Shrimpzilla caught off Pendejada on 1/4/2017

Padma Lakshmi doesn't believe in sparing the rib

Her bouquet looks good enough to eat

German ad promoting potatoes with some hot patooties

The big one that got away

Salmon Croque-Monsieur: not something you'd forget on a radiator!

“I don't have a pet, but I dream of someday getting a pug dog whom I will name Croque Monsieur so that I may alternate between calling him Croque, Monsieur or his full name: Croque Monsieur. I'll more than likely only use his first and last name most often when he's been bad.” - John Gallagher, Jr.

 

The most common legend surrounding the Croque Monsieur (literally, Crispy Mister) is that a couple of French laborers “invented” it when they accidently left their lunch pails filled with ham and Gruyère sandwiches by a hot radiator in the morning, and by lunchtime found themselves enjoying warm and gooey grilled sandwiches. Who knows if this is true, but by the early 1900s, the Croque Monsieur was a standard on every French café menu, and the rest, as they say is history. It is the aristocrat of the ham and cheese sandwiches.

The French love their toasted sandwiches. Apart from old Mr Crusty, there is also the Croque Madame (a Monsieur with an egg on top), Croque Auvergnat  (substituting blue cheese for Gruyère), Croque Campagnard (with rustic bread, country ham, and add a mix of Comté, Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses), Croque Provençal (with tomatoes added), Croque Savoyard (with Reblochon cheese and thinly sliced fried potatoes) and Croque Norvégien (with smoked salmon instead of ham).

If the Croque Monsieur is the king of the sandwiches, then the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) is the king of the rivers. Even though overfishing and habitat degradation have decimated France’s salmon stocks, salmon is still the most prized and best-selling fish, even eclipsing the cod. Most of what is consumed nowadays is raised in the fjords of Norway. South Africans and Frenchmen are therefore in the same boat; our supplies also come from abroad, although there is now a pilot project involving the farming of salmon in the cold waters near Cape Agulhas. I can recommend the following starter variant of Croque Norvégien wholeheartedly; it’s soft on the eye and a knockout on the palette.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 20

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Vin Brut

 

300g Thinly sliced cold-smoked salmon, coarsely chopped

250g Unsalted butter

40 Slices of rye bread

40 Slices of wholegrain bread

6 Extra-large eggs

2 Cups full-cream milk

2 Cups grated Gruyère cheese

1 Cup French chives, finely chopped

3 Tbsp. cake flour

½ Tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper for seasoning

 

  • Melt 3 tbsp. of the butter in a medium saucepan.
  • Stir in the flour until completely blended, then cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until the roux is golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking often, until no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the sauce cool, stirring, until just warm.
  • Stir in the smoked salmon, Gruyère, chives and nutmeg.
  • Season with salt and pepper and let the sauce cool completely.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180⁰C.
  • Spread half of the rye slices with a rounded tablespoon of the salmon mixture and close the sandwiches.
  • Repeat with the wholegrain slices and the remaining salmon mixture. 
  • Beat the eggs thoroughly in a large, shallow bowl.
  • Stack 2 or 3 large rimmed baking sheets on one side of the stove.
  • Melt 1 tbsp. of the butter in a large pan over moderate heat.
  • Dip 8 of the sandwiches in the beaten eggs to coat them completely, and cook the egg-dipped sandwiches in the pan over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 1 minute per side.
  • Transfer the sandwiches to one of the baking sheets, leaving a little space around each one.
  • Repeat with the remaining sandwiches and beaten eggs, using 1 tbsp. of butter per batch.
  • Re-heat the sandwiches until piping hot, about 8 minutes.
  • Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal, skewer with small wooden forks or cocktail sticks and serve hot.

 

“During November, I became slightly addicted to a bit of French comfort food, the Croque Monsieur. It wasn’t great for my waistline, but it certainly helped me get through my daily intensive French class!” – Julia Child.

 

Potato Gratins: simply irresistable

"I grew up in Scotland in the 1970s. There was not much money. The most popular Christmas toy was probably a potato." – Craig Ferguson.

 

There is a widespread misconception among Anglo-Saxon cooks that the French term gratin refers to dishes which are topped with grated cheese and then grilled. This is only partially true – all dishes with grilled-cheese toppings are gratins, but not all gratins are topped with cheese! The term is derived from the verb gratter, which means "to scrape" or "to grate" (for example, "scrapings" of bread or cheese), and the adjective gratiné, which means “having a crust or skin”. It is therefore a generic term for the widespread culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, using grated cheese, bread crumbs, egg and/or butter.

In addition to the well-known potato dishes such as Gratin Dauphinois, cooking au gratin is a widely used cooking technique in the preparation of numerous dishes containing ingredients as diverse as red meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and pasta. Pommes gratiné is one of the most common of gratins and is better known as "gratin potatoes" or “scalloped potatoes” outside of France.and "Gratin de pommes de terre". Slices of parboiled potato are arranged in a buttered fireproof dish, sprinkled with cheese and browned in the oven or under the grill.

Most regions of France boast a variant of the basic dish. Gratin Dauphinois from the Dauphiné is made using only thinly sliced, layered potatoes and cream, cooked in a buttered dish rubbed with garlic. Gratin Savoyard is a similar dish made in the neighbouring Savoie region. It consists of alternating layers of sliced potatoes, Beaufort cheese and pieces of butter, without cream. Gratin Languedocien is a Gascon dish made with eggplant and tomato, which are covered in breadcrumbs and oil and then browned. Sole au gratin is made with flatfish covered with a cheesy mushroom topping.

Potatoes are a classic accompaniment to meat in French cooking, but you will also find them featured in some recipes that are meant to be enjoyed on their own. The following dish is one of my all-time favourite appetisers, and works a treat during pre-dinner drinks. It is a miniaturised version of Gratin Dauphinois. Because it is so small, it comes out crispier than the original and is therefore a sure crowd pleaser. You’ll need a 12-slot muffin pan to make it.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 6

 

Enough unsalted butter, room temperature, to grease all the muffin slots

3 Medium russet potatoes (about 320g each)

1 ½ Cups thick cream

Sea salt flakes and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200⁰C.
  • Brush the muffin slots lightly with butter.
  • Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible (I use a mandolin).
  • Place 2 slices of potato in each slot and season with salt and pepper.
  • Continue adding potatoes, seasoning every few slices, until the slots are filled.
  • Pour 1 tbsp. cream over each gratin.
  • Bake until the potatoes are golden brown and tender when pierced with a knife, 30 to 35 minutes.
  • Run a thin knife around each gratin.
  • Place a baking sheet or large plate over the pan and invert to release the gratins.
  • Flip right side up and serve warm.

 

“Both sides of my family had come from Ireland in the 19th Century for the same reason: there was nothing to eat over there. Since then, I’ve tried to make up for the Potato Famine by making the potato the only vegetable that passes these lips.” – Art Donovan.

 

Poached Baby Artichokes: thistle without bristle

“The artichoke above all is the vegetable expression of civilized living, of the long view, of increasing delight by anticipation and crescendo. No wonder it was once considered an aphrodisiac. It had no place in the troll’s world of instant gratification. It makes no appeal to the meat-and-two-veg mentality.” – Jane Grigson.

 

People have been eating globe artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) for a very long time. The artichoke is mentioned as a garden plant in the 8th century BC by Homer and Hesiod. Its wild ancestor, the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is a large thistle native to the Mediterranean area. The Greeks were the first people to cultivate the cardoon, and archeological finds prove that they were soon being grown and eaten in Asia Minor, Egypt, Sicily, Rome, Spain and Carthage.

This handsome vegetable can grow up to 2m tall, with large edible flowers which should be eaten before they reach maturity. The edible portions of the buds consist primarily of the fleshy base, known as the "heart" and the base of the leaves. The mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke" or beard. These are inedible in older, larger flowers. Apart from its consumption as food, the globe artichoke is also an attractive plant for its bright floral display, sometimes grown in herbaceous borders for its bold foliage and large, purple flower heads.

Artichokes are eaten in a number of ways. Large globe artichokes are frequently prepared by removing all but 5 – 10 mm of the stem. To remove thorns, which may interfere with eating, around a quarter of each scale can be cut off. The artichoke is then boiled or steamed. A cooked, unseasoned artichoke has a delicate flavour, reminiscent of fried egg white. The core of the stem tastes similar to the artichoke heart, and is edible. Leaves are usually removed one at a time, and the fleshy base eaten with hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice, or other sauces. The fibrous upper part of each leaf is usually discarded. The heart is eaten when the inedible choke has been peeled away from the base and discarded. The thin leaves covering the choke are also edible.

In Italy, artichoke hearts in oil are the usual vegetable for "spring" section of the Quattro Stagioni ("Four Seasons") pizza (with olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and ham for winter). A recipe well known in Rome (and my personal favourite) is Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish-style artichokes), which are deep-fried whole.

Stuffed artichoke recipes are abundant. A common Italian stuffing uses a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, parsley, grated cheese, and prosciutto or sausage. A bit of the mixture is then pushed into the spaces at the base of each leaf and into the center before boiling or steaming. In Spain, young, tender artichokes are sprinkled with olive oil and barbecued, sautéed in olive oil and garlic, combined with rice as a paella, or sautéed and combined with eggs in an omelette. Greeks prefer aginares a la polita ("artichokes big city-style), a hearty, savory stew made with artichoke hearts, potatoes, and carrots, and flavored with onion, lemon, and dill.

If you are able to obtain the small, purple-coloured Roman artichokes – they are coming into season at this very moment – do yourself and your dinner guests a favour and make the following dish as the starter course at a special dinner. It’s a guaranteed show stopper.

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Fino sherry or a bone-dry Cape Riesling

 

12 Baby artichokes

4 Lemons, halved

4 Bay leaves, preferably fresh

2 Thyme sprigs

2 Rosemary sprigs

2 Sage leaves

1 Small red onion, finely chopped

1 Cup water

1 Cup olive oil, plus more for serving

1 Cup dry white wine

½ Cup lemon juice

¼ Tsp. coriander seeds

¼ Tsp. black peppercorns

Fine sea salt

 

  • Combine the water with the lemon juice in a large, deep saucepan.
  • Add the 4 lemons to the water in the skillet.
  • Working with 1 baby artichoke at a time, snap off all of the dark green outer leaves.
  • Using a sharp knife, slice off the top half of the leaves and peel and trim the stem.
  • As each artichoke is ready, drop it into the lemon-infused water.
  • Add the cup of olive oil and the white wine, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaves to the contents of the saucepan.
  • Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, then reduce the heat to low.
  • Cover and simmer until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
  • Allow the artichokes to cool in the cooking liquid for 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the artichokes to a work surface and discard the cooking liquid.
  • Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a platter.
  • Drizzle the artichokes with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Note: The poached baby artichokes can be made a day in advance. Simply drain and refrigerate overnight. Let the artichokes return to room temperature before serving.

 

“His memoir is a splendid artichoke of anecdotes, in which not merely the heart and leaves but the thistles as well are edible.” – John Leonard.

 

Glazed spare ribs: why skeletons go to barbecues

“Good barbecue comes from experience, and experience, well, that comes from poor barbecue.” – Cousin Woodman.

 

I’m afraid South Africans – despite what they think – actually don’t “get” barbecue spare ribs. Firstly, the name. They are not spare as in “surplus”, or as in “thin”, or any other synonym of the English word. Nor does it have anything to do with Adam and Eve, as is believed in some circles. This thesis holds that the name is a pun on Eve being created from a rib of Adam, according to Genesis 2. The word is actually a modern derivative of the original spear-rib, a cut of meat once roasted on spears. That name in turn comes from the Middle German ribbespêr.

Another source of confusion is the cut of meat itself. While most of us agree that the ribs in question are pork, there are differing views on what constitutes a spare rib. A pig’s ribcage consists of two parts: the slab ribs and the rib tips. From the meatier loin region comes the most highly prized (and priced) cut, the baby back rib. Most spare ribs sold and eaten are slab ribs, or “St Louis Ribs” - a slab rib without the rib tip. Rib tips (the hindmost part of the slab rib) are the cheapest option, typically a quarter of the price of baby back ribs and half the price of slab ribs. Some American barbecue connoisseurs, however, argue that rib tips are the most flavorful of rib meats, since they are closer to the belly and more heavily marbled.

Now for the most important part: how should it be cooked? Firstly, great barbecue should never be rushed. The lower and slower the heat, the better. And parboiling is a hanging offence in the US South and Midwest, where barbecue is a religion. Spare ribs should go through a three-step process: season, smoke, serve. Start with a garlic and herb rub, slow-cook them in a smoky oven and finish by coating them with a barbecue sauce and glazing them under high heat. Brushing the ribs with barbecue sauce gives them a beautiful caramelised exterior and provides sweetness to balance the effect of salt and smoke.

Not everyone has the luxury of a smoke house or barbecue pit, but necessity is the mother of invention. A kettle braai can be used to good effect as an ersatz barbecue pit. Or you can use the following recipe, which imitates the real thing using only your stove’s oven. The trick is to add some smoked paprika to the cumin and fennel in the spice rub to achieve that lovely smoky effect. The ribs get cooked in the oven and then basted and finished under the grill.

 

Preparation time: 30 mintes

Cooking time: 3 hours

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz

 

For the ribs:

2 Racks of St Louis cut pork spare ribs, about 1.5kg each

½ Cup dry apple cider

2 Tbsp. smoked paprika, preferably the hot type

2 Tbsp. fennel seeds

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

2 Tsp. whole black peppercorns

Coarse sea salt

Sea salt flakes (optional)

For the glaze:

½ Cup apple juice

½ Cup tomato paste

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½  Tbsp. Dark brown sugar

1 ½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard

½ Tsp. dried oregano

½ Tsp. finely chopped garlic

Coarse sea salt

 

  • Position a rack in the middle of your oven and pre-heat the oven to 140°C.
  • Crush the fennel, cumin, and peppercorns to a medium grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  • Stir in the paprika. Set aside 1 tsp. of the spice mix.
  • Season the ribs well all over with the sea salt, then rub the spice mix all over.
  • Transfer the ribs to a large roasting pan, meaty side up.
  • Pour in the cider, cover tightly with foil, and cook until very tender, about 2 ½ hours.
  • Uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature in the pan.
  • Meanwhile combine the apple juice, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, mustard, oregano, garlic, and ½ tsp. salt in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt.
  • Pre-heat your oven grill to medium high heat (about 230°C).
  • Brush the ribs with a thin coating of the glaze.
  • Grill, flipping every 5 minutes or so and basting with more glaze until the glaze browns, 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, tent with foil, and allow to rest 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Slice the ribs neatly and sprinkle them with the reserved 1 tsp. of spices.
  • Finish with a little coarse or flaky sea salt.
  • Serve on side plates with plenty of serviettes – it is messy eating, but guests love it!

 

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing - whatever you want to call it - is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.” – James Beard.

 

Seafood Pancakes: they won't give you the crepes

“No matter how flat you make a pancake, it’s still got two sides.” – Dr. Phil.

 

Pancakes, like samosas and snackwiches, are great way of dressing up leftovers in an appetizing manner. I’ve never been a big fan of church bazaar-style sugar-and-cinnamon pancakes, but I adore savoury ones filled with curry mince, sautéed mushrooms or chicken mayo. Twenty years ago, I bought one of the most useful cookbooks in my collection, Free from the Sea by Lannice Snyman and Anne Klarie. I have long lost count of the number of times I got compliments from guests regarding dishes I made according to their recipes. One of the easiest, yet most enjoyable dishes is for cold seafood pancakes, and I still use it from time to time when I have leftover fish or shellfish.

Of course one can make this dish as modest or lavish as your budget allows, but I will always associate it with imaginative use of leftovers. If you like the concept of savoury seafood pancakes, but want to wow your dinner guests with something a bit more posh, you will love the following recipe. It is warm and comforting, and packed with succulent shellfish and crustaceans. Because everything is shelled beforehand, grandparents and spinster aunts don’t have to be nervous about eating prawns and crab whole and making a mess. It’s like eating in a crab shack without having to wear a bib!

For a real show stopper, make a prawn shell sauce. I buy unshelled prawns, and clean them myself. I then divide the heads and shells in two, and keep half to make stock and the rest for the sauce. To make the sauce, I boil the shells in Knorr seafood stock to extract their flavour, discard the shells after 15 minutes, and then reduce and thicken the sauce. I pour the sauce over the pancakes just before serving. NB: this is an optional extra touch which you need not apply.

