Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Christmas eve dinner (better late than never)


Last year we spent Christmas with my in-laws up in Pretoria. I offered to cook us a Christmas eve dinner at Grandpa Joe's house. I decided to go all out - downloaded loads of cheesy Christmas carols, printed out carol booklets for us to do our own signing, got bible verses ready to be read, dug out all grandpa's 'good' tableware, lit candles everywhere, prepared a center piece and the whole nine yards.   

For the meal I served individually plated salads as a starter. Nothing too complex just a bed a baby leaves, red and yellow peppers, avo, baby corn, pan fried mushrooms, cashew nuts and balsamic reduction as a dressing. 


The main course and dessert were inspired by the Fresh Living Magazine Christmas booklet, which I had read during the road trip up. Grilled salmon with gremolata, crispy roast potatoes and blanched asparagus with capers, olive tapenade and cherry tomatoes as the side veg. It was delicious! Such a winning combo! Perfect for a dinner party any time of the year. 

For dessert I made the Christmas pudding cheese cake from Fresh Living - I tweaked it a little to make it sugar and gluten free... oh my word was it delicious! That is so going to become a staple in my Christmas repertoire from now on. What a fabulous idea! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fresh, light and a little different


Ages ago I put aside a recipe I wanted to try but (as these things always happen) never got around to it. I stumbled upon it the other day and gave it whirl...it was magnificent! 

The inspiration recipe was the cover dish on the November 2008 issue of TASTE magazine. My recipe is different in many ways but the essence is much the same. 

The fresh zesty sauce makes a pleasant change from all the oily, buttery and creamy sauces we usually have with fish. There was no need to serve a starch with the meal either. It was perfectly satisfying as it was. 

I served a bowl of fresh cherries for dessert and thought this was a pretty darned fabulous meal to serve for guests, especially considering how healthy it all is. No compromises in flavour at all! 



Grilled fish with tomato papaya salsa
Serves 4

4 x firm white fish medallions about 200g each

For the salsa
3 small ripe tomatoes
1 cup of ripe but firm papaya
1 small red pepper or pimento
1 tsp of fresh garlic
A small chilli (or to taste), seeded
¼ cup of olive oil
1 Tbsp of lemon juice
Salt to taste

To garnish
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 ripe but firm avocado, peeled and quartered 
Fresh basil (or coriander), roughly chopped
1 lemon or lime, quartered

Pre-heat your oven on grill and full heat. Place the rack close to the top of the oven. Line a baking tray with foil.

Place your fish onto the baking tray; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and grill for 8 – 10 minutes depending on how thick the fish is.

In a blender combine all the salsa ingredients. Don’t over blend as some texture is nice.

Prepare the garnish items.

Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it rest for 5 minutes before plating the fish as seen in the picture above.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do unto others!


What do (did) we, as employees, expect from our employers?

For those of us luckily enough to be able to afford a housekeeper, maid, char, nanny, cleaner, helper or whatever name we use for the wonderful women (and men) who help us in our homes; let us remember that they are our employees. They have the same expectations we have from our bosses.

They wait in hope ever year for their annual increases and bonuses, just like we do. They rely on a yearly inflationary increase in their salary to keep up with their rent, food and transport costs. They also hope to be appreciated for their loyal service.

Industry norms are as follows

1 – Mandatory salary increase per year based on inflation – you can check this by clicking on this link.

However, the lower income earners are harder hit by inflation, as they spend almost all of their salaries on food, energy and transport which have a higher rate of inflation.

My determined suggestion would be to give your staff an annual increase of the published rate of inflation plus an additional 2%, to even it out to somewhere closer to the true rate of inflation.

2 – Each year you should evaluate your staff members performance. If they don’t have a job description and list of required tasks, please set one up, as this really helps them to know what you expect from them. Salary increases for loyal service and good performance are an incentive to serve you better. Even if it’s only a few percent, showing your appreciation financially is the best way to say thank you.

Dissatisfied employees skive off and steal... remember that housekeepers talk to each other, if they know so many other ladies are getting increases and they aren’t, they are more likely to think it only fair to call home on your landline and take a few rolls of loo paper and some sugar home with them... wouldn’t you?

