Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding...

I had a bit of a rushed morning with errands and work, all of which needed to be finished before my date to watch the royal wedding at 12h00! I naturally wanted to have some nice snacks and bubbly to accompany the wedding watching but had neither the time nor inclination (after the last week of nonstop cooking) to prepare anything fiddly. So I popped past Giovanni’s, picked up some Parma ham, smoked salmon and Le Petit France camembert and few other goodies, popped past woollies to get rye bread, croissants, crackers, crème fraiche, grapes and mini lemon cheese cakes.

I arrived at my Dad’s house at 11h45, so very little time to spare before missing the good stuff. So the snacks were banged out in literally 10 minutes. Croissants with parma ham and cherry tomatoes, rye bread toast squares with crème fraiche, smoked salmon and cucumber triangles and a cheese board with grapes and crackers. It was quick easy and simply delicious. My three favourite things when it come to food!

The wedding on the other hand was stiff, formal and left me wanting for some serious romance… I guess there was loads of protocol to follow, but a little bit of romance and some kitschi’ness would have gone down a treat. The royal family is almost purely there for the entertainment of the british people… come on then, give us a little schmaltz please!

How awesome was the bridesmaid's dress though?

I'm back!!!!

Okay…. I’m back! Wow – what a whirl wind week… but what a fabulous experience. 29 eager eaters to feed with good solid family food, just the way I like it! Great ingredients, simple recipes and lots of love and laughter (and bubbly). I tried a few new things which I will share with you over the next few weeks and recreated a few of my old faithfuls which were very well received!

But sadly… I’m not going to be able to post a recipe right now either, as I am hairing of to watch the royal wedding… and have bought parma ham, smoked salmon and an array for gorgeous accompaniments to go with it… will take photos and report back soooon!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cashew nut, fig, pomegranate bread pudding

Today is a mad rush for me as I’m prepping for a private cooking job, 29 people for 7 days out in Stillbaai, starting tomorrow. Man, I have allot of shopping to do!

I probably won’t get to my blog while I’m away (promise I’ll try though) but will tweet and facebook from my blackberry, so if you’re not linked – my FB page is Domestic Goddesses, ‘like’ it and you’ll get my updates. My twitter page is @theklaschwager – will be chirping and FB’ing about the trials and tribulations as I work.

I experiment with a bread pudding recipe yesterday which I plan to make while I’m away and thought it was worth sharing with you. The recipe is a product of what was in my fridge at the time but I think it is a good combination of flavours. I spread the bread with cashew nut butter and sprinkled it with fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped up fig preserve before pouring over the custard which I had flavour with vanilla, cinnamon, all spice and ground ginger. It sounds like a lot of flavours but they worked really well together. I had thought that peanut butter and apricot jam could also make for a killer bread pudding… well we’ll see what I come up with while I’m away.

Cashew nut, fig, pomegranate bread pudding

Serves 6

8 slices of white bread (I used Albany’s best of both)

8 Tbsp cashew nut butter (or the nut butter of your choice)

2 fresh figs or 2 preserved figs, chopped into small bits

½ a cup of fresh pomegranate seeds

3 eggs, separated

½ cup of castor sugar

2 tsp of vanilla essence

1 tsp of cinnamon

½ tsp of ground ginger

¼ tsp of all spice

¼ tsp of salt

2½ cups of milk

Spread each slice of bread with cashew nut butter and cut into cubes. Scatter the cubes into a casserole dish the correct size to hold all the bread. Scatter the figs and pomegranate seeds amongst the bread.

Pre heat the oven to 150C˚, place the wrack in the middle of the oven and boil a kettle full of water.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg white until the just start to thicken, add the castor sugar in parts while whipping and then the vanilla, spices and salt. Add the milk whip briefly to combine and pour immediately onto the bread cubes. Pull the cubes aside a little with a fork, so the mixture can run into all the gaps. Try to get all the cubes soaked with the egg mixture and push the cubes down all little to get the bread to absorb as much of the mixture as possible.

