Category Archives: Vegetables

Homegrown Spinach and Feta in a Wok

There’s nothing better than growing, harvesting and then eating your own vegetables. I’ve been doing it with reasonable success for many years. The challenge is ensuring you plant what will thrive in your garden environment – and even within a fairly close radius, this can change.

Because the soil in my current garden is really just sand, the veggie patch has been established on a concrete slab that covers a septic tank. I’ve used old wooden pallets as planters, and filled them with fabulously rich potting soil – and spinach is one of the things that just never stops growing. Originally planted in October 2015, the spinach harvested for this yummy dish is Fordhook Giant – and a giant it is! It didn’t do particularly well through the summer, but has resisted pests without any help from me, and in the past month has grown exponentially. The last time I made the dish I harvested Spinach Bright Lights, which was equally successfully – and it’s ready for harvesting again.

spinach and feta

I decided to make the spinach and feta dish to go with leftover fillet steak cooked according to an adapted version of Tournedos Poche a L’Anglaise, Creme de Raiffort that is one of the highlights of Constantia Uitsig: The Cookbook published by Struik in 2000.

spinach and feta
Spinach Fordhook Giant growing in a pallet garden

Ingredients for Spinach and Feta

I harvested leaves from this one head of spinach, but left the heart to continue growing. You could use a bag of Swiss chard for the spinach and feta instead. But smaller English spinach won’t work well because the leaves take only a couple of minutes to cook.

2 onions & 2-3 large cloves garlic

spinach and feta
The harvested spinach

Coconut oil & butter

Himalayan salt & freshly ground black pepper

About 200 g feta (I used feta with mixed herbs, but feta with black pepper is also delish)

About 250 ml thick cream – if you leave it in the fridge for about a week it will start to thicken, otherwise you can whip if until it starts to thicken

Cooking Utensils

This is one of those spinach and feta recipes where my Sola wok is first choice. The only other items needed are a sharp knife for chopping and cutting, and a slotted spoon.

spinach and feta
Chop the onions and garlic

Cooking Method

Start by peeling the onions and garlic and then chopping them coarsely.

Rinse the spinach and remove the stalks together with the ribs that extend into the leaves. They are very nutritious and add substance to the dish. Many people discard this part of the vegetable, because they find it tough and stringy. Perhaps it varies between different types of spinach, but these were neither tough nor stringy. Chop.

spinach and feta
Remove the stalks and ribs and chop them

 

I find that the onion, garlic and spinach ribs cook at about the same rate, but usually add the onion first, then the garlic and last of all the chopped ribs.

You can cook these in coconut oil, olive oil or butter; this time I used a combination of coconut oil and butter.

 

 

spinach and feta
Heat the oil and/or butter in the wok

 

 

Heat the coconut oil and butter in the wok until they have liquified. Then add the onions – garlic – and spinach ribs. Stir gently every now and then to prevent the veggies from burning.

Meanwhile chop the spinach leaves.

If you would prefer to use English spinach, you won’t have stalks and ribs to add to the onion and garlic.

spinach and feta
Fry the onion for a few minutes before adding the garlic

Also they will tend to overcook when you add the cream. In this case, just blanch the spinach leaves and add them right at the end with the last batch of feta.

 

 

spinach and feta
Add the spinach stems and rib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the onion mix has softened and looks translucent, add the chopped spinach. 
Chop the spinach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spinach and feta
Add the chopped spinach to the onion and garlic

 

 

 

When the onion mix has softened and looks translucent, add the chopped spinach.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

spinach and feta
Pour the cream into the wok

 

 

 

Allow the spinach to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the cream and stir to mix. Make sure the heat is on low; allow to simmer very slightly to thicken.

 

 

spinach and feta
Add the feta cheese

 

 

Now add the feta cheese, bit by bit. Stir and allow some of it to melt into the sauce. You also want to have some chunks left, which is why it’s important to add the cheese progressively.

And that’s it.

Quick, easy, and absolutely delicious.

 

 

Cauliflower Cheese

The Cheesiest Cauliflower Cheese Recipes

cauliflower cheese
Two cheese cauliflower cheese with bacon and leeks. Photo © Penny Swift

Cauliflower cheese has always been a family favourite, not just because it tastes great, but because it’s also quick, easy and relatively inexpensive to make.

The simplest version involves boiling or steaming the cauliflower; making and pouring over a cheese sauce; topping with grated cheese or breadcrumbs; and baking in the oven. A more classy version calls for the addition of bacon and leeks. But it doesn’t stop there because there are also lots of options when it comes to the cheese sauce, depending both on taste and dietary needs. With high fat, low carb gaining popularity worldwide, some people will want to omit the flour and breadcrumbs. Those on low fat diets will want to cut the fat off the bacon.