3 – Annual bonuses. Depending on how a business’s profits for the year look, is how a business decides what the annual bonus for their team will be. Think about how you’ve done this year financially speaking. If you’ve done well – so should your housekeeper. If not, then figure out a fair bonus based on your years income and explain it them clearly and honestly. 

Remember that this pays for their kids Christmas presents, holiday trips home to see their family, school fees and clothes for the next year. I am sure, one less fancy dinner out, or a few less bottles of champers over the festive season are worth knowing how much further that money will go for your housekeeper.

An employee who feels valued and cared for is an asset and treasure. Are your staff feeling that way? 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Caramelised baby onion, rosa tomato and lentil salad


I have never been a natural salad eater. I have had to work hard at becoming one. Some of the keys to my enjoying a salad are that they need to have more than just leaves and few salad veggies in them. I like them to have crunch and softness. Tangy, tart and sweet notes. Proteins, diary, nuts and or seeds and a wide variety of veggies and leaves. I don't like them to be drenched in mayo or oil and I'm not crazy about balsamic vinegar. I hate raisins in my salad and am iffy about fruit in a salad. And I don't like eating salad when its cold outside. But besides that...

I now eat a lot of salad and am always looking out for new and interesting ones. A dear friend and very talented cook made a salad for me a while ago which I just couldn't get enough of. I have been dying to try to recreate it using the guide lines she gave me. I'm not sure if I properly did it justice but this recipe is as close as I could get. 


Caramelised baby onion and lentil salad
Serves 4

10 pickling onions or shallots, trimmed and peeled
1 Tbsp of olive oil
½ tsp of salt
2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp of sugar

1 tin of lentils, well washed and drained
1 tsp of lemon zest
2 Tbsp of lemon juice
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oreganum, parsley, basil)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp of sugar
¼ tsp of salt (or to taste)
125g of baby rosa tomatoes, halved 

2 handfuls of baby spinach, well washed
1/2 a cup of crumbled feta
Reserve some tomatoes and herbs for garnish

In a sauce pan gently fry the onions in the oil, adding dashes of water from time to time. Keep a lid on the pot, but slightly open a crack. After about 10 – 15 minutes depending on the size of the onions, add the seasoning and vinegar and fry until the sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and leave with the lid on.

While frying the onions, combine all the lentil ingredients. Once the onions have cooled, add them to the lentils and refrigerate until well cooled.


To serve, arrange the spinach on a platter, scatter with the lentil onion mixture and garnish with the feta, tomato and herbs.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Chicken Piccata



This is not a new recipe. I blogged about it about three years ago first but I have so many new followers now and it is such a winner of a recipe I felt I just had to share it again. I have taught this recipe in my classes so many times and it is such a success every time. 

I have refined the recipe a little since then and created a flour free version of it too which it just as tasty. So I will share both versions below. 


It is particularly important to the success of this recipe to use a meat mallet to tenderise the chicken breasts. To read more about this, click here.


Chicken Piccata
Serves 4 
4 chicken breast, tenderised
¼ cup of white flour
½ tsp of salt
Seasoning of your choice (I used a pinch of coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder)
1 Tbsp olive oil 
1 Tbsp of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ a cup of sherry (or white wine with 1 Tbsp of sugar)
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tsp of lemon zest
3 Tbsp of lemon juice
2 Tbsp of brown sugar
2 Tbsp of capers
1 tsp of whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped

Mix up the flour, salt and seasoning. Heat half the oil in a large non stick pan to medium high heat. Coat your tenderised chicken breasts with the flour and fry them until just browning on each side (2 minutes per side max). Add extra oil as needed. Set aside the chicken. 

If there is any burned flour in your pan, clean it out, if not add the butter to the same pan and once it has melted, add the onions and garlic and fry for a minute or two until they turn glassy. Add the sherry, stock, lemon zest and juice, capers, mustard and sugar. Allow this to simmer and reduce by about a 1/3. Then add the chicken breasts and parsley to the sauce and simmer until heated through.   

If making this ahead of time. Leave the chicken and sauce separate until ready for use. Then heat the sauce, add the chicken and parsley, and simmer until the chicken is heated through. 

