Meanwhile, back in Beantown...

Gregg Wallace likes his root veggies

Pan-fried morogo in good company

Not exactly a "baby" marrow

The secret of the Muscles from Brussels uncovered

Brussels sprouts with bacon: bogeyman no more

“Brussels sprouts are misunderstood - probably because most people don't know how to cook them properly.” - Todd English.

 

Brussels sprouts are not the world’s most beloved vegetables. It has become clichéd to talk about how much people hate them ("the much maligned brassica!" or "those baby cabbages that everyone hates!"), but these days it's not particularly accurate, considering that they (and their cousin kale) have been the hot vegetable of the moment for the last several years. Innovative chefs have developed recipes that demonstrate that sprouts need not be the sulphurous, mushy, repulsive cabbages that you might have grown up eating. 

The key to success is to understand the chemistry behind cooking Bussels sprouts. Overcooking will render the buds grey and soft, and they then develop a strong cabbage-like flavour that many people dislike. This smell is due to an organic compound that contains sulphur: hence the strong smell. It makes sense, therefore to roast or sauté Brussels sprouts, never to overcook them and to employ robust toppings like Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, bacon, pistachio nuts, mustard or pepper. The following recipe is a case in point.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes 

Serves 4

 

600g Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

150g Thick-cut bacon, cut into ½ cm strips

½ Cup Crème fraiche, plus 2 Tsp. extra

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until tender but still bright green, about 3 minutes.
  • Drain well, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid.
  • Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the Brussels sprouts and cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the cream and the reserved cooking liquid and simmer over moderate heat until the sprouts are coated.
  • Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

 

“We kids feared many things in those days - werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School - but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.” – Dave Barry.

 

Zucchini fries: chips without the guilt

“One's own flowers and some of one's own vegetables make acceptable, free, self-congratulatory gifts when visiting friends, though giving zucchini - or leaving it on the doorstep, ringing the bell, and running - is a social faux pas.” – Barbara Holland.

 

As the quote above demonstrates, many people don’t care much for zucchini, also known as courgettes or baby marrows. I am a dissenter, because I know enough about nutrition to realise that it is actually a banter's wonder vegetable, and good for the rest of us too. Zucchini  is packed with nutrients and is a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet.

Like most varieties of gourds, it is rich in fibre, which helps keep your digestive tract functioning well. The fibre also helps lower cholesterol levels by mixing with the bile acids produced by the liver. This slows down the body's ability to digest fat, causing the liver to produce extra bile acids which are produced by cholesterol. Zucchini is packed with iron to help keep anaemia away. In addition, iron helps combat fatigue and weakness. In addition, they contain folic acid which breaks down homocysteine, which can cause blood clots and heart attacks. Last but not least, the abundant potassium and manganese help to lower blood pressure and keep hypertension away.

The following recipe speaks to my point about zucchini as a banting superfood. It makes a tasty, nutritious alternative to French fries, and is way more appetitising than most potato substitutes.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

 

4 Medium-sized zucchini

2 Egg whites

½ Cup milk

½ Cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ Cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Olive oil cooking spray

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 220°C.
  • Cut the zucchini lengthwise into 5cm² sticks.
  • Whisk the egg white in a small bowl, and add the milk.
  • Combine the Parmesan and breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.
  • Dip the zucchini sticks in the egg mixture, then roll them in the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Coat a baking sheet with the cooking spray, and arrange the zucchini on it.
  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve with a chunky tartare sauce.

 

“When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat.”
– Gwyneth Paltrow.

 

Pan-fried Morogo: green goodness

“I am a judge of cresses, said the peasant, as she was eating hemlock.” – Danish proverb.

 

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a passionate proponent of making greater use of our indigenous vegetables. Not only are they easier to grow and much more drought- and pest-resistant than exotic species, but most of them (especially morogo aka imfino) are packed with vitamins and trace elements. With a little skill, they can be turned into delicious dishes as well.

I might just be talking my own book, but as far as leafy greens go I honestly prefer morogo to spinach, chard and kale, and it is neck and neck between the former and pak choi. We used to serve morogo either like spinach (steamed or creamed) or in morogo fritters, until Jakki and I had Sunday lunch at a Mozambique-themed restaurant and tasted grilled spinach. We wasted no time in experimenting with morogo from our garden substituting for spinach, and the result is the dish described below. It makes a great side dish for peri peri chicken or prawns, or braaied lamb. 

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 6

 

450g Morogo (or kale), roughly chopped

1 Large onion, chopped

3 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 Serrano or bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped – seeds and all

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

1 Tbsp. sunflower or olive oil

½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat.
  • When the oil is just below smoking hot, add the onion, garlic and chillies.
  • Lower the heat to medium while these are frying.
  • Fry, stirring, until the garlic starts exuding a strong flavour – don’t let it burn though.
  • Add the morogo and cook it off, stirring occasionally.
  • After about 3 minutes, season with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  • Cook, still stirring, until the morogo is soft and seared in places – this should take another 6 – 10 minutes.
  • Check seasoning and serve, sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

 

“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened ox where there is hatred.” – Sudanese proverb.  

 

Glazed beetroot and carrots: a feast for the eye & mouth

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.” – Tom Robbins.

 

As the name suggests, the vegetable we call beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant, Beta vulgaris. Other than as a food, beets are used as a food colouring and for medicinal purposes. Many other products are made from other Beta vulgaris varieties, most notably the sugar beet. Like many other vegetables, beetroot was first cultivated by the Romans. By the 19th century it held great commercial value when it was discovered that beets could be converted into sugar.

Many classic beetroot recipes are associated with central and Eastern Europe including the famous beetroot soup known as borscht. Beetroot has exceptional nutritional value; especially the greens, which are rich in calcium, iron and Vitamins A and C. Beetroot is also an excellent source of folic acid and fibre. The greens should not be overlooked; they can be cooked up and enjoyed in the same way as spinach. Sadly, South Africans consume very little of this tasty and nutritious root vegetable; it is usually eaten as a pre-cooked, pre-packaged salad.

The following recipe should go a long way towards making you and your loved ones appreciate beetroot. Roasting root vegetables in a sweet balsamic glaze brings out their natural sweetness, and garnishing the veggies finish with herbs and pumpkin seeds makes it a feast for the eyes.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves 2

 

4 Medium carrots, diced

4 Young beetroots, boiled in salt water and quartered

25g Pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp. clear honey

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. avocado or olive oil

Sprigs of fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill or basil, for garnishing

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Toss the carrots, vinegar, honey and olive oil together in a mixing bowl.
  • Spread the carrots on a baking tray and roast them for 30 minutes.
  • Remove 5 minutes before the end of cooking time, add the beetroot to the tray and return to the oven.
  • Once cooked, remove the carrots and beetroot from the oven and leave them to cool a little.
  • Toss with the pumpkin seeds and herbs and serve.

 

“Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smouldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets. The beet was Rasputin's favourite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” – Tom Robbins.

 

Boston Baked Beans: not just all hot air

“I threw an etiquette party and served nothing but beans and sparkling water. The topic of conversation was ‘excuse me’.” – Bauvard.

 

Beans, and baked beans in particular, have been a staple in New England since the time of the Pilgrims, not to mention in the rest of the colonies and the world beyond. There’s nothing unusual about that - Tuscans, love their fagioli al fiasco; in Languedoc cassoulet is revered, Mexicans thrive on frijoles and in Portugal and its former colonies, feijoada is an icon. And yet, somehow, Boston got singled out with the nickname "Beantown" for its love of the local version of the dish.

What are Boston baked beans? The short answer is that they're small white beans (usually navy beans), slow-cooked with molasses, salt pork, black pepper, and maybe a touch of mustard and onion until they form a thick rich stew with a deep colour and caramelized crust. They are like chalk and cheese compared to the bland tinned “baked beans” that always seem to feature in adolescent (infantile?) American comedies. Try this one out; it will give you a totally new perspective on dried beans.