For me it’s the best of both worlds: bring on the bacon and sneak on a few breadcrumbs!

Simple Cauliflower Cheese

This is the one I’ve made all my life and imagine is based on what my grandmother used to make because I’ve never needed a recipe.

  • 1 large cauliflower steamed in a covered pot with just enough lightly salted water to cover the stalk at the base
  • 600 ml milk brought just to the boil (you’ll see tiny bubbles appearing)
  • 50 g each of butter and flour
  • about two cups grated cheddar cheese (mature cheddar will give considerably more flavour to the dish)
  • salt, pepper and a tiny bit of grated nutmeg to taste
  • paprika

As far as I’m concerned, the secret of a good cauliflower cheese – whichever way you decide to cook it – is to avoid overcooking the cauli. That’s why I like to steam it in just enough lightly salted water to cover the bottom stalk. That way the bottom stalk stays soft, but the florets don’t go mushy. Put the cooked cauliflower in a round dish that is deep enough to hold the sauce and set aside. 

While the cauliflower is cooking make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a pot and then stir in the flour. Bring the milk to the boil, take off the heat before it begins to bubble over, and add progressively, no more than a third at a time. I generally take it off the heat while adding the milk and then return to the stove stirring while it thickens. Once it has thickened so that it is still easily pourable, remove from the heat and add about two thirds of the cheese, stirring until it has all melted. Season with salt, pepper and mustard.

Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and a little paprika. 

Serve with sausages and a wholesome salad. 

Two Cheese Cauliflower Cheese

cauliflower cheese
This dish is very similar to the previous one but richer, with the addition of leeks and bacon, inspired partly by food blogger and friend Jane-Anne Hobbs’ Luxurious Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks, and partly by my own favourite leek and bacon pie that I cook with a blue cheese. The leeks add a certain sweetness that acts as a foil for what can sometimes be a vaguely pungent cauliflower flavour, while the bacon adds substance, texture and a slightly salty taste. I use English mustard for this cheese sauce because it adds a bit of a bite. I generally use Dijon or whole grain mustard for the pie, and either could be substituted.
First assemble all the ingredients:
  • 2 medium sized cauliflowers, centre stem trimmed and leaves removed
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) butter
  • 250 g pack of back bacon, sliced or diced
  • bunch of medium-sized leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 big cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • bay leaf
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) dried thyme
  • 100 ml flour 
  • 125 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
  • 750 ml milk or cream
  • 15 ml (1Tbsp) dry English mustard
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
  • 375 g (1½ cups) grated Cheddar cheese
  • 125 g (½ cup) grated Pecorino or Parmesan
  • 125 ml (½ cup) thin cream 
  • salt, coarsely ground black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste
  • about 250 ml (1 cup) very fine breadcrumbs lightly friend in a hefty lump of butter and a handful of grated cheese; cayenne pepper 
cauliflower cheese
White strip
cauliflower cheeseCook the cauliflower as described in the previous recipe. I prefer smaller vegetables because the stem of larger cauliflowers takes longer to cook, and unless you discard most of the stem, the florets will be in danger of becoming overcooked. Drain and place in a suitable dish, dividing each one into four so the base of the dish is covered. This way the sauce and bits of bacon will be evenly distributed. 
White strip
Slice the leeks and bacon, then melt the butter in a frying pan and add the bacon pieces. Cook over a medium to low heat so that the bacon doesn’t get crisp. Add the crushed garlic and sliced leeks, along with the herbs. Continue to cook over a low heat so the leeks sweat and soften. Add the wine, bring quickly to the boil, and then simmer for about five minutes until the liquid evaporates. Stir the flour into the pan and add the milk in about three batches. Continue stirring while the sauce thickens; then add the mustard and lemon juice, and most of the cheese (keep a handful for the topping).
cauliflower cheese
Season to taste and pour over the cauliflower.
cauliflower cheese
If you’re going to top with breadcrumbs, fry them quickly in melted butter to coat. A cup of breadcrumbs will cover the top of the dish. Finally top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 °C (350 °F) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cauliflower Cheese
Serve with a simple salad and a glass of cold white wine.
Cauliflower Cheese
A simple lettuce, tomato and avocado salad sprinkled with lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper
If you’re on a low carb diet, you can substitute the white sauce with a traditional Alfredo sauce made with cream, butter and Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino). Alternatively, try Jane-Anne’s Low-Carb Double-Cauliflower Cheese – perhaps with the addition of leeks and bacon.