi-talented renaissance man. Formerly a musician and music producer, he left his company last year, to raise his son, the adorable Nathan, from home. Since then, he has cooked his way through 2 Jamie Oliver cookbooks, started an urban farming revolution among local Cape Town foodies, and even consults with various local restaurants on growing their own food for use in their restaurants. Amazing, I know, and I'm lucky enough to call these two guys friends.

On the menu was a warm salad of braised fish, marinated fennel and herb mousseline; Poached and roasted loin of rabbit, seasonal greens and artichoke puree; and whipped lemon curd, coconut and ginger espuma. See? I told you I wasn't kidding..

Neill showed us techniques for making incredible mayo or mousseline using lightly boiled eggs, and deboned a rabbit for us, to show us how it was done. While he was busy cooking, Matt took us through what he does, and told us all about the origins of the food we were about to eat. Instead of the distance we get from shopping in supermarkets, he told us about the farmers, the markets and the producers of the food we were about to eat, bringing home with his passion how important it is, not only to eat healthily, but to eat consciously.

I could go on, telling you all the things I've learnt, but for now, let me end with this. If you get the opportunity to watch this dynamic pair in action, grab it with both hands, and go! The inspiration you will leave with, and the flavours dancing in your mouth will be well worth what you paid for it.  And as if a belly full of food and wonderful wine, a head full of inspiration and ideas weren't enough, you'll also leave with a goodie bag full of NoMu products, Bosch goodies and more.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what the thing was that didn't really work out? Well, in a lucky draw, the husband won a stuffed rabbit loin (and what was he going to do with it?). I gamely attempted to recreate the heaven served up by Neill, but sadly overcooked the poor bunny, in my fear of this poaching thing. It seems anything involving timing and boiling in water just really isn't my thing.. boiled eggs, anyone?

Anyway, enough about me. Have you ever been to a show or a class that's changed your perspective on things? Something that's made you sit up, and look at your life and makes you wonder what you're doing? Leave me a note, and tell me what it is, who knows, maybe we can help change each others lives!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ringing the changes

Source {flickr}
Well, hello there, it's me again, that blogger chick who goes missing for months at a time. Breaking all the rules of good blogging, really, arent I? If there are any of you left out there, thanks for hanging around and listening to the crickets sing the last 6 weeks, I hope they were in tune.

Thing is, the reason I've been gone is many-fold. You and I both know that I haven't been happy in my job for a long time - indeed, this blog is born a lot out of my frustration with that very job. But also, this blog, and the community that I have met because of it and Twitter, have given me the passion and the commitment to drive a change in my life. Hopefully, for the better. We can but hope, right?

So, what I've been hinting at is this: I'm going freelance.

From the beginning of August, 2011, I'm going to try to make a go of a freelance career. I'm not totally sure what I'm going to do, in which way I'm going to specialise, or how I'm going to make this work, but one thing's for sure, I'm not going to work in a dead end office job anymore! Well, that's not completely true. Due to unforeseen circumstances at work, they've had to make cut backs, and I was offered a half time contract on a month to month basis. So, while I'm getting on my feet, I'm also still working half the time. I'm semi-freelance, semi-employed. It's a weird limbo state, and today was my first day of self-employment. It was strange.

So now, the world's my oyster, right? Well, why don't you give me some advice.. If you were to throw in the day job, what would you be doing, in an ideal world? What makes you tick? What makes you speak louder with excitement? If money was no object, what would you be doing with the hours that make up your life? Tell me what you'd do, so I can start to make a decision on what I'll be doing on my freelance days... Although, I can tell you now, I have a feeling it will somehow involve making cookies...

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Artisan ham and blue cheese pizza

I think that by now you all know how much I dislike and worry about baking anything, right? So it came as a surprise event to me when I decided to try making pizza from scratch.

Now, this might not sound like a massive feat, but I'm terrified of yeast breads, and the amount of yeast in thus thing is daunting. But. I did it, and the pizza was pronounced as better than Posticino and Massimos combined! Now that's saying something! 

The recipe is Marisa's, I didn't change a thing. I will just say though, that great quality, fresh toppings are absolutely key here for a wonderful pizza. I picked up some beautiful bacon, coppa and other hams at the Good Food and Wine Show, and they really shone in this.

