I enjoy pork but find it difficult to think of new ways of cooking it. I love Indian food and Thai food, so was delighted to find a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for Thai pork curry in her Far Eastern Cookery book. Having bought the pork fillet before deciding what to do with it, I didn’t have all the ingredients, but then I never follow recipes to the T!
This version of Thai pork curry has a similar flavour to sweet and sour Indian vindaloo curry. It can be made from any boneless pork: fillet, meat cut from the loin or shoulder, or even pork chops with the bones removed.
Red Curry Paste for Thai Pork Curry
Madhur’s recipe, which is based on Burmese-style cooking, calls for a homemade curry paste. This is made with 3-8 hot red chillies, a 2 cm cube of fresh ginger or dried galangal (you can also buy galangal minced), 2 sticks of fresh lemon grass or 2 tbsp dried sliced lemon grass, 90 g shallots or onions, 10 large cloves of garlic, 1 tsp shrimp or anchovy paste, 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds, 2 tsp ground cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric.
Crumble the chillies into 250 ml water and add the lemon grass and galangal if using the dry ingredients. Soak for half an hour. If using fresh galangal or ginger peel and chop it coarsely. If using fresh lemon grass, slice crossways and discard the straw-like top. Peel the shallots or onion and garlic and chop coarsely. Put all the ingredients (including the water from the dry ingredients) into a blender and blend till smooth.
Since this curry paste can be frozen, I’m going to be making some soon; but last night I used about 60 g of ready-made red Thai curry paste instead.
Other Ingredients Required
The other ingredients required are:
875 g boneless pork (I used one pork fillet which was about 500 g in weight) cut into 4 cm cubes
1 1/2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (I used Japanese naturally fermented Tamari soy sauce)
3 x 2.5 cm cubes of fresh ginger (it should be young and easy to cut), peeled and cut into thin slices
10-12 shallots of small pickling onions cooked whole (I used bulbous spring onions trimmed and sliced)
10-15 small cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsp of lemon juice or tamarind paste (I used lemon juice)
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
salt (I used a fractional amount of pink Himalayan salt, which was a mistake. The soy sauce is salty enough)
How to Make Thai Pork Curry
Marinate the pork in the curry paste and soy sauce for half an hour. The ready-made curry paste was rather dry so I added about 350 ml of water. After 30 minutes put the pork and marinade into a wide, heavy pan. My favourite Sola wok was absolutely perfect for this. Bring to a simmer over medium to low heat and leave to simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Increase the heat a little and stir-fry for about 10 minutes to get rid of the liquid.
Add about 450 ml of water (less if you are using less pork, as I did) together with the ginger, shallots and garlic. Bring back to a simmer; cover and cook for about 45 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sugar (next time I think I’ll use palm sugar rather than cane sugar). Mix and taste; add salt if you really have to. Cook for a couple more minutes to let the flavours blend.
Cooking potjiekos indoors in a wok might sound like a total misnomer, but it’s as easy as cooking pot-food the traditional way, and just as delicious.
For the uninitiated, traditional South African outdoor fare, potjiekos (an Afrikaans word) is literally translated as pot (potjie) food (kos), and it is cooked open an open fire in a cast iron, round-bellied, usually three-legged pot.
While there are flat-bottomed versions of the traditional potjie, the beauty of three-legged pots is that they can be placed over and above the fire. Alternatively, they can be hung over the fire – which many South Africans like to do when preparing a traditional braai (or barbecue). The shape of the pot ensures that the heat is evenly distributed in all directions, and the juices sit in the base of the pot while the food cooks – with the aroma moving upwards.
Round-bellied pots have been used for centuries, though its origins in southern Africa aren’t certain. Some say that the Voortrekkers used them to cook potjiekos when they travelled, hanging them on their wagons.
However, evidence is that original pots were imported, possibly from Sweden, and definitely from Britain, from manufacturers like Falkirk (which still produces them) and Cannon.
Cooking Potjiekos in a Wok Instead of a Potjie
While I do have a genuine cast iron potjie, I have to confess it isn’t well used. But on Friday, when one of Magic 828AM’s presenters started waxing eloquent on his idea for cooking potjiekos and drinking red wine this weekend, I was tempted to follow suit.
Not knowing quite what to cook, I grabbed a pack of lamb (a mixture of chops, neck and knuckles), and a packet each of baby potatoes and baby onions. Everything else I figured I needed I knew I already had.
And then it started to rain – with a vengeance.
