Monday, 26 July 2010

My Easy Cooking - Homemade Heaven Thai

I have been blogging for the last 2 years and 11 months (yes I'm counting) and it's been a journey of pleasure and learning. 

The first pleasure is when things go all my way, the lighting is perfect, the food is styled to look like it wants to jump off your screen and into your mouth and the story along with the recipe is not only grammatically correct, but well written.

The most lasting pleasure is the friends I have made. One of the first blog friends I made was Nina, from My Easy Cooking.  Nina is a blogger extraodinaire and I have blogged about her cooking, photographic and styling talents on many occasions. Nina can make a cheese and Marmite sandwich look so good, you'll offer your first born for a bite.

Other great thing about blogging are the "events". You get to make something, post about it and sometimes the organiser will offer prizes. Enter left stage Nina...with this challenge.

Click here for more details

What an incredible opportunity for me to get Keith out of his comfort zone (cheese and bread), spoil him with some fresh Thai inspired spring rolls for lunch.

Thai Inspired Spring Rolls

Rice Paper Spring Roll Wrappers (Soaked in warm water until pliable)
Carrot cut into julienne
Spring onions chopped fine
Rice Vermicelli Noodles cooked as per packet instructions
Avocardo cut into thin strips

Lay the pliable wrapper on a flat surface.
Place a little of the other ingredients in the middle of the wrapper.
Fold the wrapper in half.
Fold in the outer edges.
Roll the entire roll tightly into spring roll.

Thai Dipping Sauce

Freshly squeezed Lime Juice (SOUR)
Fish Sauce (SALTY)
Fresh Chopped Chilli (HOT)
Palm Sugar (SWEET)
Fresh Garlic Cloves
Fresh Chopped and Peeled Ginger

Starting with  half a  fresh chilli, 2 cloves of garlic, 1" piece ginger and 10ml of palm sugar - pound together.
Add the juice of 1 lime, 15ml of Fish Sauce and mix together.
Taste - adjust the first 4 ingredients until you have a flavour combination and quantity to suit your taste and needs.
Serve with the spring rolls.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

This Little Piggy went to Market

In a life filled with work, family and more distractions than a fairground, being continually inspired to make fantastically delicious meals, which are styled to perfection is hard going.

I read a lot of magazines with advice on everything from "being more appreciated at work" to "keeping you brows shaped" - none of which help me at all when I am roaming the supermarket last thing Tuesday afternoon, together with 100 other women, frantically looking for something other than mince or box fish to cook for dinner.

I really admire those super women out there who manage to create a weekly menu (and shopping list) and  stick to it. I have tried it before and it really works but I  have the self discipline of heroin addict when it comes to sticking to lists. This being the case, I  often find myself in supermarkets searching for inspiration in the chocolate aisle!

Yesterday I found my self in this situation, but before I got to the chocolate aisle, I found a reasonably priced piece of roast pork belly and impulsively took it, thinking perhaps I could create a Chinese roast pork dish I've been thinking about and putting off for almost year.

Roast Pork Belly with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Crispy Roast Pork Belly

1 Pork Belly
4" Piece of Ginger cut roughly
2 Star Anise
1 teaspoon Whole Black Pepper corns

Boil the above in a large pot for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size.
The meat should be cooked about 80% through.
Remove from the water, and leave to cool and dry out.
Score the fat diagonally in two directions.

Basting for the Belly

2 Green Chillies
2 teaspoons of Sugar
2 teaspoons of Sea Salt
3 Garlic Cloves

Preheat your oven to 220ÂșC
Pound the above into a smooth paste.
Run the paste into the flesh of the belly, avoiding getting any on the fat side.
Turn over and rub the fat side well with salt only.
Roast for about 20-30 minutes until the meat is cooked and the fat is crispy crackling.
Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving with stir fry noodles and sweet and sour sauce.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 Cup Rice or Apple Cider Vinegar
1½ Cups of Sugar
2" Piece of Ginger, peeled and cut into fine dice
1 Green chilli left whole
½ teaspoon of Sea Salt
50g Tomato Paste
1 Star Anise (optional)
½ Red Pepper (seeded) sliced into thin strips

Boil the above at a simmer for about 1 hour, until reduced and thickened.
Take out the chilli and serve hot.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Verlaque Recipe Challenge

Over the last few months I have made no less than four original recipes using wonderfully proudly South African ingredients from Verlaque.

From the first time I tasted their Persian Pomegranate Concentrate, I knew that this was something my kitchen would never be without. After attending the Cape Town Food Bloggers Conference, I received a free bottle of Infused Balsamic Reduction with  Preserved Cranberries and fell in love all over again.

So when Verlaque  announced a competition open to bloggers and requested a recipe using one of their products, I was in recipe creation over-drive! Lucky for me I have my step-son staying with us and his love for food creation is as enthusiastic as mine, so I had a unfair advantage of "two heads being better than one".