 

Preparation time: 8 hours (including soaking the beans)

Cooking time: 6 hours

Serves 6

 

2 Cups small white Navy beans

250g Shoulder bacon rashers

2 Onions, finely diced

3 Tbsp. tomato sauce

3 Tbsp. molasses

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. mustard powder

¼ Tsp. ground black pepper

 

  • Soak beans overnight in cold water.
  • Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 2 hours.
  • Drain and reserve the liquid.
  • Preheat your oven to 160°C.
  • Arrange the beans in a casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion.
  • Combine the molasses, salt, pepper, mustard, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar in a saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then pour it over the beans.
  • Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans.
  • Cover the dish with a lid or tin foil.
  • Bake for 4 hours in the preheated oven, until the beans are tender.
  • Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. The beans will also keep for up to a week in an airtight, refrigerated jar.

 

Jerry Lewis couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.” – Johnny Carson.

 

There goes my first New Year's resolution!

Conchita, I hear Gringos now grow WHITE potatoes!

And how does it make you feel?

NOT a Cabbage Patch Kid!

Monsieur, is this really from Cavaillon?

Provençal-style roasted root vegetables: you’ll dig it…

“The first gatherings of the garden in May of carrots, radishes and parsnips made me feel like a mother about her baby - how could anything so beautiful be mine?  There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.” - Alice B. Toklas.

 

Root vegetables can be intimidating. Most of them have thick, strange looking skin and long stems with leaves sprouting out of them. Let’s face it - some of them look like they’re from outer space. Some root vegetables also have the reputation of tasting earthy and even bitter. Yet in the final analysis, the world would be a poorer place without them. Roots are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. They are packed with a high concentration of antioxidants, Vitamins A, B and C and iron, helping to cleanse your system. They are also filled with slow-burning carbohydrates and fibre, which make you feel full, and help regulate your blood sugar and digestive system. Many also ripen in winter, when few greens are available, and they can be stored for long periods.

The undisputed top dog among root vegetables is the potato, followed closely by the carrot. Carrots are popular because they are also perfect for eating raw. They match well with just about any vegetable in both cooked and raw applications. Parsnips have a cinnamon-y flavour and resemble large white carrots. They are harder than carrots and have a deeper, warm flavour. Sweet potatoes are great mashed, in soup, roasted or baked, and can be used both in sweet and savoury applications. Beets are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory and have a wonderful earthy, sweet flavour to boot. And let’s not forget onion & garlic. Not only do they add a great deal of flavour to any dish - raw or cooked - but both are considered to be heart-healthy veggies that boost blood circulation and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Other root vegetables less well-known in South Africa include the leek, the turnip (and its first cousin the rutabaga), Jerusalem artichoke, celeriac, horse radish, yuca root, kohlrabi and yams. Among many South Africans, the Amadumbe or African Potato (the bulb of the Elephant’s Ear plant) is a staple.

The following recipe is basically a guideline; you can tweak the ingredients to your heart’s content!

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 90 minutes

Serves 8

 

400g Potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces

400g Sweet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces

400g Amadumbe, peeled and cut into 2cm slices

400g Carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm roundels

400g Parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm roundels

2 Large red onions, cut into 1cm slices

2 Large leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 2cm roundels

10 Garlic cloves, peeled

6 Sprigs of fresh thyme

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Non-stick vegetable oil spray

 

  • Position an oven rack in the bottom third of oven, and another rack in the centre of the oven.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  • Spray 2 large baking sheets with the non-stick spray.
  • Combine all the ingredients except the garlic and thyme in a large bowl and toss to coat the vegetables with oil.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Divide the vegetable mixture between the prepared baking sheets.
  • Place 1 sheet on each oven rack.
  • Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Reverse the positions of the two baking sheets.
  • Add 5 garlic cloves and 3 sprigs of thyme to each baking sheet.
  • Continue to roast until all vegetables are tender and brown in spots, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 45 minutes longer.
  • Remove the vegetables and allow them to rest on the baking sheets at room temperature.
  • When the rest of the meal is nearly ready, quickly re-heat in the hot oven until heated through.
  • Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large bowl and serve.

 

“Accepting your own mortality is like eating your vegetables: You may not want to do it, but it's good for you.” - Caitlin Doughty.

 

Bacon-roasted Cabbage: cracking the cabbage code

"At middle age the soul should be opening up like a rose, not closing up like a cabbage." - John Andrew Holmes.

 

Cabbage has to be the vegetable with the worst press ever. Jane Grigson summed this up brilliantly: "Cabbage as a food has problems. It is easy to grow, a useful source of greenery for much of the year. Yet as a vegetable it has original sin, and needs improvement. It can smell foul in the pot, linger through the house with pertinacity, and ruin a meal with its wet flab. Cabbage also has a nasty history of being good for you."

The key to success is to exploit this versatile vegetable’s strengths while avoiding a few basic mistakes. Rule No 1 is undoubtedly: Avoid boiling cabbage if you can, unless you like the funky smell that wafts through your kitchen and attracts flies. Cutting it into wedges and roasting or grilling it results in a tender vegetable with addictively crispy, blackened edges. You can also try slicing cabbage thin and pan fry it to maintain some of its crunchy texture. Or enjoy it raw, in refreshing coleslaws and salads.

Rule No 2 is: chose the right variety. Not all cabbage varieties are the same - using the right one for your purpose can result in a far superior end result. Green is the heartiest variety; it takes well to all cooking methods. Red can turn a funny blue colour when cooked, so it's best used raw or braised with some acidity.

Savoy cabbage can be used in any recipe that calls for green cabbage. Its leaves are also more tender than the leaves of other cabbages. And finally, Pak Choi (Chinese cabbage) has a flavour and texture akin to spinach or Swiss chard. I love it steamed or sautéed.

Ignore Rule No 3 at your peril: use enough salt! This is as true for raw cabbage as it is for cooking it. If you're using your cabbage for coleslaw, try salting it first before combining it with the other ingredients. Toss a head of shredded cabbage with one tablespoon of salt, let it sit in a colander for at least an hour, and then squeeze out as much liquid as you can. This helps expel a good chunk of excess moisture that's hidden in the cabbage that would otherwise result in a soggy slaw.

The last rule is used to good effect in the recipe below. It features a great combination of tastes and textures was just fantastic. The salty, crispy bacon complements the savoury cabbage with its soft and juicy texture, along with the sweetish olive oil and the heat of the pepper.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

 

1 Head green or Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed. I prefer Savoy cabbage; it tends to produce smaller, more manageable wedges.

4 Thick rashers streaky bacon, or 8 regular ones

Coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Olive oil

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 220°C.
  • Cut the cabbage into quarters and slice the bottom of each quarter at an angle to partially remove the stem core.
  • Cut each quarter in half again so you have eight wedges.
  • Lay these down on a large baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle the wedges generously with salt and pepper – remember Rule No 3...
  • Cut each slice of bacon into small strips and lay on top of the cabbage.
  • Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the cabbage wedges once halfway through.
  • If the edges aren't browned enough for your taste after 30 minutes, put them back in for five-minute increments until they are.
  • Serve immediately; the wedges cool down fast.

 

“The Lord's Prayer is 66 words, the Gettysburg Address is 286 words, there are 1.322 words in the Declaration of Independence, but EU regulations on the sale of cabbage total 26.911 words. The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.” – Eamonn Butler.

 

Fried Aubergines and Figs with Sesame and Mirin Dressing

“Gleaming skin; a plump elongated shape: the eggplant is a vegetable you'd want to caress with your eyes and fingers, even if you didn't know its luscious flavour.”- Roger Verge.

 

In my garden, fig season seems to last for only a minute. One day they are everywhere, the next squadrons of voracious bulbuls, mouse birds, grey loeries and barbets arrive, and we are left with just prosciutto and no fig for it to wrap around. There is thus a definite sense of “use it or lose it” afoot around New Year.

In our family, figs have long been appreciated in the form of jams and preserves but only eaten fresh on an “as and when” basis. Nowadays they are more freely available in stores, and I would urge you to try out the following recipe should you get hold of some. It marries the bold minerally taste of aubergine (eggplant) with the luscious sweetness of ripe figs. It can be served as a vegetarian main dish with steamed rice, or with grilled meat or fish.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish.