Place the casserole dish into a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it’s about ¾ of the way up the casserole dish. Place this into the oven and bake for 45 min to an hour. You want the top of the pudding to be crispy and the egg mixture to be cooked through. Check this by piercing the pudding all the way through with a knife and checking if it comes out clean. If the top isn’t crisp, turn up the heat for a few minutes to brown it.

Serve immediately with ice cream, custard cream or fruit compote. This dessert can be re heated but it taste best when straight from the oven.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prawn Arrabiata Pasta in less than 10 minutes!

I have a love / hate relationship with sea food. I enjoy really well prepared sea food but I hate the fact that no matter how often I try I never seem to be able to prepare it as well as I would like, myself. I guess that’s not really the right way to introduce my new sea food recipes is it…? Well, that said, the recipes I do love and use are therefore almost fool proof, very easy and super delicious.

You really can’t get easier than this prawn arrabiata pasta. It’s a dish a friend of mine has been making for years and with two small kids, a full time job and a love for entertaining this dish has proved itself over and over again. We, her guests, love it!

I have made this a few times when I had last minutes guests coming and was working late. The sauce is finished before the pasta has finished boiling - it’s that quick and it’s a total winner.

You needn’t use arrabiata sauce (especially if you have kids eating – it has chilli in it), you can use a plain Neapolitan sauce or whatever your favourite ready-made tomato pasta sauce is. I used an Ina Paarman Tomato, green olive and chilli pasta sauce as it looked yummy and I wanted to try it. It was great, highly recommended!

Prawn and tomato pasta

Serves 4

400 – 500g Tagliatelle or Linguine, prepared according to packet instructions.

800g of read made tomato pasta sauce (freshly made sachets or bottled)

500g Prawn tail meat, shelled (frozen or defrosted)

100g parmesan, freshly grated

Fresh chilli chopped (optional)

Start your pasta cooking. In a pan on medium high heat warm you pasta sauce, add you prawn meat and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until the prawns are cooked through. Set aside until ready for use.

Drain your pasta, toss with a little olive oil. Serve onto a platter or into pasta bowls, top with the sauce and lots of freshly grated parmesan and fresh chillis.


It astounds me how many people struggle to get their pasta not to stick together when cooking it. Once the water is simmering, hold the pasta in a bunch and place it down to the center of the pot, allow it to fan out as shown in the picture below. After a few minutes gently push the tips of the pasta down until the pasts has submerged. Place the lid on the pot and in a few minutes stir the pasta around the water a little ensuring that the hot water has coated all the strands. Cook and drain. Toss with a little oil to ensure that no further sticking occurs.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday guilt...

This morning I am having serious food guilt issues. I have not cooked once in 3 days… but I have stuffed my face all weekend with a long list of foods ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous (erring more towards the ridiculous).

The weekend started at the opening of a new restaurant in Hout Bay called La Cabane (I’m sure I’ll get to reviewing it properly soon), then on to the April special at La Mouette (6 course tasting menu at R120, so good!), Saturday morning MacDonald’s hangover breakfast (doctors orders, I promise), Waterkant Market with Hemelhuijs potato wedges topped with truffle mayo washed down with two Brewers&Union beers (the unfiltered and the Berne – this could be long love affair begging), then for dinner KFC box master and loaded fries (Oh yes!) and a Tournado ice cream. Sunday brunch Milo Pops and Nik Naks followed by an early dinner of a Spur rib burger and baked potato with sour cream and chives… (in my defence here - we did do a 3 hour hike in the mountains just before dinner).

I’m not actually sure that I should be admitting to all this, but perhaps a name and shame is needed in this case. Let’s air the dirty laundry and make all kinds of Monday promises and commitments because tomorrow is the official opening Massimo’s Pizza club and I don’t want any residual guilt for that!

So today I am doing my fresh pressed veggie and fruit juice, home-made whole grain toast with marmite and am thinking of low fat dinner options. I am leaning to towards a baked potato. There is something very wintery and comfort foody about baked potatoes for me and I think they would make a great Monday meal, simple and satisfying.