For garnish add lemon slices and extra capers like you can see in the picture.



Chicken Piccata (flour free)
Serves 4 

1 Tbsp of olive oil
½ tsp of salt
¼ tsp of pepper
1 tsp of fresh herbs, finely chopped
Seasoning of your choice (I used a pinch of coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder)
4 chicken breasts, tenderised 
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ a cup of sherry (or white wine with 1 Tbsp of sugar)
1 cup of strong chicken stock
1 tsp of lemon zest
3 Tbsp of lemon juice  
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp of capers
2 tsp of whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped 

Combine half the oil and all the seasoning. Heat the other half of the oil in a large pan to medium high heat.  Cover the chicken breasts with the seasoning and fry them until browning on each side (2 minutes per side max). Set aside the chicken. 

Add the butter to the same pan and once it has melted add the onions and garlic and fry for a few minutes until they turn glassy. Then add the sherry, stock, lemon zest and juice, capers, mustard and sugar. Allow this to simmer and reduce the sauce by ½, then add the chicken breasts and parsley to the sauce and simmer for a further minute.  

For garnish add lemon slices and extra capers like you can see in the picture.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Grilled kingklip with Mediterranean veg


I was craving grilled fish yesterday and spotted some lovely fresh kingklip. I had my nieces coming over for a quick lunch before their extra maths class; so I thought I'd throw together something fresh, quick and light for us. It turned out so well. 

This is a perfect one pot wonder for a quick meal but you can also add a starch and salad on the side to bulk it out. We ate it just like that and it was perfectly filling and so satisfying. 

I also think it looks really appealing, which would make it great for entertaining. 





Grilled kingklip with Mediterranean veg
Serves 4

4 x 150g medallions of firm white fish (like kingklip)
8 baby marrows, trimmed, halved lengthways and width ways
1 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
125g of baby tomatoes
4 pickling onions (or shallots), trimmed, peeled and cut into wedges
2 Tbsp of capers
12 black olives, pitted and halved
2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of black pepper

¼ cup of fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oreganum and/or basil)
½ tsp of lemon zest
1 Tbsp of lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Pre-heat your oven on grill, fan and maximum heat. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.

In a casserole dish, large enough so that the fish and veggies don’t overlap, place the fish evenly spaced and scatter the veggies, capers, olives and garlic in between the fish. I have olive oil in a little spray bottle and I spray the veggies and fish with a thin layer of good olive oil. If you don’t have a spray bottle, drizzle the oil and make sure the fish is well rubbed with it. Then sprinkle the dish with the salt (more salt on the fish than the veggies) and black pepper. And grill for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how thick the fish is. The fish must be barely cooked and the veggies starting to blacken on the edges. Turn off the heat and leave the dish in the oven for a further 5 minutes or so. Leave for 5 minutes out the oven before serving.


Just before serving, drizzle the fish with the lemon zest and juice and sprinkle the whole dish with the fresh herbs. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thai salad parcels


It must be at least 20 years since I first discovered Thai salad parcels at Wang Thai. Our family quickly made up their own version of the dish and have been making it with relish ever since. About two weeks ago for date night I rustled this one up for Adam and I. 

I bought three heads of iceberg lettuce and stripped the outer leaves away leaving just the smaller bowl shaped tender and crispy inner leaves. I keep the large outer leaves to use in a regular salad, but the inner leaves make the perfect 'bowl' to gather the filling and sauce in. 

The fillings in this case were - salted peanuts, toasted coconut, chopped ginger, chopped garlic, chopped fresh chilli, chopped lemon peel and chopped lemon segments. The sauce was a combination of soya sauce and honey (I don't like it too sweet, so only a dash of honey for me). I would usually add a little fish sauce too, but Adam doesn't eat fish so I left that out. 

The combination of flavours is so refreshing and exhilarating. It makes for a perfect light meal or starter, leaving your senses peeked and your tummy satisfied. If you think it looks weird, trust me - I have never served this to anyone who hasn't been wowed by it. You get to choose what and how much of anything to put into your salad wrapper so each person can tailor-make it suit their taste.