 

4 Young aubergines

2 Ripe figs

80ml Dry white wine

30ml Mirin (sweet rice wine) or Medium Cream Sherry

30ml Soya sauce

50g Tahini (sesame paste)

50g Cake flour

30g White sesame seeds

20g White sugar

2 Tbsp. sunflower or canola oil

Water cress or dill sprigs for garnishing

 

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over high heat.
  • Peel the aubergines lengthwise, leaving on a few thin strips of the skin.
  • Slice the aubergines lengthwise into 1cm-thick strips.
  • Dust the aubergine pieces in the flour.
  • Fry them in the hot oil until nicely browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towel.
  • Cut the figs into quarters, then coat in flour.
  • Fry them in the same pan, cooking for 10 seconds on each side.
  • Mix the sesame seeds, tahini, soya sauce, mirin, sugar and wine.
  • Arrange the aubergine and figs on a large serving plate, drizzle over the dressing and garnish with water cress or dill.

 

"When you cut that eggplant up and you roast it in the oven and you make the tomato sauce and you put it on top, your soul is in that food, and there's something about that that can never be made by a company that has three million employees." – Mario Batali.

 

Perfect roast potatoes

“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.” – AA Milne.

 

This year we spent Christmas with my parents, siblings and their children at the well-known Karula Hotel near White River. It was a real trip down memory lane for me, as I had worked there during university holidays in the early 1980s; sometimes as kitchen manager and sometimes as barman. Outwardly, the hotel resembles Fawlty Towers, but that is where the similarity ends. The Richardson family run a tight ship – no sarcasm directed at guests, no dumb waiters, poisoned veal cutlets or filigreed Siberian hamsters here!

Serving a packed dining room a seven-course meal with a small staff is a challenge at the best of times. Doing it in such a way that they feel special and pampered is a real art; to paraphrase Sybil Fawlty it is after all a hotel, not a borstal! We never felt like we were eating in a canteen or a mess hall. Not only did our orders arrive promptly, but we got exactly what we had ordered and the food was always hot and beautifully presented. Most importantly to a family of roast potato lovers, our spuds were served crispy and gold on the outside and fluffy on the inside!

Roast potatoes can make or break a special meal. Done right, they add immeasurably to one’s enjoyment of it, and done wrong they are lumps of carbohydrate taking up space on your plate. This fool-proof recipe will ensure your guests get to enjoy potatoes with crispy skins and fluffy insides.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 – 50 minutes

Serves 4

 

1kg Firm potatoes; ask for a variety suitable for roasting and chipping

120g Rendered duck fat or 100ml olive oil

2 Tsp. bread flour

Sea salt flakes – not coarse sea salt - to serve

 

  • Put a roasting tin in the oven (one big enough to take the potatoes in a single layer) and heat the oven to 200⁰C.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut each into 4 even-sized pieces if they are medium size, 2 - 3 if smaller (5cm pieces).
  • Drop the potatoes into a large saucepan and pour in enough water to barely cover them.
  • Add some table salt and nutmeg (optional), then wait for the water to boil.
  • As soon as the water reaches a full rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer the potatoes uncovered, reasonably vigorously, for 2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, put your choice of fat or oil into the hot roasting tin and heat it in the oven for a few minutes, until just smoking hot.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander. Rough them up a bit by shaking the colander back and forth a few times to fluff up the outsides.
  • Sprinkle the pieces with the flour, then give them another shake or two so they are evenly and thinly coated.
  • Carefully place the potatoes into the hot fat – they will sizzle as they go in – then turn and roll them around so they are coated all over.
  • Spread them in a single layer, making sure they have plenty of room.
  • Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes, then take them out of the oven and turn them over.
  • Roast for another 15 minutes and turn them over again.
  • Put them back in the oven for another 10 - 20 minutes, or however long it takes to get them really golden and crisp.
  • Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with sea salt and serve straight away.

 

“Every single diet I ever fell off of was because of roast potatoes and gravy of some sort.” - Dolly Parton.

Spanakopita: a spinach dish your kids will love

“If you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine, and a fishing boat remain.” - Odysseas Elytis.

 

Spanakopita or spinach pie is a popular Greek savoury pastry. The traditional filling comprises chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions or scallions, egg and seasoning. The filling is wrapped or layered in phyllo (filo) pastry, washed with with butter or olive oil. It can be made as a "pita" (pie), or as individual phyllo triangles. In the former incarnation it is baked in a large pan from which individual servings are cut, while in the latter it is rolled into individual triangular servings.

Greek housewives often keep trays of uncooked spanakopita in their freezers as a handy appetizer or side dish for guests. It freezes very well and heats beautifully. It can be served straight from the oven or at room temperature. Apart from “regular” spanakopita, there is a “fasting” or vegan version of spanakopita, eaten during Lent. It consists of a mixture of spinach, onions or scallions, other green herbs (like dill, parsley or celery leaves), olive oil and wheat flour. It contains no egg or dairy products, and the mixture is oven-baked until crisp.

This recipe is for the traditional dish, and produces enough filling for two 20cm x 30cm rectangular pie dishes, or approximately 100 folded triangles. I prefer to bake mine in the form of two pies; the alternative is hard work, and very messy to boot!

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 15 – 20 as canapés

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé 

 

1.5 kg Spinach, chopped

4 Large onions, diced

4 Eggs, lightly beaten

2 Bunches scallions (green onions), diced – including the first 10 cm of the green part

½ Cup parsley, chopped

½ Cup fresh dill, chopped

250 g Feta cheese, crumbled

250 g Ricotta or cottage cheese

¼ Cup butter, melted

½ Cup olive oil, plus another ¼ cup

500 g Phyllo pastry sheets

¼ Tsp. ground nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

  • Wash and drain the chopped spinach thoroughly.
  • Heat ½ cup olive oil over medium-high heat in a deep saucepan.
  • Sauté the onions and scallions until tender.
  • Add the spinach, parsley and dill and cook for 5 - 10 minutes until the spinach is wilted and heated through.
  • Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from the heat and set the spinach aside to cool.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Combine the feta, eggs, and ricotta/cottage cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the cooled spinach mixture and mix until combined.
  • Combine the melted butter with the remaining olive oil in a bowl. Using a pastry brush, lightly grease the two baking dishes.
  • Carefully remove the phyllo sheets from their plastic sleeves.
  • Using scissors or sharp knife, cut the sheets in half to make two stacks of 20 cm x 30 cm sheets.
  • To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towel while working with the other.
  • Layer about 10 sheets on the bottom of the pan, first brushing each sheet with the butter/olive oil mixture.
  • Add half of the spinach mixture in an even layer and press with a spatula to flatten.
  • Layer another 10 sheets on top of the spinach mixture, again making sure to brush well with the butter/olive oil mixture.
  • Repeat the process with the second pan.
  • Before baking, score the top layer of phyllo with a serrated knife (make sure you don’t puncture it) to enable easier cutting of pieces later.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven until the pita turns a deep golden brown.

 

“There have been many definitions of hell, but for the English the best definition is that it is the place where the Germans are the police, the Swedish are the comedians, the Italians are the soldiers, Frenchmen are the handymen, the Portuguese are the taxi drivers, the Spanish run the railways, the English cook the food, the Irish are the waiters, the common language is Hungarian and the Greeks run the government.” – David Frost.

 

And then Little Ms Hubbard met Peter...

To eat, or not to eat...

Boer in Beton, aka The Urban Farmer

Pick me some Pak Choi, chop-chop!

Fruits of the Cape Forests

Mushroom & Goat's Cheese Calzone

“Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom.” - Thomas Carlyle.

 

Calzone (“Stocking" or "trouser" in Italian is an oven-baked, folded pizza that originated in Naples. A typical calzone is made from salted bread dough, baked in an oven and stuffed with salami or ham, cheese and/or an egg. Different regional variations on a calzone can often include other ingredients that are normally associated with pizza toppings. However, calzones never include sauce on the inside. Smaller calzoni are sometime also fried in olive oil like an empanada, instead of being baked in an oven. The recipe below is a versatile vegetarian variation on the calzone theme that's bursting with flavour. Try it out; it is a great winter comforter!