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

 

500g Large prawns, deveined shelled

175g Tinned crab meat (preferably lump meat)

150g Small scallops, shelled

90g Butter, divided into a 60g and a 30g lump

60g Cheddar cheese

12 Fresh oysters, shucked and drained

3 Scallions, finely sliced

1 Medium onion, finely chopped

1 Cup water

½ Cup dry white wine

½ Cup fresh cream

3 Tbsp. fresh breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp. cake flour

2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Salt and white pepper to taste

4 Cooked pancakes, at room temperature

 

  • Combine the parsley, breadcrumbs and Cheddar in a bowl and mix well.
  • Place the reserved half of the prawn shells, water, wine and onion in a deep saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  • Drain and reserve the stock.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 220ºC.
  • Heat 60g of the butter in separate saucepan, add flour, and stir until combined.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  • Gradually add 1 cup of the prawn stock and whisk it in.
  • Add the cream and stir until combined.
  • Return the pan to the heat and stir until the sauce boils and thickens.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Heat the extra butter in separate pan, add the scallions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add to the seafood mixture.
  • Add the uncooked seafood to the sauce and mix well.
  • Divide the mixture in 4, and spoon it down the centres of the pancakes. Roll up.
  • Arrange the pancakes on a greased or lined oven tray.
  • Sprinkle the combined parsley, breadcrumbs and cheese over them.
  • Bake until heated through and golden brown, about 7 -10 minutes.
  • Serve with a tossed green salad and lemon wedges on the side.

 

“Sen Sanders' foreign policy experience consists mainly of having had breakfast at the International House of Pancakes.” – Hillary Clinton.

 

I hardly know the woman!

Andrew Zimmern launches the Mother of all Hoagies

Sukuti on the hoof

I had distinctly told the schmuck to bomb HAMAS!

La Bardot was also once a French tartlet

Pissaladieres: funky French tartlets

“Youth is like hors d'oeuvres: you are so busy thinking of the next courses you don't notice it. When you've had them, you wish you'd had more hors d'oeuvres.” – Philip Larkin.

 

The French are a very sensual lot, so they’ll hopefully forgive me when I argue that they came up with the concept of hors d’oeuvres as the culinary equivalent of foreplay. It’s that “little something” a French hostess does to whet the appetite and encourage the gastric juices to flow before getting into the main course.

As with most things French, the concept is not straight forward. Hors d'oeuvre literally means "outside the work" - that is, "not part of the ordinary set of courses in a meal". The Anglo-Saxon term "appetiser" is a synonym for hors d'oeuvre, and can be used interchangeably. "Starter" – which is sometimes also used to refer to an hors d'oeuvre, is however more often intended to denote more substantial courses, known in Europe and North America as entrées.

Like several other culinary traditions which Europeans claim as their own, the concept of the appetiser is believed to have originated in China, brought west along the Silk Route and becoming established in Russia, Scandinavia and only later in other European countries. The tradition may have reached Italy, Greece and the Balkan nations through Byzantine trade with Russia or Persia. Many national customs are thus related to hors d’oeuvres, including the Swedish smörgåsbord, Russian zakuski, Greek mezedes, Lebanese mezze, Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti

Until about 200 years ago, dishes at formal dinners were arranged on tables, and guests helped themselves. Formal dining changed drastically in the 19th century, when successive courses began to be served one after the other. In the process hors d'oeuvres, sometimes called “dainty dishes" became the first course of the meal and hence more complicated in preparation. Savoury pastries made their appearance, including the dish described below. Based on the classic French caramelised-onion tart, these little two-bite hors d'oeuvres pack a flavourful punch.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 75 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Pinot Noir or Cinsaut

 

12 Black olives, pitted and minced

8 Oil-packed anchovy filets, drained and cut into 4 slivers each

2 Large red onions, halved length-wise and thinly sliced

2 Sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tsp. fresh thyme leaves

2 Tsp. sugar

1 Tsp. red wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Chopped chives or flat-leaf parsley for garnish

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the thyme and onions and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 30 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high, add the sugar and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, stirring, until caramelised, 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the olives, remove the pan from the heat, and set it aside.
  • Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of 3-4mm.
  • Using a 6cm cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles from each sheet.
  • Transfer the pastry circles to 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets and prick each circle all over with a toothpick.
  • Cover the circles with a sheet of parchment and bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake for 3 minutes more.
  • Transfer the circles to a large serving platter, spoon about 1 tsp. onion mixture over each, and top with a sliver of anchovy.
  • Garnish with chives and/or parsley and serve.

 

"The decline of the hot hors-d'oeuvre was the result of the excessive development of women's skirts." - Baron Leon Brisse.

 

Hummus: a dish, not a resistance movement

“To ask whether the mainstream media has a conservative or liberal bias is like asking whether al-Qaida uses too much oil in their hummus. It is - I think they might use too much oil in their hummus - but it's the wrong question.” – Al Franken.

 

Meze are the tapas of the Middle East. The meze-style spread - small plates, dips, and salads meant to be shared as an appetiser course or a light meal - is common throughout the Maghreb and Middle East. Bread is the heart of a meze platter, particularly pita. It tastes especially great grilled with za'atar, a spice blend of wild thyme, tangy sumac, and toasted sesame seeds ubiquitous in the Middle East.

Dips are one of the main types of meze food, and hummus the primus inter pares of dips. This creamy chickpea puree is a staple in the Middle East. Other classic dips include baba ghannouj - made from mashed, grilled aubergine - and labaneh - a tart, yoghurt-like cottage cheese. Among  hot meze, kebabs rule supreme. Kebabs can be either kafta (made of ground meat) or made with chunks of meat like lamb, pork or chicken.

Hummus is popular across the religious and cultural divides of the Middle East. The hummus bars of Jaffa are among the few places where Arab and Jew break bread together. Appearances can be deceptive - hummus might look drab and boring in the bowl, but this blend of soft chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic creates a dip that is much more than the sum of its parts. Do yourself a favour and avoid the store-bought stuff - making it yourself is easy, and the finished product will be far tastier than anything from the deli section of your supermarket.

 

Preparation time: 16 hours

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

150g. Dried chickpeas

8 Garlic cloves, crushed

1 ½ Cups Tahini paste, plus 4 Tbsp. extra

½ Cup fresh lemon juice, plus 2 Tbsp. extra

1 Tsp. baking powder

Kosher salt to taste

2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling

¼ Tsp. paprika for garnish

1 Tsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Sliced gherkins for garnish

Pita for serving

 

  • Combine the chickpeas with 6 cups cold water in a mixing bowl, and stir in the baking powder.
  • Cover and allow to soak overnight.
  • Drain the chickpeas, transfer them to a large saucepan and cover with 6 cups fresh water.
  • Cover and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Cook until very tender, 40-50 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  • Drain the chickpeas and reserve the cooking liquid.
  • Transfer the chickpeas and 4 cloves of garlic to a food processor and blend for 2 minutes.
  • Add ¾ cup of the cooking liquid, along with 1 ½ cups tahini, ½ cup lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp. olive oil and season with salt.
  • Process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is very smooth, about 8 minutes.
  • Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until the flavours have integrated, about 4 hours.
  • Remove and bring the hummus to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile chop the remaining cloves of garlic finely and sprinkle them with salt.
  • Using the side of a knife, scrape the garlic over a cutting board while chopping occasionally to make a paste. Set the paste aside.
  • Whisk together the remaining tahini and lemon juice, 3 ½ Tbsp. iced water and the garlic paste in a small bowl until the mixture is creamy.
  • Check the seasoning and set aside.
  • To serve, place the hummus in a bowl and make a small indentation in the middle using the back of a spoon.
  • Pour the reserved tahini mixture into the indentation and garnish the hummus with olive oil, paprika, parsley, and pickles.
  • Serve with pita.

 

“I thought Israel was fighting Hummus – even though I found it weird that they would bomb food. WTF is Hamas anyway?” – Paris Hilton.

 

Sukuti Sadeko: Yakky, not yucky

“To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we will not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom and keep our minds strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but it does not wet its petals.” – Buddha.

 

My daughter Elouise regards Nepal as her second home. She first went there as part of an NGO called Children of the Mountain, which supports education in the remote mountainous regions of the country by building or renovating schools, and upskilling local teachers. She fell in love with the country and its people, and has been back several times, often on her own. Thanks to her we gained insight into the culture and cuisine of this faraway place.  

Nepalese cuisine is not homogenous. Because of the country’s location, the Himalaya mountains divides it into a number of largely isolated regions, with distinct micro-climates, foodstuffs and ethnicity. Its proximity to a number of large neighbours has led to hybridisation of Nepalese cuisine, with India exerting the strongest influence. Dhal (lentil) soups and stews are eaten throughout Nepal. Rotis are also popular, as are Indian-style condiments like achaar. Chilli peppers and fragrant spices are ubiquitous. Two other perennial favourites hail from the other side of the Himalayas, though: Momo – Tibetan-style dumplings filled with meat or vegetables and spices, and chow mein, a Chinese dish based on stir-fried noodles with a Nepali twist.

The Nepalese of the Himalayas are culturally closer to Tibetans than people from the midlands, and have a cuisine based on what can be produced in their icy environment. Buckwheat, barley and millet are the predominant cereals, because they are cold-tolerant. The domesticated Yak cattle are as crucially important to mountain people as the camel is to Bedouins. The yak provides milk, cheese and butter while alive and meat and hides when slaughtered. One of the most popular uses of yak or beef is making sukuti; air-drying the raw meat for a month or so. The dried meat is then used like bacalhau cod – rehydrating it and then using it in numerous dishes. 

Elouise introduced me to sukuti sadeko: an appetiser made by mixing the dried meat with a marinade and fresh or pickled vegetables. It is often served as a starter in restaurants and hotels, and as tapas to accompany drinks in bars. Put some of your game biltong to good use this winter and make it; it really makes a beer go down easily…

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 6 as a starter

Tastes best accompanied by a cold beer

 

500g Dry, fatless biltong (game works best) or beef jerky

½ Cup pickled vegetables (carrots, beans or onions), chopped

50ml Chilli- or mustard-infused oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. chilli or hot curry powder

2 Ttsp. garlic, minced

2 Tsp. fresh ginger, minced

½ Cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Finely julienned fresh ginger and onion for garnish

Salt to taste

 

  • Cut the biltong into bite-sized chunks.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat.
  • When the oil is shimmering hot, add the meat and fry it until it gets crispy. 
  • Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
  • Mix the salt, lemon juice, chilli powder, ginger and garlic in a bowl.
  • When the marinade has been mixed thoroughly, add the crispy meat and pickled vegetables and mix it well with the marinade.
  • Check the taste for the balance between sour and spicy, and adjust if necessary.
  • Arrange the sadeko on a serving plate and garnish it with the chopped coriander  and sliced ginger and onion.
  • Serve it as a starter, as a snack with drinks or as a side dish with a main course meals - the choice is yours.

 

“The god who made the mouth will provide the food.” – Nepalese proverb.

 

Hoagie Dip: an Italian recipe that Pittsburg Polacks will like

“I believe that all anyone really wants in life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.” – Liz Lemon.

 

Food names and terminology have been subjects of debate and controversy ever since mankind learnt to speak. One debate that will probably never be resolved concerns “fully loaded”, elongated buns. This food fight is particularly intense in the Land of the Free. New Englanders maintain that their “Hero Roll” is the Real McCoy, and that similar sandwiches are mere imitations. The other “old” Americans – Philadelphians – call a sandwich, piled high with deli meats, cheeses, veggies, all crammed into a bread roll a “Hoagie”. New Yorkers ignore the claims of both other parties and insist popularity trumps history. To them it is simple: foot-long hot dog buns filled with these ingredients look like submarines, hence “Sub” is the most appropriate name. It also happens to be the name most of the rest of the country – if not the world – seems to prefer.

The introductory paragraph might seem misplaced, paired as it is with a recipe for an Italian dip served as an appetiser, but it is not. Once you’ve tasted it you’ll understand the connection – it tastes just like a deconstructed Hero/Hoagie filling! Even the pickiest of guests will love it.

 

Preparation time: 15 m

No cooking required

Serves 6 – 8

Tastes best accompanied by a medium-bodied red wine

 

450g Gouda or Tusser’s cheese, sliced into small dice

250g Cooked ham, thinly sliced and chopped

250g Spicy salami, thinly sliced and chopped

2 Tomatoes, chopped

1 Red onion, chopped

½ Head iceberg lettuce, shredded

2 Cups tangy mayonnaise

2 Tsp. dried oregano

12 Hoagie or hot dog rolls (or 6 demi-baguettes), sliced diagonally, for dipping

 

  • Place the ham, salami and cheese in a large bowl.
  • Blend the mayonnaise and oregano in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Mix the mayonnaise mixture into the ham mixture, ½ cup at a time, until the meats and cheese are well coated.
  • Mix in the onion, lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Serve with the hoagie roll pieces for dipping.

 

“I am proud to be an American, because an American can eat anything on the face of the earth, provided it’s between two slices of bread.”  - Bill Cosby.

 

Mini Quiches Lorraine: you'll love getting to know her

“Dubya: ‘I’m really in the mood for a quickie.’ Laura: ‘It’s pronounced “quiche”, dear.’ ” 

 

Quiche (pronounced the way Hugh Bladen would say “kiss”) is another dish that has received mixed press over the years. To some of us it is a delightful example of everyday French cuisine; others sneer that it is nothing but “egg pie” with pretensions. It consists of an open pastry crust filled with a savoury egg custard and bits of cheese, bacon, vegetables or mushrooms (or combinations of these). Quiche can be served hot or cold.

Although it is widely acknowledged as a French dish, quiche is also popular in many other countries, particularly as party food or as an hors dóeuvre. Since it hails from north-eastern France the French name may well be derived from the German term küchen meaning "cake" or "tart". The most famous member of the quiche family is Quiche Lorraine, named after the picturesque region of France bordering on Germany. The modern version of the dish usually includes an aromatic cheese and pieces of crispy bacon.

Other variants include quiche au fromage (with only cheese), quiche aux champignons (with mushrooms), quiche florentine (spinach and feta) and quiche provençale (onion and tomato). Although quiche is usually baked as a full-sized tart and served sliced, when I serve it as an hors d’oeuvre I prefer to make small, individual tartlets.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Pinot Noir or Cinsaut

 

24 Frozen mini tart shells (in foil cups), thawed

8 Rashers streaky bacon, fried and crumbled

4 Large eggs

2 Scallions, thinly sliced plus extra for garnish

1 Cup shredded Emmenthal, Gruyère or Cheddar cheese

300ml Milk

1 Tsp. Dijon mustard

¼ Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. white pepper

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 190°C.
  • Arrange the tart shells on rimmed baking sheet and divide the bacon, scallions and cheese equally among them.
  • Whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper together in a bowl, the pour the mixture into the tart shells.
  • Bake in the bottom third of the oven until the pastry is golden and the filling is just set, about 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm, sprinkled with the extra chopped scallions.

 

“Frasier: ‘Quiche Lorraine?’ Martin (his father): ‘Quiche Lorraine? I hardly know the woman!’ “

 

Who in his right mind would deport this Taco Belle?

So I told him: "Comrade, take me drunk - I'm home!"

Spaniards fight bulls but at dinner time they eat pigs

You probably don't like our outfits but we cook well

One of the world's truly great bicycle rides

Rumaki: Polynesians on horseback

“The Hawaiian Islands were discovered by hardy Polynesian sailors, who crossed thousands of miles of open ocean in primitive canoes, braving violent storm-tossed seas for months at a time. My family and I arrived by modern commercial aviation, which was infinitely worse.” – Dave Barry.

 

Rumaki may be an unfamiliar appetiser these days, but it sported quite a hip reputation in the middle of last century. It first appeared on restaurant menus in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the 1940s, when the Pacific War had heightened awareness of Polynesia in the USA. The individual who did the most to raise its profile was the founder of the iconic “Trader Vic’s” in San Francisco, Victor Bergeron. He claimed it had Chinese origins, but had come into its own in Hawaii. This was pure baloney, as it was most probably his own creation inspired by “Angels on Horseback”, an English pub snack of bacon-wrapped oysters. The latter had already spawned a variation called “Devils on Horseback” in which dried fruit replaced the oyster.

Whether or not “Trader Vic” created rumaki, he certainly deserves credit for popularising this appetiser - skewers of chicken liver and water chestnuts wrapped in crispy bacon - with the dining public. It became such a hit as a starter that even Chinese restaurants started serving it! During the Baby Boomer era, rumaki became a fixture on the hors d’oeuvre platters of the suburban cocktail-party crowd. So in short, it's really an American invention created for American diners during an era of fascination with anything that seemed remotely Polynesian and Asian. But that doesn't negate the fact that it's a delicious hors d'oeuvre. If you're looking for a festive appetiser with a dose of '60s nostalgia thrown in, try serving up a platter of these. In the following recipe I’ve stuck pretty closely to the original Trader Vic’s version, with just a few twists of my own.

 

Preparation time: 90 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Rosé or a Fino sherry

 

150g Chicken livers, trimmed and rinsed

24 Stout wooden toothpicks

12 Canned water chestnuts, drained and halved horizontally

8 Streaky bacon rashers, cut crosswise into thirds

3 Cloves garlic, crushed

¼ Cup soya sauce

¼ Cup dry sherry

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. sunflower or canola oil

1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

½ Tsp. mild curry powder

 

  • Cover the toothpicks with cold water and let them soak until you assemble the rumaki.
  • Cut the chicken livers into 24 equal-sized pieces, about 1.5cm².
  • Stir the soya sauce, sherry, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and curry powder together in a bowl.
  • Add the livers and water chestnuts and toss to coat.
  • Marinate, covered and chilled, for 1 hour.
  • Before assembling the individual rumaki, pre-heat your oven’s grill.
  • Remove the livers and chestnuts from the marinade, and discard all but ¼ cup of the marinade.
  • Place 1 piece of bacon on a work surface and put 1 piece of liver and 1 chestnut in its centre.
  • Wrap the bacon around the liver and chestnut and secure firmly with a toothpick. Make 23 more rumaki in the same way.
  • Baste with the reserved marinade.
  • Grill the rumaki on the rack of an oven pan 2 inches from the heat, turning and basting them once.
  • Cook until the bacon is crisp and the livers are cooked but still slightly pink inside. Depending on your grill, this could take 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with parsley sprigs.