Together we came up with this scrumptious Dukkha Encrusted Salmon with a Cucumber Spaghetti Salad

 Dukkha Encrusted Salmon
Serves 2

2 Salmon Fillets (skin on and bones removed)
60ml Infused Balsamic Reduction with Sundried Mango & Chili
Zest and Juice of 1 Lime
1" Piece of Peeled Ginger Grated
100ml of Dukkha (I used a dukkha with a chilli, sesame seeds, almonds and hazelnuts)

Marinade the salmon in the Infused Balsamic Reduction with Sundried Mango & Chilli, the zest, lime juice and ginger for about 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Remove the salmon from the marinade, and shake off the excess and wipe the skin.
Lay the fillet, flesh side down in the dukkha and cover with dukkha - pressing gently into the flesh.
Using a pan which is oven proof, heat a little olive oil.
Place the salmon in the oil, skin side down and fry for about 2 minutes, until it starts to caramelize.
Place in a hot oven and roast for a further 7-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.
Leave to rest for 2 minutes and serve with the salad below and extra dukkha pounded fine.

Cucumber Spaghetti Salad with Infused Balsamic Reduction with  Preserved Cranberries

½  Cucumber (cut into julienne - I have this gadget )
¼ Red Onion, sliced very thin
1 Green Chilli, cut into very thin slices (optional)
6 Baby Tomatoes cut into ¼'s (I use 3 red and 3 yellow)

30ml Fresh Coriander leaves
30ml Infused Balsamic Reduction with  Preserved Cranberries

Mix all the the ingredients together just before serving.
Make sure you place the chilli on top for those who might want to pick them out.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Viva la France

As you might know, I am a Tour de France junkie. I do not follow cycling generally and only pay attention to cycling news with regard to how it will effect "Le Tour". It is a wonderful winter tradition in our home to watch 198 fit young men in tight shorts (all with wonderful legs) battle their way through the French countryside. France in summer must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, especially while we endure the cold winter months in Cape Town and did I mention the Lycra shorts and great legs?

Yesterday was Bastille Day in France, which traditionally brings out the competitive spirit in all the French riders (with wonderful legs in Lycra shorts). Unfortunately for the French, they were once again upstaged, but c'est la vie, life goes on and I am sure the French are getting used to drowning their sporting sorrows.

I made my attempt at French food last night, although it was a local take on a classic French dish, as we are not big fans of butter - which is a big problem when creating French food. I am sorry that the soup didn't photograph very well, it was steaming up my lens and I was in a hurry to eat (wanting to get back to Lycra shorts and great legs). It really is a deliciously easy meal to make.

French Onion Soup

4 Large Onions (thinly sliced)
45 -50ml Olive Oil
2 Litres GOOD Beef stock (I only use Nomu Fond)
Black Pepper and Salt

Fry the onions on low heat with the lid on for about 20 mins,until the are very soft and caramel colour.
Add the stock and the black pepper and boil for 45 minutes.
Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
Serve hot.

To make a slightly different meal and rather not have the traditional cheese bread toast floats, I made these wonderfully cheesy puff pies.

Cheese Puff Pies

1 Roll Ready made Puff Pastry
Any Strong Hard cheese (a mature cheddar is great)
1 Beaten Egg
Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
Roll the puff pastry out slightly.
Cut disks about 9cm diameter.
Place a small block of cheese in the middle, egg wash the sides, fold in half and crimp to seal.
Here is a nifty little pie crimping tool I have
Do not be tempted to put too much cheese in the puff, or it will just bake out.
Brush the pie with egg, sprinkle on some sea salt and bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden.
Serve with your soup or as a great afternoon snack.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A Little Bit of Comfort

It has been so very cold the past few days, I haven't felt sensation in my feet all week because they are frozen solid. I realize that the sisters in the North will laugh when I say 10°C (50° Fahrenheit ) is cold, but here in Cape Town anything under 20° (68°f) we class as freezing!

In all the years of school when we were forced to learn poetry, which I did begrudgingly, I have only kept one verse of one poem in my memory bank. I don't know if it's the whole poem or who wrote it, so I can't give any credit but it goes like this :

The wind is howling with all it's might
I am glad I'm in bed and tucked up tight,
It's just the sort of night for witches to be out,
Riding on their broomsticks round and about.

I always say this verse to myself whenever the weather turns bad, it's like a security blanket against the weather. As I have grown older (and wiser) I have found another forms of comfort too. Hot chocolate and a good book is still one of my favourites or a pot of bean soup and freshly baked bread never fails to warm my heart and tummy. 

I love to make meals that require little or no attention so I can stay under the blanket and read my book, watch the Tour de France or  Tri-Nations Rugby. This Lamb Neck and Green Bean Bredie (Stew) is just the thing for a cold day and meets all my requirements for lazy cooking with maximum pleasure at service.