My first thought was to simply make a stew of sorts instead – in a regular pot.
Ping! Why not use my large Sola wok instead? Not my usual choice for cooking stew, it’s got a sort-of rounded bottom, and these days I cook on gas. That could work… And it certainly did, even though the wok isn’t made of cast iron, but rather from forged aluminium that is finished with a tough ceramic coating. The bonus would be that because it has a glass lid, I’d be able to see exactly what was going on during the cooking process.
So out with the recipe books, including a couple of specifically potjiekos titles written by so-called potjiekos pioneer, Matie Brink in the 1980s.
Uninspired, I remembered the baby potatoes and onions, and decided to just do my own thing.
Potjiekos in a Wok My Style
Feel free to use my recipe, or to just be inspired by the idea and create your own. Quantities are approximate:
2 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
750 g lamb (2 x neck, 4 x chops, 8 x small knuckles
Stock (I used two x 25 g sachets of Ina Parma’s concentrated liquid veggie stock)
150 ml water
50 g tomato paste
1 tblsp Worcestershire Sauce
150 ml (or more) red wine
12 pickling onions, peeled
10 baby potatoes
4 large carrots, trimmed into chunks
Fresh herbs (1 large sprig each of thyme, rosemary, basil, or whatever else you have)
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil and lightly fry the chopped onion over medium heat. Move the onion to the sides of the wok and brown the lamb in batches. As each batch browns, move it to the side.
Add the stock, water, tomato paste and Worcestershire Sauce. Stir and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add the wine.
Throw in the veggies. You need a bit of liquid, but you don’t need to submerge the onions, potatoes and carrots to cook them.
Place the herbs on top of the meat and veg and grind black pepper over the top.
Reduce the heat to low and allow to cook for one to two hours, until everything is cooked but still relatively intact. You can adjust the temperature while you are cooking – which of course you cannot do if using a genuine potjie.
Once your potjiekos is done, serve on its own or with a salad.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When the onion mix has softened and looks translucent, add the chopped spinach.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
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.
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.
Fascinated by the incredible following Professor Tim Noakes, Sally-Ann Creed, Jonno Proudfoot and David Grier have had with their “Banting” diet and The Real Meal Revolution, I bought a copy of the book and have been trying out some of the recipes – mostly in my various Sola pans.
The Lamb and Mushroom Blanquette, which is a rich, wholesome stew, was one of the first of The Real Meal Revolution (TRMR) recipes I tried – and so far, it’s undoubtedly one of the best. It is also the only one I have cooked more than once. Featured on page 134 of the book, it has, I think, the wrong photograph illustrating it – but that’s about the most serious fault I could find. Any other “faults” were mine.
As the authors’ say in the intro to the recipe, this superb lamb stew is really really quick and easy. Very little prep, and no browning required. It does though take a good three hours to cook.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I almost always adapt recipes when I use them; and while I stuck fairly close to the original here (since I was reviewing it after all), I did make a couple of changes. The ingredients given here are what I used (I added half again of everything specified); I also threw in some sherry because there were only minimal juices in my pan after cooking for two-and-a-half hours as specified. If you’re on the so-called Banting diet, do not add sherry, it’s full of carbs; and do add the full quota of butter called for.
I hasten to add that in spite of my fascination with “Banting”, I’m not strictly on a diet of any sort. However I have always eaten a fair amount of fat (like butter and yummy, crispy pork crackling or well-cooked fat on lamb chops), and have also been aware of the need to minimize carbs. I am also a strong believer in the power of exercise, and walk or hike regularly. But this post is about a lamb and mushroom stew, and not about me, my weight lose, diets or exercise regime.
Ingredients for about 6 people
About 1 kg of lamb, cubed (TRMR calls for 600 g of lamb shoulder, which would be boneless, I used knuckles both times, and left the bone in)
3 large onions, peeled and halved
2-3 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and left whole (TRMR says two garlic heads, halved, and doesn’t mention peeling. I tried this the first time I cooked it and the papery skin detracted – look for heads that have really big cloves to minimize peeling)
6 sticks of celery, coarsely chopped
freshly picked thyme and rosemary (the original recipe says five sprigs of each – I used more, and really big sprigs, because I have both flourishing in my garden)
750 ml chicken stock (or water mixed with three Stock Pot cubes)
375 ml dry white wine
75 ml cream
375 g white button mushrooms, whole or halved (depending on size)
About 3 tbsp butter (the original recipe calls for 200 g butter, and with my half-again ingredients, this would be 300 g)
About 250 ml or more of Old Brown Sherry – but only if you aren’t on a strict LFHC diet!