Artisan Ham and Blue Tower Pizza

1 basic pizza dough (recipe will yield 2 large pizzas, if rolled quite thin)
Tomato paste or passata
1 wedge blue cheese (I used Fairview's Blue Tower, for it's creaminess and lovely veins)
Grated or sliced mozzarella
A handful of cherry or small Rosa tomatoes, halved lengthways
A handful of fresh rocket


  1.  When the dough starts it's rise, turn the oven on to preheat to 220-250°C.
  2. Once the dough is made, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it's thin, and about the same size as whatever oven tray you're using. I used the ones that came with my oven, because their large and flat without high sides, and they fit perfectly. But if you prefer to use a pizza stone or other dish, go right ahead.
  3. Spread the base with the passata, by pouring a bit on, and spreading it with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
  4. Arrange the bacon, tomatoes and any other ingredients you like over the passata
  5. Sprinkle grated or sliced mozzarella (and really, the better quality the cheese, the nicer this will be) over the pizza, as generously or sparsely as you like
  6. Dice or crumble the blue cheese, and sprinkle over the pizza.
  7. Pop into the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted, and the edges are starting to brown.
  8. Remove from the oven, slice and spread fresh rocket over the pizza for a refreshing bite.
Enjoy your amazing creation, and have loads of fun with toppings!

PS. In the background you can see my new kettle, the adorable Le Creuset one from the Show, too! I love it!

PPS. This is the first post I've sent from my phone, what do you think?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lemon and Pea Risotto

Source: die katrin {flickr}
You know what I love most about food, and about Italian food specifically? You can be a purist, and follow a recipe, and get a wonderful meal, or you can change and adapt, and add in what you like, and as long as you get the basics right, you'll still have a wonderful meal!

Pasta, risotto and pizza are all like this - there are recipes that you can follow that are traditional, and delicious, like the bucatini I made the other week, and then you can go out on a limb and try something different, with amazing results. The caveat to all this, is that you must start with good basics. The perfect pizza base, and fresh, simple ingredients, and you have a delicious pizza. Good quality pasta, and some roasted tomatoes, and you have a quick, easy and tasty dinner.

And after all my fears, risotto has turned out to be as satisfyingly flexible and wonderful. I've made it with chorizo and courgette, with roasted vegetables, with broccoli and blue cheese - there seems to be no end to the wonderful things you can add to the oozy, cheesy, wonderful goodness that is risotto. And if you're like I was, and you've been thinking, "rice? really? meh." remember that this isn't just common or garden rice, this is cheesy, textural, wonderful rice. A totally different bird, really.

Lemon and Pea Risotto
Serves 2 (easily doubled)

1 onion, finely diced
Olive oil
Small knob of butter
250g (1 cup) Arborio rice
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
± 1l (4 cups) stock (I use NoMu lamb, because that's what I have at home, but chicken, or veg will be fine. Use a good quality stock, not from a cube - that stuff is full of preservatives and salt)
1 lemon, juice and rind
250g (1 cup) frozen peas
grated Parmesan, to taste
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

  1.  Fry the onion in a little oil and butter until soft and translucent - do not allow it to colour.
  2. In a separate pot, boil a litre of water, and add stock. Turn down to a simmer, and keep warm throughout the cooking process - add a little water if you think you'll run out.
  3. Add the rice to the pan, and toast in the oil and butter, making sure all is coated in oil, and it gets lightly toasted - a few minutes.
  4. Pour the wine into the rice, and allow to heat through, absorbing and evaporating the alcohol.
  5. When the wine has been absorbed, add the warm stock by the cup full, stirring to absorb between each addition. This should take 30-40 minutes.
  6. Using the small grater or a microplane, grate the rind from your lemon, and set aside, then juice it, being careful to extract the seeds.
  7. Add the rind and juice to the mostly cooked risotto, and add the frozen peas. Allow to stand with the heat off, while you grate the Parmesan.
  8. Add the Parmesan, stir to melt and mix, and allow to stand for a few minutes. 
  9. Add a knob of butter, stir, and serve.
This is fresh and light, a wonderful antidote to the exceedingly cold weather we've been having, but would be as good as a spring dish. The lemon keeps this bright and wonderful, and the peas give it a sweet touch. I also had some maple cured bacon on hand, which I fried up and chopped small, and added in at the end.