 

"Are you really a Texan? I mean, really? Riley, if I have a headache, I'd put bacon around an aspirin before I take it.” – R.J. Scott, The Heart of Texas.

 

 

Cees Kroket & Betty Bitterbal

“Laat komme? Dan vind je de hond in de pot.” – Dutch proverb meaning ‘When you're late for a meal, you may find the dog finishing the leftovers.’  i.e. being late you may be left empty-handed.

 

To me, kroketten and bitterballen are poster children for Dutch cuisine. Not only are they ubiquitous in the Netherlands, but they bear witness to the legendary Dutch frugality. They evolved as a palatable way of utilising leftovers, with the kroket being more widely eaten – it is even sold in vending machines. Housewives with leftover meat, fish or vegetables left discovered long ago that children were far more likely to eat it when crumbed and deep-fried till crispy and golden brown.

Both kroketten and bitterballen are small, fried food rolls. The ingredients are the same; the only difference being the shape. A kroket is oblong, a bitterbal is, as the Dutch name indicates, a little round ball. The name bitterbal (literally “bitter ball”) does not indicate that its taste is bitter, but that they were originally meant to be served with a bittertje (a small glass of neat Dutch gin). Bitterballen are still served in bars to accompany alcoholic beverages (like Spanish tapa), or served as finger food at stand-up receptions.

The name kroket is a “Dutchified” form of the French croquette. Originally it was served as a first course, presented on elegantly folded napkins, accompanied by a sprig of parsley. Sadly, they are seldom made at home nowadays. They have become street food, with people buying them at snack bars, often together with a portion of French fries the same way the British would have fish and chips. Working mothers also buy them frozen in supermarkets, to deep fry at home. As with most “convenience” foods, frozen kroketten are pale shadows of the real thing, filled with gelatinous goo of uncertain origins. Let me show you how easy and satisfying it is to make your own.

 

Preparation time: 50 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a Merlot or Malbec

 

600g Cooked meat, preferably beef or venison

3 Eggs, beaten

1 Onion, chopped

4 Cups sunflower or canola oil

2 Cups toasted bread crumbs

2 Cups beef stock

½ Cup cake flour plus extra for the coating

4 Tbsp. butter

Pepper, salt, mace and nutmeg to taste

 

  • Chop the meat very finely.
  • Make a roux by sautéing the onion in the butter, then adding the flour and whisking in the stock bit by bit.
  • When the sauce is thick and smooth, add the meat, seasoning and spices. Allow to cool completely.
  • Place the ragout in the refrigerator until just before making the kroketten.
  • Use your hands to form tubes of about 10cm long and x 3-4 cm in diameter. For bitterballen make spheres with a diameter of 4 cm.
  • Return the shaped kroketten to the refrigerator. It is easier to coat them when they are cold.
  • When chilled, take three soup plates, put flour in one, beaten eggs in the second, and bread crumbs in the third.
  • One by one, cover the kroketten with flour, then egg, and finally the bread crumbs. Ensure that the kroketten are covered all over, otherwise the ragout may leak out when you deep-fry them.
  • Return the kroketten to the refrigerator for thirty minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil to 180⁰C in a large pot or saucepan.
  • Fry the kroketten to a golden brown, about four minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • Serve them really hot, accompanied by apple sauce and mustard.

 

“Sarah Palin is speaking out about the oil spill. She said (I'm not kidding, I swear!)  we should ask the Dutch for help with the spill because the Dutch have the world's best dikes. So let me get this straight. It is OK to cover lesbians in oil but you just can't allow them to get married.” – Craig Fergusson.

 

Chouriço Sausage Rolls: you say potato, I say potarto

 “It’s one thing to eat chorizos in Valencia, but it’s another to toss them in the paella. We’re coming for you, Jamie Oliver.” – Spanish foodie ‘Dios’ on Twitter.

 

Chorizo (Spanish) and chouriço (Portuguese) are the iconic sausages of the Iberian Peninsula. They are so integral to the cuisine of both countries, that they were transplanted to their colonies and are to this day enjoyed in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Mozambique, the Philippines and Argentina. Irrespective of national origin, the sausage is made from pork; stuffed into natural intestinal casings. In its original form, chorizo is flavoured with smoked paprika and then cured and smoked. The dried, smoked paprika chillies (pimentón/pimentão) give the sausages their distinctive smoky flavour and deep sunset-red colour. It is mostly sliced and eaten without cooking, or added to other dishes to add flavour.

Basic Spanish chorizo is made from coarsely chopped pork and pork fat, and seasoned only with pimentón and salt. It is generally classed as either picante (spicy) or dulce (sweet), depending upon the type of paprika used. There are hundreds of regional varieties, both smoked and unsmoked, and many contain garlic and/or herbs. Chorizo is made in short or long and hard or soft varieties; leaner varieties are suited to being eaten at room temperature as an appetizer or tapas, whereas the fattier versions are generally used for cooking. A rule of thumb is that long, thin chorizos are sweet, and short chorizos are spicy.

Portuguese chouriço is made with pork, fat, wine, paprika, garlic, and salt. It is then stuffed into natural or artificial casings and slowly dried over smoke. A popular way to enjoy chouriço is to flame-cook pieces over alcohol at the table (chouriço à bombeiro – literally “fireman’s chouriço”). Special glazed earthenware dishes with a lattice top are used for this purpose. This ritual is very popular among South Africans of Portuguese extraction, and features prominently at the annual “Luzitoland" festival in the South of Johannesburg.

The recipe below works equally well with either chorizo or chouriço, as long as sausage of the same thickness is used. Although it was originally based on the Spanish sausage, I have successfully substituted chouriço for it, as the latter is much more readily available in South Africa.  

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 10

Tastes best accompanied by a Tempranillo or Tinta Barroca

 

300g Mini chorizo, about 2cm thick

1 Sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and divided into 10 lengthwise

2 Egg yolks, whisked

1 Tbsp. fennel seeds

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Peel the mini chorizo and divide the contents into 10 lengths. Roll them in your hands to restore the sausage shape.
  • Lay the chorizo meat lengthways along each piece of pastry.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with egg yolk to help seal it.
  • Roll and fold the pastry over the chorizo.
  • Seal the edges and trim any excess pastry.
  • Cut the sausage rolls into 10cm-long mini-rolls and place them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  • Brush the outside of the rolls lightly with egg yolk and sprinkle them with fennel seeds.
  • Bake until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown, 15 – 20 minutes.

 

“I have yet to meet a carnivore who doesn't love a sausage roll.” - Yotam Ottolenghi.

 

Herring under a Coat: vodka bait

“They're professionals at this in Russia, so no matter how many Jell-O shots or Jaeger Bomb shooters you might have downed at college mixers, no matter how good a drinker you might think you are, don't ever forget that the Russians - any Russian - can drink you under the table.” – Anthony Bourdain.

 

Russianshave long been stereotyped as a nation of hard drinkers, with a fair amount of justification. Vodka is a pervasive element of everyday life, and forms partof most ceremonial occasions. It is also integral to the Russian version of cheese and wine functions where guests are treated to zakuski and vodka.Zakuski (plural; singular form zakuska) is a Russian term for hot and cold hors d’oeuvres or snacks. On these occasions they are eaten as a kind of tapa in between shots of vodka. The word literally means “something to bite afterwards”.

The custom’s introduction to Russian cuisine is usually attributed to Czar Peter the Great, who brought many cultural elements from Northern Europe to Russia. It was probably an adaptation of the Scandinavian brännvinsbord (“brandy platter”), which was also the ancestor of modern smörgasbord. Russian aristocrats would continually have platters ready, so they could feed casual visitors who travelled long distances and whose arrival time was often unpredictable. The tradition eventually spread to other layers of society and continued in the Communist era, but due to lack of space in Soviet housing, they were served on the dinner table. Zakuski thus became the first course of any multi-course dinner.

Nowadays, zakuski are served as appetisers at banquets, parties and receptions in countries which were formerly part of the Russian Empire. It also constitutes the standard first course at any formal or festive dinner. Usually, zakuski are already laid out on the table when guests are called to the dining room. Typical zakuski elements are cold meats, cured fish, mixed salads, brawn, pickled vegetables and mushrooms, deviled eggs, cheeses, caviar and dainty sandwiches. Some Russians consider soup as part of the zakuski spread, especially now that slow cookers are popular worldwide and can keep the soup hot for serving.

The recipe below is for Selyodka pod Shouboy (“Herring under a coat”), a popular traditional zakuska that combines cured fish and fresh vegetables in an appetising salad. I substitute smocked mackerel for the salted herring, which can be overpowering.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by guess what?

 

2 Smoked mackerel, gutted and headless

5 Potatoes, peeled

4 Carrots, peeled

4 Beets

5 Large eggs

2 Medium onions, sliced then diced

400g Mayonnaise

½ Cup sherry or white wine vinegar 


1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped

 

  • Soak the onion in the vinegar while you cook the vegetables. The onion will become sour and less sharp.
  • Boil the vegetables in salted water until fully cooked (you can boil everything except the beets in the same pot if needed).
  • Meanwhile boil the eggs hard. Set the eggs and vegetables aside to cool.

  • Peel the skin from the mackerel, and fillet them along the spine. Remove any remaining bones.
  • Cut the mackerel fillets into tiny pieces and keep checking for bones.
  • Arrange the mackerel pieces evenly on the bottom of the serving dish.
  • Peel the beets, and slice them into thin roundels.
  • Cut the potatoes and carrots into thin roundels.
  • Spread some mayonnaise thinly and evenly over the fish, then sprinkle with the drained onion pieces.
  • Cut the potatoes in thin roundels and arrange in a layer over the fish and onions.
  • Spread more mayonnaise over the potatoes.
  • Repeat this procedure in sequence with the carrot, 4 of the eggs and finally the beets.
  • Spread the remaining mayonnaise on the beets and grate the last egg over it to decorate. Sprinkle with the parsley.
  • Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

 

“To the zakuski succeeded the meal itself, and the host became a perfect glutton on his guests' behalf.” - Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol. 

 

Tacos de Merluza: the tastiest fish salad around

“My kids have become completely American. When I served my son falafel in a pita the other day, he said, 'Daddy, this taco is very good.' “ - Sayed Kashua.

 

Before I go anywhere near the next recipe, I think it is incumbent on me to share some insights into Mexican food with readers. There is no doubt that this cuisine has become popular internationally, with the likely exceptions of the White House and Trump Tower. In my neck of the woods it has found its way onto many family restaurant menus, but I think more people would order things like tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas if they knew what they consisted of. In South Africa, Mexican cuisine is like contraception in Nkandla: not particularly well understood.

Let me walk you through the Mexican dishes you are most likely to encounter at the home of the Secret Tribe. All the usual suspects are essentially corn flour wraps with a filling; the wrap enables people to eat on the go. The major difference between them is the filling. Tacos are made from soft corn tortillas and filled with roast or stewed meat or chicken served with finely chopped cilantro and onion as garnish. Lime is optional, but tomato salsa and sour cream (or cream cheese) are customary but not mandatory.

Quesadillas are nothing more that soft corn tortillas stuffed with cheese (queso). In Mexico a variety of other ingredients are added, depending on the region. Some examples are cooked potato, slices of chorizo, sautéed mushrooms, Poblano chilli and corn. Burritos are large flour tortillas, stuffed with beans (this is what makes a burrito a burrito) and meat. Additives include rice and cheese.

Enchiladas are mostly filled with chicken, but a popular variation is turkey breast. These folded tortillas are covered with green salsa, red salsa or mole sauce and topped with uncooked onion rings, cream and fresh cheese. Flautas are rolled tortillas stuffed with stewed beef or pork, deep fried and bathed in salsas much like the enchiladas. They differ from their abovementioned sibling in that they are hard and crispy from the frying. Let me know confuse matters even more by sharing a recipe for tacos filled with fish! Indulge me, I promise it will be worth your while.

 

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard or Chenin Blanc

 

600g Hake fillets, cut into 16 long, thin goujons

16 Corn tortillas

1 Large egg

1 Ripe tomato chopped

1 Ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

1 Jalapeňo pepper, finely chopped

½ Medium head of cabbage, finely shredded

1 Cup bread flour

1 Cup lager beer

Juice of 1 lime

½ Cup plain yogurt

½ Cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. Maizena corn starch

1 Tsp. capers, chopped

1 Tsp. ground Cayenne pepper

1 Tsp. baking powder

½ Tsp. dried oregano

½ Tsp. ground cumin

½ Tsp. fresh fennel or dill, chopped

½ Tsp. salt

750ml Sunflower oil for frying

 

  • Mix the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the egg and beer together in a separate bowl, then quickly stir it into the flour mixture (don't worry about a few lumps).
  • Mix the yogurt and mayonnaise in a medium bowl.
  • Gradually stir in the lime juice until the consistency of the mixture is slightly runny.
  • Season with jalapeno, capers, oregano, cumin, dill/fennel, and Cayenne pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large pot until shimmering (around 190⁰C).
  • Dust the fish pieces lightly with flour.
  • Dip in the beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
  • Lightly fry the tortillas; don’t let them become too crisp.
  • To serve, place a piece of fried fish in each tortilla, and top with the shredded cabbage, tomato, avocado and white sauce.

 

“Researchers have found that people who drive drunk are more dangerous on the road than drivers who are high on marijuana. Don't get too excited. It's mostly because the drivers using marijuana are just sitting in the Taco Bell drive-through.” – Jimmy Fallon.

 

Steelhead Trout with a stunning backdrop

He was no "cheese-eating surrender monkey"

The magic of Provence

Atomic Falafel is the Jewish Dr Strangelove

Did he grab them by the hooters, or...

Buffalo Wings: it's not as it seems...

“I don’t mind hot and spicy. I actually find it appealing in a girl. And chicken wings.” – Julie James.

 

Few of us realise that less than 50 years ago, chicken wings were considered one of the least desirable cuts of the chicken and “buffalo” was just a hairy bovine that wandered the plains. Then a stroke of serendipity led Teressa Bellissimo, proprietor of the Anchor Bar in a town called Buffalo in Upstate New York, to invent the dish in 1964. As with most legends, there are competing versions of how exactly this happened. The most credible one is that the invention involved a mistake – a supplier delivered chicken wings, instead of necks, which the family typically used in spaghetti sauce. To avoid wasting the wings, Teressa concocted a bar appetizer; the result was the wing we know today.

What is generally accepted is that Teressa cut each wing in half to produce a “drumstick” and a “flat,” that she deep-fried them without breading and covered them in a hot sauce, and that she served them with celery (from the house antipasto) and blue cheese salad dressing. The new innovation became popular within weeks throughout the city, where they were (and still are) simply called “wings” or “chicken wings.” Over the next three decades buffalo chicken wings exploded in popularity across the USA, going national with the founding of chains like Wings ‘N Curls, Buffalo Wild Wings and Hooter’s (which featured Buffalo wings at the centre of its menu).

The rest, as they say, is history. Today almost every diner, pub and family restaurant in the Western World offers Buffalo-style chicken wings on its menu. Even fast food chains famous for other cuisines are cashing in: Domino’s Pizza spent $32 million advertising their national roll-out of wings, and Pizza Hut quickly followed suit. The hot sauce integral to the wings has become a brand on its own - it’s frequently used on chicken fingers and pizzas, as a condiment and as a barbecue sauce. Here’s an easy-to-make recipe; if you don’t like celery and/or blue cheese dressing feel free to have it with any other sides – personally I prefer chips and coleslaw.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Gewürztraminer

 

12 Whole chicken wings

1 Large clove garlic, minced

90g Butter

½ Cup hot sauce (I like Nando’s garlic and herb, Maggi and Mama Africa’s)

1 Teaspoon coarse sea salt

 

  • Cover the bottom of a large saucepan with 5cm of water, and fit a steamer basket on top.
  • Place on high heat and bring to the boil.
  • Remove the tips of the wings and discard them or save for making stock.
  • Separate the wings at the joint with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife.
  • Place the wings in the steamer basket and cover.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the wings from the basket and pat dry thoroughly.
  • Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a dish lined with paper towels, and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
  • Arrange the wings on a roasting tray greased with non-stick spray.
  • Roast them on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Turn the wings over and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.
  • While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl. Add the garlic, and pour this -  along with hot sauce and salt - into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.
  • Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl containing the sauce.
  • Toss the wings and the sauce together.
  • Serve warm.

 

“Buffalo, NY: You come for the chicken wings and then you stay – because you can’t find your car under the snow!” – Calvin Trillin.

 

Falafel: Israeli favourite that made its own Exodus

“The emotive power of chick peas - and hummus in particular - all over the Middle East cannot be overstated, being the focus of some serious tribal rivalries.” - Yotam Ottolenghi.