Understand the Principle of a Blanquette
Essentially a blanquette is a ragout (a French main-dish stew that is cooked very slowly over low heat) made without browning either the meat or the butter.
Blanquette: The French term for a ragout of white meat (veal, lamb or poultry) cooked in a white stock or water with aromatic flavorings. Theoretically, the sauce is obtained by making a roux and adding cream and egg yolks. However, the roux is more often than not omitted. Blanquette had a very important place in historical cuisine and became a classic of bourgeois cookery.” Larousse Gastromique
How to Make Lamb and Mushroom Blanquette ala TRMR
Plan your time carefully. The first time I cooked this, I failed (as I often do) to read the recipe all the way through, and went off to walk eight kilometers thinking it would only take about an hour to cook when I got home at 7 pm. Needless to say, it was a verylate dinner.
If you want to eat at 7 pm, then preheat your oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F mid-afternoon so you can start cooking no later than 4 pm.
Then choose a suitable dish to cook the lamb in. You could use a roasting dish, a glass or ceramic casserole dish, or you could do as I did and use a Sola paella pan. It’s nice and big (32 cm diameter) and has a glass lid. If you cook the quantities specified in the original recipe it might be a little too big, but for my version it is perfect. My only observation, as I have already mentioned, is that the liquid used reduced almost completely; it may not if a different type of cookware had been used. Also, the original recipe states that the “ovenproof casserole dish” should be covered with foil, which I did the second time just to see if there was a difference in the reduction. There wasn’t. So next time – and there surely will be many more next times – I’ll be using the Sola paella pan glass lid again.
So let’s start cooking.
Put the cubed lamb pieces, halved onions, coarsely chopped celery sticks, herbs, garlic cloves, chicken stock and dry white wine into your paella pan or ovenproof casserole dish.
You could add a little coarsely ground black pepper, but I didn’t find that any additional seasoning was necessary.
Cover the casserole or pan with foil or a lid. Remember that if you use foil, the shiny side should be facing inwards to reflect the heat back onto the food. As an aside, I would have thought there would be less reduction with a glass lid. Comments about this are more than welcome.
Pop the casserole or pan into your preheated oven and allow it to cook for about two-and-a-half hours.
The original recipe says you should check the meat after the two-and-a-half hour period and if it isn’t nice and tender, to continue cooking for another half an hour. I would suggest checking after two hours – depending of course on the quality of meat you are cooking.
When you are happy it is soft and tender, drain the liquid through a sieve into a pot. Then you need to reduce the liquid (if there is any), so that you are left with – the TRMR recipe says 400 ml – and for this reason I figured I needed about 600 ml. Having probably only about 15 ml of liquid left, I grabbed the Old Brown Sherry and threw in a lot of it to increase the liquid. I then let this reduce with whatever juices from the dish I had managed to sieve out.
I should probably add that I also removed the meat and veg from the pan and used the same pan to reduce the liquid – or should I say increase and then reduce the liquid? You could though use a clean pot of any kind.
Next step is to add the mushrooms and then the cream (as shown in the pictures above). This then needs to reduce back to about the 400 ml or 600 ml – depending on what you are cooking. I have absolutely no idea what mine reduced to, but it worked and was delicious. I have watched enough MasterChef programmes on TV to know that a lot of other cooks who are much, much better than me also guess a lot.
Once you are happy with the way the sauce looks, feels and tastes, and the mushroom is cooked but not slushy and over-cooked, put the meat back with the mushrooms and the sauce. Add the butter and stir until it has melted and emulsified with the sauce.
Taste, and if you feel the need, add a little salt and pepper (preferably pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper.)
Tim Noakes and co suggest serving with broccoli, which I did the first time. A salad is also a good idea. But it’s a versatile dish and one that can be served with rice or potato (if you aren’t on a diet), or with just about any veg you like.
It’s also great with iced cold dry white wine. Enjoy!
Though I’ve never been to Thailand, I am totally sold on Thai cooking. I’ve always enjoyed eating Thai food, but the challenge of cooking it only goes back about five years when a friend returned from a holiday in Thailand and shared her experiences gained in a traditional Thai cooking course, together with some fantastic recipes.
I almost always use a recipe when cooking – and almost always don’t stick to it. This recipe is no exception, but it is based on a traditional Asian recipe.