If you haven't tried risotto yet, do it! I was terrified, but now I'm making it once a week. It's neither difficult, nor onerous - give it a try!


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Friday, May 6, 2011

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Source: Kevandy on flickr creative commons
Bucatini is one of those things that remind me of my honeymoon. On our last day in Rome, when we'd walked and walked for three days, until our feet were little worlds of pain, we sat down at a funny little fast food pasta shop right by Termini, the central train station, and just ate lunch while we waited for our train to the coast. I didn't know it then, but our bucatini was served with a traditional tomato sauce, with bacon, known as Bucatini All'Amatriciana, which is native to Amatrice near Rome, and to Rome itself. A quintessential Roman dish, if you like. What a brilliant choice!

So, when we were wandering around the Cheese Festival on the weekend, and I spotted bucatini on sale, I pounced on it like a diva on discounted Manolos! This was my chance, I thought, to recreate some of the wonderful food we had on holiday, and I was so happy! 

With all the cold weather we've been having, I thought a comforting pasta would be just the ticket, but I didn't want anything particularly fancy or complicated. I did a quick google search for what goes best with bucatini, and I realised that the way we had it in Rome, what the way it's traditionally served. Bingo! That sounded right to me - short prep and cook time, minimal fuss and ingredients, and maximum satisfaction!

Just a few ingredients, about 30 minutes cook time, and you can have a warm bowl of comforting pasta on the table. And it's so simple!

Source: Kevandy on flickr creative commons
Bucatini All'Amatriciana
Adapted from

250g dried bucatini (if you can't find bucatini, I think linguine would be a good substitute)
100-150g bacon, diced (you can use pancetta or guanciale, but I didn't have any)
1/2 onion, finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic, diced finely
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cans whole Italian plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
Grated Parmesan to taste


  1. Put the pasta water on to boil, and when it boils, add salt and pasta. Cook according to packet instructions, until just before it's cooked. It will finish cooking in the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a little olive oil, until cooked, but not crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered bowl, to be added back later.
  3. In the same pan, fry the onion, and add the garlic as it begins to get some colour.
  4. When the garlic is fragrant, add the paprika and chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes. If you prefer your pasta more saucy, add back some of the drained tomato water.
  5. When the pasta has cooked, drain it and add it to the tomato mixture in the pan. Stir to mix thoroughly, and heat through.
Serve with grated Parmesan, slurp it up and enjoy! The hollow bucatini grabs the sauce deliciously, and the sauce is beautifully simple. Because you use so few ingredients, make sure they are good quality.


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Barley Soup

I know it's been ages, but let's just lightly skim over that, shall we, and move straight to this soup? Now, I'd kinda promised myself that I wouldn't blog until I could take a decent photo of my food, but since that has yet to happen (and believe it, I have tried... you should look at the memory on my husbands camera), that hasn't happened yet. So while I've been cooking away like a mad lady, I've not been sharing, and that is starting to feel mean!
Source: flickr creative commons
So I thought I'd atone for this mean non-sharing streak with this soup. With the colder weather creeping in, and even warm days turning into chilly evenings, my thoughts turn more and more to soup. I've been buying veg at the Earth Fair Market in St Georges Mall on Thursdays, and when I spied some lovely bags of tomatoes for cheap, I bought 2 and planned on this soup. Days passed, and we had some 30 degree days... Not ideal for soup, no, and I planned on a gazpacho instead. But thank heaven, the weather turned back, and autumn crept up on us again. This hearty, tangy, tomatoey soup is full of wonderful antioxidants and vitamins from the soup, and contains almost no fat! There's no cream, the blended barley provides all of the thickening, so as long as you use a good quality, low salt stock, and good quality olive oil, you can eat buckets of this heart-warming soup!

Tomatoes are roasted with garlic until soft and fragrant, then blended with cooked barley, and fresh basil for a hearty but fresh taste. The garlic goes all soft and nutty when it's roasted, and the tomatoes come out sweet and wonderful. Since the soup uses no cream or meat (if you use veg stock), this can be both vegan and vegetarian friendly!

Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Barley Soup

7-10 tomatoes (I used a mix of ordinary and plum tomatoes)
3-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
A mix of herbs for sprinkling (origanum, italian herbs, greek herbs, or other preferred herb)
olive oil for roasting
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
115g (1 tin) tomato paste
1.5 litres chicken stock
250 (1 cup) dry pearl barley
2-4 tbsp ketchup (optional, but increases the tomatoey flavour)
salt and pepper to taste
Handful of fresh basil, removed from stalks.