 

According to the Old Testament, Jews and Arabs are both descendants of the patriarch Abraham. Despite their political and religious differences (and even mutual hatred in some quarters) the two cultures have many parallels, and this is particularly true of their cuisine. The same foodstuffs are used, and the differences in how they are cooked are in the detail, and not substantive. A good example is falafel, which in Egypt is made from fava beans or fava beans combined with chickpeas, while Yemenite Jews and the Arabs of Jerusalem use chickpeas alone.

Today falafel is the favourite among Israeli street foods, and it is most often served stuffed into pita bread. In British-ruled Palestine, falafel used to be made the same way as in Egypt, but when the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 Jews from all over the world started pouring in. It soon became apparent that many Jews from Turkey and Iraq were allergic to fava beans, so falafel makers in Israel eventually sopped using them - hence chickpea falafel became the norm. The timing was right for falafel, for with immigrants arriving in their thousands there was a serious shortage of meat. Falafel made a cheap, protein-rich meal, and people grew to love it.

In Israel falafel is usually served accompanied by spicy tahina or harissa sauce and one or more of pickled vegetables, chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and amba (Kosher mango achar). The following recipe is my attempt at Middle Eastern fusion food – it is made the Israeli way, but with the addition of cilantro and parsley in a nod to Arab cuisine.

 

Preparation time: 10 hours

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

 

1 Cup dried chickpeas

4 Cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Medium onion, roughly chopped

5 Tbsp. bread flour

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 Tsp. dried red chilli pepper

1 Tsp. cumin

1 Tsp. baking powder

1 Tsp. salt

Sunflower or canola oil for frying

Chopped tomato for garnish

Diced onion for garnish

Diced green bell pepper for garnish

Pickled vegetable(s) or piccalilli for garnish

Tahina or harissa sauce

 

  • Place the chickpeas in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by at least 5cm.
  • Soak overnight, then drain.
  • Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  • Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
  • Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. Add more flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.
  • Transfer to a mixing bowl and refrigerate, covered, for two hours.
  • Shape the falafel mixture into balls about half the size of a golf ball.
  • Heat 10cm of oil to 180ºC in a deep cooking pot and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour to each ball and re-shape it.
  • Fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
  • Drain on paper towels.
  • Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickles.
  • Drizzle with the tahina or harissa sauce, thinned with water.
  • Serve with natural yogurt for dipping.

 

“When I was a kid, there was always food to be had on the street in Jerusalem, but anything above a falafel stand was mediocre or worse.” – Yotam Ottolenghi.

 

Tricolor Tapenade: a gift from Caesar

“I’m like good tapenade. I’m at my best when I’m not spread too thin.” – Fabien Galthié.

 

Tapenade is an iconic Provençal dish bursting with three quintessential regional elements: olives, garlic and herbs. Its roots go far back: the Romans had been using a similar paste in their cooking long before they colonised the South of France. I love tapenade on crusty bread; either as a starter course or as a snack any time of day or night. It will keep up to 1 week, refrigerated in a covered container.

The recipe below is somewhat different to the norm: it uses both black and green olives and the ingredients are not blended to a paste, and deliberately kept chunky for a rustic look and taste.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

1 Cup Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted

1 Cup green olives, pitted

¼ Cup sun-dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, drained

¼ Cup olive oil

1 Garlic clove

1 Anchovy fillet

1 Tbsp. capers

½ Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, chopped

½ Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 Tsp. fresh thyme leaves

2 Tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

 

  • Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor.
  • Using the pulse button, process only until coarsely chopped.
  • Continue to process, slowly adding the olive oil.
  • When everything has been combined, refrigerate in a covered container.
  • Serve on toasted slices of baguette.

 

“And, as for the oil, it was a masterpiece. Before dinner that night, we tested it, dripping it onto slices of bread that had been rubbed with the flesh of tomatoes. It was like eating sunshine.” – Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence.

 

Baked Camembert: posh cheese & tomato

“The camembert with its venison scent defeats the Marolles’ and Limbourg’s dull smells; It spreads its exhalation, smothering the other scents under its surprising breath abundance.” – Emile Zola.

 

Camembert is a soft cows’ milk cheese with a furry white rind speckled with beige, and a creamy, pale interior which becomes increasingly yellow as the cheese matures. The best examples are usually made from raw milk, but most mass-produced camemberts are now pasteurised. When fully ripe, camembert has a pungent, strongly-flavoured and runny interior. Camembert boasts a deep aroma with notes of cabbage, mushroom and earth - much more potent than mild-mannered Brie. 

Because of its international popularity, camembert seems to have been around forever, but it’s not the case. It was originally created in 1791 by dairy farmer Marie Harel in Normandy. That’s relatively recent when you consider that brie has been around since the Middle Ages. True Camembert is always sold in petite, compact discs of about 11cm in diameter, rather than in wedges. You’ll find it wrapped in paper and boxed in a wooden container. I am not wild about raw camembert but I love it as a dessert, baked with a fruity accompaniment like ripe figs or stewed apples. This recipe works better as a starter than a dessert.

 

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 12 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a dry cider or a chilled Gewürztraminer

 

A 500g Camembert

¼ Cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained and sliced

2 Cloves garlic, sliced

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Toasted slices of baguette for serving

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC.
  • Remove the Camembert from its paper or plastic wrapping, return it to the wooden box (discard the lid), and place it on a baking sheet.
  • Top with the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and thyme.
  • Drizzle with the oil and bake until soft, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Serve immediately on the baguette.

 

“For the most part, I try to be healthy and eat good things, but if you give me a baguette and some Camembert, I'm going to eat it.” – Gwyneth Paltrow.

 

Smoked trout with avocado: celebrating a legal alien

"Fly fishing is the chance to wash one's soul with pure air. It brings meekness and inspiration, reduces our egoism, soothes our troubles and shames our wickedness. It is discipline in the equality of men - for all men are equal before fish." -  Herbert Hoover. 

 

My participation in fly fishing for trout followed a different path to those of most South African fly fishermen. Because trout are only found in a few localised areas, most anglers grow up catching other fish – particularly carp and bass – and gravitate towards fly fishing as adults. I was blessed in that I grew up near Sabie in Mpumalanga, where trout fishing was the only show in town, and my first decent fish was a 2lbs rainbow trout when I was 6. It would be several years before I got to do “coarse” fishing.

Colonists had introduced rainbow trout and brown trout to South African waters towards the end of the nineteenth century, in keeping with the Victorian custom of transferring British species to the far-flung corners of the Empire. Both species are cold-water salmonids and, as a result of the higher ambient temperatures in South Africa, they can only survive in mountainous regions. The Mpumalanga Escarpment is one of these. I can honestly say that trout fishing is not something I took up for the snob value; I was simply born at the right place!

Trout is highly prized the world over as a table fish. Despite being somewhat bony, the flesh is generally considered to be very tasty. Because of their popularity, trout are commercially raised in many countries. As with most farmed species, a shop-bought trout is a pale shadow of its wild-caught brethren. The flavour of trout flesh is heavily influenced by the diet of the fish - for example, trout that have been feeding on crustaceans tend to be tastier than those feeding primarily on insects. Needless to say, farmed trout comes in third.

That is not to say that it is unpalatable; far from it. Cold or hot smoked, they taste terrific and the difference in flavour is less stark. The following recipe brings out the best qualities of the trout.

 

Preparation time: 1 ½ hours

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Vin Brut bubbly

 

250g Smoked rainbow trout

4 Radishes, finely sliced

4 Large firm potatoes, cleaned but skin on 

4 Dill sprigs

2 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 Thyme sprigs for boiling and 4 for garnish

1 Ripe avocado

A handful of baby salad leaves

Juice of ½ lime

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 ½ Tbsp. thick cream

1Tbsp. sherry or white wine vinegar

1 Tsp. horseradish sauce

Sea salt flakes and freshly-ground black pepper

Olive oil to drizzle

 

  • Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes, thyme and garlic.
  • Boil steadily until cooked through, 15 minutes - test with a knife.
  • Drain the potatoes and peel them while warm. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
  • Whisk the white wine vinegar, olive oil and a couple of pinches of salt together in a large bowl to make a vinaigrette.
  • Cut the cold potatoes into even slices, about 3cm thick.
  • Add to the dressing and toss gently to coat.
  • Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.
  • For the horseradish cream, fold the horseradish sauce into the cream and stir to mix. Cover and chill.
  • Check the smoked trout for small bones, removing them with tweezers if there are, then use two forks to break it into bite-sized pieces.
  • Halve the avocado, remove the stone and peel off the skin.
  • Cut the flesh crossways into slices, season with salt to taste and drizzle with the lime juice.
  • To serve, layer the potatoes, avocado and trout in neat piles around the serving plates.
  • Top with radish slices, dill leaves, thyme sprigs and baby salad leaves.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and serve with a dollop of horseradish cream, sprinkled with a little black pepper.

 

"They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that's not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they're just not such a big deal anymore." – John Gierach.

 

I think I'll have another Latke

We have an Oktoberfest in Berlin too

And this after I'd warned him to wear gloves!

Smoke gets in your eyes

The end of a titanic tussle

Wasabi Tuna Bites: a "soft landing" for the squeamish

“The human tongue is like wasabi: it's very powerful, and should be used sparingly.” – John Green.

 

It’s Day 34 of my tuna challenge. I still have two large half-fillets left, each north of 3kg. This weekend we are having friends over for dinner, and I intend that to take care of one piece. The other is earmarked for a work function, where I merely want everyone present to get a taste. Some of my colleagues are from the meat-and-potatoes school, so sashimi and sushi are non-starters. I eventually decided on the following recipe, because it consists of bite-sized pieces which are easy to serve as starters and the potent sauce will mask the rare tuna flavour to an extent. This is how I’m going to prepare it.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

500g Sushi-grade Yellowfin tuna fillet, about 3cm thick, semi-thawed

1 Tbsp. butter

2 ½ Tsp. wasabi paste

2 Tsp. soya sauce

¾ Tsp. honey

Sunflower oil

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Blend the wasabi and soy sauce in a small sauté pan, using a small whisk.
  • Heat the pan over low-medium heat and add the butter.
  • Swirl the pan around until all the butter has melted, then whisk until it is completely incorporated.
  • Whisk in the honey and set the pan aside to cool to room temperature.
  • While the glaze is cooling, cut the tuna into similar-sized small cubes - about 3cm³ - and season them with salt and pepper.
  • Coat the bottom of a medium-sized sauté pan with the oil and place it over high heat.
  • Once the pan is very hot, add the tuna and sear all but two opposing sides. (If you don't hear a sizzling sound when the tuna hits the pan, it's not hot enough -- wait for the sizzle!)
  • Don’t overcook the fish. Only sear it until the outer 3 – 5mm is opaque, probably no more than 10 seconds per side.
  • Use a fork to simply roll the cubes to sear each side. Remove them from the pan the instant they’re done, so doing this is small batches is a good idea.
  • Place the tuna cubes directly on your serving platter, one of the two raw sides up.
  • Drizzle the cooled wasabi glaze over them, add toothpicks and serve.

 

“One shark turned to the other and said he was fed up eating tuna and the other said, 'Why don't we go to Morecambe Bay and get some Chinese?'” – Ann Winterton.

 

Negima: Nando's Nemesis from Nippon

“Eat it raw before all else, then grill it, and boil it last of all.” – Japanese proverb.

 

Japan is home to numerous distinct cooking styles. In the West sushi is by far the best known, but in cities like Tokyo Yakitori restaurants abound. The name literally means “grilled chicken” and is also used to refer to skewered food in general.  Yakitori is commonly made with bite-sized pieces of chicken meat, chicken offal, or other meats and vegetables skewered on bamboo sticks and grilled over special hot-burning charcoal. It is widely served in izakaya restaurants (Japanese tapas bars) and as well as specialist yakitori restaurants that offer these tasty skewers along with alcoholic beverages.

Yakitori is not simply about grilling pieces of chicken. Yakitori restaurants in Japan usually use special breeds of free ranging chicken from a specific region(s) that the chef has sought out for the flavour and the texture. Individual parts of the chicken are cooked separately; for example a thigh skewer is called a momo, a breast skewer a mune and skewered chicken wings tebasaki. The skewers are cooked over a special type of charcoal called Binchôtan, which burns at an extremely high temperature (over 1800°F/1000°C) and lasts very long.  

In most yakitori restaurants, guests have choice of either salt (shio) or with sweet (yakitori) basting sauce.  The latter is made of soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sake, and sugar. Yakitori skewers are usually made from bamboo.  They are flat, and don’t roll on the grill. This allows the chef grill one side at a time. The recipe below is for one of the most popular yakitori dishes called negima; a chicken thigh and scallion skewer.  It is best cooked over a charcoal fire, which results in a lovely charred finish.

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best with a chilled Riesling, Viognier or Colombard

 

12 15cm-long bamboo or wooden skewers

500g Chicken thighs, skinless and deboned

12 Scallions

½ Cup soya sauce

½ Cup mirin

¼ Cup sake

¼ Cup water

2 Tsp. brown sugar

Sunflower or canola oil

 

  • Soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make a charcoal fire in your kettle braai.
  • Heat the mirin, soy sauce, sake, water, brown sugar, and the green part of 1 scallion in a small saucepan over high heat.
  • Bring the mixture to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced by half - this will take about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before using.
  • Reserve ⅓ of the sauce in a small bowl for the final coating.
  • Cut the white and light green part of scallions into 3cm-long pieces.
  • Cut chicken into strips about 5cm long. When skewering, fold the chicken strips in half so you end up with u-shaped pieces.
  • Skewer the chicken and scallion pieces alternately, with the scallion lined up perpendicular to the skewer.
  • Each skewer should hold about 4 chicken cubes and 3 scallion pieces.
  • By now your fire should be ready. Set a flat grid up about 45cm above the coals.
  • Place the skewers on the grid and braai for 5 minutes. Turn and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Brush the sauce on the meat on both sides and cook each side for another 2 - 3 minutes to caramelise the sauce.
  • Transfer the skewers to a serving platter and brush the chicken on top with the reserved sauce.

 

“One of the frustrations of being a Western enthusiast of Japanese food and culture is you're confronted every day with the absolute certainty that you will die ignorant.” – Anthony Bourdain.

 

Jalapeño Poppers: Atomic Armadillo Eggs

"Border agents have now been issued air guns that shoot pepper balls at people coming across the Mexican border. Have they thought this through? Is that going to bother people from Mexico? Don't these people eat jalapenos? Isn't that like firing meatballs at an Italian guy?" – Jay Leno.

 

When I was a student at the Military Academy, Jalapeño chillies played an important part in the initiation of greenhorns, for obvious reasons. One’s ability to consume chillies and garlic was regarded as a measure of one’s machismo. In time I got to know the thinking man’s hot stuff: jalapeño poppers (aka jalapeño bites), hollowed-out jalapeños, stuffed with a mixture of cheese, spices - and sometimes ground meat - breaded and deep-fried.

In its heartland in the American Southwest, it is also called an armadillo egg, a term in use since at least 1972 in Texas, antedating the trademark on "Jalapeno Poppers". As chile relleno (stuffed chilli) can be made with jalapeño, the jalapeño popper is probably a Tex-Mex version of that dish. With subtlety that would make LBJ or Dubya proud, Texans refer to a popper stuffed with sausage as an ABT (Atomic Buffalo Turd).

The following recipe I devised by combining the best elements of several popper recipes. Adjust the amount of bacon bits and type of shredded cheese to taste – experiment until the end result is to your liking. A word to the wise: be sure to wear rubber gloves while seeding the jalapenos -- they will burn!

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by cold natural drinking yogurt or buttermilk

 

24 Jalapeño chillies, seeded and halved

300g Cream cheese, softened

250g Cheddar cheese, grated

1 Tbsp. diced bacon bits

1 Cup milk

1 Cup bread flour

1 Cup dry bread crumbs

1L Sunflower oil for frying

 

  • Mix the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and bacon bits in a bowl.
  • Spoon this mixture into the jalapeño halves.
  • Place the milk, flour and bread crumbs separately in three small bowls.
  • Dip the stuffed jalapeños - first into the milk, then into the flour - making sure they are well coated with each.
  • Place the coated jalapeños in your fridge, and allow to dry for about 10 minutes.
  • Dip the jalapeños in milk again, and roll them in the breadcrumbs.
  • Allow them to dry, then repeat to ensure the entire surface of each jalapeño is coated.
  • Heat the oil to 180°C in a deep frying pan.
  • Deep-fry the coated jalapeños for 2 - 3 minutes each, until golden brown.
  • Remove and drain on a paper towel.

 

“Asking an eight-year-old girl if something is a little over-the-top is like asking a Texan if there are too many jalapenos in the salsa. The answer is always no." - Liberty Jones.

 

Kraut Bierocks: Ersatz Empanadas

“Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei! (Everything has an end, only the sausage has two)”. – German proverb.

 

Germany is a wealthy country, but until its industrialisation during the Second Reich of 1870 – 1918 it was a war-ravaged collection of feudal principalities with a population that was largely rural and poor. The extent of its poverty can be gauged by the millions of German peasants who sought greener pastures in the New World; particularly in the Americas. The need to be frugal is also reflected in traditional German cuisine: many iconic dishes were invented to utilise leftovers. Kraut Bierocks (cabbage pockets) are prime examples of this.