I have cooked Cashew Chicken many times, and always in a wok. But the Sola wok, challenged Willem Huisamen, isn’t just any wok. So what better way to test this assumption than to cook something I know well?
Ingredients for about 6 people
500g (about 1 lb) raw chicken breast off the bone, sliced into strips
2 tbsp coconut oil (or any other vegetable oil you prefer cooking with)
2 large (more if they aren’t large) cloves of garlic, chopped
2 or more dried red chillies, chopped (I dry my own)
Coriander leaves (also known as cilantro and dhania) to garnish (optional)
How to Make Your Cashew Chicken
The nuts and spring onions are the last ingredients to add to the Cashew Chicken. I like to use raw cashew nuts and let them cook in the sauces for a short while. If you prefer you can use roasted cashews and simply sprinkle them on top with the spring onions and coriander as a triple garnish.
Serve hot with a mixed salad on the side. You could also serve with coconut rice, or even noodles.
Okay, so I agree wholeheartedly that the Sola wok isn’t just any wok!
Spain is one of my favourite countries, and one where I didn’t ever go hungry, in spite of travelling on a shoestring. Needless to say, paella had its day – washed down with sangria.
Those were the days when you could get by on R10 a day (rands – not US dollars; I had Europe on $5 a Day tucked into my suitcase which should have been a backpack) if you really tried. That was long ago; and I was “roughing” it, except when it came to food.
Having said that, there really aren’t a lot of traditional Spanish dishes that I wanted to write home about. Paella was one, and gazpacho another. Mind you, I tasted calamari for the first time while in Spain, and did write home about the experience – but it wasn’t good in any sense of the word.
I ate squid at lunchtime today and found them more like rubber bands than fish.
Sadly I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Spain again, but I have had the opportunity to experiment with different types of paella, which vary quite considerably, depending largely on the region of origin. And when I was challenged recently by Sola Cookware’s Willem Huisamen to try his Green Cooking range of cookware, including the 32 cm lidded paella pan, the obvious first dish to cook was paella.
So paella it was going to be. But not wanting to go totally overboard with expensive ingredients, I decided to scale down and leave out things like mussels, saffron, and crayfish. I could have abandoned the prawns as well, but then it would have been a disappointing rendition. Which is why I say it is paella on a shoestring (kind of).
The recipe given here is based on a traditional Paella Valenciana, bearing in mind that I love to use proven recipes, but seldom stick to them. So there is nothing purist about it; but I can promise it’s delicious.
Ingredients for about 8 people
2 large white onions, peeled and roughly chopped
at least four big cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
500 g (about 1 lb) raw chicken off the bone, cut into cubes
4 tbsp coconut oil (you could also use olive oil)
3 large tomatoes, chopped (I never bother to peel them)
100g (4 oz) fresh (if you can find them – or if you grow them) or frozen peas
500 g (1 lb) long grain rice (I tend to use white)
Pinch saffron (optional)
1 litre (1 3/4 pt) chicken stock (I use good quality stock cubes)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
100 g (4 oz) frozen haddock, diced (cod fillets would also work well)
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced into strips
Cooked prawns to garnish (buy what you can afford and xxxxxxx
Mussels, cooked (optional)
How to Make Your Spanish Paella
Start by heating the coconut oil in the paella pan. Coconut oil is quite strange if you haven’t used it before … and its liquidity depends on the weather. On a cold day you will have to dig it out of the container like lard; on a hot, sunny day you will be able to pour it like any other typical cooking oil.
Once the oil has melted and is transparent in the pan, add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Don’t let it brown – and certainly don’t let it burn.
Then add the chopped chicken. Let it all simmer over a medium heat until the chicken changes colour and looks white. You don’t want it to cook right through because it will dry out and become tough, so stir it now and then to speed up the process.
While you are waiting for the chicken to cook, chop the tomatoes, and weigh out the peas and rice. If you are using frozen peas it’s a good idea to run them under warm water to get rid of any ice. You don’t need to defrost them totally otherwise they might become slushy.
Now add the tomatoes, peas and rice to the pan and stir. If your budget can stretch to saffron, add that now too. Don’t be tempted to add turmeric for colour; it will change the flavour.
Now add the stock. I generally add at least two stock cubes or bought stock jelly (marketed as stock pots), stir them in and add water over the top. You can also add seasoning (salt and pepper) now, or you can adjust the seasoning at the end. I am careful with salt, but quite often find that as a result I tend to under season food during the cooking process.