I did a training session the other day on how to make the best crispy baked potatoes (something I learned from and Irish friend of mine when I was about 8 years old) and then three toppings for them. I’ll give you all three toppings I trained, below. There is one really healthy, one medium fat and one downright decadent. But each one is delicious in its own right and very much worth trying them all!

How to bake perfect crispy skinned potato

Pre heat your oven to 180C˚, placing the wrack in the middle of the oven. Thoroughly wash each potato ensuring that all sand is cleaned off. With a fork scrape the potato from end to end, just piercing through the skin and into the flesh. Rub a mixture of oil, salt, herbs and spices into the groves in the skins of the potatoes. Place the potatoes into a roasting pan with enough space for the potatoes to get even heat all around.

Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour or until the skins are crispy and the potatoes are cooked through. You can check this by sticking a sharp knife into the centre of the largest potato to see if it runs through easily or not.

Toppings for baked potatoes

Finely chopped tomato, cucumber, carrot and sweet corn with creamy cottage cheese and yoghurt dressing, topped with toasted seeds

Tops 4 medium baked potatoes

2 tomatoes, chopped
¼ of a cucumber, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 cup of sweet corn, defrosted if frozen blanched if fresh
250g of cottage cheese
2 Tbsp plain yoghurt
Salt and pepper
½ cup of omega seed mix, toasted in a pan with oil, salt and some spices

Finely chop up the tomato, cucumber, carrots add the sweet corn. Mix in the cottage cheese, yoghurt, salt, pepper and toasted seeds (leaving a few for garnish). Spoon on top of the baked potatoes and top with a few toasted seeds.

Chicken, avo, cucumber with pesto, chutney, yoghurt dressing
Tops 4 medium baked potatoes

3 chicken breast, tenderised
1 ripe avocados, peeled and diced
300g of plain yoghurt
100ml of basil pesto* (bought or home-made)
50ml of peach chutney
Salt and pepper

Rub your tenderised chicken fillets with oil, salt and chicken seasoning of your choice. Fry in a searing hot pan for 2 minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Set aside until ready for use.

Combine the yogurt, pesto, chutney, salt and pepper. Add the chicken breast chopped into bite sized pieces and the avo. Mix lightly and spoon over hot baked potatoes.

*Basil Pesto
Makes about a cup of pesto

50g of macadamia nuts (or the traditional pine nuts if your budget allows)
1 clove of garlic
125ml of olive oil
50g of parmesan cheese (or similar – pecorino, grana padana)
80g of fresh basil
Salt to taste

Blend the nuts, garlic, olive oil and cheese together to form a paste. Add the basil and blend until just fine, but don’t over blend, Add salt to taste.

Mushroom sauce with crispy bacon bits

Tops 4 medium baked potatoes

½ packet of streaky bacon

2 Tbsp of Olive oil

250g of mushrooms, sliced

¼ tsp of salt

¼ tsp of black pepper

1 Tbsp of soya sauce

3 Tbsp of flour

2 cups (500ml) of milk

Fresh herbs if you have some

Lay your bacon on a baking tray and grill in the oven until crispy. Fry the mushrooms in a large pan over medium high heat until they have reduced by at least half. Add the salt, pepper and soya sauce and fry until the mushrooms start browning.

Add the flour and fry a little until the flour has coated the mushrooms. Remove from the heat, add the milk and stir until all the ingredients have mixed well. Return to the heat and stir until the sauce has thickened. Add fresh herbs if you have any. Chop the bacon into pieces and add to the sauce and spoon over hot baked potatoes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala ‘Lite’

I am inordinately fond of curry. I love it hot, mild, saucy, dry, piquant, mellow, robust… Thai, North Indian, South Indian, Cape Malay you name it, if I haven’t tried, just hang on I’m getting there.