A bierock is a pastry pocket sandwich with savoury filling, which originated in Eastern Europe or Russia. It was introduced to Germany (and later the USA) by Volga Germans who fled periodic persecution. Bierocks are usually filled with leftover beef or sausage, shredded cabbage and onions, then oven baked until the dough is golden brown. To me their appeal lies in the contrast between the sweet, brioche-like pastry and the hearty meatiness of the filling. They make a great main dish, but I like them as a snack or hors d’oeuvres, much like empanadas. If you like punchy flavours, you can substitute sauerkraut for the cabbage.

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 1 hour

Makes 10 tartlets

Tastes best accompanied a chilled Lager beer

 

For the pastry:

4 Cups bread flour

2 Cups warm water

½ Cup shortening (pure rendered fat)

½ Cup white sugar

½ Cup milk powder

1 ½ (7.5g) Packages active dry yeast

1 ½ Tsp. baking powder

For the filling:

450g Lean ground beef

450g Spicy sausage meat (e.g. Thüringer bratwurst, Kielbasa, Peperoni)

3 Cups shredded cabbage

1 Cup chopped onion

½ Cup grated Tilsiter or Gouda cheese

½ Cup grated Emmentaler or Cheddar cheese

3 Tbsp. German mustard

2 Tsp. salt

2 Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 175⁰C.
  • Flatten a Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a mixing bowl and mix. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the flour, milk powder, baking powder and shortening, then knead mixture for 10 minutes, adding a little extra flour if necessary.
  • Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, then knead again.
  • While the dough rises, make the filling. First brown the beef, sausage meat and onion in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Drain the extra fat from skillet, then stir in the cabbage, mustard, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese has melted.
  • Remove the filling from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • Lightly flour a large cutting board, and place the dough on it.
  • Roll the dough out to an even 1cm thickness.
  • Divide the dough into 10 squares, about 12cm x 12cm.
  • Place the squares on a large baking tray, with space in between each dough square.
  • Place a large spoonful of filling in the centre of the first square.
  • To shape the dough pocket, draw the opposite corners together and give them a little pinch to crimp them. Now take the other two opposite corners and pinch them up to the first two.
  • This will result in a pyramid-shaped pocket. Pinch all the seams tight to seal them.
  • Repeat with the remaining squares.  
  • When you’re done, flip them over, with some space in between them so that the seams now face downward.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

“In Nineteenth-century Russia, sauerkraut was valued more than caviar.” – Mark Kurlansky.

 

Potato Latkes: a feast for boykies & goykies alike

“This Hannukah, I wish you love, peace and latke grease.” – Bumper sticker in Brooklyn.

 

Culturally, Jews punch far above their weight class. Even by the most generous of estimates, there are perhaps 10 million of them on Earth, yet their history, religion, culture and cuisine are well known (if not particularly well-understood). In cities like New York, their influence has shaped the way the rest of the population think and talk, and what they eat. Much of the cuisine usually associated with the Big Apple stems in part from its large community of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. The world famous New York institution of the "delicatessen" - commonly referred to as a "Deli" - was originally a Jewish institution. Much of New York City's Jewish fare has become popular around the globe; just think of bagels with cream cheese and salmon, pastrami on rye, brisket, chicken soup, dill pickles and latkes.

Latkes (Jewish potato pancakes) are standard features of Hannukah meals. The “Festival of Lights” refers to a lamp in the Temple that was supposed to have only enough oil to last the Maccabees one night, but instead lasted for eight, enough time for them to repel the oppression of the Seleucids. But the holiday celebrates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory, so fried foods are often featured at Hanukkah feasts. Latkes are my favourite among the many great dishes Jewry has bestowed on us. Although there are many similar Gentile dishes (e.g. Rösti) latkes – if made properly – are tasty enough for Goyim like me to have added them to their repertoires.

 

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Makes 25 latkes

 

500g Soft boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm thick chunks

1kg Baking potatoes

2 Large eggs, beaten

1 Large onion, finely chopped

1 Cup matzo meal

½ Tsp. freshly-ground white pepper

Sunflower oil for frying

Coarse sea salt

Crème fraiche, cold-smoked salmon, apple mousse and dill sprigs, for serving

 

  • Place the boiling potatoes in a saucepan with enough cool water to immerse them.
  • Season generously with salt and bring to the boil.
  • Cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the saucepan, drain well and immediately pass the potatoes through a manual ricer and into a large bowl.
  • Working quickly, peel and grate the baking potatoes - using the large holes of a box grater - into a medium bowl.
  • Press with a clean kitchen towel to remove the excess moisture.
  • Add half of the grated potatoes to the riced potatoes.
  • Transfer the remaining grated potatoes to the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion and pulse until the potatoes and onions are very finely chopped.
  • Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and press with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Add the potato-onion mixture to the contents of the large bowl.
  • Stir in the eggs, matzo meal, white pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt.
  • Heat enough oil to for a depth of 0.5cm in a large frying pan until shimmering.
  • Working in 3 batches, spoon ¼ up of the potato mixture into the oil for each latke and press slightly to flatten.
  • Fry over moderate heat, turning once, until the latkes are golden and crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes.
  • Drain the latkes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt.
  • Serve accompanied by the crème fraiche, cold-smoked salmon, apple mousse and dill sprigs.

 

"Every time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.” – Milton Berle.

 

Unfrozen hake, one of the sea's greatest delicacies

Ring Sting Central

In Portugal, home is where the hearth is.

Is this the Smoking Section?

Grilled sardines: integral to the Feria do St Antonio

Portuguese-style Grilled Sardines: muito saborosa!

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster." – Ferran Adria.

 

"Sardine" and "pilchard" are names used to refer to various small, oily fish from the Herring family (Clupeidae). The term sardine was first used in English during the early 15th century and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. The terms "sardine" and "pilchard" are not precise, and what is meant depends on the region. Generally speaking, those classified as sardines are really young pilchards. In South Africa we compound the confusion by referring to the annual pilchard migration up the East Coast as the “Sardine Run”.

Sardines are eaten all over the world but no other country holds them in as high regard as Portugal. The Portuguese love fish any time of year, but come summer it’s tough to have a snack or meal that doesn’t include sardines. Sardines are at their best in summer, grilled outside and eaten in the sunshine. Lisbon’s favourite open-air meal is Sardinhas Grelhadas (grilled sardines) served with a simple, colourful salad of grilled capsicum, tomato and potato.

No wonder this little fish is so dear to the Portuguese heart; sardines are absolutely delicious. They are super soft, moist, salty and moreish – and they go perfectly with anything slightly acidic, like lemon, vinegar and onion. They also really benefit from fresh herbs, which lift the oily texture and give it some aroma. Sadly, most South Africans regard this valuable species as only good enough for fishing bait, canning in tomato sauce or processing into cheap pet food. Try this recipe – if you have never eaten sardines/pilchards this way it will be a veritable epiphany!

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Vinho Verde or Cape Riesling

 

12 Large whole pilchards, scaled and gutted

3 Large potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 Tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 Red onion, halved then thinly sliced

1 Lemon, quartered

1 Red and 1 yellow sweet pimento pepper

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika

4 Tbsp. olive oil, plus a bit extra to brush

2 Tsp. sea salt flakes

1 Tsp. lemon juice

4 Coriander sprigs, roughly chopped

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  • Cook the potatoes in a pot of salted water for 10 minutes until almost tender, then drain.
  • Toss the potatoes with the paprika and 2 Tbsp. oil.
  • Season and spread on a large lined baking tray, then roast for 20 minutes or until golden.
  • Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan on medium-high heat.
  • Brush the peppers with a little extra olive oil and grill or barbecue for 4-5 minutes, turning, until the skins blister.
  • Set aside in a bowl and cover in plastic wrap.
  • When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into strips.
  • Place the pepper strips in a bowl with the cooked potatoes, then toss with the tomatoes, onion, coriander, lemon juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Increase the heat under the chargrill pan to high.
  • Brush the sardines and the grill with a little more oil to help prevent sticking.
  • Sprinkle the sardines all over with the sea salt, then cook them for 2 - 3 minutes on each side. The skins should be scorched and bubbling.
  • Divide the sardines among 4 plates, then top with the salad and serve with the lemon wedges.

 

“Fools are as like husbands as pilchards are to herrings, the husband's the bigger.” – William Shaespeare.

 

Smoked Haddock Tartlets: savour Scots Bacalhao

“Smoked haddock is synonymous with a great many comfort food dishes, with its smoky sweetness pairing well with rich, creamy flavours.” – Gary Rhodes.

 

I first tasted smoked haddock at the age of 9, in the small Free State town of Senekal nogal. We had spent the night in the local 1-star hotel en route home after a vacation in Cape Town. When the owner announced that we would be served haddock with our scrambled eggs I was delighted – my Grade 4 English combined with his Boerejood accent had me believe he was talking about a hot dog! Needless to say, my first experience of haddock – poached in milk - was underwhelming…

Over the years I have kissed and made up with Melanogrammus aeglefinus and its Ersatz imitations (in South Africa, the “haddock” sold and served are most probably smoked young hake.) The Real McCoy is a member of the Gladidae (Cod) family and is only found in the sub-Arctic waters of the North Atlantic. Like its cousin, the cod, it has been overfished to the extent that Greenpeace added the haddock to its seafood Red List. North American haddock populations off New England and Nova Scotia have made a remarkable comeback with the adoption of catch shares management program, but European stocks are still dwindling.

Haddock is a very popular food fish, whether fresh, smoked, or frozen. Fresh haddock has a clean, white flesh and can be cooked in the same ways as cod – in fact, in the UK it is the third-most popular species for Fish and Chips after cod and plaice. Unlike cod, haddock does not salt well and it is mostly preserved by smoking. It is the basis of much-loved Scottish treats like peat-smoked “Finnan Haddie”, which is traditionally served poached in milk for breakfast. The town of Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland produces the famed hot-smoked Ärbroath Smokie”, which requires no further cooking before eating. Smoked haddock is also used in Scotland’s answer to New England fish chowder, the “Cullen Skink” and is the essential ingredient in the popular Anglo-Indian dish Kedgeree.

Smoked haddock naturally has an off-white colour; it is very often dyed yellow or orange, as are other smoked fish. It is a firm favourite at Chez Louis – it adds depth and saltiness to fish pies, soups and risottos, and despite a false start I have become a great fan of poached haddock. The following recipe will blow you away: tender, salty haddock lifted by the addition of Indian spice and a creamy sauce.  

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard or Pinot Gris

 

For the tartlets:

200g Bread flour, plus extra for dusting

1 Egg yolk, lightly beaten

50g Cold lard, cubed

50g Cold unsalted butter, cubed

For the filling:

200g Smoked haddock, cut into bite-sized cubes .

150ml Double cream

1 Medium leek, thinly sliced

1 Large egg

3 Egg yolks

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tsp. Garam masala

½ Tsp turmeric

100g Mixed leaf salad for garnish

 

  • To make the pastry, pulse the flour, lard and butter in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle over 1½ Tbsp. cold water and pulse again until the pastry just comes together.
  • Divide into 6 pieces, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 200⁰C.
  • Roll each ball of pastry into a 12cm disc on a lightly floured surface, and line 6 x 8cm tartlet tins with them.
  • Line the tarts with wax paper and weigh them down with baking beans.
  • Chill the tartlets in the fridge for 20 minutes. (Make the filling while the tartlet crusts are chilling.)
  • Place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the baking beans and bake for a further 5 minutes until golden.
  • Brush the blind-baked tart crusts with the egg yolk and return to the oven for a further 2 minutes.
  • To make the filling, heat the butter in a small saucepan, add the leek and cook for 5 minutes until it begins to soften.
  • Add the Garam masala, turmeric and seasoning, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Turn down the oven to 160⁰C and lightly whisk together the cream, egg and yolks, and some seasoning.
  • Divide the leek mixture between the tart cases, arrange the smoked haddock pieces on top and fill with the cream mixture to just below the pastry rim.
  • Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Allow the tarts to cool a little in their tins, then serve warm, garnished with a handful of mixed salad leaves.

 

"I see my daft surname as a positive thing. It first dawned on me that I had a comical name when someone called me 'Fish Face' on my first day at school. I've heard all the fish jokes since then, many times over." – Laura Haddock.

 

Moelas Estufadas: do you have the stomach for it?

“Before you reject the bird's vital organs, learn a little about what they are. Get to know this part of your chicken. How would you like it if someone tossed your vital organs in the trash?” – Sarah Kate Gillingham.

 

My love affair with chicken gizzards (moelas in Portuguese) started in the 1990s in a tiny eatery in Sunnyside run by a charming old Portuguese gentleman called Alfonso Ferreira. Formerly a businessman in the Niassa Province of Portuguese Mozambique, Alfonso had been part of the exodus of 1975. He employed a cook who had previously worked at the famous Piri Piri in Maputo, and knew all there was to know about spicy food. Primus inter pares to me was the moelas starter - stewed soft in a rich garlicky sauce, which I would sop up with fresh pão buns.  

To many people of my acquaintance, moelas are the equivalent of “bycatch” – something best fed to pets you don’t really care for. In the hands of a chef who understands Portuguese cuisine, however, they can turn into true delicacies. The gizzard is an organ found in the digestive tract of a chicken. Similar to a stomach, it is used to grind up the foods the bird eats.

Gizzards are considered a delicacy in many cultures, and provide a healthy dose of several vitamins and minerals. They are usually stewed or served in soup, but in the Far East they are often parboiled and then barbecued on sticks. In America’s Deep South, where everything (including gherkins and tomatoes) is deep fried, gizzards are no exception! My recipe is based on my recollection of the authentic Mozambican version I wolfed down at Casa Alfonso.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 3 hours

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chenin Blanc or Colombard. For authenticity, you could of course enjoy it with a cold 2M or Laurentina!

 

450g Chicken gizzards

300g Tinned Italian plum tomatoes, drained and finely chopped

6 Slices streaky bacon

1 Small onion, finely chopped

6 Cloves garlic, crushed

2 Stalks celery, finely sliced

2 Carrots, peeled and chopped

2 Serrano or Cayenne peppers, seeded and chopped

5 Bay leaves

2 Tsp. dried oregano

2 Tsp. peri-peri powder

1 Tsp.thyme leaves

750ml Chicken stock

340ml Lager beer

½ Cup dry red wine

½ Cup white wine vinegar

2 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Parsley sprigs for garnishing

 

  • Chop each chicken gizzard into quarters. Set aside.
  • Fry the bacon in a large pot over medium heat until the fat has rendered out. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  • Sauté the onion in the bacon fat for about 8 minutes or until onions start to turn golden brown.
  • Raise the heat to medium-high and add the celery, carrots, chilli pepper and garlic.
  • Sauté for another 2 minutes, then add the oregano, thyme and peri-peri powder.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and let them brown slightly on the bottom by letting them rest for about a minute, then scrape the bottom and leave them alone again. Repeat another 3 times.
  • Stir in the chicken broth, beer, wine, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves.
  • Add the gizzards. Let the mixture come up to a simmer. Make sure it never boils fast; it will cause the gizzards to toughen up.
  • Once simmering, immediately reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
  • Let the mixture simmer for another 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Check in periodically to make sure that all the gizzards are submerged and that the mixture is not boiling rapidly.
  • When the meat is tender, serve the stew in individual bowls topped with crumbled bacon (the bits you fried to obtain the fat) and parsley, with fresh bread rolls or baguette on the side.

 

“She always saved two parts for me, but I had to shut my mouth: t’was the gizzard and the North end of a chicken flying South.” – Little Jimmy Dickens.

 

Bhajia: the food that bites back...

“Life is NOT like a box of chocolates; it’s more like a plate of chillies. What you do today might burn your ass tomorrow.” – Bill Maher.

 

The Chilli Bite or bhaji is a fritter-like dumpling made from a spicy blend of flour, coriander, shallots, fresh chillies, chilli powder and cumin, which is deep-fried in oil.  It is a ubiquitous food in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal in India, and can be found for sale in street-side stalls and from vendors along on highways. Onion-based bhajis are often eaten as a starter in Indian restaurants, along with poppadums and other Indian snacks. The Indian diaspora has introduced the bhaji to many countries around the world, including the Gulf States, East Africa and South Africa.

Chilli bites are sometimes prepared using self-raising flour (flour with added baking powder) but is best made using gram (“Indian”) flour. There are several variants of this popular Indian street food, including “basic” ones and ones with a potato filling. The following recipe is versatile, and the bites can be served as a savoury snack, a starter or a light meal. I recommend using bicarbonate of soda rather than baking powder - this prevents you ending up with oil-soaked chilli bites.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Yields 25 medium-sized chilli bites

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled lager beer 

 

3 Cups gram flour

1 Whole onion, finely chopped

½ Cup shallots, finely chopped

½ Cup scallions, finely chopped

3 Fresh green chillies, finely chopped

½ Cup Dhania (coriander leaf), finely chopped

1 Tbsp. vegetable masala 

2 Tsp. roasted cumin seeds

1 Tsp. Garam masala

1 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. bicarbonate of soda

1 ½ Cups water

Vegetable or sunflower oil for frying

 

  • Place the gram flour, bicarbonate of soda , powdered spices, roasted cumin seeds and salt in a bowl and combine.
  • Add the chopped coriander, chillies and shallots.
  • Add the water and mix to form a cake-like batter.
  • Place a heavy-based saucepan on your stove, and heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of batter in the oil.
  • Fry for 3 - 5 minutes on each side before turning the chilli bites.
  • Take care when frying to avoid burning the chilli bites.
  •  Remove the cooked bhajia from the oil and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve warm with chutney and pickles.