Preheat the oven to 220 deg C (425 deg F).
Cover the paella pan (or whatever pan you are using) and allow the chicken, rice and vegetables to simmer for about 20 minutes. Be sure that at least three-quarters of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice.
Remove the lid and add the fish pieces. Garnish with the sliced red pepper, prawns, and (if you are using them) the mussels.
Cover the pan with foil, shiny side inwards (or underneath) and pop the pan into the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
Uncover and serve with salad and white wine straight away.
Quite different to popular Chinese-style sweet and sour pork, this Thai take on sweet and sour is a quick and easy stir fry that will have people coming back for second helpings. Although the ingredients call for fresh pineapple, you can sweeten the dish with tinned fruit, or by increasing the quantity of sugar called for. You could also substitute palm sugar for brown granulated sugar. Serve with rice and slices of avocado pear with lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper, or with a simple green salad. Serves four hungry people.
Thai Sweet and Sour Pork
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 sweet red onion, finely sliced
400 g pork fillet or rump, sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp grown granulated (or palm) sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1 large red pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 English cucumber, skin on, diced
12 small plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
150 g fresh pineapple, cored and cut into chunks
2 spring onions, sliced
Garnish: 1 spring onion, shredded, and fresh green coriander, chopped (optional)
Heat the oil in a wok and add garlic. Fry until golden before adding the onion. After about five minutes add the pork. Stir fry until almost done and then add the fish sauce, sugar and freshly ground black pepper. When the pork is cooked through, add the red pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, pineapple and spring onions. Stir fry for another four or five minutes. Meanwhile cook the rice and prepare the salad and garnish. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve. Alternative option You can also serve Thai-style sweet and sour pork with noodles. Cook the noodles, or soak in boiling water (depending on the type you are using) and then stir in with the other ingredients.
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
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
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
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
Cook 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.
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).
Season to taste and pour over the cauliflower.
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.
Serve with a simple salad and a glass of cold white wine.
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.
Having grown up in a home where my British-South African grandmother was queen of the kitchen, meatballs were just an ordinary dish – tasty, but ordinary. And they weren’t on the menu very often. I don’t cook them often either, unless they are part of a themed dish of some sort, in this instance Thai, largely because they do take more effort than other dishes that can be equally delicious.
I was introduced to these meatballs by a friend who visited Thailand several years ago and attended a basic cooking course. Preparation is surprisingly simple, though rolling the balls is undoubtedly time consuming. Fluffy jasmine coconut rice and a flavorful peanut sauce add a dimension that my gran’s homemade meatballs could never begin to touch.
Fragrant Thai Meatballs
To make the meatballs, combine:
450-500 g (about 1 lb) minced beef
15 ml (1 Tbsp) freshly chopped garlic
1 stalk lemon grass finely chopped (discard the tough outer layers before chopping)
4 spring onions finely chopped
15 ml (1 Tbsp) chopped coriander
30 mll (2 Tbsp) red Thai curry paste
15 ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
15 ml (1 Tbsp) fish sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
You will also need:
rice flour to dust over the meatballs prior to cooking
oil for frying – the type you use is your choice, my recommendation is coconut oil
I wash my hands thoroughly and then use my fists and fingers to ensure that the mix is properly blended, but still has texture. Roll and shape the meat into fairly small balls. This quantity of meat should produce about 30 meatballs. You can make them smaller if you wish, in which case you’ll produce a larger quantity. Put them on a plate and pop into the refrigerator while you make the peanut sauce. Like hamburgers (or beef burgers), cooling them effectively stops them from falling apart when you cook them.
Once the sauce is on its way, shake a little rice flour over the meatballs and then fry them in oil until brown. Don’t be tempted to use wheat flour; if you don’t have or can’t find rice flour, there are other options. Apart from its dubious dietary value, wheat flour won’t do the meatballs any justice. I’ve successfully used chana dal flour (made from chickpeas), but explore your options. If you’re on a no-carb diet, just fry the balls without using flour of any kind.
Then there’s the issue of oil. I confess that I cooked these in sunflower oil, even though I’m trying to avoid it. I’m sure that coconut oil would be better, as would light-frying the meatballs, rather than deep-frying them. However you decide to fry them, do so in batches and remove to absorbent paper towel or newspaper to drain thoroughly.
A relatively rich rice dish, as rice goes, made with coconut milk and garnished with shredded coconut, Coconut Rice is deliciously different.
