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Buttering up with a butternut soup

18 Jan

butternut

London is in its typical winter mood. Icy cold, a bite in the wind that you cant shake off and that ongoing darkness. This will be something that our friends happily forgot when they moved back from Spain to London. True to my style, I wasn’t too happy to go outside today, seeing its weekend and all and its freezing!!!

butternut pieces

Glancing at my little vegetable stand, I had two butternuts peeking at me. Butternut soup? When last did we have that?! Well, needless to say, I just had to mention “butternut”t to the big old lion and he was sold!  I can’t say the same for my friend Franco. When I mentioned it, he half-heartedly pulled a face and mentioned that it is not really one of his favourites. I can tell you one thing, he ended up asking for seconds. I didn’t even manage to photograph the soup, it was finished before I got the chance to do so. New things DO happen daily in London! Just ask my new soup fan!

whole vegetables

Butternut, orange and coconut soup

2 butternuts, peeled and roughly chopped

Teaspoon olive oil

2 red onions, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

250ml coconut cream or coconut milk

500ml chicken stock

juice of half an orange

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

salt & pepper to taste

red onion, vegetables, butternut soup

Gently fry the onions in the olive oil until soft and sweet. Add the butternut, salt, pepper and cumin. Mix through for about 5 minutes while it cooks and infuses with the onions.

chopped vegetables

Add the chicken stock. Allow to boil until the butternut is nice and soft.

coconut cream and stock

Now, add your coconut cream and mix through.

crushed garlic

Finally, add your orange juice, mix through. Blend till smooth with stick blender or blender.

cumin

soup

Serve with a squiggle of fresh cream drizzled in the soup and some warm, crusty bread.

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It’s Pimm’s a clock.. giving the British a bit of a shock..

5 Aug

I think most of us know by now that the Brits are well known for their drinking habits.. and not necessarily their eating habits or great food!  In this case, they might feel a little bit sensitive about using their world famous Pimms in a crispy duck dish! Some of them might say that I’m “well right cheeky” for even attempting it.

If there is one thing about the British that is a guarantee ( which I hope will make this dish a selling point ) – they love fruit!  In all forms. Dried fruit, fresh fruit, fruit with chocolate, fruit as dessert, fruit as a treat, fruit & biscuits… they will have fruit with almost anything possible, even hot chocolate! So basically, this is almost like Forest Gump and Bubba with their little “shrimpin” business.

Joining in on the whole “cook only what is in season” craze, I have jumped on the bandwagon too!  If you can buy 2 punnets of blackberries for £2 –  no1, you have to buy it, it’s cheap!!  No2,  if your family,  or my (now) increased – appetite- non- stop – eating (always hungry) husband does NOT eat fruit, you have to get creative! And so we come round to the duck.. which seems to be in season for quite some time.. as it is unbelievably affordable.. and always makes me feel “well noble”!

Duck is a very fatty poultry, but exquisite when all the fattiness and crispy skin is combined with something sweet, spicy and acidic to cut through it. So, the 3 main musketeers for this recipe is Duck, Blackberries & Blackberry & Elder flower Pimms.

Crispy duck with blackberries  & Pimms

3 x duck legs

1 punnet of blackberries ( about 2 handfuls)

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

Salt & pepper to taste

75ml blackberry & elderflower Pimms ( any blackberry liqueur if you don’t have Pimms)

4 x small wedges of lemon

Make sure your duck legs are room temperature. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Tip: The key to this dish is also to have a heavy based, shallow frying pan that can be used on the hob and in the oven.

lemon

Season your duck legs with freshly ground pepper and salt and rub it into the meat. Now, heat your frying pan. It needs to be nice and hot, similar to frying a steak. When the pan is hot, place the duck legs skin (fat) side down. You want it to fry till the skin is nice, crispy and brown.

When the skin is crispy, sprinkle the cumin seeds over the duck, before turning it over (skin side facing up)  to cook the other side of the legs. Be careful, the heat will make the cumin seeds shoot around like little popcorn kernels. As soon as you’ve turned it around, add the Pimms, making sure that you don’t pour it over the crispy skin. Pour it around the duck. The top, crispy side of the skin should be “Pimms free”.