Lamb Neck and Green Bean Bredie 
500g -750g Lamb Neck cut into slices
1 Large Onion Sliced
1 Cup Baby Carrots (or big ones cut small)
750ml Lamb Stock ( I love the Nomu Fond Range)
20ml Nomu Tomato Chilli Stir (or you can use regular tomato paste and 2 cloves of garlic crushed)
10ml Sugar
20ml Fresh Thyme leaves
300g Green Beans cut and trimmed
4 Potatoes, peeled and cut in half
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
On the hob, fry the meat and the onions until browned.
 Add the rest of the ingredients, except the stock, the potatoes and the green beans and stir to combine.
Add enough stock to cover the meat.
Bring the pot back to heat and then transfer to the oven for about 1½ hours, until the meat is tender.
Add the potatoes and cook for a further 40 minutes (until they are soft).
Add the green beans and cook for a further 20 minutes (they should be soft, but not mushy).
Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
Serve with rice and or bread.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Spanish Victory from the Sea

As the Fifa World Cup 2010 came to a close on Sunday, there is a feeling of loss throughout the country. Not the loss of a soccer game (we dealt with that weeks ago), but the loss of the positivity and unity which the country has been bathed in for the last month.

I was sent an email with a link to Keep Flying the Flag. Keep Flying is a simple idea. An idea that matters. It believes that its all of our responsibility to fly the flag. Every South African Brand; Every South African, and to recognize what the flag symbolizes: Us, and our unity. It would be great to keep this feeling of invincibility which has come about over the last 30 days. 

So, back to the soccer. The Spanish are "Ole, Ole,Oleing" because of their victories. Spain are on a bit of a roll, with Rafa winning Wimbledon,  Alberto a firm favorite in Le Tour and now being crowned Soccer World Champions - what else is there? 

One thing the Spanish have always done well and that's seafood. Fresh BBQ prawns with lemons and paprika, all while soaking in the sun on Costa Del Sol. I think even a Dutch soccer player could force them self to enjoy that.

I made this Spanish inspired prawn dish ,which is better suited for winter, but still with enough summer freshness to keep the dream alive.

Ole Prawns with Butter Beans and Spring Vegetables.

500g Prawn tails (peeled)
1 Large White Onion (cut lengthwise)
2 Tins Butter Beans (drained and rinsed)
125g Sliced Mushrooms
125g Sugar-snap Peas
125g Baby Peeled Carrots
1 cup Spinach (shredded)
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
2 Cloves of Garlic chopped
1-2 green Chillies Thinly sliced (optional)
500ml Vegetable Stock

Fry the onion until soft.
Add the beans, the carrots, the mushrooms, the chili, the garlic and the paprika and stir to combine.
Add enough stock to make a sauce and cook until the carrots are just softening and the sauce is thick.
Stir in the prawns, the spinach and the peas and cook until prawns are done.
Add more stock to ensure you have a good sauce.
Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Serve with rice or fresh crusty bread.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Tourist in your own City

I love being on holiday. I love the weeks before you leave, the planning, the packing, the excitement about leaving everything familiar and heading out to enjoy the unknown.

Obviously, like most working stiffs, I don't get to have as many exotic holidays as I would like. Usually it's only once or twice a year and one of those is Christmas with my folks (fun but not exotic). Yesterday I went on holiday, only for a few hours and less than 20kms from my house, it was wonderful to pretend I was one of the thousands of tourists that are in Cape Town enjoying the best we have to offer - both in hospitality and weather.

We started at the V&A Waterfront (as all self respecting tourist should) and walked into town and then down the Fan Mile, though the Cape Town Stadium complex and back to the Waterfront. It's only a 5.5km walk, but I took my camera and stopped to photographed all the things that only a tourist would.

Here is my walk in pictures....

The Two Oceans Aquarium.

I was thinking of spending the night here...but Keith said he thought the room service at home was much better!

The canals around the marina are really beautiful.
The Wheel of Excellence with Table Mountain in the background.

The CTICC and the main intersection of Coen Steytler and Buitengracht, busy as always.

 Click here to see this same street on a game won't believe the difference.

Prestwich Memorial on the corner of Buitengracht and Somerset Road in Green Point. During the construction of a multi-million rand building in nearby Prestwich Street in 2003, excavations revealed thousands of centuries-old skeletons and after some heated public debate it was decided to build a dedicated memorial in which these human remains could be housed with dignity.

The colourful kiosks that have been erected for the World Cup, along Somerset Road. I was very impressed with the drinking fountains which are all along the fan mile. I don't suppose they will be there for much longer after the fans have left.

Walking under the Green Point circle, into the Cape Town Stadium complex. We couldn't get too close to the actual stadium, but that's to be expected. There was a very strong police and security presence, which I hope makes the overseas tourist feel very safe.

There are beautiful mosaic works on the walks to the stadium entrance.

A grand old lady of Cape Town, the Somerset Hospital, with the mountain keeping a watchful eye over everything.

A quick glance back at the Cape Town Stadium entrance and the security checkpoints.

At last, this tourist's heaven ..Lunch at Anat at the Waterfront.

A falafel for me

And a Shawarma for Keith.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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