500 g (2 cups) jasmine rice washed with cold water and drained in a sieve
250 ml (1 cup) cold water
500 ml (2 cups) coconut milk
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
30 ml (2 Tbsp) granulated brown sugar or grated palm sugar
shredded coconut to garnish (optional)
Put the water, coconut milk, salt and sugar in a pot with the rice. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes until the rice is soft and cooked. Turn off the heat and allow it to rest on the stove for a further five to ten minutes. Fluff up with chopsticks or fork before serving.
This must rank as one of the easiest, yummiest sauces I have ever mastered. It is also a sauce that can be teamed up with many other basic meat dishes.
You can make the sauce early on and then let it simmer quietly on the side while you prepare, make and cook the meatballs and coconut rice. It really is quick and easy. Just one word of advice; while peanut butter is a relatively unprocessed food, it is not made equal. Avoid peanut butter with added sugar and trans fats, and ideally only buy organic products.
Here’s what you need for the sauce:
15 ml (1 Tbsp) oil (preferably coconut oil) heated in a small pan
15 ml (1 Tbsp) Red Thai curry paste – bought or homemade – fried for a couple of minutes in the hot oil
30 ml (2 Tbsp) crunchy peanut butter
15 ml (1 Tbsp) palm sugar
15 ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk
Add the peanut butter, palm sugar, lemon juice and coconut milk to the curry paste and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and allow to simmer gently until the sauce thickens.
Serve separately in small bowls or poured over the rice and meatballs.
Christmas is a special time; there’s no getting away from this. But as one gets older, for many it loses it’s magic. And I have to look out of the box of Christianity here, as well as ignoring the concept of Santa Claus.
Happily there is something that lives on, and that is the sharing of food. Whether you believe in Christ or Father Christmas – or neither – food in the form of a good Christmas dinner is what often brings people together. Real soul food.
But there’s a big but here – in the form of a skewed ball that affects anyone who lives in the southern hemisphere. Traditionally – if you are gullible and believe everything you read (particularly on the Internet) – Christmas dinner must be hot and heartwarming. That is even if it doesn’t snow where you live. For those in that other hemisphere (which isn’t mine), Christmas is a kind of winter sport!
“SA shops get it wrong every year. Christmas season isn’t about snow flakes and cold weather. It’s about summer braais and beach parties.” JERM, contemporary cartoonist.
My Christmas Dinners in the Southern Hemisphere
For me Christmas dinner is different not only to the usual dinner, but also to most people’s Christmas dinners – I think.
In South Africa lots of people braai (or barbecue) on Christmas day. I don’t. I won’t. Well that’s not entirely true, because a kettle braai is one of the best appliances for cooking Christmas dinner. But my Christmas dinner will never become a vleis (meat) and pap (porridge) meal.
While I love to have meat, including roast turkey (or even just chicken) and gammon on my Christmas menu, the focus for me is salad. Yes salad. But not just lettuce, tomato and all the other bits and pieces that make a regular through-the-year salad special – like olives, feta cheese, or blanched mangetout peas and baby corn. No. Christmas salad MUST be special. It’s going to cost more and take more effort to prepare, but I promise you it will be worth it in the long run.
What Makes My Christmas Salad Special
I need to start with a confession. Apart from a few seasonal ingredients (mostly southern hemisphere things like asparagus), and of course the extra effort, there really isn’t much more to Christmas salads than those I make any other day of the week, or month of the year! It really isn’t difficult to make salads special all year round. Over the years I have accumulated recipes that I really savor and love making; and when I put in that extra effort, it’s my own Christmas present to myself all year round.
There’s nothing much more rewarding than genuine compliments from people who clearly enjoy the food I have produced.
Christmas Menu 2013
First of all no simple lettuce, tomato and onion salads are ever allowed. They are a complete turn-off. Coleslaw could work, but it’s too commonplace in my house. Potato salad? No, not this year; not even roast potatoes.
This is what was on the menu for Christmas dinner this year:
Oven-baked gammon glazed with honey
Roast kettle-braai turkey with homemade bread stuffing
Red and yellow pepper rice salad
Mangetout and new potato salad
Leeks in blue-cheese dressing
Rocket and mushroom with herbs
Avocado and mangetout vinaigrette
Lemon tart and vanilla ice cream
…all with a sprinkling of family and friends.
Nowadays you normally have an option between ready-cooked gammon, or you can buy a smoked joint and cook it yourself.
