Monday, 28 March 2011

Slow Cooked Beef Rib

Slow Cooked Beef Rib
 I love my slow cooker. I love it so much, I have 2 and I use them both. The one I inherited from my Mom, she hated it, she said it cooks too slowly (duh)! The 2nd one I won in a cooking competition with Jenny Morris.

The best part of slow cooker cooking is you can throw everything in, walk away and come back 6 -8 hours later and have perfectly cooked food. I don't even defrost the meat first! It turns the cheapest cuts of tough leather into the softest melt in your mouth, fall off the bone goodness.

Weekends are always easy food times in my home. So easy that if it takes more than cutting a bread roll or a baguette - it's just not happening. But even someone as lazy as me, sometimes needs more than just cold meat and cheese rolls.

My latest slow cooking experience was inspired by Kimberly Peterson, from Kimba's Kitchen.

I have never liked beef ribs, I find them tough with too much sinew and fat. The only reason I have them is because I buy my beef as a hind quarter, and that includes the ribs. Slow cooking is definately the answer to rendering the fat and tenderising the meat.  The end result is soft meat packed full of flavour.

I used my beef ribs to make great meat filled bread rolls.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs

500g Beef Ribs
30ml Dark Soya Sauce
500ml Fresh Orange Juice

Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker.***
Cook on high for 6- 8 hours.
*** If you do not have a slow cooker, you can bake this in a very low oven (110ºC). 

To make Beef Rib Rolls

Allow the meat to cool enough to handle.
Remove the meat, bones and sinew.
Add a little of the cooking sauce, if it looks too dry.
Cut fresh bread rolls in half and spread a little of the cooking sauce on the bread.
Place a bed of lettuce on the roll - I like rocket and watercress.
Place the meat on the lettuce bed, top with gerhkins and season.
Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Lamb Shank and Beans

Lamb Shank and Beans
This dish has been planned for such a long time, I've made it in my head for the last 6 months. Eventually I woke up to a day, where the weather was slightly cooler than hell. This has certainly been one of the hottest summers I can remember in ages, even the ants agree (we speak every evening, as they have taken up residence at the kitchen sink, seeking a cool respite from the dry heat outside).

I am yet to find one product which will stop them (the ants) returning, to what I think as became known as the "Ant Summer Holiday Spa", with complimentary drinks and food.

I have read that all these ants are a sign that winter is going to be extremely wet. This certainly has not made me more hospitable to my uninvited guests.

So, back to the Lamb Shank. It is very easy to cook and only needs patience to produce wonderfully soft meat with a full flavour sauce. I love the added beans and mushrooms, they are both nutritious and add good flavour.  My secret ingredient is the anchovies, they are full of meaty goodness without any fishiness.

Lamb Shank with Beans and Mushrooms
Serves 2

2 Lamb Shanks
3 Carrots, peeled and diced
3 Celery Stalks diced
4 Onions peeled and diced in wedges
4 Whole Peeled Garlic Cloves (leave them whole as to not overpower the dish)
6 Anchovy Fillets (this sounds a lot, but trust me it really works well)
750ml Vegetable Stock ( I used Nomu Fond)
250g Portablini Mushrooms (small brown mushrooms)
1 Tin Butter Beans
250g Green Beans, washed and trimmed - cut in ½
Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Salt to taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC
Heat on the stove a "stove- to-oven casserole pot" and brown the shanks.
Remove the meat and add the carrots, onions, celery and caramelize.
Add the meat and anchovies, fry for another minute.
Add the stock and black pepper..
Place in the oven for about 1½ -2 hours, until meat is soft and the vegetables are cooked down.
The sauce should be almost completely reduced.
Check the seasoning. I didn't need  to add extra salt, but you do need to check.
Add another cup of water, the beans and return to the oven for another ½ hour.
Check the seasoning and serve with either mash, or fresh crusty bread.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Fig and Walnut Muffins

Fresh Fig and Walnut Muffins

My first introduction to muffins was in the 1980's when the 30 Day Muffin recipe was the rage. This recipe lets you make a batter which you can keep in the fridge for up to 30 days, baking fresh batches as needed.

There was a sigh of relief when those 30 days were finally finished. They certainly were not my favourite, while I know bran is very good for you - I have never been excited by the dry texture.

For a long time I always considered muffins as health food, which is not really true, but all that bran put it in the rice-cake family for me. This was until a local coffee shop franchise Mugg and Bean introduced me to the mega muffin (lemon and poppy seed) - which was similar to the 30 day muffin, in that it either took 30 people or 30 days to eat - it was so big.

So began my love for the muffin, which tasted like cake -filled and flavoured with anything that took my fancy.  I make muffins more often than any other baked goodie, it's simple to make and the options are endless.

This brings me to my latest creation Fresh Fig and Walnut Muffin.