  1. Preheat the oven t0 180 degrees C.
  2. Pop the barley into a pot, and cook in the hot chicken stock for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Halve the tomatoes, and cut out the stalk. Place skin side down in a roasting dish. Place the quartered garlic in among the tomato halves in the roasting dish.
  4. Sprinkle with herbs of your choice - feel free to add chilli, if you'd like that zing now, or add to the soup later, and sprinkle with olive oil.
  5. Pop into the heated oven, and roast for about 30 minutes, or until soft, turning about half way through. Tomatoes are done when they are soft, and the garlic should be too. Blackened bits are nice, but don't let them burn.
  6. When it goes into the oven, slice an onion, and dice a carrot, and fry in a big pot on the stove. Fry on a medium heat until the onion is translucent, and soft, and the carrot is mostly cooked.
  7. When the tomatoes are finished, empty the whole roasting dish, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and everything into the pot with the onions, and squash with a spoon. Add the tomato paste, and stir through.
  8. Once the barley is cooked, drain off some of the liquid into a jug, in case you need to add it back to the soup, and add the barley to the soup, and heat through, ensuring everything is mixed well, then add the basil.
  9. Remove from the heat, and blend using a stick blender, or transfer to a blender, but be careful of the hot soup spraying out. I blend to a rough consistency
  10. Return to the pot and heat, and heat through. Taste for seasoning, and add the ketchup if necessary, and salt and pepper to taste. Add some chilli if it makes you happy, or any other spices and herbs you like with tomato. If the soup is too thick, or you've added too much spice, use the reserved barley stock to thin it out, or dilute the heat a bit. Barley is very thickening, especially once it's blended!
Serve with hot, crunchy toast, and shavings of Parmesan or crumbled feta on top, delish!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Cooking Challenge: London

Hello friends!

I know I'm not the only one stuck in a bit of a blogging rut, so let's kick this challenge off, and get back into the swing of things!

Phileas Fogg and Passepartout start their journey in the capital city of England, London. In accordance with the trip, we'll start off cooking something quintessentially London, something Fogg would likely have eaten at the club, or that Passepartout may have prepared for his lunch. Anything you like will do. Just post it, and link back to this post, and leave a comment with a link to your post.

Those are the rules, let's go! Oh. And let's have this challenge done by the end of April, ok?


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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooking Challenge: Around the World in 80 Days

I don't know about you, but my childhood was littered the stories I read. Tales of cunning and adventure thrilled my tiny heart, and stories with romance and fun just fueled my ever more imaginative games. I wasn't allowed to watch much television, but one of the things we were allowed was the animated 'Around the World in 80 Days'.

A tale of wagers, spies, fast travel, and romance, the story captivated me, and I dreamt of travelling to France, Egpyt, India, and America, helping them on their quest around the world. And while I no longer believe that Phileas Fogg is truly a lion (what? it seemed reasonable to me!), I would still love to travel to those places. While chained to my post, however, I can but dream, and travel through the medium of food.

I'd like to suggest a challenge.

Every month for the duration of 15 months (there are 15 cities that they visited), we'll travel from city to city with Phileas Fogg and his friends, cooking a dish from the area they would've been in, all posting on the same day (or as close as possible to it).

This way, we'll follow his adventures, learn a bit about each country's culture and food, and get to make something fun and out of the ordinary.

It's just one meal, one blog post a month, who's in?

Sign up in the comments if you're keen, and I'll make a list of everyone who's participating!

The countries are as follows:

Around the world in 80 days  
  1. London, England 
  2. Paris, France 
  3. Brindisi, Italy 
  4. Suez, Egypt
  5. Bombay, India
  6. Allahabad, India
  7. Calcutta, India
  8. Singapore, Singapore
  9. Hong Kong, China
  10. Yokohama. Japan
  11. San Francisco, America
  12. Omaha, America
  13. New York, America
  14. Liverpool, England
  15. London, England

Who's with me?

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A little appreciation

So it's been (check posts quickly) 2 weeks since my last post, and that was a guest post! I'm really feeling the loss here, girls and boys! In the last month, more or less, I've taken on another persons job, except there was no-one doing it before.. Doesn't make sense? No, well neither does anything right now!!