The inspiration for today’s curry was taken from the recipe book ‘Cook Yourself Thin’ (I like that idea). I really enjoyed the ethos of this recipe book. The basic principle is not to change the way you eat but to understand and know your eating patterns and habits; to have a basic understanding of the caloric make up of food in general and then make a few savvy decisions about what to cut out, cut down or substitute, making room for the things you can’t live without. That works for me.

Chicken tikka masala is said to be the modern day national dish of England and at approximately 1055 calories per serving (without the largers) it’s pretty rich. This recipe halves the calories by substituting the butter and cream with lite coconut milk. I did cheat a bit and added a spoon of cashew nut butter (my latest fetish*) but naturally that would be totally optional. I loved their spicy rice too – have been making it with other dishes now.

* Komati food has a range of raw nut butters for a fraction of the price as most health stores. They are GREAT on oats, in smoothies, in curries and they add depth to most sauces in general. I added some to Thai fish cakes and it was sensational. Peanut butter is good too, but it has a very distinctive taste and can be a bit over powering at times.

Chicken Tikka Masala ‘Lite’
Serves 2 generous portions

For the chicken
2 chicken breasts (Elgin free range all the way)
2 Tbsp of tikka masala powder (or paste I guess)
2 Tbsp of plain yoghurt (fat free or low fat)
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ tsp of salt

I was in a rush so I tenderised my chicken with a meat mallet, cut it into 6 large chunks per breast and rubbed it with the paste made from combining the other ingredients. Then I left it in the fridge while I prepped the other stuff (see below). The recipe didn’t tenderise the chicken and left it marinating in the fridge over night. Your call.

Pre heat your oven to 220C˚ and place the wrack at the top of the oven.

When you’re ready i.e. about 10 mins from finishing the dish, place the chicken in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes if you’ve tenderised and 10 minutes if not or until it’s just cooked through and browned.

For the rice
1 cup of basmati rice
2 ½ cups of water
¼ tsp of mustard seeds
5 curry leaves (I bought dried ones)
1/8 tsp of cumin
1/8 tsp of turmeric (the recipe called for saffron but I didn’t have any)
½ tsp of salt
A few small cinnamon stick pieces (use a little ground if you don’t have the stix)

Add all the above into a small pot (heavy bottomed if possible). Simmer for 8 minutes with the lid on until still wet but most of the water adsorbed. Then remove from the heat and leave it to steam for a further 10 minutes. Fluff it up with a fork and remove the cinnamon sticks before serving.

For the sauce
1 tsp of oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp of water
1 Tbsp of tikka masala spice
115g of tomato paste (I used the new kind in a plastic container, the cans come in 70g, so use 2 or just dilute it with some water as they are pretty intense)
200ml of lite coconut milk
1 Tbsp of cashew nut paste (or peanut butter) optional
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt

Add the oil, onion and garlic in a pan on medium heat and lightly fry for a few minutes. Add the tikka spice and water and fry further. If it gets too dry add a little more water but you want to fry this until the onions have softened and released their natural sugars.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until all the flavours have combined. Add the cooked chicken and serve with fresh coriander and the spicy rice.

I doubled the recipe and froze individual portions (with rice) which I defrosted during the week for lunches, they were perfect!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rustic scones with raspberry preserve and chantilly cream, hold me back…

I have grown up with my Mom’s scones (which she learned from her granny) and it has spoiled most other scones for me. Her scones are light and fluffy on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside with no hint of that horrible baking powder taste which so many other scones have. My feeling is that the biggest mistake made with ‘other’ scone recipes is that they are over handled (with the effort of getting them into shapes) and then to compensate for this they add too much baking powder which leaves a horrible after taste and feeling in your mouth.

My Mom’s recipe uses very similar ingredients to other recipes, but it is lighter in as much as it doesn’t use cream or as much butter and the baking powder is at least half as much as other recipes. The secret is in the handling of the ingredients and the fact she doesn’t manipulate the dough into shapes but rather lightly flattens all the dough and scores it so that once baked, you break off pieces of scone before slathering them with butter, jam and cream.