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes accompanied by a Sangiovese or Merlot

 

250 g Mushrooms (Portobello, porcini or shiitake)

220g Pizza dough

100 g Goat's cheese

1 Large garlic clove, crushed

1 Tbsp. Crème Fraîche

1 Tsp. rosemary  leaves, finely chopped

½ Tsp. chilli flakes

2 Tsp. olive oil

Rocket for garnish

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 220°C.
  • Heat 1 Tsp. of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the mushrooms until golden, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, chilli and rosemary and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in the Crème Fraîche and 1 Tbsp. water, and remove from the heat.
  • Roll out the dough to a 30 cm-diameter circle.
  • Spread the mushroom mix across half of the circle, leaving a 2cm border from the edge, and scatter on the goat’s cheese.
  • Fold the dough over to form a neat semi-circle, and press the borders together to seal.
  • Brush with remaining oil, transfer to a baking sheet and cook for 15 - 20 minutes until risen and golden.
  • Cut the calzone into halves and serve on a bed of rocket.

 

“The broccoli says 'I look like a small tree', the mushroom says 'I look like an umbrella', the walnut says 'I look like a brain', and the banana says 'Can we please change the subject?’” – Larry Seinfeld.

 

Chilli Pak Choi: Red-hot greens!

“Please understand the reason why Chinese vegetables taste so good. It’s simple – the Chinese do not cook them; they just threaten them!” – Jeff Smith.

 

Among Westerners, pak choi, also referred to as bok choy, (literally “white vegetable” in Mandarin) is probably the best-known Chinese vegetable. Long available in specialist Chinese supermarkets, it has now made its way into many mainstream supermarkets. They are sold in three sizes: large, medium, and small. The large ones with white stalks and large, dark green leaves are older and tougher, but still quite tender as leafy greens go. They are a main ingredient in chow mein and stir-fries.

For the majority of Chinese dishes, it is best to go to a Chinese grocery to find the smaller, more tender specimens with fat, light green stems. These come in two sizes, the aforementioned medium and small. The smaller of the two is quite common today and my preferred kind. It is often referred to as green pak choy or Shanghai baby pak choy. They are harvested earlier, making them more tender. Like any leafy green, bunches of pak choi are usually pretty sandy, so be sure to wash yours thoroughly.

Chinese broccoli (gai lan in Cantonese) looks nothing like the garden-variety florets found in Western supermarkets, even though it shares the same family as regular broccoli, which the Chinese call “western broccoli”. The key difference is that broccoli with florets is western broccoli, while Chinese broccoli has long green stems and dark, thick leaves. Chinese broccoli is sweeter and tastes much less “minerally” than western broccoli. I like both varieties, but Chinese broccoli is obviously first prize for use in authentic Chinese food, like the following dish. It is the perfect accompaniment to spicy chicken dishes.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

 

200g Pak choi, leaves separated

200g Chinese broccoli (or young Western broccoli), stalks trimmed

2 Garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 Long Cayenne chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 Thumb-sized piece of root ginger, finely shredded

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 Tbsp. dark soya sauce

 

  • Heat the canola oil in a large wok and add the sesame oil and broccoli.
  • Add a splash of water to help steam the broccoli, then stir-fry it quickly over high heat for 2 - 3 minutes. 
  • Add the garlic, chilli and ginger, and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Add the pak choi leaves and soya sauce, and fry until the greens start to wilt slightly.
  • Remove the wok from the heat and serve the pak choi immediately with the main dish of your choice.

 

“So when I do Chinese cooking, I mix everything together, then the kids have to eat their vegetables. They won't have the patience to pick them out.” - Martin Yan.

 

Morogo Gratin: no pig in this weed!

“Better a meal with vegetables where there is love, than a fattened calf with hatred.” – Proverbs.

 

Morogo, as it is called by Sotho-speakers, imfino in the Nguni languages or muroho in Tshivenda, is my favourite green. All three terms are collective nouns for "leafy greens." It is a foodstuff which has been foraged from the land for millennia. It occurs throughout Southern Africa, and is extensively harvested for human consumption. It forms an important part of the staple diet in rural communities, and I still have vivid memories of my first vegetarian meal: pap and morogo, served by our Shangaan Nanny.  

While several plants are harvested for morogo/imfino, by far the most common species utilised is that of the Amaranthus, often called “pigweed” by Westerners. The leaves of these plants are edible and delicious. There are many ways of preparing them, including steaming, boiling and baking. Some cultures also dry the leaves and consume them during winter, when chances of cultivation are not good. Good news for gardeners is that Amaranthus seeds can now be obtained from most reputable nurseries.

Morogo leaves are packed with nutrients, including up to 36% protein. The exact vitamin content is dependent on the age of the plant and method of preparation; they also contain Vitamins A and C, and complement the low levels of calcium, magnesium and iron in maize. Research on the three main varieties has found that its consumption may lower the risk of chronic cardio-vascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Sceptical Abalungu readers trying it out for the first time can prepare it as faux creamed spinach, or try out the following recipe which even the kids will love.

 

Preparation time: 55 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 8

 

1.25 kg Morogo, chopped and blanched for 5 minutes then chilled in ice water.
1 Cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

½ Cup grated Gruyere cheese

2 Large onions, chopped

1 Cup heavy cream

2 Cups milk

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

¼ Cup cake flour

½ Tsp. grated nutmeg

1 Tbsp.coarse sear salt

½ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onions and sauté until translucent.
  • Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened.
  • Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the morogo leaves, then add them to the sauce.
  • Add ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix in well.
  • Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the Gruyere.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.

 

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled like bacon.” – David Larsen.

Louis' Morogo Quiche: Mnandi!

“It is no use to tell a hungry child that you gave him food yesterday.” – Zimbabwean proverb.

 

As a child our nanny often shared her pap and stewed morogo with me, and it remains one of my favourite greens. Known thus in Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi, and as imfino in isiZulu and isiXhosa, or muroho in Tshivenda, the term is a collective noun for "leafy greens" - which have been foraged directly from the land for millennia. Also known as wild or African spinach, it occurs throughout Southern Africa and forms an important part of the staple diet in rural communities.

Many plants are harvested for morogo/imfino, and given the rich bio-diversity of South Africa, many are endemic to specific regions. By far the most common species utilised is that of Amaranthus, a genus containing 60 different species, many of which are well-known in other parts of the world for their edible leaves. Amaranthus is often derisively called “pigweed” by ignorami, a most unfair label. The leaves of these plants are edible and delicious; I honestly find them superior to spinach or chard. I usually blanch the leaves for 5 – 6 minutes, after which I chill them in a bowl of ice water to preserve their colour and flavour. They are now ready for use in many ways, including steaming, boiling and baking.

A while ago, I came across packets of Amaranth seed at a nearby nursery and promptly sowed them in an unused corner of my garden. Apart from using fresh topsoil and working in some bone meal, I did not pamper the plants at all. Once the shoot appeared after two weeks, I also stopped watering them. In spite of a serious drought and several heat waves, my morogo flourished even as my (irrigated) artichokes, sage and parsley wilted and died. This went to the heart of my long-standing hobby horse: the need for farmers to start focusing on sustainability, and not only on crop yield. Many of today’s mass-produced vegetables may not be able to withstand the climate changes that lie ahead, particularly in Africa. If we are to stave off famine and malnutrition, indigenous plants will have to be studied and enhanced so as to provide palatable, nourishing food to Africa’s fast-growing population.