You and I both know I've had it rather easy at work the last few years. Mostly enough work, but plenty of time to slack and write posts, think about food, you know, ordinary procrastinatory activities! And then a month ago, I went and stuck my oar in, and told the boss how much better things would go if we had a social media marketing campaign! Yeah. I did that. So now, I'm Social Media Manager, juggling Tweeting, Facebook, blogging, writing newsletters, signing up to sites, groups, and forums all across the interwebs, professionally, for a change! You know, doing what I do for fun FOR MY JOB! Oh. And I still have to do all the other stuff I used to do, which took up about half my time. So now it feels like I have another full time job, on top of my half day, that has to be done in the same time. Confused? Yeah. It's been one of those months.

So while I miss you all like hell, I miss writing, I miss the interaction, I've been fiendishly busy getting something together which might actually advance my career... and that, ladies and gentlemen, is worth it. It's hard mother-effing hard work, more work than I EVER expected (professional social media is harder than personal. I can't swear so much), it's strangely gratifying when I see it work.

So while I have had the odd moment to swing past my Google Reader, and check up on all of you, I haven't had the time to write. Reading is quick, and writing is slow. However, that's not to say I haven't been cooking! I've even been dedicatedly writing down my recipes (with accurate measurements, thanks to Jane-Anne!), and even photographing them, (albeit with horrible photos - you have to start somewhere, I hear!!), I just have no time to write!!

I've made Piccante Sausage and Pepper Risotto, Ginger Chilli Burgers with Parmesan, Pesto Pasta Salad, and Creamy Mushrooms, Peppers and Pork. Mmmm. And all the recipes and photos are just waiting for you.. I just have to write something.. Oh, and remember to bring in the recipes!

Anyway. Lastly, and the reason for the title of this post, is that I'd like to thank you all. My confidence with blogging, Twitter and other social mediums is because of you. It's because you visit my blog, you chat to me on Twitter, and make me feel like I'm doing this right. Marisa spurs me on when I flag, Jessica bugs me to fulfill my promises, Linda has unfailing enthusiasm for everything, which is amazing. Colleen provides motherly support to all the blogosphere, Matt is brilliant at everything and therefore has advice for everything, and Ishay is unfailingly fab and there with a kind word when you need it most. In short, it's you, my bloggie and Twitter friends who make me feel like I can do this, like I can single-handedly turn a non-existent marketing strategy into something that actually works. And that, to me, is golden. So thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As soon as I get my mind around all this, I've got some gems waiting for you, so stick around, y'hear! I'll work all day and blog all night, if I have to, just bear with me, alright?

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Post: Homemade Pasta - Lasagne

A little while ago, my lovely friend Ash swooped in and saved me from another night of mother-in-law fare and arguing over which tiler to go with, and offered to cook me dinner. At her place. WIN. Now, if you knew my friend, you'd know that she has a lot of talents she keeps very well hidden. Such as this amazing cooking talent she claims she's too 'lazy' to use most of the time.. Now, Ash, you f**ked up. Cos now I know how much you rock in the kitchen. I suspected it, but this sealed it!

The tender, perfectly cooked pasta sheets, the tasty, savoury mince and the delicious cheese perfectly crispy on top.. This was one of the most delicious lasagnes I've had in a long time, and one that I'm definitely going to be whipping up at home (as soon as my kitchen is finished!)

And now, over to you, Ash! 

Wednesday night I had your favourite blogger, Polkadotcupcake, over for dinner at my house. In keeping with my new years resolution to be healthy and fill my life with GOOD things, I decided to make my favourite comfort food from scratch: lasagne.

Not only is it cheaper to make pasta from scratch, its tastier and healthier. And so easy to make. Total cooking time was about an hour, and this was to feed ten people.. Not that she and I eat for five people each... I have a lot of housemates. Total cost of the meal was about R90. Number of pots and bowls used: four. Could it be any easier?

Start off by making the pasta (recipe below), and then while it dries, you can start on the mince and white sauce.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the middle. Beat the eggs and olive oil together in a separate bowl, and add the wet ingredients to the dry flour mix. Stir until it combines and becomes a soft dough. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour and knead the dough for about 7 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 pieces. 