Now, take some of the blackberries and place them around the duck in any available space. I usually place a few around the duck and then use the rest as a cushion for the duck to lie on, placing them underneath the duck.

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Take the lemon wedges and place the skin side up around the duck. Place in the oven for 45mins. Tip: Do not cover with a lid or foil, because you want the skin to stay crispy.

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I usually serve this with a tomato, mozzarella & basil salad, and some creamy mash with the sweet and zesty sauce cutting through the creamy mash.  You can also serve it with fresh , crusty bread and dip the bread in the blackberry and duck sauce, or even serve with some plain, simple and delicious jasmine or basmati rice. Enjoy!

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Easter festival celebration

5 May

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It has been more than a year since I last posted on my blog, normal excuses are the ones that come to mind, busy lifestyle, rushed, not time to sit down and just enjoy the small things. Today, after a relaxed lunch with my beautiful friend Louise, I’ve been nudged to post a blog again. After all, she was the one that asked me what happened?! Life. Rushing to work, rushing from work to gym, rushing home from gym to cook a quick supper, have an hour and go to bed to do the same thing all over again. Well, today, I take some time to post one of our yearly celebrations we have in our home.

Living abroad, your friends become your family and each celebration is a special one. Each year, we all sit down together around a table groaning under too much food and wine, and all the diets and healthy lifestyles are out of the window for one day. I can’t treasure this time in Easter enough! So this post will be a long one, and I hope to post more often after this one.

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Beetroot, goats cheese & candied pecan salad

1 x pack of cooked beetroot

2 x packs of good quality goats cheese

150g pecans

1 x large pack of lambs lettuce

2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

50 ml extra virgin olive oil + extra 10 ml olive oil

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped thyme

60 ml white wine vinegar

pinch of salt

half teaspoon of crushed garlic

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

50 g icing sugar

Take 10 ml of olive oil and pour it over the fresh thyme. Crush roughly and sprinkle it over cut pieces of goats cheese. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Place the pecans in a colander. Boil some water and pour it over the pecans. Place the pecans a bowl and sieve the icing sugar over the pecans. Mix through thoroughly with your hands, until the pecans are coated with the icing sugar. Place the pecans on a non stick baking tray and roast it in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, taking time to turn them so they don’t burn.

When done, remove the pecans from the oven and allow to cool. Mix the mustard, olive oil, vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper and shake.

Place the lettuce in your salad bowl and arrange the beetroot, cut into pieces on the lettuce. Roughly break and sprinkle the goats cheese over the salad leaves. Toss the candied pecans over the salad. Now pour over the dressing and toss lightly. Ready to serve.

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Roasted sweet potato with lemon, red onion & sweet paprika

5 x sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

3 x lemons, cut into wedges

4 x red onions, roughly chopped into wedges

2 x teaspoons of smoked, sweet ( or normal) paprika

50 ml olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard

2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, roughly chopped

8 garlic cloves

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Mix all oil and spices together. Toss the lemon, sweet potato & red onion in the oil & spice mixture. Place on a non stick baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Serve hot or cold.Image

Traditional roasted crispy potatoes

1. 5 kg potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 teaspoon of salt

60 g salted butter

2 pinches of fresh thyme leaves

Place the potatoes and salt in a saucepan of water, cover and heat. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. When the water starts to boil with the potatoes, boil for 2 minutes only. Drain in colander. Remove the water from the saucepan and place the butter & thyme in the saucepan. Heat and allow the butter to melt.  Place the potatoes back into the saucepan and mix through until it is covered and has absorbed the butter. Place in a non- stick tray and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until crispy and golden.

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Rack of lamb with fresh minted yoghurt marinade

2 x racks of lamb

2 pinches of salt

2 x pinches of black pepper

1 x tablespoon of olive oil

2 x teaspoons of mixed herbs

1 teaspoon of crushed garlic

1/2 teaspoon of lemon

For the minted yoghurt

1 & half cup of double Greek yoghurt

1 handful of finely chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

pinch of black pepper

Make sure your racks of lamb are at room temperature. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Mix all the ingredients together for the lamb. rub it all over the racks of lamb. Cook the oven for 15 minutes if you like it red. If you prefer it well done, cook it for 20 – 25 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, allow to rest. While it is resting, mix together all the ingredients for the minted yoghurt. When the lamb is rested, spoon over the minted yogurt and serve.