One of the tastiest (and healthiest) ways to serve morogo is lightly fried in butter with lemon, salt and some hot spice like paprika, and served with soft phutu (mieliepap). It also makes a great stew with mutton and potatoes – not unlike Waterblommetjiebredie – and a vegetarian stew with onion, tomatoes and chillies. Abalungu trying it out for the first time can also prepare it as faux creamed spinach. My two favourite ways of serving it are grilled with bacon bits and chopped onion (and drizzled with olive oil and Tabasco) and in the quiche I am about to describe.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Serves best accompanied by a Merlot or Malbec

 

150 g Morogo, blanched and chopped

150 g Feta (plain or with black pepper), crumbled

4 Slivers Black Forest Ham, chopped into 2 x 2 cm pieces

4 Medium (or 3 Jumbo) eggs, beaten

250 ml Fresh cream

½ Tsp. ground nutmeg

Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

1 x 22 cm Short crust pie crust, baked blind in its dish

 

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  • Arrange the morogo, feta and ham evenly on the pie crust.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream.
  • Pour this mixture into the pastry shell too, allowing the egg mixture to spread evenly.
  • Sprinkle with the nutmeg.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

 

“A patient man will eat ripe fruit.” – Baganda proverb. 

Charlene's Butternut Bake

Ja, Swaer...

“Only the knife knows what goes on in the pumpkin’s heart.” – Simone Schwarz-Bart.

Jakki and I had the privilege of spending her most recent birthday on a game farm in the Waterberg. Apart from good company, beautiful sightings and a few "Polisiekoffies" at the “Kalahari Oasis” – the setting for the great “Ja, Boet/Ja, Swaer” Castrol ads – my other fond memory is tasting our friend Charlene Marlin’s Butternut Bake. Technically I suppose it is a vegetable dish, but I would just as happily have it as a dessert – it is that good. Here is the recipe, with Charlene’s permission. Try it, you’ll thank me afterwards!

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour + 10 minutes beforehand to cook the butternut in your microwave

Serves 8

 

3 ½ Cups cooked butternut, mashed

2 Eggs, beaten

250ml Flour

200ml Sugar

3 Tsp. butter, melted

250ml Cream

250ml Milk

10ml Baking powder

5ml Salt

5ml Vanilla essence

Brown sugar and cinnamon to taste

 

  • Sift the dry ingredients together.
  • Mix the wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredient mix and stir.
  • Add the mashed butternut and mix well.
  • Pour the mixture into a deep oven dish.
  • Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.
  • Cover and bake for 1 hour @ 180 degrees.

“What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? Pumpkin pi.” – Bob Hope.

Putting the "Rat" into "Ratatouille"

Kept in the dark & fed BS

Not before you've finished your spinach, lover boy!

A dazzling display of colour & shape

Jamie explaining the health benefits of root vegetables

Legumes à la Grecque

“When it comes to food, the Provençal has made a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity.” – Peter Mayle.

Despite the name, Legumes à la Grecque (Greek-style marinated vegetables) is a popular dish all around the Mediterranean. It is very easy to make, and none of the ingredients is really compulsory. One should view this as a technique, rather than a recipe. Once you have the hang of it, you can experiment to your heart’s content. Because it is served chilled, this dish will please your summertime guests no end. It is wholesome, yet light and refreshing.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes plus at least 4 hours to marinate

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

 

The vegetables:

24 Small pickling onions, peeled

200 g Button mushrooms

2 Medium-sized red bell peppers

4 Small zucchini, cut into 1 cm thick roundels

1 Broccoli head

4 Pickled artichoke hearts, cleaned and halved

3 Carrots, peeled

1 Lemon, cut into 8 equal-sized wedges

The marinade:

2l Dry white wine

500ml Vegetable stock

250ml Olive oil

150ml Lemon juice

2 Large garlic cloves, finely chopped

6 Parsley sprigs

2 Thyme sprigs

1 Tbsp. coriander leaf, chopped

10 Black peppercorns

2 Tsp. salt

 

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large saucepan or pot.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer lightly for 45 minutes.
  • Strain the marinade into a large bowl using a fine sieve.
  • Return the marinade to the saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Add the onions and cook them gently for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
  • Wipe the mushrooms clean with a dry cloth. 
  • Slice the bell peppers into 1 cm wide strips.
  • Slice the zucchini into 1 cm wide wheels.
  • Divide the broccoli into florets.
  • Cut carrots into 1 cm thick sticks.
  • When the onions are cooked, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon. Place them in the marinade bowl.
  • Place the carrots in the simmering marinade, and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the artichoke and lemon. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add the artichoke and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove the vegetables from the saucepan, and place them in the bowl containing the onions.
  • Check the seasoning of the marinade and adjust if necessary.
  • Pour the marinade over the vegetables. Let the contents cool down, and leave to marinate in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  • To serve, scoop the vegetables out gently with a slotted spoon and arrange on a serving platter.
  • Garnish them with the lemon slices.

“Eating an artichoke is like getting to know someone really well.” – Willi Hastings. 

Aubergine Tingira

“How can people refuse to eat eggplant when God loves its colour and the French love its name? – The Frugal Gourmet (Jeff Smith).

The French call them “aubergines”, the Americans “eggplant” while in the former Empire they are “brinjals”. Given my bloodline and preferences, I will stick with the French moniker. The aubergine bears the same cross as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach: kids and philistines don’t like them much… I love them to bits, though. They are, as Laurie Colwin put it, “the stove top cook’s strongest ally.”

Mediterranean cooking would have been much less interesting without the aubergine. To use an old cliché, its flavour has a certain je ne sais qoi. It is slightly bitter, slightly nutty, slightly peppery, with a hint of zucchini. Many people don’t like the bitter element, and draws it out with salt. Hard-core eggplant lovers shudder at this, and feel that it detracts from the overall flavour. I sit on the fence: I do salt mine, but for no more than 10 minutes – just long enough to take the “edge” off. The following dish is a great one to give first-time eaters a “soft landing”

 

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 6     

 

4 Medium-sized aubergines

350 g Lamb mince

4 Streaky bacon rashers, finely chopped

1 Large egg

2 Cups fresh bread crumbs plus another cup for the topping

3 Cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tsp. fresh marjoram or ½ Tsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped

½ Tsp. coriander, ground

½ Tsp. paprika, ground

1 ½ Tbsp. tomato paste

3 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Score the skins of the aubergines, sprinkle with coarse salt and let them stand until drops of moisture appear (about 10 minutes).
  • Rinse them with running water, then dry them.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Halve the aubergines lengthwise.
  • Scoop out the pulp and pips, creating a hollow for the stuffing.
  • Chop up the aubergine pulp, and mix it with the mince, bacon, egg, 2 cups of bread crumbs, garlic, marjoram, coriander, paprika and tomato paste. Season generously with the salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the filling into the aubergines, forming regularly-shaped mounds.
  • Fry the extra breadcrumbs in the butter until just golden.
  • Mix the crumbs with the Parmesan and sprinkle over the stuffed aubergines.
  • Bake the aubergines for 30 minutes,
  • Serve them hot, garnished with the chopped parsley.

“Gleaming skin; a plump elongated shape: the eggplant is a vegetable you want to caress with both your eyes and fingers, even if you didn’t know its luscious flavours.” – Roger Verge.

Popeye Pie (Spinach & Cheese Quiche)

“I realised there were no good role models for kids. Popeye eats spinach, but he smokes and hits people.” – Magnus Scheving.

Spinach has always suffered from bad PR. It is one of the healthiest vegetables around, and can be served in a myriad appetising ways, yet it seems almost universally despised by kids and people with meat-and-potato palates. One of the best ways to introduce Philistines to eat is in a quiche, accompanied by cheese. In this recipe, I add White Cheddar to the usual Feta, to avoid the sharp Feta dominating and setting off alarm bells among wary guests!

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Serves best accompanied by a Merlot or Malbec

 

150 g Spinach, chopped

250 g White Cheddar, grated

200 g Garlic and herb Feta, crumbled

150 g Tinned button mushrooms, drained

4 Medium eggs, beaten

1 Small onion, chopped

3 Cloves garlic, chopped

1 x 22 cm Deep dish pie crust, baked blind in its dish

1 Cup full cream milk

½ Cup butter

Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

 

  • Preheat your oven to 190°C.
  • Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan medium heat.
  • Sauté the garlic and onion in butter until lightly browned.
  • Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, Feta and ½ cup Cheddar.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and spoon the mixture into the pie crust.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour this into the pastry shell too, allowing the egg mixture to thoroughly combine with the spinach mixture.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining Cheddar cheese over the top of the filling.
  • Bake for an an additional 30 minutes, or until set in the centre.
  • Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

“One man’s poison ivy is another man’s spinach.” – George Ade. 