Since I haven’t had my Mom's scones in years now, this was my special request when visiting them on Tuesday. I was to bring the jam and went hunting for Chaloner’s Raspberry and Vanilla jam but alas couldn’t find any (tried three shops – they don’t know what they are missing). I did however find Bonne Maman’s raspberry preserve which was fabulous too. So much so that between the three of us we finished about four fifths of the bottle (shame faced gluttons that we are).

Naturally we gobbled down the lot with much finger licking and big smiles.

Colleen’s Scones

Serves 3 gluttons

2 cups of flour (bread or cake), sifted

1 Tbsp of sugar

½ tsp of salt

2 tsp of baking powder

75g of butter, cold and cut into very small cubes

1 large egg

½ a cup of milk (or butter milk or yoghurt)

2 tsp of lemon juice

Pre heat your oven to 190C˚ and place the wrack in the middle. Grease and flour a baking sheet.

Ensure that all the wet ingredients are as cold as possible and get everything ready before you start. Sift together your dry ingredients. Add your butter and lightly work it into the flour by rubbing it between your fingers. Lift the mixture in your hand high above the bowl letting the crumbs fall down as you rub them between your fingers (this adds air into the mixture). Don’t over rub the mixture, the butter should not melt but rather just be in very small crumbs covered with flour.

Whisk together the milk, egg and lemon and add this to the mixture. Combine the ingredients with a regular dinner knife, cutting and mixing until the ingredients are just combined.

Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and using a floured spatula or your finger tips, lightly flatten the mixture to about 2 cm thick. Then score (cut) the mixture half way through (1cm) from the top using a knife to form squares of about 3 - 4cm.

Bake this for 15 – 20 minutes until just baked through and golden brown on top. Check the done’ness with a skewer or small knife.

erve immediately if possible with your favourite jam and lightly whipped cream with a dash of vanilla and sugar added.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The unsung hero!

There are many foods which have a bad reputation for various reasons. Either we were forced to eat them as children or when cooked incorrectly taste like sulphur, sometime the texture isn’t appealing or we have some cultural hang up on them. I am sure there are many reasons why the lowly cabbage has such a bad rep for many people. I can and will attempt to give you a few reasons why cabbage is actually one of the great vegetables and should not just be hidden in stir fries or disguised with lashing of mayonnaise but should be exulted and celebrated as a food of true deliciousness and delicacy.

On the health side cabbage is practically a super food - it is rich in vitamin C (more than oranges!), iodine (improves brain and nervous system function), sulphur (helps fight infections), high in roughage and is a great detoxifier. The benefits of cabbage include treatmenssssst stomach ulcers, headache, excess weight, skin disorders, eczema, jaundice, scurvy, constipation, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, eye disorders, heart diseases, ageing, and Alzheimer's disease. Enough said.

When cooked correctly cabbage is sweet, tender and delicate in flavour. It is a great base or accompaniment for stronger flavours but it also delicious when eaten on its own with a knob of butter and some nutmeg. When you over cook cabbage the sulphur is released and it will smell and taste like fart and old socks which makes it easy to explain why so many people can’t stand the thought of eating cabbage. Now, if you are one of those people it’s time to grow up and write that off to bad cooking and give cabbage another chance.

Yesterday I was with my parents and my step Dad made a dish of steamed cabbage leaves topped with a slightly curried mushroom and crème fraiche sauce served with parsley potatoes… it was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Between the three of us we finished the entire platter in which a whole cabbage had been used. This is a dish as well as being easy and quick to make is a celebration worthy meal and could easily stand up to being served at a special occasion. It looks magnificent and tastes spectacular.

I have written the guidelines to my Dad’s recipe below. I didn’t do exact measurements as I normally do at home but used me eye, so you need to take it in that light.