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Cider marinated & roasted pork shoulder in sweet, smoky & sticky barbecue sauce

1 x large pork shoulder joint

2 pinches of salt & black pepper

1x red chilli, finely chopped and seeds removed

2 teaspoons crushed garlic

50 ml red wine vinegar

1x teaspoon paprika

250 ml tomato sauce

250ml barbeque sauce

2 tablespoons of Worcester sauce

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and pour over the pork shoulder. Cover with foil. Cook for 3 hours, spooning the sauce ( marinade) over the pork every hour. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Reserve the sauce to pour over the pork when serving.

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I also prepared and cooked a red wine marinated leg of lamb (I  was not sure if there would be enough food) and you will find this recipe in my recipe index. Don’t forget to make a bowl of rice too!

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What a lovely and special day we had with all our friends and family. I’m lucky enough to have my sister in law living close by.

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In the end we are blessed with a wonderful group of friends.

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There was an absence in my heart from our dear friends Danni & Emily, but we will see them when visiting Canada later this year, cant wait!

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Oh SHANKS! It’s winter!

9 Dec

Not one of my favourites when you live in the UK… It starts when you realise you are one of the few households in London with such  an old boiler that it doesn’t have a self timer and when you wake up in the morning, it looks like you are on the set of “Sleepy Hollow” with all the mist in the room created from your breathing… Yup, that’s winter for you! The only answer I have to that is my mother’s wisdom… warm food! Always food! Combine that with my lion cub studying ( also picture a big bear with a thorn in his paw and its cartoon-like facial expression) and still the best option to take away grumpiness, cold and frustration = Roast.

I remember when I studied, my mother used one of her many special powers – treats and our favourite food. Since the naughty lion cub took it upon himself to go “treat” shopping, which I don’t have to tell you involves a lot of sugar, I took it upon myself to make sure he had a nice, cosy and heartwarming meal. Now one thing I can say is that the british aren’t too adventurous when it comes to cooking meat. They stick to the more well known cuts of meat, this is why I think if you steer away from the well known cuts, you might just pick up some top quality meat for a great price!

On the other hand… I do like a challenge. Ever had pork shanks? Me neither! So.. walking along in the supermarket, I found a pack of pork shanks for a very good price, so why not? If Lamb shank is delicious why not pork? It is all in the imagination and then preparation. Whenever I am in doubt with meat.. I use alcohol. Yes, alcohol! You can never go wrong. It makes all meat tender and tasty 🙂 So while the lion cub was busy with his daily dose of studying, I got on with my preparation of our shank roast.. let me tell you, it warded off the winter blues if only for a short while! Nothing can beat a heartwarming roast 🙂

pork shanks

2 pork shanks, skin scoured

1 pint of Strongbow or apple cider

3 teaspoons of chopped garlic

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of season all spice ( or chicken spice)

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon of paprika

1 pinch of black pepper

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 apple, roughly chopped in slices

1 leek, chopped

handful of mushrooms, roughly chopped

2 handfuls of freshly chopped coriander

1 big carrot, finely chopped ( food processor)

 

Preheat your oven to 200 C.  Mix all the spices, garlic and olive oil together. Rub this into the scoured shanks. Make sure it is rubbed in thoroughly into the shanks. Place your chopped leeks, apple and mushrooms in the bottom of your roasting tray.

pork shanks1

Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and scatter around 1 handful of the coriander. Place the shanks on top.

pork shanks2

Now place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the chopped carrots and remaining coriander  around the shanks. Pour over your cider. Turn the oven down to 190 and cook the shanks for 2 1/2 hours or until it is falling off the bone. Do set a timer to baste the shanks with the juices.

pork shanks3

That’s it! No fuss! Serve it with roasted potatoes, mash, rice or anything you fancy. I made some polenta with soya cream and coriander. What a hearty meal! I hope you enjoy it!

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Slow cooked meatballs

31 Oct

with winter around the corner! Indeed, I wish everything was slow. Nowadays everything feels like it is moving too fast! I barely have time to daydream about what I would like to cook for supper. Nevermind writing my recipes down. As so, my blog has also been slow, as I am sure I don’t need to point out the last time I made a post. As fast paced as life is here in london, our household is “techonologically doomed”!

