Monday, January 31, 2011

Roast Veggie Rice Pilaf

My parents made the most delicious rice pilaf for Christmas dinner and I've been dreaming of it ever since. This recipe is my interpretation of it on a more humble scale. Great texture and taste combination.

Roast Veggie Rice Pilaf
Serves 4

1 cup of basmati rice
¼ cup of pink lentils
½ stock cube or 2 tsp. of stock powder - chicken or vegetable
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 ½ cups of water
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cumin
8 cups of roasting veggies, chopped
(butternut, mushrooms, onion, peppers, carrots, courgettes, broccoli etc.)
1 Tbsp. of oil
20 rosemary leaves and 20 thyme leaves, bruised
¼ medium lemon rind, grated
½ tsp. of salt
½ a cup of mixed nuts
1 Tbsp. of sugar
¼ tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of water
50g dried cranberries (optional)
½ cup of toasted coconut (optional)

Combine the rice, lentils, stock, garlic, water and spices in a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot with a lid. Bring to the boil and simmer until the water level reaches the level of the rice. Turn off the heat and leave the rice on the stove with the lid on for 15 minutes.
Pre heat the oven on grill and place the wire rack in the centre of the oven.
Chop up the roasting veggies. Cut harder veggies into smaller pieces than the softer veggies. In a bowl combine the vegetables, oil, salt and herbs and toss until the veggies are all coated with oil. Spread them out on a roasting pan and place them in the oven. Check the veggies every 5 minutes or so to check if they are not blackening too much and turn them with a spatula until they are cooked through and a little shrivelled and browning in places. If they are blackening too fast, either drop the heat a little or place the wire rack lower in the oven. If they are drawing too much water, leave the oven door open a crack for the steam to be released. Once cooked set aside until ready for use.
In a hot pan start roasting the nuts a little. When they are starting to brown, add the sugar, salt and water and move the nuts around in the pan with a spatula until they are coated and the water has evaporated. Set aside until ready for use.
Combine all the ingredients while still warm and serve into bowls or on a big platter. If using as a salad, serve cooled on a pile of lettuce leaves. Serve with plain yoghurt or chutney if desired.
This dish isn’t the best for freezing but will last for up to two days in sealed container in the fridge.

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lamb and Roast Veg Pitas - Phase 1

Okay – I haven’t officially developed the recipe yet – I still need to take out the measuring spoons and scale… aaargh! But it has been cooked, photographed and grovelled over already. I just couldn’t wait to share it with you!

The basis is your favourite pita breads toasted till they puff nicely in the oven, roast veggies (they need to be chopped smallish so they can fit into the pita’s easily), tossed in oil, garlic, salt and some rosemary. The sauce is plain yoghurt with chopped mint, a pinch of salt and pinch of cumin. But the lamb… an ode to the lamb…

Get a nice piece of deboned leg or lamb loin. You can use the rest for a roast or on the braai, but save a nice juicy fat piece for this. Marinade it in lemon zest and juice, oil, garlic and rosemary. I left it for 2 hours. Get all the other ingredients ready and your guests too.

Get your oven on grill and wait for it to get scorching hot. Place your oven rack as close to the element as possible. Put the lamb in the oven and grill it for a 7 – 8 mins per side. It’s best served rare but judge it by the side of the piece of meat you are using.

Once out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes – then slice it thinly, salt it and fill your pita’s, dolloping sauce inside and onto top. Garnish with chopped mint and grovel it the goodness!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mushrooms – a slight obsession?

I am rather fond of mushrooms... to say the least. This was, however, not always the case. I was a rather suspicious natured, not easily impressed youngster. The expression on my face in the attached picture was what one might have called my ‘happy face’ in those days. That face, set next to a massive basket of hand-picked Porcini mushrooms, is pretty inexcusable! How my parents did not throttle me is a mystery.

I have however come to my senses and want to share with you what I consider to be the perfect way of preparing mushrooms.

Firstly, it is myth that mushrooms should not be washed. Please, wash away – that black dirt must go and it’s much quicker to wash them than to wipe each clean by hand. Secondly, life it too short to peal a mushroom.

However you decide to slice, dice, quarter, halve or whatever your nicely washed mushrooms, chuck them in a hot pan, wok or pot with sufficient, oil or my preference, a mixture of oil and butter. Toss the mushrooms around the pan until they have gotten a nice colour from the frying and then drop the heat to medium heat.