Deconstructed stuffed cabbage­(said with tongue placed in cheek)

1 cabbage

2 tbsp of butter

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

250g – 500g button mushrooms, washed and halved

1 tsp of mild or medium curry powder

½ tsp of smoked paprika

1 tsp of salt or to taste

½ tsp of Ina Paarman’s Italian cheese sprinkle

¼ cup of finely grated parmesan

250g crème fraiche

A little extra butter (if desired)

Freshly grated nutmeg

For the cabbage

Peel off the tough outer leaves and thoroughly wash your cabbage. Cut out with a small sharp knife the cone shaped stem at the bottom of the cabbage and then start loosening the leaves with your hands separating the leaves. A steamer is ideal to cook the leaves or a large pot with the a steamer insert or simply with about 2 cms of water in the bottom.

Loosely fold up the individual leaves and place them into your steamer or pot and set aside until ready to use. They should take about 20 minutes in a steamer and 10 minutes in a pot (once the water has started to boil).

Please keep an eye on the leaves as they will continue to cook after they are removed from the pot. You want to stop cooking once the leaves are just barely cooked through and have just started to release their natural sugars. Taste and feel the leaves they should be sweet and almost (but not) crispy.

For the sauce

Melt the butter in a medium sized pan on medium heat. Fry your onions and mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the spices, salt and parmesan and fry again for a few minutes. Add the crème fraiche and combine. Taste and adjust flavours if necessary. Set aside until ready for use.

Once the cabbage has steamed place the leaves in pockets on a large platter. Add a few extra knobs of butter (if desired) and liberally grate a dusting of nutmeg over the hot cabbage. Top the cabbage with the hot mushroom sauce and serve immediately.

This dish is best accompanied by boiled potatoes tossed with a little butter or oil and a few handful of very finely chopped parsley.

Pasta making memories!

I will post my full blog in a bit but I came across these pictures and just couldn’t resist. These pictures were taken about 8 or 9 years ago in my Mom’s kitchen and reminded me that making pasta with kids can be really fun. There is lots of kneading and the rolling is very rewarding, whether they actually feed the pasta into the machine or if they just turn the handle it’s all very interactive and great to get them involved.

Take a look at my post about making your own pasta at home if you are curious and write me if you want any more detail.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Oats so delicious!

It’s been a fabulous weekend of fine food, friends, lots and lots of wine and some more fine food. This means that I need to be a little more frugal with the calories this week. I know oats isn’t really a diet breakfast but it is a breakfast which fills me up and keeps me that way for most of a busy day. This is important to me as I am a grazer and if I’m even a little out of kilter, I will standing in front of the fridge every hour or picking up a packet of Niknaks on my next errand. Niknaks are one of my most favourite things!

Okay, so starting with oats certainly helps me quell the grazing urges but I would feel far too deprived if it was just a bowl of gruel I had to be faced with first thing in the morning. I added light coconut milk to my oats, maka powder, vanilla essence, stevia, two blobs of cashew nut paste, toasted omega mix seeds, sliced banana and a drizzle of honey. It was so good it tasted like dessert and I was so full I couldn’t finish the bowl. Smaller portion next time.

My oats mission was revived by reading another food blogger with a passion for oats. Take peek at Fit Foodie Finds – if only I had been like that at varsity (if only I was like that now…)

I’m off now to visit my Mom out in Betty’s Bay and we have planned one rather unusual meal followed by a fabulously traditional afternoon tea treat! Can’t wait to report back.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Casparus - just trust me and go!

On Saturday we had the good fortune of having lunch at Casparus in Stellenbosch, a collaborative effort between two legends, Chef Etienne Bonthuys and Artist Strydom van der Merwe. The occasion for us making the trek out to Stellenbosch was twofold - the enticing blog written my step Dad and wanting to spend some quality time with my dear friends who are lucky enough to live in Stellenbosch.

The service was as service in Stellenbosch often is, a little haphazard and lacking in warmth – the weather in contrast was scorching and not much effort had been made to counteract this (a fan would have been welcome). But a jug of ice water and bottle of Secateur (an Adie Badenhorst blessing in a bottle) soon soothed the mild irritations and once the food arrived we were all smiles and the conversation lingered over flavours, textures and colours as we tasted each other’s dishes each claiming that our dish had to be the shining light of the lunch collection.