First, I had problems with my laptop, which is also one of the reasons you have not seen any posts. Then Ipods.. camera’s, dehumidifiers… maybe it is all a sign to let go of all this technology.

Sometimes I wish I was outside, far away from the city, with winding country roads, the warm sun on my face and the fresh breeze of wildflowers in the air. I guess this is what I was thinking about while I was enjoying a glass of lovely red wine, with the meatballs slowly bubbling away.

I believe that our thoughts influence our cooking and so my thougts inspired a heartwarming meal, that helps me to slow down and smell the wafts of the lovely spiced aroma in our home. .. I guess I sound like my mother’s daughter now.. yearning for the farm, family and friends around my table, no rush, surrounded by love and joy.

Enough of my self pity as I sit in layers of clothing in this cold.. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and as it will show, there is so much you can do with the right combination of spices

Flavourful Meatballs with Herb ‘d Provence Cous cous

1 pack of minced beef

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds, ground

2 pinches of salt

2 pinches of black pepper

2 onions, finely chopped ( use a food processor)

2 slices of stale bread

1 egg

1 teaspoon of paprika

juice of half a lemon

1 cup of chicken stock

half a cup of white wine

half a cup of warm water

2 tablespoons of butter

For the Cous Cous

2 teaspoons of butter

salt and black pepper to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons of Herb ‘d Provence

 

To start, take one onion, and half a teaspoon of all the spices, including the salt and pepper ( 1 pinch) and put them in the food processor. Process fine, just before it makes a paste. Take the bread slices and break them into crumbs. Mix this with the mince, egg and your paste you made. Start rolling the mince into little balls, about the size of a walnut.

Take the remaining spices and put it in your food processor, along with the other onion. Process to the same texture as the semi-paste you made for the meatball mixture. Add your olive oil and butter to a pan. Wait for the butter to melt. Now add the onion and spice mixture. Cook for about 8 minutes. Now, add all the remaining ingredients and allow to bubble for about 5 minutes.

Add your meatballs to the pan. Swirl the pan so that the sauce moves around the meatballs. Turn the gas down to low. Put the lid on and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Now toss the meatballs around, so that the other side of the meatballs are also covered in the sauce. Simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes, or until cooked.

While the meatballs are cooking, measure the cous cous you required. Place it in a bowl. Now, take the Herb ‘d Provence herbs and sprinkle it over cous cous. Season with salt and black pepper. Boil water, enough to just cover the cous cous. When this has boiled, pour it over the cous cous, mixing it twice with a fork. Cover completely with a plate or some plastic wrap and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Lift the plate / take off the plastic wrap and take 2 teaspoons of butter and mix it through the cous cous with a fork. I served the meatballs with mixed roasted vegetables, along with the cous cous, but you can serve it with any vegetables of your choice, or even a lovely fresh rocket salad.

Nutty about…

2 Aug

All the people in London, getting to work, rush hour, the olympics, but most of all, nutty about all our gold medals that we have won already!!!! Go boys, go!!! That would be SA, just to clarify 🙂 GB is not doing too bad ;-p So after a few manic weeks after returning from our heavenly Cayman trip.. yes, it is already a month ago.. I finally have time for my little baby… to get back to posting some entries. In honour of the Olympics, I would like to share this nutty recipe.. I mean come on.. everyone is freakin nuts over here, the spirit is electric! Who is to say these nutty bars that I will be sharing with you might not help with some energy for our boys in their races!!

So this is not my own recipe, but a wonderful creation from the famous Hummingbird Bakery… just around the corner from us in Notting Hill. Its simply lovely.. and I am happy to say, that my Conan simply goes “nuts” for it!

You can use your own choice of nut mixture, just make sure that the same amount is as indicated in the recipe.

Mixed Nut Slices

For the base

150g Plain Flour

40g icing sugar

120g unsalted butter, softened

For the topping

50g unsalted butter

50g Golden syrup

110g soft light brown sugar

2 large eggs

40g walnut pieces

40g pecan halves

40g shelled pistachios

40g flaked almonds

40g roughly chopped hazelnuts

One 22 x 31cm baking tray

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line the baking tray with baking parchment. Using a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, icing sugar and butter into a dough. Alternatively, rub the ingredients together by hand in a bowl.