Saut̩ the mushrooms until most of the water content of the mushrooms has evaporated. The amount of water they will release depends on the varietal and the freshness of the mushroom and may take longer or shorter based in that. You want your mushrooms to have at least halved (almost quartered) in size. They need to have lost all there sponginess and be slightly meaty in texture. This should all take between 10 Р15 minutes.

Add black pepper and a healthy glug of a good soya sauce and up the heat again. A pinch of cumin is also nice. Fry this until the sauciness of the soy has evaporated and coated the mushrooms. Add extra salt if you think it needs it.

Now the mushrooms are ready to be turned into frittata, omelette, risotto, pasta sauce, salad, tagine, pilaf... the list is endless!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where my love affair with food started

My love for food and cooking started as early as I can remember. My mother, Colleen, is a prolific cook and our home life was centred around the kitchen and great family meals.

We sat as a family around the table for a cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, almost all of which were prepared by my mother. Meal times were a time for the family to interact and considered a sacred space by all of us. Our family’s meals were well known and attended by all our friends and extended family. The family of plus minus five people would often be extended to fifteen people on any given day.

My mother loves reading about amongst many other topics, food, history and culture and this has brought all kinds of wonderful dishes to our table. She is always way ahead of any food trends as she doesn’t follow trends but explores cultures and history.

As children we were gathering pine nuts from the pine forests around Stellenbosch for pestos and hunting mushrooms. My brother was diving crayfish and abalone. We experimented with making our own cheeses and olives. We spent weeks exploring jam making techniques and the best milk tart recipe, made fresh pasta and sushi, pored over recipe books and food magazines.

Quite early in my life (about ten years old) my mother became concerned with the ethics around food and investigated a vegetarian life style for herself and eventually us kids. I can’t remember this being a major issue but then again she cooks so amazingly well, few people even notice that they are in a vegetarian household when they first start visiting.

This has opened up the world of meat free cooking for me, which is such a mental block for so many people. Luckily my mother has never been a militant veggie and I kept on being exposed to meat and it’s cooking methods even though mainly intellectually.

PS – I have my Mom digging up pictures... am curious to see what she comes up with.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Granny Sybil's Baked Bean Pie

Serves 4

I know this sounds shocking but trust me. It’s not fine dining but rates pretty highly on my comfort food dishes and not just because my granny used to make it. Another plus is that it is super easy and kids love it. It is loaded with protein and if served with a salad a perfectly balanced meal.


4 large firm baking potatoes

50g butter

4 Tbsp flour

1 stock cube (veg or chicken)

½ a cup of milk

2 cans of baked beans

4 Tbsp of good tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

½ a pack of streaky bacon or grated cheese

Peel the potatoes and boil them whole. While they are boiling in a sauce pan, mealt the butter, remove the pot from the heat and add the flour and stock cube. With a whisk, stir this until it form a loose paste. Place the pot on the heat again and fry the paste for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour. When the paste is smooth, place the pot back on the heat and whisk until this forms a stiff paste. If this happens too quickly and is becoming lumpy, remove it from the heat and whisk until it has settled. Once the paste has formed a thick sticky ball add the baked beans and tomato sauce and stir until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and set aside until the potatoes have cooked. Test the potatoes with a knife a sharp knife, drain and rinse once just done. Slice the potato into thick slices, about 1 cm thick, and layer them on top of the beans.

Top this with the bacon or the grated cheese. Grill in the oven until the bacon is crispy or the cheese in bubbling and browning slightly.

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Family ties, 'an granny's pies 'an folks giving a tip or two...

Last night I had my wonderful cousin over for dinner. I wanted to test a recipe of my Gran’s, which I thought might be a quick and easy kiddies meal and needed some guinea pigs to test it on. So over dinner the topic of my new blog came up and Annika and Adam were full of helpful suggestions for me.

One of these suggestions was to write an about me page. I’m a bit shy and not keen on blowing my own horn so that is not going to be easy but I will give it bash. The other suggestion was to write about my philosophy about food and cooking and some of the habits and tips I use in my kitchen which I find helpful.

I like both of these ideas so here goes... will start writing this weekend and will start adding some of this to my blog, in between my recipes.

Red wine and rosemary sauce

Makes about 300ml of sauce.

This sauce is sooooo good you just have to try it. It will blow you and any guests you might grace with it away.