I had been a bit overwhelmed while trying to choose my lunch as we had had a rather big and late breakfast and I didn’t want to make a mistake and have buyer’s remorse, so I had asked the waiter if he could get the Chef to choose my meal for me. I had a moment or two’s anxiety over this but ultimately had to trust the Chef would want to give what was at it’s best that day rather than what he was trying to get rid of before it spoiled. Either way my meal was exceptional.

I started with a caprese salad, which was everything that an authentic caprese salad should be and then a whole lot more. For my main course I had a sirloin as tender as the best fillet with all the flavour of sirloin, topped with marrow and sauced with a dreamy jus. The accompaniments of buttery turned veg and potato dauphenoise could have been a meal on their own they were so perfect. All I could manage for dessert were a selection of sorbets which I shared with Hannah our nine month old guest. She agreed that they too were a sensation!

I have heard the name Etienne Bonthuys in my home ever since I can remember. My parents used to treat themselves when we were little to culinary extravagances with him whenever they could afford it. I however have never had the good fortune to do so. Saturdays experience in a down to earth setting with an unpretentious menu, and extremely accessible prices means that I will recommend Casparus to all my friends and followers and hope to be able to eat there on many more occasions.

I wish you every success!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Imam fainted!

Today’s dish, Imam bayildi (Turkish stuffed aubergines), was prepared at the special request of my number one follower, Annika @anysroad. I have made this dish from vague guidelines received from my mother but never from an original recipe. So after Annika made her request I set about doing a little research.

This aubergine dish is one of the most famous dishes of Turkish cuisine. İmam bayıldı roughly translated means "the Imam fainted" and has been traced back right into the middle ages. Some legends say the Imam fainted at the extravagant use of olive oil (which was very expensive), others say he swooned with delight at the delicate flavor of the dish. I’m going to go with the delightful flavor story as I have cut the olive oil used down to a third of the original quantity and added various complimentary spices which I feel improve on the original recipe.

All the recipes I have read have mentioned that the flavor of the dish improves with time and I fully support that theory. I earnestly advise you, if you plan on making this dish, to make it a day or even two in advance. The subtle flavors develop taking it from a lovely dish to extraordinary dish.

I naturally have changed the recipe to suit my taste (as I pretty much always do), so if you want to follow the original just google it, you’ll find dozens of recipes.

My version of Imam Bayildi

Serves 4 mains, 6 sides or 8 tapas

4 medium sized aubergines, peeled and sliced in about 1cm thick slices

½ cup of pouring salt

3 Tbsp good quality olive oil

2 medium onions, halved and sliced

8 medium sized cloves of garlic, chopped (trust me it’s not too much)

1 tsp of ground coriander

1 tsp of ground cumin

½ tsp of turmeric

4 large ripe tomatoes, eye removed and finely chopped

½ cup of chopped tender herbs, I used a combo of parsley, dill and basil

1 Tbsp of brown sugar

½ tsp of salt (or to taste)

½ cup of boiling water

2 Tbsp of good quality olive oil

Rub the aubergine slices with salt and leave them for 30 mins – 1 hour. Wash and drain them and lay them into a casserole dish.

While the aubergines are salting heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions, garlic and spices until they turn glassy, then add the tomatoes. My mother adds a handful of currents at this point too which makes a nice addition.

Simmer the tomatoes on medium heat until they turn into a thick sauce (about 10 minutes) then add the sugar, salt and herbs and simmer for a few more minutes before setting aside until ready to use.

Preheat you oven to 180C˚ and place the wrack in the middle of the oven.

Pour the boiling water over the aubergines in the casserole dish, top them with the tomato sauce and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the aubergines are soft and the water has cooked away (about 30 minutes). I uncovered the dish and then baked it for about 10 minutes longer until the tomato had caramelized a little on top.

I couldn’t resist eating some right away but the dish improved remarkably the next day and we ate it reheated as a main course with steamed rice. I imagine though that it would be an amazing side for roast lamb or to add cold to a mezze selection.