Press the dough into the prepared baking tray, making a slight lip around the edge to stop the filling from pouring over the sides of the tray. Place in the oven and bake the base in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the edges are a light golden brown and the edges are a light golden brown and the middle is pale, but cooked.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Place the butter in a small saucepan along with the golden syrup and brown sugar, and melt together over a low heat. Remove the pan from the hob and allow to cool slightly.

Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Pour the butter and syrup mixture into the eggs and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Mix all the nuts together in a separate bowl, and scatter them over the part-cooked pastry base. Carefully pour the syrup and egg mixture over the nuts, making sure it is evenly spread over the base.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the topping is set and golden brown in colour. Allow to cool before carefully cutting into 12 slices.

Happy, shiny people…with Postma pizza

24 May

Finally we are blessed with sun and a beautiful evening! Oh how long we have waited for this!! When they mention in the paper that the tulips have not even come up because it is too cold, then you know how miserable it has been. Nevertheless, I am one of the people in London today that has a wider smile than Julia Roberts! With the scent of summer in the air, evenings getting longer and a little warmer ( lets hope it lasts at least 2 days) I was reminded of my friend Nadine, back in South Africa.

I had the privilege to meet her when my man and I started dating, and what an inspirational woman she is! Whenever we go back to South Africa for a visit, we know we can always pop round at their house. They are family, not just friends. Nadine is a succesful career woman, a mother that I am sure most mothers aspire to, perfect host and a great cook! She is German, did I mention that?

Whenever I feel really down and miss the sun and get togethers with friends and family, I see photographs of her and her family. Thery are an inspiration, always up to something or having great times with friends. So what brought me to this topic? Nadine’s home made pizza!!!!! OH MY WORD!

We spent New Years Eve with them, as we usually do when we are lucky enough to be in South Africa. However, this New Year’s eve we came a little bit early and I found this little missy in the kitchen busy putting toppings on her home made pizza – YES, home made, naturally she made her own dough!!! She made a fair amount, but I don’t need to tell you how quickly it disappeared between all of us.

So tonight I missed that evening. Sitting in the garden, having drinks with good friends, home made pizza, and wait for it, followed by a braai ( barbeque) and raising our heads into the new year. What a cherished time we had with all the friends! So, to be very clear, I ATTEMPTED to make my own pizza… it was yummy, BUT, nowhere near Nadine’s masterpiece. So Nadine, if you are reading this… you do know I expect you to send me your very special recipe.. since we cant be in SA, at least I would like to make that pizza!!!

Dough

600g white bread flour

1 pack of yeast

30ml olive oil

10ml salt

About 300ml lukewarm water

Mix the yeast, olive oil, salt and flour together. Make a well in the middle and pour in the lukewarm water. Add more water if needed. Knead for 10 minutes.

Divide between 2 balls, or if you want smaller pizzas, 4 smaller balls, place in bowls, wiped with olive oil and cover with gladwrap. Allow to rise, double its size. Sprinkle your work surface with some flour and roll out your pizza bases.

Tomato topping:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

5ml olive oil

pinch of salt

2 heaped teaspoons of mixed herbs

1 teaspoon of chopped garlic

Topping or your choice naturally, but these are the toppings I used

Grated mozzarella

1 Buffalo Mozzarella ball

1 tablespoon of chargrilled aubergine ( Per pizza)

1 teaspoon of capers ( per pizza)

4 slices of salami ( cut in pieces per pizza)

2 avocados, sliced

For the tomato base, add everything to a saucepan and allow to simmer slowly for 15-20 minutes. When this is done, preheat your oven to 200C. Spread your tomato sauce over the pizza bases. Now, add your mozzarella cheese. Add the remaining toppings, keeping the buffalo mozzarella as the final layer, tearing it apart and dividing it between your bases.

Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the base is nice and crisp.

Remove from the oven and top off with your avocado. If you’re anything like me, have some freshly ground black pepper and tabasco sauce at hand 🙂 Happiness!