 

“Those who speak rudely can't sell honey, but those who speak sweet can sell chillies!” - Shivanshu Gupta.

 

The Marlins' Hake

"In Hollywood you always feel a bit like a hake. The publicists march people up and down in front of you and they interview you... You feel like they’re the turbot or the sea-bream, and you're the hake." – Alejandro Amenabar.

 

On Sunday Jakki and I were treated to lunch by our dear friends Chris and Dani Marlin. Dani was unusually secretive about what we were going to have for starters, and Chris kept plying us with Sauvignon Blanc to keep us occupied while she made it. An added distraction was their 18 month-old son Robert who had us in stitches with his antics most of the time.

Before serving us our starters, Dani explained that she had actually got the recipe from a children's cook book, and that it was one of the little man's favourites! It turned out well worth the wait: a tasty, wholesome fish dish that even fussy little children and grown-up Philistines will love – fish that doesn’t really taste like fish! Here is my take on it:

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a Chenin Blanc or Riesling

 

6 Hake loins (skinless, deboned and around 125 g each)

1 ½ Cups grated Mozzarella or Gouda cheese

1 Cup Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

150 ml Orange juice

1 Tbsp. butter

Salt and white pepper to taste

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Grease the bottom of a small (ca. 30 x 10 x 10 cm) ovenproof dish with the butter.
  • Arrange the pieces of fish side by side in  the dish.
  • Pour the orange juice over the fish.
  • Season the fish with the salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the fish.
  • Crush the corn flakes lightly in your strong hand, then sprinkle them over the fish and cheese.
  • Bake the dish in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
  • Serve hot.  

 

“I always wondered why babies spend so much time sucking their thumbs. Then I tasted baby food.” – Robert Orben.

Aptly, its species name is "Saltatrix" (jumper)

Shrimp is the Maine Attraction in this market

Mom, what is "biltong"?

In the Red Zone

Trump won? Lo siento, Senora...

Beef Empanadas: Hispanic Magic

“If you were a Colombian, you would have your version of an empanada. If you are an Argentinean, you might find a dough that's baked and has a butter sheen on it. And then in Ecuador, you'll find more crispy-fried empanadas. And so, every culture has its own version of empanadas.” Jose Garces.

 

Empanadas are believed to have originated in Spain or Portugal. The noun “empanada” is derived from the verb "empanar" which means to coat with bread or pastry. An empanada is therefore a pastry shell containing some kind of filling. Popular fillings include beef, pork, olives, beans, vegetables, cheese and even plover’s eggs! In most Latino countries the pastry is deep-fried, but in others (notably Argentina) a baked version is also eaten.

The concept was introduced to South America by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Today they are ubiquitous throughout Latin America, with a number of countries claiming them as their own. They are popular as “street food”, but also make a great starter, and are often served as a main course. Personally I am very fond of the baked Empanada Mendocina named after Mendoza in Argentina, where the filling consists of savoury beef mince, an olive and a plover’s egg. The recipe below is a more generic one, and was made famous by the Ecuadorian Iron Chef winner José Garces.

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes accompanied by a Malbec or Tempranillo, but Sangria works a treat on a hot day

 

The pastry:

2 Cups bread flour

90 g Butter, chilled and cubed

½ Tsp. salt

50 ml Tepid water

The juice of ½ lime

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

The filling:

450 g Beef shin

450 g Potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 Tomatoes, finely chopped

3 Scallions, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tsp. ground paprika

2 Tsp. ground coriander

1 /2 Tsp. ground cumin

250 ml Beef stock

4 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Cut the beef into chunks, and chop in a food processor until finely diced, but not yet minced.
  • Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over high heat.
  • Sauté the meat until golden brown.
  • Transfer the meat onto a warm plate and reduce the heat under the pan to low.
  • Add the cumin, garlic, paprika and coriander to the pan.
  • Once the spices start releasing their aromas, stir in the stock and bring it to the boil.
  • Return the meat to the pan, add the potatoes and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and scallions.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until the potatoes are soft.
  • Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool.
  • Meanwhile, place the flour and salt in a food processor.
  • Add the butter chunks one by one while pulsing the mixture. When the butter is absorbed, the mixture should resemble fresh bread crumbs.
  • Mix the water and lime juice and drizzle into the processor while still pulsing.
  • As soon as the pastry comes together, transfer it to a floured working surface and gently knead it into a soft dough.
  • Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Once chilled, roll out the pastry until very thin.
  • Cut out circles with a diameter of 6 cm.
  • Spoon about 2 Tsp. of the filling into the middle of each pastry circle,
  • Brush the edges with water.
  • Fold the pastry over to form a half-moon, the crimp the edges securely using a small cake fork.
  • Repeat with all the pastry.
  • While busy shaping the empanadas, fill a deep frying pan with sunflower oil to a depth of 5 cm.
  • Heat the oil over high heat. When hot reduce the heat of the cooker to medium-hot.
  • Fry about 6 empanadas at a time; 3 minutes per side should be enough for a golden brown colour.
  • Remove the empanadas with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Repeat till all the empanadas are cooked.
  • Serve with a chilli salsa or relish.

 

“Empanadas y vino en jarra, una guitarra, bombo y violin (Empanadas and a jug of wine, a guitar, a bass drum and a violin).” – Mercedes Sosa: from “Al jardin de la Republica.”

 

Smoked Salmon Mousse

“For several centuries, the Celtic church of Ireland was spared the Greek dualism of matter and spirit. They regarded the world with the clear vision of faith. When a young Celtic monk saw his cat catch a salmon swimming in shallow water, he cried, "The power of the Lord is in the paw of the cat!” – Brennan Manning.

 

Salmonid fish have always fascinated me. As a child I was fortunate enough to fly fish for rainbow and brown trout from the age of 6, and soon heard and read about their illustrious cousins the “true” salmon and their anadromous life cycle. Nearly half a century on, the “land a salmon” box on my bucket list has yet to be ticked, and the demise of the Rand has made realising that dream rather remote. Still, hope springs eternal…

Fortunately salmon for the table has become readily available in recent years, and aficionados are able to cook with it to their hearts’ content. A small caveat, though: make sure you ascertain the source of the fish you buy. As a rule, farmed salmon is cheaper than wild-caught, and fish that have been imported frozen and then defrosted will obviously be far cheaper than those flown in fresh. If price forces you to opt for previously frozen salmon, remember to use it fresh as it will spoil if re-frozen. As a rule of thumb, Norwegian salmon is more likely to be fresh, as it that country is much closer to South Africa than British Columbia (where Canadian Salmon hail from).

I must confess that I am not a huge fan of salmon cooked in any of the traditional ways – I prefer white-fleshed fish for frying, grilling, baking or poaching. Salmon’s pink, slightly oily flesh comes into its own, however, when smoked (cold or hot) or used in sushi. The following recipe is ideal for utilising left-over hot-smoked salmon, but it is so tasty you may end up buying salmon specifically for this purpose!

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Serves 4 – 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded Chardonnay

 

250 g Hot-smoked salmon (or salmon trout), skinned, boned and flaked

2 Tbsp. finely- chopped shallots

2 Tbsp. finely-chopped flat leaf parsley

½ Tbsp. French chives, chopped

½ Tbsp. garlic, crushed

3 Tbsp. double cream

2 Tbsp. butter, softened but not melted

1 Tbsp. Crème Frâiche

1 tablespoon brandy

A dash of Tabasco

Salt and white pepper

Cayenne pepper, for garnish

Chopped parsley, for garnish

 

  • Combine the fish, parsley, chives, shallots, garlic, brandy and butter in a bowl.
  • Process until smooth with a hand blender or in a food processor.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the cream, Crème Frâiche and Tabasco and process for another 30 seconds.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  • Transfer to the serving dish(es) and garnish with the parsley and Cayenne pepper.
  • Serve with thin slices of crusty baguette, Melba toast or cracker biscuits

 

“I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” - Neil Armstrong.

 

Blesbok Terrine: Game, set and eat!

“Each day, millions of innocent plants are killed by vegetarians. Stop the violence! Eat venison.” – Alabama bumper sticker.

 

When winter stalks the Bushveld, men become men and game become nervous. This the time of year when the descendants of Nimrod head out to game farms to stalk their favourite herbivores. Wildebeest, kudu, impala, springbok and blesbok are particularly popular among “biltong hunters”, while eland, gemsbok, hartbees and warthog have their fans as well. Until fairly recently, game meat used to be the preserve of hunters, family and friends but it is becoming readily available in season. Many butcheries now stock venison; both hunted and farmed.

Biltong and droëwors remain the most popular end products, with venison braai wors, salami and cabanossi also popular. Cooking with fresh venison used to be confined to making venison pies, but more and more people are trying their hands at making classic meat dishes using venison instead of farmed animals. My advice to neophytes is to use wildebeest or blesbok for your first few attempts; they are readily available from butcheries, relatively cheap and can be cooked very much like lean beef.

Blesbok meat is a beautiful dark red colour with a medium grain. It is very tender, and because it feeds exclusively on grass, it has a very subtle game taste. As with most venison it is low in fat and high in protein. Because of its unique, mild taste blesbok should be prepared as naturally as possible – don’t make curries and sweet & sour stir-fries with it! Savoury umami flavours do add value though, as you will experience with this classic venison recipe.

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 90 minutes

Resting time: 16 hours

Serves 12

Tastes best with a dry Rosé or Blanc de Noir

 

500 g Boneless blesbok meat, cubed

250 g Cooked ham, cubed

250 g Pork lard, cubed

2 Large egg whites

2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped

2 Tsp. grated lemon zest

2 Tsp. grated orange zest

2 Bay leaves, crumbled

1 Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. ground allspice

¼ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

¼ Tsp. Cayenne pepper

3 Tbsp. Tawny Port

2 Tbsp. Brandy

French Toast, crackers, or baguette for accompaniment

Dijon mustard and blackcurrant jam for accompaniment

 

  • In a large bowl, combine the venison, ham, pork lard, Port, Cognac, bay leaves, garlic, lemon and orange zest, allspice and the black and Cayenne pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Cover, refrigerate, and marinate for 8 hours.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  • Lightly grease a 10 cm x 22 cm bread tin.
  • Drain the meat mixture in a colander. Discard the liquid and the bay leaves.
  • Add the parsley and salt, then process briefly in a meat grinder fitted with a rough die, or pulse in batches in a food processor. The meat should still be chunky, not minced.
  • Place in a bowl and mix in the egg whites.
  • Transfer to the prepared pan, tapping it on the counter to ensure it settles evenly.
  • Cover tightly with tin foil and place in a large roasting pan.
  • Fill the roasting pan with water halfway up the sides of the terrine.
  • Bake for 90 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and remove the foil.
  • Remove any excess fat from the surface with a flexible spatula.
  • Re-cover with tin foil and top with an equal-sized flat object.
  • Weight the pan with heavy objects and refrigerate for 8 hours.
  • To serve, slice as desired and serve the bread/crackers, mustard and jam.

 

“If you want to save a species, simply decide to eat it. Then it will be managed - like chickens, like turkeys, like antelope, like game birds. - Ted Nugent.

 

Avocado Ritz: shrimp's leap towards immortality?

“The shrimp that falls asleep is carried away by the current.” – Spanish proverb.

To most people the words “prawn” and “shrimp” mean something edible and tasty from the sea, probably with several legs and a hard shell. To the layman shrimps are the little pink things on the top of pizzas or maybe the small quick translucent creatures in the rock pools of Ballito. Shrimps are similar in appearance to prawns, but smaller. That is, unless you are an American. They insist on calling the larger kind shrimp, and vice versa (mind you, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and have still not mastered the Metric System). These tasty little critters – shrimps, not Americans - are unfortunately much maligned in certain circles, and regarded as “tasteless”. They are actually very, very good eating provided they are fresh and not overcooked. They are the star attractions in one of the ultimate retro starters: Avocado Ritz.

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes (including cooling down)

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard

 

3 Ripe Hass avocados

The juice of ½ lemon

The sauce:

2 Extra-large egg yolks

120 ml Sunflower oil

100 ml Fresh cream

1 ½ Tbsp. tomato sauce

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tsp. mustard powder

1 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. white pepper

½ Tsp. paprika

The filling:

150 g Cooked shrimps

150 g Cooked firm white linefish (gurnard, stumpnose, kabeljou or slinger), cubed and poached in chicken or fish stock

Garnish:

2 Cups crisp lettuce, shredded finely

6 King-sized prawns, poached in their shells with heads on, then deveined

12 Pimiento-stuffed olive slices

1 Tbsp. lumpfish caviar

 

 

  • Halve the avocados, remove their pips and hollow the centres out slightly to accommodate the filling.
  • Brush them with the lemon juice and set aside.
  • Start making the sauce by beating the salt, pepper and mustard into the egg yolks with a whisk.
  • Place the bowl containing the egg mixture on a pot of simmering water, and whisk in the lemon juice, tomato sauce and cream.
  • Add the oil in a thin but steady stream, whisking all the time.
  • When the sauce emulsifies, stir in the paprika.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Once cooled, fold in the fish and shrimps with a wooden spoon.
  • Spoon the filling into the avocado halves.
  • Place them on individual serving plates, stabilised with a bed of shredded lettuce.
  • Decorate each with a prawn, 2 olive slices and a sprinkling of lumpfish “caviar”.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

“I think somebody should come up with a way to breed a very large shrimp. That way, you could ride him, then, after you have made camp at night, you could eat him. How about it, science?” – Jack Handey

Smoked Elf: my favourite cured fish

“The charm of fishing is that it involves the pursuit of something elusive yet attainable; a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” – John Buchan.

I have just come back from the memorial service for a good friend who passed away recently. He was a farmer in the Southern Cape, producing prized vine tomatoes on his farm between Abertinia and Stilbaai. In order to be available should his widow and family need assistance or advice, I arranged to spend five days nearby. Stilbaai was the obvious place to stay, and after a quick internet search I found a charming cottage next to the estuary for a song. I have been fishing for long enough to have realistic expectations when I arrive at a new destination, especially when it is only a whistle-stop visit. To my great surprise, my very first outing produced two nice elf (“shad” to Natalians) and two “long line releases” of unidentified but feisty fish.

The elf (Pomatomus saltatrix) is a predatory fish found around the world in cool, temperate and subtropical waters, except for the northern Pacific Ocean. They are also known as tailor in Australasia and bluefish on the Atlantic coast of the USA. It is a striking fish, with a broad forked tail, shiny blue-green back, copper flanks and a white belly. It has a large mouth containing a single row of razor-sharp teeth. Some specimens from colder water have been known to reach 10 kg, but the average catch is in the 750 g – 2 kg range. In South Africa, they spend their summers in the cool waters of the Western Cape and follow the annual “Sardine Run” up the East Coast in mid-winter. After gorging themselves on pilchards, they use the Agulhas Current to convey them back South, where they spawn in estuaries during early summer.

Elf have dark and somewhat purple-bluish flesh which is oily and spoils quickly, similar to mackerel. It should be cleaned as soon as possible after catching, and kept cold – but not frozen. Kill only the fish you plan to eat, and eat them within 24 hours. Elf are delicious pan-fried or grilled, but to me these are Plans B and C. These voracious hunters are – to me – the best fish in the sea for smoking. Depending on your preference and equipment, you can either hot smoke or cold smoke your catch.

 

Hot smoking is quick and easy. The entire process takes about an hour, and (because it is rich) you only need about 300 g of fish per guest. A crisp chilled Sauvignon Blanc will compliment it perfectly. All you need are:

 

One or two fresh elf, anywhere between 800 g – 1.5 kg

A hot smoker (the ones that look like aluminium tool boxes)

½ Cup of oak shavings or sawdust

2 Tbsp. methylated spirits

A 500 mm-long sheet of lightweight tin foil.

500 g Coarse sea salt

 

  • Remove the head and fillet the fish.
  • Coat all over with the salt.
  • Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse under running fresh water, then leave to “wind dry” in a cool place for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cover the floor of your smoker with the foil and sprinkle evenly with the sawdust.
  • Pour the spirits evenly over the “wool” in the drawer below the smoker floor.
  • Place the fillets on the grid of your smoker, and position it above the sawdust.
  • Close the smoker lid, and ignite the spirits.
  • Once the sawdust starts smoking, wait for 15 minutes, then remove the fish from the smoker.
  • Serve with slices of crusty baguette and butter.