I had some left over in the fridge and added to a mushroom risotto I was making... oh my word.

½ bottle (375ml) of red wine (the better the wine the better the sauce, but nice cheap and cheerful wine is just fine)

A sprig of fresh rosemary (about 30 large leaves) roughly chopped

1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped (optional)

1 tsp of salt

2 Tbsp of sugar

2 tsp of a good mild mustard

A healthy grind of black pepper

250ml of cream

Poor the wine into a sauce pan and simmer until it has reduce to about a ¼ of it’s original volume, you want it start thickening a little.

While the wine is reducing add the garlic, rosemary, salt, sugar, mustard and black pepper.

One the sauce has thickened slightly and has reduce enough, add the cream.

You can also add your strained meat drippings to the red wine sauce and reduce it a bit further before adding the cream for a delicious savoury twang.

This sauce compliments lamb and beef especially but is also great with chicken, pork or with roast veggies or added to a risotto.

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Low fat potato salad

Low fat potato salad
Serves 4

4 large / 6 medium / 8 small potatoes

a dash of olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp of a pale good vinegar (white balsamic or tarragon vinegar are nice)
1 Tbsp of sugar or honey
½ a cup of good quality vegetable stock
A pinch of salt

200g low fat yogurt (Greek yogurt of you are feeling decadent)
½ a cup of a good mayonnaise (Hellman's is my favorite)
4 Tbsp of basil pesto (optional)
1 heaped tsp of sugar
½ tsp of salt and a grind of pepper
¼ of a cucumber, seeded
2 large / 4 small Gherkins
¼ Red and ¼ yellow bell peppers, finely cubed (optional)

Peal and chop your potatoes into small bite sized chunks (about 1 to 2 cm cubes) and boil then in salted water until just tender. You want the potatoes to keep their shape so be careful not to over cook them.

While your potatoes are cooking, finely chop your onion and fry until translucent. Remove from the heat and the vinegar, sugar, salt and stock.

Drain the potatoes and pour the stock over them. Very gently combine the potatoes and stock, taking care not to break the potatoes. Allow this to cool in the fridge while making your sauce. 

Combine the yogurt, mayo, pesto if using, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Chop the cucumber, gherkins and peppers into very small cubes and add 3/4 to the sauce, reserving the last 1/4 for garnishing the salad.

Combine the cooled potato mixture with the sauce and refrigerate until needed. Garnish with the remaining chopped veggies just before serving.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some of my braai ideas

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.

Quick crunchie dessert

Last night I whipped up a quick dessert for friends by taking a scoop of vanilla ice cream, crumbling a crunchie on top and topping it off with a tiny bit of finely chopped fruit (I used a plum, grapes and an apple ie. what was in my fruit basket and sealed it with a squeeze of lemon to stop it from browning) It looked good served in martini glasses and went down pretty well for a last minute dessert.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Cape Grace has for many years served the yummiest crunchies around. I have used that recipe as a foundation and tried to make it easier, upped the fibre and dropped the butter and sugar. I think my version is pretty damned delicious... try them and let me know?


Makes about 30 crunchies

2 cups (200g) of desiccated coconut

½ cup toasted seed mix (omega mix or miracle mix or ultimate mix)

2 cups (250g) of jungle oats

2 cups rice crispies

2 cups brown or nutty wheat flour

½ cup treacle sugar

½ tsp of Salt

Mix the above in a large mixing bowl

300g melted butter

1 cup of honey or golden syrup

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Melt and whisk together the above 3 ingredients until it starts foaming, then add to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Press the mixture lightly into a greased baking tray – try to use quite a deep baking tray and get the mixture about 2 - 3cm thick. Bake in a pre-heated oven 170C for 15 - 20mins or until golden brown in colour.

Allow to cool before turning out and cutting into squares. Store in an air tight container.

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fillet Balsamico

A dear Italian friend of mine and awesome cook taught me how to do this super simple and simply delicious, melt in your mouth fillet.

You marinate your fillet in an abundance of good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and bruised rosemary leaves. I use about half half oil to vinegar ration and an ample amount of rosemary leaves striped from the stalk and bruised by rubbing and crushing them in your hands. Nothing else, especially no salt. Place the fillet in a snug container so the marinade can cover it and turn it every so often if you remember. I like to leave it for about 2 hours or so.