Mine weighed 4.414 kg, and because it needed to cook for 30 minutes per 500 g – plus a further 25 minutes – I had to allow a good nine hours cooking time. Since I also needed the oven to char-grill peppers for the rice salad (see below), this had to be done before I could start the gammon.
To cook gammon in the oven, preheat to 160 °C, then place the joint in a baking tray along with one peeled and halved onion, three sticks of celery, three carrots, a few bay leaves, a handful of black peppercorns and about six cloves. Add about two litres of water, cover with tinfoil (shiny side inwards), and place in the centre of the preheated oven.
To glaze, brush with honey before cooking for the last 25 minutes – just watch that it doesn’t burn.
Roast Kettle-Braai Turkey
First prepare the bread stuffing.
Ideally the bread should be stale because it’s easier to crumble in a blender. But I used a day-old loaf of brown bread, excluding the outside crusts (about 340 g), crumbed and transferred to a bowl. Add about 85 g melted butter and a nice big onion, peeled and chopped, as well as a heaped tablespoon of dried sage and salt and pepper to taste. Beat three eggs lightly with a fork and mix into the breadcrumb mixture. If it is too dry you can add a little water or stock. Stuff the turkey. Yes you have to!
About an hour before you want to start cooking, light the coals in the Weber. Because an indirect method of cooking is recommended for roasts, you need to ensure that the coals are positioned around the outside of the inside of the kettle. This method relies on reflected heat; to minimize flames, place a drip tray or foil container in the centre of the kettle to catch juices and fat that drips while the turkey is cooking.
Most of the turkeys you’ll find in quality supermarkets like Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers or Spar are self-basting and self-timing. This makes the cooking process very easy. They are also sold frozen, so you need to take the defrosting time into account. Mine was 4 kg and took about 42 hours to defrost slowly in the fridge.
When the coals are glowing and hot, put the grid into the kettle-braai; sprinkle the turkey with a good quality chicken or barbecue spice and position it in the centre, on the grid. Open the vents in the lid and cover to ensure that the heat is more evenly distributed. Note that the vents should be positioned downwind.
Cooking time depends on the weight of the turkey. Allow 45 minutes per kilogram.
Red and Yellow Pepper Rice Salad
Since you need vinaigrette for this recipe and for several other salads, make a large batch and decant as you need it.
Mix 300 ml extra virgin olive oil with 60 ml of white wine vinegar, four teaspoons of Dijon mustard, a heaped teaspoon of dried tarragon, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Beat with a fork before pouring into a screw-top jar. Here the olive oil and vinegar are mixed in a ratio of about 5:1, which is perfect for delicately flavoured lettuce and leeks. If you want to use it over more strongly flavored green salads or root vegetables, use slightly less oil.
Pour 100 ml of the vinaigrette into a bowl and add a nice big pinch of garum masala. Stir and leave to infuse.
This is a delightfully sunny summer salad that is surprisingly easy to prepare. Grilling the peppers gives them a delicious, slightly sweet flavour.
Heat the grill of your oven and place the peppers in a baking tray close to the grill. Keep turning them until the skins blacken all over. Remove and allow to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the blackened skin. Remove the seeds and chop the flesh.
In the meantime measure and cook 260 g long grain rice in about 560 ml water together with a tablespoon of butter and a heaped teaspoon of salt. As soon as it is cooked cool it under running water to prevent it sticking. Place in a dish with the chopped peppers and about three tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs [oregano, marjoram and chives all work well]. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice and peppers and stir. Cover and allow to stand at room temperature until required.
Before serving, garnish with small wedges of tomato.
Mangetout and New Potato Salad
This is a deliciously different potato salad that has a touch of green and a really nice fruity dressing.
Start out by boiling about 450 g of new potatoes (started out in cold salted water). They should be cooked but not too soft. You don’t want them to fall to pieces, so once you can push a skewer through them, remove from the heat and drench with cold water.
At the same time, steam the mangetout (snow peas) for about five minutes. They should still be a nice bright green colour but slightly crisp. Also drench them in cold water when they are cooked. Allow to cool and then slice them diagonally into 5 mm-thick slices.
When the potatoes have cooled, quarter them and toss them into a bowl with the mangetout peas and dressing.
To make the dressing you will need a tablespoon (15 ml) of either raspberry or strawberry vinegar which needs to be mixed with a teaspoon (5 ml) of soy sauce and about three tablespoon of (preferably homemade) mayonnaise. Mix well before smothering the potatoes.