 

Cold smoking elf isn't complicated, but it does take some time. The process is similar to making homemade bacon with the biggest difference (besides the brine itself) being that the fish doesn't have to cure for a week. Start by making the brine using the following ingredients:

 

1 Quart water
3 Tbsp. soya sauce
3 Tbsp. coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 Bay leaves, crushed
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. whole peppercorns

 

  • Combine the water and soya sauce, add the salt and sugar and stir or shake to dissolve the solids completely.
  • Place the elf in a shallow dish and cover with the brine.
  • Add the bay leaves, mustard seed, and peppercorns.
  • Cover and refrigerate while brining - a minimum of four hours.

 

Brining the elf is important. It enhances the flavour, of course, but it also helps the fish to retain moisture during the smoking process. You should leave the fish in the brine for at least four hours, but it's okay to let it go longer (even a couple of days if you're not going to get to it right away - the brine is also a great preservative.) Just remember that the longer you leave it in the brine, the saltier it will ultimately be.

Smoke doesn't stick well to wet surfaces, and the heat of the smoker can drive moisture out of the fish. And so, the next step is as important as the brine. When you take the fish out of the brine, place the fillets on a metal rack set above a few layers of newspapers. Allow the fish to dry for several hours, until the surface of the fish is dry and feels a bit tacky to the touch. It will take at least three hours, but if it's a damp day it can take five hours or more. If you're squeamish about leaving the fish out that long, make room in the refrigerator for the racks and dry them in there. That dry, sticky surface is called a "pellicle," and it is formed by proteins on the surface of the fish as they are exposed to air. The pellicle will give the smoke a good surface to adhere to and protect the fish from giving up too much moisture while it's in your smoker.

 

  • Get your smoker up and running while you brine and air-dry the elf.
  • When the fish is dry, transfer it to the racks of your cold smoker.
  • Bring the temperature of the smoker up to about 90°CF for the first hour of smoking, then drop it to 60°C for another two hours or so.
  • At the end of that time, average-sized fillets will be done - moist but firm, flaky, and dry, perfect for snacking or using as an ingredient in a dip or paté. Larger, thicker fillets may need more time. Just extend the time at 90°C F for as long as needed to get the firm texture you're looking for.

 

The finished product will be a rich chestnut brown colour, slightly darker around the edges, tender and moist but firm enough to pick up without falling totally apart. And I promise you that you will remember the flavour for a long time…

“Look at where Jesus went to pick his people. He didn’t go to the Colleges; he got guys off the fishing docks.” – Jeff Foxworthy.

Heaven is a Canteloup from Cavaillon

KFC witness protection programme

Guess why it's called "Geelbek"?

A hard day's night's work

Anchoïade with Roasted Peppers

“Add anchovies to almost anything, in moderation, and it will taste better.” - Jay McInerny.

Although South Africa is blessed with large anchovy stocks off her West Coast, we do not utilise them much as food. Apart from anchovy paste, pizza toppings and Caesar salad dressings, they are mainly processed for use as animal fodder and organic fertiliser. This stands in stark contrast to the countries of the Mediterranean littoral, who adore this little fish. They are the heroes of Salade Niçoise, Pissaladiere, Spaghetti Putanesca, Tapenade, marinated anchovy tapas and Aubergine Caponata.   

I first tasted anchovy on holiday in Cape Town in the late 1960s, in the form of Anchovette paste spread on hot toast. The following recipe is a De Lux version of that humble dish, and was inspired by the Spanish tapas tradition; the salty fish offsets the smooth sweetness of roasted peppers dressed with sherry vinegar.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

16 Anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained

4 Large red bell peppers

8 Slices of Baguette or Ciabatta, about 1cm thick

1 Garlic bulb, plus 1 clove, finely chopped

2 Thyme sprigs

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1½ Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley for garnish

Salt and black pepper

 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  • Remove the outer skin from the garlic bulb and slice off the top to expose all the cloves.
  • Place the bulb in the centre of a large square of kitchen foil, add the thyme sprigs, drizzle with 1 Tsp. of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Wrap it up in the foil, and put it in a roasting tin along with the peppers.
  • Roast in the top of the oven for 20 - 30 minutes, turning the peppers once or twice, until they have blackened in places.
  • While the roasting is in progress, mash the anchovies in a mortar or blender.
  • Transfer the mashed anchovies to a bowl and stir in the oil from the tin or jar little by little, as if making mayonnaise, until the mixture becomes a smooth paste.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper. Set aside.
  • When ready, remove the peppers from the tin, drop them into a plastic bag and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  • Return the garlic parcel to the oven for another 35 minutes, or until it feels soft when pressed.
  • Meanwhile, slit open the peppers, working over a bowl so that you catch all the juices, then remove and discard the stalks, seeds and skin.
  • Tear the flesh into 1 cm wide strips and add to the bowl of juices with the chopped garlic clove, vinegar, the remaining thyme leaves and the rest of the olive oil. Stir well together.
  • Remove the garlic from the oven and set the parcel aside.
  • Toast the slices of bread.
  • Unwrap the roasted garlic, squeeze the puree from each clove into the bowl with the anchovy paste. Mix well.
  • Spread the mixture on the toast while the toast is still hot. Season with a little salt and black pepper.
  • Season the pepper strips with a little salt to taste and spoon onto the garlic and anchovy toast.
  • Drizzle over some of the pepper juices, sprinkle with parsley and serve while the toast is still crisp.

“I'm an acquired taste. I'm anchovies. If I was potato chips I could go more places.” - Tori Amos.

 

Cape Salmon Quenelles with Nantua Sauce

“God grant that I may fish until my dying day … and when in the Lord’s great landing net, that in His mercy I be judged BIG ENOUGH TO KEEP.” – The Fisherman’s Prayer.

Lyon, France’s third-biggest city, is widely renowned for its culinary excellence. It is not only home to some of the best restaurants in the country, but it is also located in an area rich in the very best of ingredients. These include the poultry of Bresse, Charolais beef, wild mushrooms, Alpine cheeses, a variety of tasty freshwater fish and arguably the best wines in France. Many dishes are named after the city; the term “Lyonnaise” is synonymous with fine food. To me, Quenelles de Lyon are the culinary jewels in the crown of the Rhone-Alpes region.

The quenelle is the aristocrat of the dumpling world; in fact, the name is derived from the German word knödel which means “dumpling”. It is traditionally made with locally-caught Pike (Essox Lucius) and free-range eggs, and served in a delicate, creamy Nantua sauce flavoured with freshwater crayfish. The choice of fish is quite important. It must have a clean, mild flavour and have a soft but reasonably firm texture. For this reason, I recommend using – inter alia – Geelbek (aka Cape Salmon), Gurnard, White Steenbras or Tilapia.

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by an unwooded Chardonnay

 

The quenelles:

700 g Cape Salmon fillets, skinless and cubed

2 Egg whites

175 g White bread crumbs

150ml Double-thick cream

300ml Fish stock

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chervil for garnish

4 Fresh dill tops for garnish

Salt and white pepper for seasoning

The Nantua sauce:

6 Queen prawns, head and shell on 

4 Shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Garlic clove, chopped

1 ½ Tbsp. tomato purée 

350ml Double-thick cream

1 Tbsp. bread flour

300ml Seafood stock 

100ml Dry white wine

A pinch of saffron (or ¼ Tsp. turmeric) 

A few sprigs of tarragon 

Canola oil for frying 

Making the sauce:

  • In a large pan, fry the prawns, shallots and garlic in oil for 5 - 6 minutes, until lightly coloured. Add the flour and stir.
  • Add the saffron, tarragon and purée, and keep stirring.
  • Gradually stir in the wine and stock, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
  • Add the cream, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half again.
  • Strain through a colander into a bowl.
  • Remove the prawn shells, and blend them with the sauce in a liquidiser.
  • Use a fine-meshed sieve to strain the sauce, then set aside and keep warm.

Making the quenelles:

  • Put the fish in a food processor and blitz until it is puréed.
  • Transfer it to a large bowl, standing in a larger bowl full of ice, and season it.
  • Beat the purée until smooth with a wooden spoon.
  • Beat the egg whites briefly with a fork, then add it to the fish.
  • Beat the mixture until fully amalgamated.
  • Beat the cream into the mixture bit by bit. Make sure the mixture doesn’t become too moist.
  • Stir in the bread crumbs and season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the fish stock in a large saucepan.
  • Beat the fish purée hard one last time, then mould it into egg shapes using 2 tablespoons.
  • Slide the quenelles into the hot stock.
  • Poach the quenelles gently for 15 minues.
  • When firm, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towel.
  • Flood the 4 serving plates with the Nantua sauce, and arrange the quenelles on top of it.
  • Sprinkle with a bit of chopped chervil, garnish with the fresh dill and serve hot.

“It’s better to be sitting in a bass boat thinking about God than sitting in a church thinking about fishing.” – Earl Dibbes Jr.

Frogs' Legs with Persillade

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning. If it’s your job to eat two frogs, eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain.

I can understand why many people are appalled by the thought of eating frogs. They probably won’t touch rabbit or suckling pig either. Call me a philistine, but I happen to love all three – particularly the first. In South Africa, frogs’ legs are quite hard to find outside of the major metropolitan areas. We are fortunate to have a top-notch deli near our home, where they are readily available. I have also discovered that thin (2 cm wide) strips of crocodile tail – which is rather more common in our neck of the woods – make a perfectly good substitute.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 12 - 15 minutes

Serves 2 as a starter; 1 as a main course

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled, unwooded Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay

 

12 Skinned frogs’ legs

2 Eggs

8 Sprigs of flat leaf parsley

3 Large cloves of garlic, crushed.

500ml Milk

150 g Cake flour

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Sunflower or canola oil for frying

Lemon wedges for garnish

 

  • Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan. It should be at least 5 cm deep.
  • Pour the milk, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix.
  • Beat the two eggs in another, smaller, bowl and sift the flour into a third dish.
  • Dip the frogs’ legs first into the milk, then into the beaten egg.
  • Next, roll them in the flour.
  • Fry the frogs’ legs in the oil until golden brown.
  • Drain the legs on paper towel and keep them warm.
  • Make a persillade by finely chopping the sprigs of broadleaf parsley, and mixing it with the crushed garlic.
  • Arrange the frogs’ legs on a hot dish with the lemon wedges and sprinkle with the persillade. Guests can add seasoning and lemon juice to taste.

 “Three million frogs’ legs are served in Paris daily. Nobody knows what became of the other frogs.” – Fred Allen.

 

Chicken Liver Crostini

“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, yet they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.” – Orson Welles.  

Tuscan cooking is founded on two dictates: keeping it simple, and only using top-quality seasonal ingredients. The dish I describe here is simplicity personified, yet as good a starter as any in my repertoire. Purists might scoff at my choice of baguette for the crostini, but out of solidarity with Parisians in their time of sorrow I opted for their beloved staple.

 

Preparation and cooling time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

1 Baguette or similarly shaped bread, thinly sliced

350 g Chicken livers, chopped

1 Medium onion, finely chopped

2 Salted anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tsp. capers, finely chopped

1 Medium-sized hot chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped

1 Tsp. Thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. olive oil

15ml Marsala or medium Sherry

250ml Water

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Sauté the onion until aromatic and translucent. Reduce the heat to low.
  • Add the chicken livers and wine, and simmer for 30 minutes, adding water if the contents dry up.
  • Transfer the livers and onion to a chopping board and let them cool.
  • When cool enough to handle, chop them as finely as possible.
  • Re-heat the pan – only to low – and return the chopped liver and onion.
  • Add the anchovies, garlic, chilli, parsley, thyme and water, and season to taste.
  • Simmer until the mixture has the consistency of thin porridge.
  • Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, toast the bread slices slightly under the grill.
  • Spread the warm liver mixture on the bread, and serve warm.

“Boys, I may not know much, but I can tell chicken sh*t from chicken salad.” – Lyndon B Johnson.

Prosciutto and Melon Summer Starter

“Carve a ham as if you were shaving the face of a friend.” – Henri Charpentier.

This easy-to-make dish is a marriage of two delicate flavours - sweet and juicy melon with the smoky saltiness of Parma ham. I was first privileged to enjoy it on a scorching hot day in Provence. We had just visited the famous lavender fields of the Abbey of Senanque, and decided to have lunch in the hilltop town of Gordes. Because of the heat I decided to opt for something cool, and the rest – as they say – is history! There are few better dishes than this one during a heat wave like the one we are currently experiencing.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by an ice cold dry cider, or a crisp dry Rosé

 

1 Ripe Cantaloupe (orange) melon

200 g Parma ham, torn into small pieces

100 g Parmesan cheese, grated

50g Rocket

4 Tbsp. apple cider (or sherry) vinegar

2 Tbsp. mint leaves

1 Tbsp. sugar

4 Tbsp. avocado or olive oil

1 Tsp. salt

A pinch of freshly-ground black pepper

  • Pulse the vinegar, sugar, oil, salt and pepper in a blender until amalgamated.
  • Add the mint leaves and pulse until roughly chopped.
  • Leave the dressing in the refrigerator to cool.
  • Cut the melon into thick slices and remove the skin and any pips.
  • Chop it into matchbox-sized chunks.
  • Divide the melon pieces between 4 plates, then scatter the Parma ham among the melon pieces.
  • Sprinkle with the cheese and rocket, and drizzle with the dressing.

“Whether the knife falls on the melon, or the melon on the knife, the melon still suffers.” – Central African proverb,

 

It's all Greek to me

"LM Prawns" are now "MP Prawns"

Vincent Van Gogh was besotted with olive trees

I still say it's underdone!

Smoorsnoek Samoosas, Bo-Kaap

Smoked Snoek Samoosas

“Smoked snoek tastes just as good as smoked salmon when you don’t have any salmon.” – Johnny Noble.

Snoek has had mixed press over the years. In the Cape it is an iconic foodstuff, and is eaten with gusto by locals – whether fresh, smoked or braaied. It is also salted and dried, Bacalhau-style. For obvious reasons, the dried fish has to be rehydrated and the salt rendered before Soutsnoek can be cooked. During World War II, when Britain experienced food shortages due to the U-Boat blockade, South Africa exported huge quantities of it to the UK. Because cooks there were not familiar with the rehydration process, they didn’t soak the fish for long enough. This led to the finished product being both tough and very salty. To this day, older Britons shudder at the mere mention of the word Snoek. The following recipe, however, invariably leaves guests deeply impressed! It is a fusion of Cape Malay Samoosas and chutney with the iconic Cape Smoorsnoek.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 – 50 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a fruity, well-chilled Gewürztraminer of Viognier

750 g Smoked snoek

250 g Oven-ready phyllo pastry

5 Medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 Large Italian tomatoes, chopped (get rid of the seeds and seeping juice)

2 Large onions, sliced

2 Garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tsp Dried red chillies, chopped

½ Tsp Ground cloves

1 Tbsp butter for frying

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted for spreading

4 Tbsp sunflower oil

1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

1 Tsp black pepper, freshly ground

2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

  • Flake the snoek, taking care to remove all the bones.
  • Fry the onion in the oil and butter until lightly browned.
  • Add the garlic and chillies.
  • Add the tomatoes and braise for a few minutes.
  • Add the flaked snoek, ground cloves and black pepper.
  • Add the potato cubes and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.
  • Add the parsley.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180˚C.
  • Divide the layers of phyllo into pairs.
  • Brush each pair of phyllo with melted butter.
  • Cut the sheets into 6 lengths, and place a dessert spoonful of snoek on one end of each strip and then fold the phyllo from corner to corner making triangles. Brush again with melted butter
  • Sprinkle lightly with the grated parmesan.
  • Place the samoosas on a lined baking tray and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden.

Serve with peach chutney and/or marula jelly and a fresh garden salad.

“Line fishermen know the sea is dangerous and its storms terrible, but have never found these dangers sufficient reason to stay ashore.” – Vincent van Gogh. 

Oysters Rockefeller

“I am in a very unsettled condition, said the oyster as they poured butter sauce all over his back.” – Edward Lear.

Oysters don’t leave people cold. You either adore them or are repelled by them. I am happy to report that I belong to the former school of thought, although I avoid cultivated oysters that are oversized and mushy. To me a firm, often smaller, wild oyster from a cold sea epitomises everything I like about their kind. This how a fellow oyster lover, the late Ernest Hemingway, describes it: “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea, and their faint metallic taste, … and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to feel happy, and make plans.”  Over the years I have experimented with oysters – live as well as cooked – and this is my favourite cooked oyster recipe:

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Brut sparkling wine or an unwooded Chardonnay

The oysters:

 24 Medium-sized oysters, on the half shell.

2 Cups baby spinach, chopped

2 Shallots, finely chopped

1 Tbsp chervil (or parsley), chopped

2 Garlic cloves, minced

75ml Bread crumbs from white bread with crusts removed

75ml Parmesan, grated

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

75ml Pernod, or any other aniseed-flavoured pastis

2 Tbsp olive oil

Tabasco

Coarse salt

Salt and pepper, to taste

Lemon wedges, for garnish

The sauce:

175ml Champagne vinegar

2 Shallots, minced

2 Tbsp cracked black peppercorns

1 Tbsp chervil (or parsley), chopped

The juice of ½ lemon

  • Whisk all the sauce ingredients together and place in the fridge to chill.
  • Melt the butter to medium hot in a frying pan.
  • Sauté the garlic for 2 minutes to infuse the butter.
  • Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl and add half the garlic butter, then set aside.
  • Cook the shallots and spinach in the remaining butter until the spinach wilts.
  • Deglaze the pan with the Pernod.
  • Season the contents to taste with some salt and pepper, and add a dash of Tabasco.
  • Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to cook slowly for a few minutes.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180˚C.
  • Finish off the bread crumbs by mixing in the olive oil, Parmesan and chervil.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture onto each oyster, followed by a spoonful of the bread crumb mixture.
  • Sprinkle a baking pan amply with the coarse salt and arrange the oysters in the salt to steady them.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for until the crumbs are golden – this should take between 10 and 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the mignonette sauce evenly over the oysters.
  • Serve the hot oysters with the lemon wedges and more Tabasco.