Crumbed Champignons de Paris

“On the subject of field mushrooms, it is easy to tell who is an expert and who is not: the expert is the one who is still alive.” – Donal Lenahan.

This dish is classic pub and bistrot food. It is easy to make, soft on the eye, very tasty and not too filling.The addition of coconut and Parmesan gives it additional zing. This one is too tasty not to try!

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Sangiovese or Malbec

 

300 g Button mushrooms, stalks cut short and wiped clean

4 Tbsp. cake flour

3 Eggs, whisked

1 ½ Cup Parmesan, finely grated

1 ½ Cup desiccated coconut

¼ Cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 Cups tangy mayonnaise

4 Cocktail gherkins, grated fine

4 Drops Tabasco sauce

1 Tsp, fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Canola oil for frying

4 Lemon wedges for garnish

Chopped parsley for garnish

 

  • To make the tartare sauce, combine the mayonnaise, grated gherkins, Tabasco and lemon juice. Mix well and refrigerate.
  • Rinse the mushrooms and set aside.
  • Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside.
  • Mix the parmesan, coconut, parsley and seasoning in another bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan.
  • Dip the damp mushrooms in the flour, then cover with egg and roll in the coconut and parmesan crumbs.
  • Shallow fry until golden brown, turning once.
  • Remove the mushrooms and drain them on paper towel.
  • Garnish the mushrooms with the chopped parsley and lemon wedges, and serve with the tartare sauce on the side.

“Friends are like mushrooms – they sometimes spring up in out-of-the-way places.” – Anonymous.

Ratatouille

“Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.” – Chef Auguste Gusteau, “Ratatouille”.

I write this with a heavy heart. Two nights ago, on Friday the 13th of November, the City of Light was subjected to multiple terrorist attacks the killed more than a hundred people and injured hundreds more. Many of the casualties were having dinner when the outrage occurred. Some of them may well have had that classic French dish, ratatouille. I am going to make a point of making at least one French dish a day for the next week in solidarity with Parisians. Join me!

  

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 6

 

2 Cups diced Aubergine (eggplant), skin on

1 ½ Cups ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 ½ Cups shallots or small onions, chopped

1 Cup green bell peppers, diced

1 Cup red bell peppers, diced

1 Cup Zucchini (marrow squash), diced

1 ½ Tsp. garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped

½ Tsp. fresh thyme leaves

½ Cup olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Once hot, add the shallots and garlic. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized.
  • Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked.
  • Add the green and red peppers and zucchini, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes.
  • Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room temperature.

 

“You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. You only limit is your soul.” – Chef Auguste Gusteau, “Ratatouille.

Multi-coloured peppers on a farmer's market

Hija del Tomate

Annabel Langbein, a fellow spinach fan

Evita se Perron

Morogo sellers

Morogo for Mlungus

“Better to eat vegetables and fear no creditors, than to eat duck and hide from them.” – The Talmud.

Morogo, as it is called in Sesotho and isiPedi, imfino in isiZulu and isiXhosa, or muroho in Tshivenda, is a leafy green which has been  foraged directly from the land for millennia. Also known as wild or African spinach, it occurs throughout Southern Africa and is harvested for human consumption. It is considered a traditional South African dish, and forms an important part of the staple diet in rural communities. I still have vivid memories of my first vegetarian meals: pap and morogo, served by our Shangaan Nanny. The leaves of these plants are edible and delicious. There are many ways of preparing these vegetables, including steaming, boiling and baking. Westernisation has introduced a few interesting new techniques, including my current favourite: morogo fritters. It is the ideal “soft landing” for a “Mlungu” nervous about trying indigenous food.

Preparation time:  
Cooking time:

Serves 6 as a canapé

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

For the fritters:

200 g Morogo (or Swiss Chard), washed, stalk removed and finely chopped.

½ Red onion, chopped

2 Spring onions, chopped

2 Garlic cloves, finely crushed

110 g Maize meal

1 Tbsp coriander leaf, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

60ml Water

Olive oil for frying

For the topping:

60ml Mayonnaise

20ml Soy sauce

1 Tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tsp lemon zest, grated

1 Smoked chicken breast fillet, ready to eat

  •  Sauté the red onion, spring onions and garlic for a minute in some ­olive oil.
  • Add the morogo/spinach and herbs, and cook for another minute. The greens should not be fully cooked.
  • Stir in the maize meal and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour in the water, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. The mixture should be coarse and breadcrumb-like.
  • Remove from the heat and let it cool down enough to handle.
  • Divide the batter into teaspoonfuls and shape into little balls using your hands. Flatten them slightly, but not too thin otherwise they will break while you turn them.
  • Melt a generous knob of butter in a heated non-stick pan.
  • Cook the fritters for a minute on each side until golden, then transfer them to a serving ­platter.
  • Divide the chicken breast into thin slices.
  • Mix the mayonnaise, soy sauce and lemon juice. Place a small dab on each fritter.
  • Top them with a slice of chicken.

“The greatest service that can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Pumpkin fritters

“In the lives of children, pumpkins turn into coaches; mice and rats turn into men. When we grow up, we discover that it’s far more common for men to turn into rats.” – Gregory Maguire.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with pumpkin all my life – I loved it as a toddler, developed an aversion to it as a schoolboy and finally learnt to like certain pumpkin dishes. I am still not wild about butternut soup, but I can finish a plate full of pampoenkoekies in a flash! Although this dish is often served as a dessert, garnished with cinnamon sugar, I believe it really comes into its own as a side dish with venison or ham, and it works surprisingly well with fish. It's a down-home comfort dish and ideal for left-over pumpkin. This is how I make it:

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

2 Cups cooked pumpkin, dry (see note below)

½ Cup cake flour

2 Large eggs

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tsp baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ Tsp salt

Sunflower oil for frying

Cinnamon sugar, if the fritters are to be served as dessert

  •  Make sure the pumpkin is not soggy; this ruins the texture.
  • Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor. If not using a processor, mix well in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the eggs, and process/stir well until a thick batter forms. The batter should almost hold its shape when tested with a spoon.
  • If the batter is too stiff, add a tiny amount of milk. If by any chance it is runny, add more flour.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.
  • Scoop up heaped tablespoons of batter, and drop into pan; not too close together.
  • Fry until firm and golden on the underside, then flip over and fry on other side.
  • The fritters will puff up slightly and keep their shape, but will deflate a bit as you take them out of the pan.
  • To test, press very lightly on the fritters. When done, they will tend to spring back. If still uncertain, press harder: no batter should run out the sides.

Serve warm, either as a side dish, or as a dessert with plenty of crunchy cinnamon-flavoured sugar.

“Only the knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin.” – Simone Schwartz-Bart.

A dish Popeye would have loved

“Marriage, like spinach and opera, is something I never thought I’d like.” – Jasper Fforde.

When it comes to spinach, I seem to be among the minority. Like my childhood cartoon hero Popeye, I really love this oft-maligned vegetable. Its irony, slightly bitter taste combines exceptionally well with a variety of other flavours and tastes; my all-time favourite being spinach and various cheeses. A less well-known pairing is slightly sweet parsnip and creamy spinach. Try it out!

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves 6

500 g Young parsnips, cut into 1 cm thick roundels

400 g Baby spinach

2 Shallots, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp cake flour

1 Tsp fresh thyme, chopped

½  Tsp grated nutmeg

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil

250ml Chicken stock

300ml Fresh cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • In a large, deep skillet, melt ½ the butter in the oil.
  • Add the parsnips and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
  • Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened.
  • Add the stock and thyme and bring the mixture to the boil.
  • Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer over low heat until the parsnips are tender.
  • Meanwhile, fill a large pot up to a depth of 5 cm with water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the spinach in large handfuls and blanch, stirring, until just wilted.
  • Drain the spinach and cool it down under cold running water.
  • Squeeze the spinach dry and coarsely chop it.
  • Stir the spinach into the parsnips.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
  • Whisk in the flour and cook, still whisking, for a minute.
  • Whisk in the cream and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and bring the sauce to a boil.
  • Whisking it until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir the sauce into the spinach and parsnips and bring to a simmer.
  • Transfer to a bowl and serve.