Top with a few bunches of watercress and decorate with hibiscus flowers if you can lay your hands on any. They are said to have a citrusy, cranberry-type flavour, though not everybody likes to eat them.
Leeks in Blue-Cheese Dressing
This is another ultra-simple but absolutely amazing salad that is so quick and easy you’ll wonder why you don’t make it for all special occasions. Served with a few slices of ham and fresh rolls it could also make a really fabulous light lunch or supper dish.
All you need are between 20 and 30 small, tender leeks – two bunches should do it, as well as walnuts, parsley, and vinaigrette mixed with blue cheese for the dressing.
To make the salad, start by washing and trimming the leeks and then cooking them in salted boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. They need to be tender but still hold their shape. Drain, drench with cold water and leave to cool.
Arrange the cooled leeks in a shallow dish and sprinkle with 75 g chopped walnuts and 45 ml finely chopped parsley. Mix 150 ml of the vinaigrette you made previously and crumble 75 g of any mild blue cheese into it. Spoon over the leeks before serving.
Rocket and Mushroom with Herbs
Based on an Italian salad known as Ruchetta ai Funghi, this is a lovely ploy for other dishes that are rich and heavy.
It’s made with about a dozen large button mushrooms that are trimmed and then sliced quite finely.
Then mix the mushroom slices with about 90 ml to 100 ml of coarsely chopped rocket and other herbs, or even other small leaves (spinach, sorrel and Asian greens) as well as herbs like marjoram and origanum, parsley and sorrel. As you layer the salad, dribble a little good quality virgin olive oil over each layer, and then cover the mushrooms and herbs with about 175 g finely slivered Pecorina or Parmesan cheese.
Garnish with nasturtium leaves and flowers – they will add both colour and flavour.
Avocado and Mangetout Vinaigrette
Gorgeously green, this up-beat salad is a favourite in our family, particularly with me and my daughter, who once thought she was a vegetarian. It is a very seasonal dish that requires fresh asparagus, mangetout (snow peas), avocados and pine nuts (which are both expensive and very often difficult to find and fortunately can be left out without making a huge difference to the taste).
BUT, it’s another very easy salad to make, and it’ll wow your friends and family.
You will need to start by steaming both the peas and the asparagus. Quantities depend on your personal preference, but about 350 g of asparagus and 500 g mangetout works quite well. Both should be quite crisp and should be allowed to cool before you assemble the salad. You will also need soft lettuce leaves for the base of the dish; my preference is always butter lettuce. Spread the lettuce on a flat serving dish and cover with the greens, adding two avocados that have been peeled and pitted and chopped just prior to serving so that they don’t turn black.
Splash garlic vinaigrette over the salad. This is made by squeezing fresh garlic cloves into the vinaigrette described above .
Lemon Tart and Vanilla Ice Cream
I’m not a pudding person, but for special occasions I do sometimes try. This Christmas I decided that lemon tart was a worthy challenge, and I wasn’t sorry.
All you need for this delicious lemon tart is a box of digestive biscuits (well maybe a couple more – 225 g is ideal); 130 ml of castor sugar; 125 g butter; two nice big lemons; and three large eggs.
You will also need 20.5 cm flan tin, pan or dish to cook the pudding in. And you might like to serve it with ice-cream and/or cream and other fruits. That’s your call.
Before you start preheat the oven to 180 °C.
To make the crust break all the biscuits into small pieces and put them into a food processor or blender and crumble them. Pour the biscuit crumbles into a bowl and mix with 30 ml of castor sugar and 75 g of melted butter.
Grease the pan or tin and press the biscuit mixture inside. Chill the base while you prepare the lemon filling. It doesn’t take long, though it will take a while to set.
Rinse the lemons and use a potato peeler to cut three nice long strips of rind from the lemons; then slice them finely into long, thin shreds. Place these into a very small pan and over with water; bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the rind gets soft (five to ten minutes). Drain and then toss in 50 g of the remaining castor sugar.
Grate the rest of the lemon rind (from both lemons) using the finest side of a grater. Also squeeze as much of the juice as you can from both lemons. Mix the rind, juice and 50 g of melted butter together and beat the eggs in together with the rest of the sugar. Pour this mixture into the pie crust (which should now resemble a flan case).
Check that the oven is up to temperature and bake for 25 minutes. When done remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin or pan. Scatter the shredded bits of peel over the top of the peel and then refrigerate.
Serve chilled with vanilla ice-cream and enjoy.
Cheers until next year – but feel free to use these recipes to improve your salad experiences in the meanwhile.