Fig and Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins

1½ Cups Self Raising Flour
½ Cup Plain Flour
½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Cup Milk or Buttermilk or Plain Yoghurt
¾ Light Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Chopped Figs (Lightly packed)
½ Cup Walnuts
Extra Light Brown Sugar for Sprinkling (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.
Grease and or line with muffin papers a muffin tin of 80ml capacity cups.
In one bowl sift together the flours and add all the dry ingredients.
In a second bowl mix together the wet ingredients, including the fruit.
Make a well in the centre of the flour bowl and gently combine the wet and dry.
Mix only until the flour is moistened - it will be a lumpy batter. DO NOT BEAT.
Divide the mixture equally between the 12 muffin cups.
Sprinkle a little extra brown sugar on each muffin (optional)
Bake for 20 -25 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Allow to cool and enjoy.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Take Time for Lunch

Courgette and Ricotta Toasts
 Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You've heard that from your doctor, your health guru, your Patrick Holford books, your friends (the fat and the skinny ones) and of course even your Mother. I always have breakfast, but I certainly don't have time to put much thought into it.

Unless you idly rich, unfortunately unemployed, live with your mother or in an institution like prison, it's highly unlikely you have time to make a cooked breakfast on a weekday morning - unlike every family on American TV that has pancakes every morning (which no one ever eats). For me it's either a tub of yoghurt, cereal, some fruit or if I'm really thinking out the box a slice of toast (on weekends only).

Now lunch, this is a meal I can selfishly enjoy. It's the one meal that I can make and not consider any family dietary requirements, tastes or moods. I work ½ day (collective sigh here) and when I get home at lunch time, I love the freedom of having whatever I feel like eating. This is me time. I prefer to eat a larger lunch and a smaller supper - that's just me, and I know it's because I work ½ day (another collective sigh).

Here is my lunch from Friday - I know I would be the only one in my family to eat a combination like this, but it was so good. I ate it so fast I got hiccups! 

Courgette and Ricotta Toasts
Serves 1 (Me, Me and only Me)

3 slices Ciabatta Bread 
2 Courgettes thinly sliced lengthwise
4 Tablespoons Fresh Ricotta
6 Capers
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat your griddle pan to hot.
Rub the bread and courgettes with oil
Toast the bread in the pan and grill the courgettes until marked and slightly soft.
Place a generous amount of ricotta on each slice of toast.
Place the sliced courgettes on the ricotta.
Place 2 Capers on each slice.
Season to taste.
Drizzle with a little extra olive oil.
Enjoy alone if possible. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Chef up Your Tuna Steak

Tuna Steaks on Fried Potatoes and Raw Beetroot
As a working wife and mother, I know the weekday humdrum of meal preparation. For those who still have small children, getting anything (except stray pieces of lint or toy parts) into their children's mouth, with out a temper tantrum, is enough of an achievement.

I am very lucky to have a family who are well trained ("You don't have to like it - You just have to eat it"). They eat most things I give them, without too many complaints (and even fewer I take seriously). There is a slight downside to this - you get a similar reaction to toasted cheese sandwiches, as the fancy meal you spent all afternoon slaving in the kitchen preparing.

But sometimes I pull out all the stops, even if it's only for myself.  I like to pretend I'm a professional chef and plating meals at the Rubens. It's over-kill I know, but it's great to play with your food occasionally.

These flavour combinations might seem strange, but they work well - balancing colour, texture, flavours and temperature. I like to mix hot and cold in the same dish - I call it " a surprise party in your mouth", you never know what to expect.

Tuna Steaks on Fried Potatoes and Raw Beetroot
Serves 2

2 Tuna Steaks (2cm thick)
2 Potatoes
2 Small Beetroot (peeled)
Olive Oil

Slice the peeled potatoes into 5mm rounds.
Fry the potatoes in a little oil, until golden and cooked through
Slice the beetroot as thinly as possible, wearing gloves (a vegetable peeler will work well)
Heat a griddle pan to medium hot.
Rub the steaks with olive oil
Grill until just done - medium rare is best with tuna.
Lay the potatoes and the beetroot on the plate, top with the cooked tuna.
Drizzle with a olive oil. 
Serve with this green sauce :

Green Sauce

5-8 Green Olives (pitted)
20g Parsley
3-4 Anchovy fillets
15 -20ml Capers
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
10 - 15ml Olive Oil

Pound all the ingredients together, taste and adjust to your liking.
Serve with fish.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Fat Tuesday Pancakes

Fat Tuesday Filled Pancakes

"Fat Tuesday" is not the day after "I ate too much Monday" or the day before "My jeans don't fit Wednesday", it is actually the traditional name for Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Fat Tuesday, dates back to before the Reformation when people would partake of particularly rich food on the day before Lent, which is 40 days of fasting culminating in Easter.

The eating of pancakes and doughnuts on Fat Tuesday was a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar. Lent is a time of plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure which in many cultures, this meant no meat, dairy, or eggs.

I adapted a recipe which I got from Colleen "Browniegirl.
 My changes where very simple. I replaced 2 of the 4 eggs with an extra 150ml of Buttermilk and 50ml of milk. This made them less rich.
 I do find that when I  make this recipe I need more than 300ml of liquid to make a thin cream consistency, usually using closer to 450 -500ml. But you need to adjust this for yourself.
I have made Colleen's recipe (exactly as she published it) many times before and I have always been very happy with the result. They are the lightest tastiest treats you can find.