 “One man’s poison ivy is another man’s spinach.” – George Ade.

Tamatiebredie: Boere comfort food at its best

“Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” – Brian O’Driscoll.

This dish is a firm fixture in the Pantheon of Afrikaans cooking, although some find the tomato a bit overpowering. It is one of the supreme comfort foods, and not difficult to make if you have patience. This recipe is quite generous with spicing, and I believe that a bit of background heat brings out the best in it. This is how it’s done:

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 3 hours

Serves 4

Tastes best served with a young Pinotage or Cinsaut

500 g Lamb shank, sawn into 2 cm thick portions

500 g Lamb neck, sawn into 2 cm thick portions

125 g Streaky bacon, cut into small pieces

6 Ripe Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 Large onions, coarsely chopped

2 Medium carrots, chopped into 1 cm thick roundels

4 Celery stalks, use only the first 15 cm chopped up

1 Medium red bell pepper, chopped

2 Serrano or Thai chillies, chopped

1 Large garlic clove, crushed

2 Tbsp sultanas

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

250ml Tomato paste

60 ml Hot fruit chutney

1 Tsp mild curry powder

1 Tsp Garam masala

2 Bay leaves

3 Tsp fresh thyme

3 Tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1 Mutton stock cube

½ Tsp Fennel seed

1 Tsp salt

½ Tsp ground black pepper

10ml Sugar

60ml Dry white wine

60ml Boiling water

15ml Sunflower oil

  • Pre-heat your oven to 160ºC.
  • Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water. Add the sultanas and set aside.
  • Roast the fennel seed briefly in a pan and grind with a pestle and mortar.
  • Add the curry powder, Garam masala, bay leaves, salt and pepper and set aside
  • Chop the celery and carrots in a food processor.
  • Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and fry the bacon. Stir occasionally, and ensure that the bacon is crispy.
  • Remove the bacon and scoop out most of the fat; leaving about 30ml in the pot.
  • Brown the lamb shanks in the fat in batches – the meat should fry, not simmer.
  • Remove the shanks and set aside.
  • Fry the rest of the meat in the same way, adding more bacon fat if needed. Set aside.
  • Fry the chillies for 2 minutes, then add the carrots, celery, onions, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft; about 6 – 7 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, sugar, ginger, thyme, spices and stock.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Return the meat, and stir into the sauce.
  • Bring the pot to the boil, cover it and place it in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 1 ½ hours.
  • Remove the pot from the oven and add the chutney and coriander leaves. Stir and check the seasoning.
  • Return the pot to the oven, and slow cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes.

Serve on rice or mashed potato.

“I wish I could find a stew that gives me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o’clock in the morning.” – John Barrymore.

Slovak-style Stuffed Pepper (Plnená Paprika)

“The sun loves to peer into the home where love lives.” – Slovak proverb.

Thanks to my good friend Chris Marlin and his Slovak-born wife Dani, Jakki and I have learnt quite a bit about that fascinating country and its cuisine. Slovak cooking is like tasting history: it takes you back to a time when the majority of the population lived in relative isolation in villages, and ate what they could produce, process and preserve themselves. This gave rise to a cuisine heavily dependent on a number of staple foods that could stand the hot summers and cold winters. These included wheat, potatoes, milk and dairy products, pork, sauerkraut and onions. To a lesser degree beef, poultry, lamb, goat, eggs, some local vegetables, fruit and wild mushrooms were traditionally eaten.

In more recent times there has been significant culinary cross-pollination between the Slovaks and their Central European neighbours, one outcome of which was the introduction of bell peppers and paprika into Slovak dishes – no doubt from Hungary, where both are ubiquitous. The Magyars, in turn, would have learnt to use them in cooking from the Ottoman Turks, who rampaged through South-Eastern Europe after conquering Constantinople. Stuffed vegetables or Dolma are popular dishes in the Levant, with bell peppers one of the favourites. The first Slovak dish Dani made us was Plnená Paprika, and it went down a treat. Here is my interpretation of this classic:

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 ½ hours

Serves 8

Tastes best with a medium-bodied red wine – I really like Merlot with this dish

8 Large green bell peppers

700 g Lean beef mince

1 Large brown onion, diced

1 Cup white rice

4l Tomato juice

6 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp ground paprika

2 Tsp Garlic, crushed

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

  • Wash the peppers thoroughly.
  • Make a circular incision around the stems and remove them.
  • Once the stems have been removed, remove the seeds and membranes, and rinse the insides of the peppers. Set the peppers aside.
  • In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Remove from the heat.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion and butter mixture with the ground beef, paprika and garlic. Mix everything thoroughly by hand.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Slowly pour in the rice, mixing it in by hand. Stuff the meat and rice mixture into the peppers.
  • Coat the bottom of a pot with oil. Place the stuffed peppers into the pot, leaving a 2 inch space at the top of the pot.
  • Pour in tomato juice until peppers are covered.
  • If there is some of the meat mixture left over, form them into tiny meatballs and add them to the tomato juice.
  • Bring the juice to the boil and simmer very slowly for 2 ½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes. The juice will reduce to a thick sauce.

Serve with roast potato and a green salad.

“Better to eat bread in peace, than cake in turmoil.” – Slovak proverb.

Mouth-watering...

Want daar is waterblommetjies in die Boland...

James Martin and some of his beloved veggies

Enough to keep Cheech & Chong high for a week

Margot in search of the perfect match

Charred Vegetable "salad"

“Vegetables are interesting, but lack a sense of purpose when not accompanied by a nice piece of meat.” – Fran Lebovitz.

Like most South African men, I am a braai junkie. Any excuse to light a fire and cook on its embers will do! This recipe is particularly appealing, since it gives me grounds to fire up my Weber even when cooking vegetables. Although you can successfully prepare this colourful end-of-summer salad on a gas grill, cooking it on a charcoal braai will imbue the vegetables with extra flavour. You can substitute white wine vinegar for the sherry vinegar without compromising the flavour of the dish.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 8

2 Red sweet peppers, halved and seeded

1 Large (or 2 medium) eggplant, cut into 2 cm-thick slices

1 Sweet onion, cut into 8 wedges

24 Cherry tomatoes

2 Garlic cloves, crushed

12 Oil-cured olives, pitted and halved

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 ml Freshly ground black pepper, divided

3 ml Sugar

5 ml Salt

2 Tbsp small fresh basil leaves

1 Tbsp finely chopped French chives

Cooking spray

  • Preheat braai or grill to medium-high heat.
  • Coat the grid with the cooking spray.
  • Combine the peppers, eggplant, onion and cherry tomatoes with 2 ml black pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 2 ml salt.
  • Place bell peppers (skin sides down) and onion on the grid and grill 10 minutes.
  • Turn the onion and add the eggplant.
  • Remove bell peppers. Place bell peppers in a zip-top bag and seal. Let it rest 10 minutes.
  • Grill the eggplant and onion for 5 more minutes, then remove the onion.
  •  Turn the eggplant and grill for a further 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  • Grill the tomatoes for 5 minutes.
  •  Remove bell peppers from the bag.  Peel them and discard the skins then slice lengthwise.
  •  Combine2 ml salt, the vinegar, and sugar.
  •  Slowly add 2 tablespoons oil, stirring continuously with a whisk.
  •  Combine vegetables, garlic, and olives. Drizzle with the dressing, then sprinkle with 2 ml salt, 2 ml pepper, the basil and the chives.

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” – Doug Larson.

Cheese-stuffed Mushrooms

“All mushrooms are edible – some only once in a lifetime.” – Gennaro Contaldo.

I grew up among the pine forests of Mpumalanga, where Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis) were abundant during the rainy season. My love affair with mushrooms is therefore now in its sixth decade. Since many people, especially children, don’t share my passion I often use this dish as a “soft landing”. It is sometimes possible to obtain Porcini from Woolies and certain delis between December and April, but if not brown mushrooms work a treat as well. This how I make it:

Preparation time: 25 minutes.