Now, pull out that pasta machine that’s been sitting in your cupboard gathering dust. If you don’t have one, never fear, you can do this by hand quite easily.

Flatten a dough ball in the palm of your hand and feed it through the pasta machine at the widest setting. Carry on doing this, closing down a setting each time. My pasta machine has ten settings. By the time you get to the smallest, narrowest setting, run the pasta through twice. Now either place it on a damp dishtowel (otherwise its going to stick to your table), or hang it over a clean chair. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.

If you don’t have a pasta machine, you’re going to have a fun time with your rolling pin. Sprinkle flour on a flat surface and start rolling until your dough ball is about 1.5mm thick. Repeat with all the dough balls. Place the lasagne on a damp dishtowel or hang it over a chair. 

Now you can start on the mince and white sauce. For the amount of lasagne I made, I used about 700 grams mince, two tins of tomato and onion mix and one onion {Editors note: you can use your favourite bolognaise recipe, or this one}. My secret ingredient is bisto (two tsp). I used about 1.3 litres of milk for the white sauce, and my secret ingredient for that is a cube of chicken stock.

The trick to home made lasagne is making it quite saucy. The liquid soaks into the pasta, softening it and allowing it to cook faster.

Start by pouring a little white sauce in the bottom of a large oven proof dish. Then put a layer of your fresh pasta in the dish. Spoon a layer of mince onto the pasta, and then a generous amount of white sauce. Repeat. I used three pasta-mince-white sauce layers. Put one last layer of pasta on top, and cover generously with the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top, and pop in the oven at 160 Celsius for half an hour or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. 

Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for 5 minutes. Serve with a green mixed salad.

Homemade Pasta 

500ml (2 cups) flour
3 eggs
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the middle. Beat the eggs and olive oil together in a separate bowl, and add the wet ingredients to the dry flour mix. Stir until it combines and becomes a soft dough. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour and knead the dough for about 7 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 pieces.

White Sauce
1 tbsp butter or margerine
2 tbsp flour
(Note: no matter how much white sauce you want, you need to use double the amount of flour to butter)
± 1 litre milk

Melt butter in a pan, until liquid, but not brown or burnt. Then, add the flour, and stir to mix, incorporating all into a paste. While still over a low heat (or off the plate, if it takes too long to cool), add a little of the milk, just enough to create a more liquid paste, and use this opportunity to squash out all the lumps with the back of a spoon. This will help your final sauce to have as few lumps as possible. Once the paste is smooth, add the milk a little at a time, making sure to incorporate it. When about half is added, change to a whisk, and keep whisking until almost all the milk is added. Then, let it cook for about 5 minutes, whisking from time to time, to cook the flour, letting it thicken. If it gets too thick, add some milk, if not, remove from heat when thick, and add a grind of black pepper, or even some grated cheese.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011


So, you may have noticed that I've gone silent again. I could tell you why, but then I'd have to kill you.. Nah, I'll tell you. At the moment, my kitchen looks like this:

Ok, ok, I may be exaggerating slightly, but right now, I'm kitchenless! See, we're 1.5 weeks into revamping the kitchen (and downstairs loo and sunroom, and putting in a little pool), so the house is a bit of a war zone right now. In fact, 'a bit' is putting it lightly. We've knocked out walls, walls that were supposed to stay, have fallen down, we've knocked out the back of the house, removed the bathroom with shower, that was en suite to the kitchen (because you *always* need to shower when making dinner, right? No? That's what we thought, too.) In short, things are a mess.

And to top it all off, we've got the in-laws staying with us for the duration of the renovation, to supervise the builders, and make sure the dog doesn't kill them. Or the other way round, whichever comes first. So, every day I get home, dinner's cooked. We don't even go out (which I was sooo hoping for), because the in-laws aren't really out-eating people. So. Not much on the blogging front for me, though I am working on a few ideas for you lovely lot.

Bear with me, while I get a fancy new kitchen? Just to whet your appetite, I'll share some of our building plans with you, and let you in on my newest accessory..

We used to have the aforementioned bathroom-en suite to-kitchen vibe going on. It was very 1950s in the kitchen, though our house is a 100 year old Victorian row house. So, you can guess what we had going on. White floor tiles (why?? impossible to keep clean), funny little rooms, walls and weird corners. Not very user friendly, and blocked a lot of light. We had funny uneven cabinets, which I swear were put in by a dwarf without mathematical skills. The fronts didn't line up, they weren't all the same length, so much space was wasted. Urgh. It wasn't my favourite room.