When you are ready to cook the meat remove the fillet from the marinade place it on a baking tray and into a preheated oven, reserving the marinade. I like to have my oven on top heat so I can get the fillet crispy and crusty on the outside while still rare on the inside, but that is up to you. You should however keep the meat rare as it will cook further after removing it from the oven.

Grill the meat for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the fillet. Remove it from the oven and slice it into slices of about 1 – 2cm thickness. Arrange the slices onto a serving platter and pour the reserved marinade generously over the hot meat and place back into the oven for 5 minutes. You can then grind some salt and pepper over the top and serve immediately. The vinegar continues cooking the meat and gives a tenderness and flavour that is truly memorable.

Summer serving suggestion: crispy Mediterranean potatoes and rocket salad

Winter serving suggestion: Dijon mustard mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tenderised chicken breasts

Braaing (bbq'ing) tends to be a lengthy affair with the food often arriving much later than anticipated. In order to avoid the kids pigging out on salty snacks or having to make them a totally separate meal, I would suggest trying tenderised marinated chicken breasts.
Using a meat mallet flatten the breasts to about 1cm thick as in the picture above. Marinade them in your favourite store bought marinade or make your own. 
Some suggestions would be to combine a little yoghurt, chutney and salt; or some olive oil, honey, lemon juice and salt; or olive oil, a little chopped rosemary, garlic and salt. You can leave this in the fridge until ready for use or use it right away.
The chicken can be grilled on the fire before it has made coals. They take literally 2 minutes per side and are ready to pop into a bun or slice up and eat just like that.
Prepare a few extra to slice up as a welcome snack for the adults too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Veggie Mac n’ Cheese

Adam was telling me about a pasta dish his granny used to make for them as kids. It sounded like a good way to get kids to eat their veggies and a comfort food meal for adults as well. I have naturally tweaked it to make it my own. And I have kept it as simple as possible so that it's easy to make and have kept the flavors as neutral as possible so that even the fussiest kids would eat it.

Serves 4 – 6

A selection of neutral or yellow/orange-coloured veggies. I used:
2 cups butternut, cubed
1 ½ cups carrots, peeled and cut into coins
½ a large onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 cup cabbage, shredded
250g uncooked macaroni (I used penne rigate), cooked and drained
2 Tbsp butter (optional)
¼ tsp of mild curry powder (trust me!)
Salt to taste
2 cups of grated melting cheese (I used a white cheddar)
Step 1

Get your pasta cooking and lightly steam the veggies. It is so important not to overcook the vegetables as this is when they get that sulphurous flavour which put most kids off them. If you have a steamer, use as directed. I simply put about 2cms of water in a pot the right size for the amount for veggies and got that boiling. I added the chopped butternut as that was the hardest veg I was using. The smaller the cubes the faster they will cook. I then added the carrots about five minutes after the butternut (that’s how long it took me to wash, peel and cut them). I let that steam for about five minutes before I added the roughly chopped onion and garlic. Steaming onion and garlic removes their strong flavour and brings out their natural sweetness. I steamed that for a further five minutes.
Step 2

Use a sharp knife to check if the veggies are cooked through. They must not be mushy. I added the chopped cabbage and then switched the heat of the pot off and left it for a further five minutes. Check if the cabbage is tender, if not, leave to steam further in the pot with no extra heat.
Step 3

Drain the rest of your pasta until you are ready to use it. Puree the veggies with the butter, curry powder and salt. I find a stick blender the easiest to use as you don’t have all the extra bits to wash up. Grate the cheese and combine half with the pureed veggies and mix in the pasta. You can serve this directly onto plates and top with the remaining cheese or place this into a casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake under the grill just before serving until the pasta has heated through and the cheese is bubbly and brown on the top.

1. I have purposely left the flavouring very mild for this dish to make it suitable for small children. If your family likes spicy flavours, add more curry powder and lots of black pepper. You can also add bacon bits or chicken to add a lovely meaty flavour.

2. Appropriate veggies to use other than those I used: cauliflower, baby marrows, mushrooms (these would need to be lightly fried in a pan – not steamed), gem squash, sweet corn, patty pan squashes, turnips, sweat potato. If your kids aren’t too averse to greens you can add spinach and broccoli. I would avoid tomatoes as they are too acid and would mess with the mild creamy flavour. I would avoid peppers (even the yellow and orange ones) as when they are cooked they have a very strong flavour but that it a personal opinion.

PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at and I will gladly mail it to you.