Cooking time: 20 minutes.

Serves 12 as a starter, or 6 as a main course.

Tastes best with a medium-bodied red wine, like a Merlot or Pinotage.

12 Whole medium-sized brown mushrooms

2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

250g Soft cream cheese

1 Tablespoon garlic, finely chopped or ctushed

2 ml Freshly ground black pepper

2 ml Onion soup powder

2 ml Cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon sunflower oil

  •  Preheat oven to 175˚C.
  • Spray a baking tray with non-stick spray.
  • Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems.
  • Chop stems extremely fine, discarding the tough ends.
  • Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet.
  • Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn the garlic.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • When the garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir  in the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. The mixture should be very thick.
  • Using a teaspoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing.
  • Arrange the mushroom caps on prepared baking tray.
  • Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under the caps.
  • Switch on the grill and expose to the heat until the mushrooms take on a golden colour.

 “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.” – Shirley Conran.

Braised red cabbage with apples

“An idealist is someone who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes better soup as well.” – HL Mencken.

Braised red cabbage with apples is an iconic Gascon dish; small wonder, as it goes so well with another classic from the Midi: Confit de Canard (preserved duck leg). I first encountered this dish while watching Rick Stein’s “French Odyssey”. He described it as the perfect foil for fatty meats like duck, pork or lamb. I was an instant convert – I often substitute it for sauerkraut. It's certainly a lot more interesting, and many guests prefer its combination of sweet and sour to the stark acidity of sauerkraut. It can be made the day before and gently re-heated when required, and will last up to a fortnight in the fridge if sealed. It can even be frozen to good effect. This how I make it:

Preparation time: 20 minutes.

Cooking time: 3 hours.

Serves 12.

Drink whatever pairs well with the meat course being accompanied by the braised cabbage.

1kg Red cabbage

3 Medium Granny Smith or tart apples, peeled and chopped into dice

400g Shallots or onions, finely chopped

1 Large garlic clove, chopped very finely

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

3 Tablespoons white wine or apple cider vinegar

3ml Freshly grated nutmeg

3ml Freshly ground stick cinnamon

8 Freshly ground cloves

1 Tablespoon salt

2 Teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

  • Pre-heat your oven to 140˚C
  • Discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage.
  • Cut it into quarters and remove the hard stalk.
  • Shred the rest of the cabbage finely.
  • Arrange a layer of shredded cabbage on the bottom of a casserole, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the cabbage with a layer of chopped onions and apples, sprinkled with garlic, spices and sugar.
  • Repeat the alternate layering until all the dry ingredients have been used up.
  • To finish off, pour the vinegar over, then place dots of butter on the top.
  • Put a lid on the casserole and let it cook very slowly in the oven for 3 hours.
  • Stir once or twice during the cooking process.

“Cabbage: a familiar garden vegetable of similar size and wisdom as a man’s head.” – Ambrose Bierce.

Waterblommetjies: the Boland on a plate

“It is a real shame that we buy spinach – which has as little taste as a curried cucumber – but spurn wateruintjies*, which are tastier and more flavourful, and are plentiful to boot.”  – C. Louis Leipoldt. (*"Wateruintjies = waterblommetjies)

The advent of tinned, blanched waterblommetjies has meant that more South Africans are now able to enjoy this delicacy. In the stew that I am about to describe, those unable to obtain the genuine article can always substitute chopped, fresh haricot beans for it. The only major difference when using beans is that they need more cooking – I add them to the dish at the same time as the potatoes.

A relatively small detail, which cooks overlook at their peril, is the addition of some sorrel. In traditional Cape cuisine an indigenous wild sorrel ("Geelsuring") is used, but the domesticated version works a treat as well. It not only adds a tart element to the taste of the dish, but also helps to break down the fat of the lamb – Overberg lamb and mutton are both on the fatty side, but really tender and tasty. 

Preparation time: 20 minutes.

Cooking time: 1 ½ hours.

Serves 6 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a fruity red wine like Merlot, Touriga Naçional or Malbec.

 

500 g Lamb neck or rib chops.

750 g Fresh, or 500 g drained, tinned waterblommetjies. Alternative: Chopped green beans.

3 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced.

2 Medium onions, chopped.

1 Cup of hot mutton stock.

1 Cup of dry red wine.

1 Tablespoon of chopped sorrel.

1 Tablespoon of olive oil.

1 Blade of finely ground mace.

1 Teaspoon of finely ground coriander seeds.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning.

  • If using fresh waterblommetjies, first soak them in heavily salted cold water to rid them of unwanted bugs and then rinse them thoroughly.
  • Sprinkle the lamb with the mace and coriander, and braise in the olive oil until browned.
  • Add the onions and cook until translucent.
  • Add the mutton stock and red wine, and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • When the meat is tender, add the potatoes.
  • Simmer until the potatoes start breaking up.
  • Put in the waterblommetjies and sorrel and turn off the heat. Stir gently every 2 minutes for about 15 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve on fine white rice (I prefer Basmati) with peach chutney on the side.

“It is so dry in the Boland, they are now selling waterblommetjies as dried flower arrangements.” – Roelof van der Westhuizen.

My favourite vegetarian dish

“Life is like eating artichokes; you have to go through so much to get so little.” – Tad Dorgan.

To my great surprise and delight I spotted some fresh globe artichokes in a well-known food retailer (the one that refuses to boycott Israel) earlier this week. Although strictly speaking “in season” in spring, artichokes are known to produce a secondary crop in late summer when given enough TLC. I lost no time in buying all six available, and promptly changed my plans for supper! I am a self-confessed – and unrepentant – carnivore, but one of the few vegetarian dishes I really like is an artichoke and green asparagus risotto. Should you get hold of fresh ingredients, I urge you to try this very simple but tasty dish:

Prepation time: 45 minutes.

Cooking time: 30 minutes.

Serves 4 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Colombard or Chenin Blanc.

 

8 Globe artichokes.

8 Large green asparagus.

2 Shallots, or 2 small onions.

1 ½ Cups Arborio (risotto) rice.

500 Ml chicken stock.

500 Ml vegetable stock.

1 Cup dry white wine.

½ Cup Canola oil for frying.

1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley.

1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese.

150 g Unsalted butter.

½ Tablespoon olive oil.

1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest.

Salt & ground black pepper for seasoning.

 

  • Pluck off the the artichoke leaves.
  • Trim the “hearts” of the artichokes with a sharp paring knife – this entails cutting off the bases of the leaves left on the edges, and cutting out the “choke” (the hairy centre) by twisting the knife through 180 degrees at a 45 degree angle.
  • Cut the artichoke hearts in quarters – lengthwise.
  • Break off the hard bases of the asparagus by holding them at both ends and bending them – each one will snap at exactly the right spot.
  • Quickly fry the artichokes in the Canola oil until they start turning golden brown. Remove from the heat and drain on a paper towel.
  • Simultaneously poach the asparagus for 5 minutes in the vegetable stock.
  • Plunge the asparagus in ice cold water to cool them instantly, thus preserving their colour and texture.
  • Once cooled, cut the asparagus into 3-4 short pieces each.
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, deep saucepan (alternatively a medium-sized pot).
  • Sauté the shallots/onions until translucent over medium-high heat.
  • Add the rice, and stir gently until the liquid has been largely absorbed.
  • Add the stock and wine in turn, never more than about 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir continually, and only add more when the previous dash of liquid has been absorbed.
  • When all the liquid has been incorporated, and the rice is still slightly al dente, add the vegetables.
  • Fold the artichokes and asparagus in gently.
  • Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.
  • Turn off the heat and put a lid on the saucepan. Leave to heat through for 5 minutes.
  • Check the seasoning before dishing up, and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest.  

“Aparagus and artichokes teach a cook humility.” – Italian proverb. 

I should be Aki the Cheesemaker. But just 1 goat...

Chief Inspector Wang King & his associates

She may look like a Fly Agaric, but she ain't toxic

Just an old Sicilian guy tending to his tomatoes

Madonna of the Artichokes