To really make my Fat Tuesday pancakes something really decadent, I filled them with Hazelnut & Chocolate Butter, topped with sliced bananas. I am now ready for "Better get to gym Wednesday, Thursday and Friday"

I made my pancakes using the eco-friendly cookware Green Pan I won at the FBI2011, compliments of Jenny Morris. Thanks Jenny, this pan makes flipping pancakes a whole lot more fun.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Kirstenbosch Gardens

I have posted my trips to Kirstenbosch Gardens before but I just can not stop myself from sharing this beautiful garden with you.

Sadly you will see in the last pictures, just 2 of the many plants which are either no longer found in the wild or threatened by extinction. Let us not forget to support projects and organizations that try to maintain your country's indigenous  flora - because the loss of any species (flora or fauna) is a tragedy which we will all mourn one day.


This spider below spins a Golden Web - it made me think of the tale of Rumpelstiltskin.

 Sad pictures showing the cost of development.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Homemade Fresh Pasta

I have posted 2 recipes in the last week, both of which have had feed back regarding my deviation from following "traditional methods". This got me thinking about how far back does one have to go to stay true to "traditional". Do we need to make food the way it's always been done in living memory or hit the history books and find the first time it was made and follow that?

I started thinking of what is now called Italian food. I think for most people if you say "We having Italian for dinner", pasta (or pizza) will spring to mind. But is pasta really Italian? And what makes it Italian as opposed to Chinese?

Pasta was brought to Sicily by the Arabs after their conquest in about 500AD. This fact surprised me, because I always thought it was Marco Polo who brought noodles back from China, 1295AD. The Chinese were enjoying noodles, made from bread-fruit in 3000BC!

Food belongs to the global village. Whether you sitting in Nonna's kitchen in Tuscany or in Wài zǔ mǔ's kitchen in Beijing - noodles or pasta are traditional home made comfort foods. 

This long trip around the world (I'm starting to feel like Phileas Fogg) brings me to MY traditional home made pasta recipe. I can not tell you how old it is or if it has it's roots in a traditional Italian kitchen - but it works for me and my family love it.

Fresh Pasta

Homemade Heaven Fresh Pasta

Per Serving

100g Flour (I like Italian 00 flour or cake four)
1 Extra large Egg
Lots of flour for dusting.

I use my food processor to start the mixing, but it can be done by hand too.
Place the flour in the processor and start the machine running.
Add the egg and allow it to run until mixture forms a ball.
Dust your work surface well and take the dough and knead for about 5 minutes.
You must end up with a smooth elastic dough which is not sticky.
You might need to knead in extra flour to get the right texture.
Leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes, while you set up your pasta machine.
Cut the dough in 100g balls and start to work through the pasta machine settings -
Starting with the biggest first, working all the way down to the thinnest roller.
I usually do each ball twice, making sure my end result is smooth and very thin.
If you do not have a pasta machine, you can roll your pasta out with a rolling pin
and cut the pasta with a knife.
Leave the flat sheets to rest for about 10 minutes, on a dusted surface.
Using the cutter on the pasta machine, cut to the required thickness - I like tagliatelle.

To cook your pasta
Take a large saucepan and fill ½ way up and add a generous amount of salt.
Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for about 4-5 minutes until al-dente.
Serve with a sauce of your choice.
I used Pesto Princess Thai Pesto (with coriander and chilli), which I highly recommend.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Yorkshire Pudding

With the Oscars having taken centre stage in the entertainment news for the last few weeks, I could not help being caught up in the hype surrounding my favourite movie this year "The King's Speech". I watched The King's Speech last Monday, and I am so glad to see that it received the honours it deserved at the 83rd Academy Awards.

All things English will once again become highly fashionable (remember you read it here first) with a Royal Wedding planned for the 29th of April 2011. I remember The Royal Wedding 30 years ago, I even got  a day off school to watch the People's Princess and Big Ears take their vows. We had Lady Di haircuts, Lady Di Shoes - you name it , whatever she did we copied - except the head in the toilet thing and the affair with the horse guy.

So to start the English food triumph, I bring you one delicacy besides breakfast and fish and chips that  England put on the food map - Yorkshire Pudding.

Yorkshire Pudding
Yorkshire Puddings
Makes 10 muffin size portions

1 Cup Sifted Flour
½ Cup Water
½ Cup Milk
2 Extra Large Eggs
½ Teaspoon of Salt
50ml Sunflower Oil

Pre-heat the Oven to 220ºC
Divide the oil in the muffin pan, and place in the oven until smoking hot.
Add the sifted flour into a mixing bowl.
Add the water, milk, eggs and salt.
Beat well together until you have no lumps.
Allow mixture to rest of 30 mintues
Once the oil is hot and smoking, pour the batter into the hot oil.
Bake in the oven for 20 mintues until puffed up and golden brown.
Serve immediately with roast beef and gravy.

On the Continent people have good food;
in England people have good table manners.
-Mikes, George

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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