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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