At the moment we have a big, bricky hole. We have some holes where there used to be walls, and some walls where there used to be holes. We've moved the toilet (and removed the shower, we tend to shower upstairs ;) ), and we've created a lovely little sunroom/indoor braai room. It'll get lots of afternoon sun, especially in winter, and it makes our indoor-outdoor flow a little better. Ok. It *will* make it better. At the moment it's just draughty.

Future (ETA: 2-3 weeks)
We're putting in white Supawood cabinets, with a panelled groove running lengthways, cashew colour Travertine tiles throughout, from the kitchen, through the sunroom, to the guest loo. We're tossing between black granite countertops and brown Technistone at the moment. Just can't decide! And we'll probably end up with some kind of white wall tile, with a bluey-grey paint on the walls above the cabinets (we have extremely high ceilings, so the cabinets don't go to the ceiling.)

I've drawn up some diagrams to illustrate the changes (I'll try take photos, I promise!) I'll add a post on the sunroom (with diagram), with toilet, but here's the kitchen for now.

In the interim, bear with a sad kitchenless food blogger, wontcha? Thanks!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sign up for the Food Blogger Indaba 2011!

I wonder if you remember, way back in October 2009 (are any of you still around since then? Amazing!!) I kinda stopped blogging. I was feeling a lack of inspiration, a lack of guidance, and generally a bit of ennui.. yes, this seems to happen annually around October, now that I come to think of it..

Anyway, in order to help a little with my writers block and lack of direction, early in 2010 I attended the inaugural Food Bloggers Conference. It was amazing. I met all sorts of inspiring people, including the amazing Nina of My Easy Cooking, Marisa at The Creative Pot, Jane Anne of Scrumptious South Africa, the incredible Colleen from Browniegirl, who did an amazing job at organising it, and so many more. I left inspired, motivated and raring to go! I also left weighed down with a goodie bag worth far more than my entrance cost! In short, it was incredible. A total joy to attend, and SO worth the money I put in!

So this year, when the chance to attend the second Food and Wine Bloggers Indaba came up, I registered immediately! This year, Colleen has changed the format to a more interactive workshop style, with talks in the morning, and workshops in the afternoon, and if lunch last year was anything to go by, an incredible lunch! I'm signed up for the Photography and Food styling course with Nina and Jeanne (Cooksister!), and I can't wait! As you may have noticed (cough cough), there are very few of my own photos around here. (Yes, I know a bad photo of mine is worth dozens of nice photos of others, but I can't bring myself to post crappy camera phone photos, and I don't know how to take decent photos. You can tell where this is going can't you?)

What I want is for every one of you to sign up. If you enjoy food, photography, writing, wine, or just having fun with other like-minded souls, SIGN UP NOW! There are limited places available, and it's filling up fast. You wouldn't want to miss the food blogging event of the year, would you?

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted Broccoli and Blue Cheese Risotto for Two

So, it's not the most photogenic thing I can think of, but, damn! it's definitely one of the most delicious! My love affair with risotto started only recently, when we were on honeymoon in Croatia. After having worked in a Thai restaurant for 4 years, I was always like "Rice? Meh." and I never ordered or ate risotto my whole life. I wish I'd known what I was missing! Creamy, cheesy deliciousness without the heaviness of cream! Comforting, warm and heavenly, risotto was nothing like I imagined it would be - it was a MILLION times better!

It started off in Rome, where I had a less than exciting mushroom risotto. I swear, those tourist restaurants skimp on quality and charge the earth, because they think we wouldn't know any better. It was alright, but I new there was some key element missing that would make everything right. That risotto was a little bit watery, and a little undercooked, not the best introduction, but I persevered.

The next was at a tiny restaurant on the island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea, off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. We discovered this little place on a long walk along the waters edge at sunset, and popped in just before the dinner rush. I'd been reading up on things we should try while in Croatia, and decided on the Black Risotto, a specialty of the area. Flavoured with squid ink, it was delicate, cheesy, rich, and delicious. Whatever the hubs had has faded in contrast with that risotto. A deep black from the squid ink, with little pieces of tender octopus, garnished with a single, red cherry tomato, it was exactly what I was looking for. And there my love affair started; I was determined to recreate this at home, but where to start?!