“Oysters are a lot like women. It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty.” – Beth Hoffman.

Fried olives: turning castor oil into champagne

"There are three types of olives. You can get green ones, you can get black ones, or you can get stuffed." – John Marsden.

 

To me, Olives used to belong to the same category of foodstuffs as Brussels sprouts, cabbage and stewed prunes. I knew they were good for me, but they didn’t exactly blow my hair back. Because they are considered de rigueur at cocktail parties and in pizzas and salads, I resigned myself to having to eat them every so often.

At least, I consoled myself, their health benefits are impressive: they contain antioxidants that prevent heart disease, strokes, and cancer, specifically breast and stomach cancer. They are good for the respiratory system and boost both the digestive and immune systems. None of this made the slightest difference to my aversion to olives. Taste is a subjective thing; you either like it or you don’t. If you secretly suffer from the same malaise as I did, you need to try the recipe below pronto.

Something transformative happens to an olive when you fry it. They make the perfect cocktail nibbles, and I think it’s always nice to serve people something they haven’t necessarily had a million times before. You’ll feel like a Greek god when you taste olives cooked in this way!  They’re crunchy on the outside, soft and smouldering on the inside. This is a guaranteed winner as a treat for two on a special occasion.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: under 5 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled sparkling wine

 

10 Large green olives, pitted

1 Large egg

¼ Cup bread flour

¼ Cup plain bread crumbs

1 Tbsp. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp. ricotta cheese

½ Tsp. dried thyme

½ Tsp. lemon zest, grated

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

 

  • Mash the gorgonzola, ricotta, thyme, and lemon zest in a small bowl, using a fork, until no lumps of gorgonzola remain.
  • Spoon the mixture into a plastic 1-quart food storage bag; gather the mixture in one corner of the bag and snip off a small opening.
  • Pipe the cheese mixture into each olive.
  • Spread the flour and bread crumbs on separate pieces of waxed paper.
  • Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl.
  • Dredge each olive in flour, then coat it in egg.
  • Remove each olive from the egg with a fork, letting any excess egg drip off, then roll it in the breadcrumbs to coat.
  • Heat 2 cups of oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, until a deep-frying thermometer registers 180°C. (If you don't have a thermometer, toss in a cube of bread when you start heating the oil; when it is brown, the oil is ready.)
  • Fry the olives in two batches for 30 - 45 seconds each, until golden brown.
  • Drain the olives on paper towels.
  • Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

“Happiness is finding two olives in your Martini when you’re hungry.” – Johnny Carson.

 

Prawn Rissoles

“There’s no such thing as a little garlic.” – Arthur Baer.

During the early 1990s, one of our favourite eateries in Pretoria was “Indian Ocean Company” in Murrayfield. They not only served really fresh Mozambican fish and seafood, but the service was friendly and the cooking first class. My better half soon fell in love with their Prawn Rissoles (pronounced “rizoish”), and to this day the biggest compliment she will ever pay to a restaurant’s rissoles is that “it is almost as good as IOC’s”. The following recipe comes close:

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best with chilled Vinho Verde or Riesling

500 g Queen Prawns, raw

2 Eggs, beaten

2 cups Breadcrumbs

1 cup Flour

The peel of 1 lemon

The juice of 1 lemon

3 Garlic cloves, crushed

1 Dried hot chilli, ground

2 Tbsp butter

½ Cup of milk

½ Cup of fresh cream

1 cup Water

Salt and pepper to taste

Extra flour

Extra water

Canola oil, enough for deep frying in your chosen pan

  • Pour the water into a medium cooking pot. Season the water with salt and pepper and bring to a slow boil.
  • Boil the prawns in the seasoned water for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the prawns, and allow to cool. Reserve the water.
  • Once cooled, peel and de-vein the prawns. Chop them roughly.
  • In the cooking pot, combine 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp butter, a pinch of salt and the lemon peel.
  • Bring to the boil, and when it boils, remove from the heat and add the cup of flour.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball of batter that does not cling to the pan.
  • Return to the stove plate and heat only slightly to help dry the dough.
  • Let the dough rest.
  • Melt 1 tbsp butter, and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of flour. Stir into a thick, smooth batter over medium heat.
  • Add the milk, cream and the cup of water from the prawns bit by bit while stirring all the while.
  • Cook on low until thickened.
  • Add the lemon juice, garlic, chilli and prawns, stirring until the mix displays a thick and smooth consistency.
  • Roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut into 10 cm x 15 cm strips.
  • Place a full tablespoon of filling in the bottom half of the dough.
  • Fold the dough over the filling and cut the dumplings in a half moon shape.
  • Dip the dumpling in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.
  • Fry them in hot oil until golden brown.
  • Let them cool on paper towels to absorb the oil.

Serve with lemon wedges and a green garnish.

“Portugal is a country where Sunday starts early, and lasts several years.” – Peg Bracken. 

Dolmades: Greek Classics

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.” – Hippocrates.

I fell in love with this delicious Mediterranean dish at “The Woodsman” in Sabie, an iconic Mpumalanga Escarpment restaurant. The Georgiades family – like all good Greek restauranteurs – proudly claim that their dolmades are made according to their Yiayia’s (matriarch’s) recipe. The Eastern Mediterranean was the cradle of Western civilisation, and many of its contemporary recipes hark back to Antiquity (or even earlier ages). The family of dishes known collectively as “Dolma” are among the most ancient of them. Before our ancestors had pots and pans, they cooked food skewered on sharpened sticks (proto-kebabs), in animal innards (proto-sausages) or wrapped in leaves – the forerunners of today’s curanto, stuffed tomatoes and dolmades.

Dolma (stuffed vegetable dishes) are common in Greece, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Turkey and throughout  the Middle East. Vegetables commonly used include tomato, bell pepper, onion, zucchini and brinjal (eggplant). The stuffing often (but not necessarily) includes meat. Meat dolmas are generally served warm, often with yogurt sauce; meatless ones are mostly served cold. Stuffed vegetables are also common in Italy, where they are named ripieni, and Spain, where they are known as rellenos – both terms meaning “stuffed”. The term Dolma not only encompasses food wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves; it even includes stuffed squid! Here is Yiayia’s recipe for vine leaf-wrapped meat dolmades:

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes 20 units; serves 10 as a starter and 5 as a main course.

Tastes best with a dry Rosé

450 g Lamb or mutton mince

450 g Beef mince

250 g Pickled vine leaves (it should yield at least two dozen whole leaves)

1 Cup uncooked white long grain rice

1 Medium onion or 3 shallots, chopped finely

4 Medium eggs

1 Garlic clove, crushed

1 Tbsp Salt

½ Tbsp Black pepper

1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 ½ l Mutton stock

The juice of 4 lemons, or 1 ½ cups bottled juice

Salt and ground black pepper to season

  • Drain, rinse and dry the vine leaves.
  • Put aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix all the mince, salt, pepper, parsley, onion, garlic and rice. Check the seasoning.
  • Lay out one vine leaf stem up, place about 1 rounded tablespoon of the meat mixture near stem.
  • Fold the stem up over the meat mixture and hold it down.
  • Fold one side leaf over the mixture, then the other.
  • Roll the dolmade towards you - the end result should look like a small, thick cigar. Roll it firmly, but not too tightly.
  • Repeat until all the leaves and/or meat mixture have been used up.
  • Keep the stuffed leaves together using tootpicks.
  • Place the dolmades in a large cooking pot, and try not to stack them on top of one another.
  • Cover them with the stock. Add water if the stock isn’t enough.
  • Put the lid on the pot and bring it to the boil, then turn the heat down to low.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Remove about 750 ml of the broth from the pot and let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  • Beat the eggs until frothy with a whisk or egg beater, slowly adding the lemon juice.
  • Add the warm broth to the egg mixture; ½  ladle at a time while still beating the egg mixture.
  • After all the broth is mixed in, slowly add the combination to the liquid left in the pot.
  • Cover the pot and turn the heat off.
  • Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then serve.

“Eat and drink with your relatives, and do business with strangers.” – Greek proverb.

A boared-looking bush pig

This Camembert is virtually soundproof

Ooooo - there they are!

Slow food

Carpaccio with a view: Harry's Bar

Beef Carpaccio

“If God did not intend for us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?” – John Cleese.

I will never forget the evening when a friend and I took two young ladies on a double dinner date at a fashionable Pretoria restaurant. We had scrimped and saved to afford it, because they were posh girls used to la dolce vita while we were poor candidate officers, and country bumpkins to boot. All went well until we ordered starters and my mate told the waitress that he wanted his carpaccio medium to well done! Carpaccio – as you no doubt know - is a dish consisting of raw meat (e.g. beef, veal or venison) or fish (such as salmon, marlin or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetiser. It is based on the Piedmontese speciality carne cruda all'albese, and was invented and popularised by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry's Bar in Venice. He originally prepared the dish for the countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo in 1950 when he learned that her doctor had recommended that she eat raw meat. The dish was named carpaccio after Vittorio Carpaccio, the Venetian painter known for the characteristic red and white tones of his work. During the hunting season I prefer carpaccio made with fresh venison – Oryx and Springbok in particular. This is how I suggest you make it:

250g Beef fillet, trimmed

2 Tbsp truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

2 Tbsp finely chopped chives

½ Cup shaved parmesan cheese

Wild rocket leaves and lemon wedges, to garnish

  • Enclose the beef tightly in plastic wrap and leave in the freezer for 30 minutes (this will make it easier to slice thinly).
  • Unwrap the beef and slice very thinly, using a sharp knife.
  • Place the slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap and pound them with a rolling pin or mallet.
  • Arrange 4 or 5 slices of beef on each serving plate and drizzle with the oil.
  • Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then sprinkle with the pine nuts, chives and shaved parmesan.
  • Serve with rocket leaves and lemon wedges.

“True love is rare, like a good steak.” – Jarod Kintz.

 

Escargots, Burgundy-style

“And seeing the snail, which everywhere doth roam, carrying his own house still; still is at home. Follow (for he is easily paced) this snail, be thine own palace, or the world is thy goal.” – John Donne.

Making vine snails burgundy-style yourself is actually quite easy, and the dish has much more flavour and depth than the clichéd garlic snails served in millions of eateries worldwide. It looks particularly attractive when served in real or replica shells – we were fortunate enough to come across a jar of sterilised large Burgundian vine snail shells in the historic town of Autun, and still use them regularly 10 years later. Alternatively, use snail dishes with holes to hold the individual snails. 

Preparation time: 12 ½ hours.

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Serves 4 adults as a light main course, or 6 as a starter.

If you want to splurge, a Petit Chablis works wonderfully well with this dish; alternatively a similar-styled unwooded Chardonnay.

4 Dozen boiled, tinned snails

Coarse sea salt

Savoury butter: 250 g butter, 2 finely chopped shallots (or pickling onions), 4 large cloves of garlic (chopped), 1 bunch of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, a smaller bunch of chopped chervil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper and a pinch of allspice.

Court bouillon: 1 celery stem (chopped), 2 sliced onions, 1 carrot,

1 Bouquet garni consisting of thyme and sage

2 Cups of water

2 Cups of dry white wine

1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

  • Sweat the snails in 250g of coarse sea salt for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse in fresh water, and allow to drip-dry in a colander while preparing the court bouillon.
  • Heat all the court bouillon ingredients until just boiling softly.
  • Add the snails and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the snails to cool in the bouillon.
  • Meanwhile, mix the savoury butter ingredients.
  • Before putting the snails in the shells, put a knob of the savoury butter in each. If you don’t have shells, roll the snails in the butter and put them in a deep bowl.
  • Keep in a cool place for 12 hours so that the butter mixture can flavour the snails.
  • Warm them up in a medium oven without letting the butter boil.
  • Serve, either in the shells or snail dishes, with cubes of crusty bread to scoop up the butter.

 “By perseverance the snail reached the Ark.” – CH Spurgeon.

Peri-Peri Chicken Livers

“Really good peri-peri strikes a balance between flavour and fear.” – Remy Gomes.

This Mozambican dish has been adopted enthusiastically by South Africans, and very few mainstream restaurants do not offer some variation on it among their hors d’oeuvre choices. It is unfortunately often made too saucy, and not spicy enough for my taste. This how I make it:

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Cooking time: 15 – 20 minutes.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Tastes best with a well-chilled Vinho Verde or Cape Riesling.

500g Cleaned chicken livers

400g Tin chopped tomatoes

1 Green pepper, chopped

1 Onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon Broadleaf parsley, chopped

30 ml Ground paprika

15 ml Nando’s Medium peri-peri spice or 2 teaspoons crushed dry chilli  

10 ml Crushed garlic

5 ml Chicken Spice

Extra virgin olive oil for frying 

  • Season livers with Chicken Spice.
  • Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan and brown livers, leaving them slightly pink inside.
  • Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add a drop more oil and fry green pepper and onion for 2 minutes.
  • Add spices and garlic and fry for a further minute to allow the flavours to develop.
  • Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Check seasoning.
  • Return livers to pan and cook gently for 1 – 2 minutes to heat through.
  • Serve with toast or pao (Portuguese bread rolls).
  • Sprinkle some parsley on top.

 “Dear Lord, please bless the food before us; the family beside us and the love between us. Amen.” – Traditional Portuguese grace.

Cheddar Gougères

“I have learned how to spell hors d'oeuvres, which still grates on some people's n'oeuvres.” – Warren Knox.

I have loved these dainty savoury treats ever since I first tasted them in Burgundy in 2001. They are easy to make, can be made well in advance and compliment a pre-dinner Kir Royal (or neat sparkling wine) perfectly. They are usually not served as a first course at the table, but rather as appetisers with pre-dinner drinks.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves up to 12 guests

Heavenly paired with dry, yeasty sparkling wine.

 

1 Cup shredded mature Cheddar

4 Large eggs

½ Teaspoon salt

250g Unsalted butter

1 Cup water

1 Cup cake flour

 

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and position racks in the upper and middle slots.
  • Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets.
  • In a large saucepan, combine the butter, water and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  • Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
  • Let cool slightly, then, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between additions.
  • Next, beat in all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
  • Using a 1-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop level mounds of the dough onto the baking sheets, 4 cm apart.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese and bake for 27 minutes, until golden and puffy.
  • Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 150°C.
  • Pierce each gougère near the bottom with a skewer and return the pans to the oven.
  • Bake for about 8 minutes longer, until crisp and deeply golden.
  • Transfer the gougères to racks to cool.
  • Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.

“Hors d’oeuvre: a ham sandwich cut into forty dainty pieces.” – Jack Benny.

"Wild Boer" Paté

"It takes a gun to kill a deer. It takes cojones to kill a boar." - Spanish proverb.

I make the paté described here with bush pig (the wild boar's South African cousin) or warthog. It can also be made to good effect with lean pork. We serve it on slices of home-made baguette or full-grain brown bread as part of picnic lunches on hot days.

Prepation time: 20 minutes.

Cooking time: 6 hours.

Serves 8 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a medium-bodied red like Malbec, Tempranillo or Tinta Barocca. On a hot day, chill the wine slightly.

1 kg Neck or flank meat, skinned and deboned.

200 g Pork – I prefer uncured streaky bacon rashers.

150 ml Red wine.

100 ml TawnyPort.

100 ml Double thick cream.

3 Bruised juniper berries.

2 Cloves garlic, crushed.

2 Teaspoons of dried thyme.

1 Teaspoon of chopped sage.

1 Teaspoon chopped mace.

1 Teaspoon of ground allspice.

4 Crushed cloves.

1 Teaspoon each of coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

  • Preheat the oven to 1200 C.   
  • Cut the meat into small cubes or strips.
  • Mix with all the other ingredients, except the Port and the cream.
  • Place in a casserole, cover and bake gently for 5 hours.
  • Empty the casserole into a strainer placed over a bowl.
  • Allow most of the fat to drip into bowl.
  • Shred the warm meat with a fork, mix in the Port and cream, and place in a food processor.
  • Process the meat at a relatively low speed.
  • Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
  • Strain the fat and allow to cool.
  • Compact the ground meat in an earthenware dish of suitable size.
  • Once the meat has cooled down to room temperature, quickly melt the fat and pour it over the meat.
  • Allow to settle and cool, then cover. It will keep for up to week if stored in a refrigerator.
  • Serve at room temperature.

“A paté is nothing more than a French meat loaf that’s had a couple of cocktails.” – Carol Cutler. 

He was haunted by rivers

Sushi for over-21s

Try not to disturb the eels...

Petanque: old men playing with their boules

This Haddock is no cold fish