[Enter, stage left: The Good Food and Wine Show] At the Show, I found an 'easy' package of risotto, which claimed to make cooking risotto easy. It included dried mushrooms, the arborio rice, all you needed was the wine, stock and cheese. Sounded easy enough, but I was still cowed by the reputation of risotto as finnicky and hard work. So I tried a baked risotto, and it turned out.. meh. It was alright, but it wasn't the creamy, rich deliciousness that I was after... Back to the drawing board.

A few months passed. We got married, life got in the way, and I was tired. I took a break from blogging, and it's been summer. We've had a heatwave, planned some renovations, and it's a new year. So in a bid to find something a bit more interesting (and vegetarian, in our bid to eat meat-free once a week), I decided to attempt risotto again. I bought the arborio rice, the Parmesan cheese, I planned a creamy, cheesy, mushroom risotto. You know, start with the basics. And you know what, people? It wasn't that hard. Sure, it took some time, and you can't go watch TV, but I was on the phone, and stir, stir, stirred away, and 45 minutes later, et voila! we had a plate of heaven on our hands! And I was hooked.

That was last week. This week, I got more adventurous. Yes, I'm finally getting to the point of this post. THIS HAS BLUE CHEESE! Did that get your attention? I hope so. This cheesy bowl of heaven pushes all the right buttons! With a touch of green goodness from broccoli and cauliflower, and a whole lot of creamy heavenliness from the blue cheese and Parmesan, this is a winner. A keeper. And a whole bowl of goodness.. All you need is a little bit of patience, and within an hour, you'll have a wonderful, impressive, delicious meal to serve your loved ones. Go forth, and make risotto! I know I will be!

I scaled down the ingredient this time, as I was cooking for two, and the last batch (500g of rice) meant I was eating risotto for 3 days! These measurements were perfect for the two of us, with some leftovers for my lunch, win!

Roasted Broccoli and Blue Cheese Risotto for Two

1 onion, chopped
Small pat of butter
Glug of olive oil
250g (1 cup) arborio rice
± 100ml (1/3 cup) white wine
± 1 litre (4 cups) stock (I used about 1.5 litres)
Small head broccoli and cauliflower, cut into small florets
± 125g (1/2 cup)Parmesan cheese, grated
Half a wedge of blue cheese

  1. Saute the onion in the butter and oil for a few minutes until soft. I usually let them brown a bit, but if you want a whiter risotto, don't let them brown.
  2. In another pot, make up a litre of hot stock, and keep it on a low temperature for the duration of cooking. You want it to be warm, but not boiling. If you look like you'll run out of stock before the end of cooking time, top it up with some clod
  3. Add the rice to the pan, and turn up the heat a bit to toast the rice for a few minutes, until coated with the butter/oil, and slightly translucent on the edges - 2-3 minutes. Keep the rice and onion turning, so they don't burn.
  4. Add the wine to the hot pan, and turn down the heat to medium. The wine should bubble quite vigorously, and will boil away and evaporate quite quickly.
  5. When the wine has boiled away, start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time. If you don't have a ladle, use a large spoon and put about 2-3 spoons in at a time. You want just enough to loosen it up, without drowning it. When that liquid's absorbed, add the next, and so you go, stirring, adding, stirring, adding continuously for about 35-45 minutes, or until your rice is cooked, with a slight firmness to it (al dente).
  6. When it's cooked, you can add anything - sautéed mixed mushrooms or asparagus, bacon bits or peas and mint, it's really up to you and your imagination, but I roasted up some broccoli and cauliflower (and then steamed a bit more, because it reduced too much when roasted), and added creamy blue cheese (Blue Tower from Fairview is a lovely, creamy blue, and doesn't cost the earth)
Serve with a side salad, or even as an accompaniment to a meat-centred dish. Or do what I do, and enjoy it with a glass or two of that wine you had to open to make the risotto. And remember, if you wouldn't drink it, you shouldn't cook with it! I discovered a lovely Californian Pinot Grigio at Pnp last night, and at just R29 it beat the locals, and was delish! Ah, I know, my carbon footprint.. but can you blame a girl for wanting to explore the world? through wine, at least...

And after that long story, I leave you.
Take care, my friends..

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